Author: Jonathan Clogstoun Willmott

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Friday, June 23rd, 2006 at 3:33 pm
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Health
Lifestyle

Sinus Problems

By Jonathan Clogstoun Willmott of the Edinburgh Natural Health Centre
Here we look at some of the many alternative ways of treating this problem.

It’s that time of year again! Today the BBC broadcast an interview with a meteorologist who warned of a colder than usual winter, so we can rely on plenty of snuffles to come.
As most people know, a cold in the head lasts about seven days during which there are several stages, the final one being the eradication of the bacteria and the return to health. But many people continue to suffer from catarrh and other chronic conditions started by the cold, sometimes continuing for months. Here the catarrh is either white or colourless, and there is usually tiredness.
But sometimes the catarrh gets into places in the head that your body has a job shifting, and the colourless catarrh can become infected, leading to sinus and hearing problems, headaches and general tiredness.
Why? And what to do about it?
Often, continuing mild (transparent or white) catarrh can be quickly cured, or greatly improved, by eating so as strengthen, and not to weaken, what in Chinese medicine is called the Spleen energy. (This has very little to do with the spleen organ.). Take warm drinks, and warming foods like porridge for breakfast, adding ginger root and spices to your other meals: avoid cool foods such as fruit, cold drinks, salads, raw food, ice, ice-cream, chilled food or liquid, yogurt. Don’t over-eat. Avoid sweet foods such as puddings, sugar or honey. Don’t eat too late in the evening, always chew well, stop before you are full, take only a little liquid with food, and make either breakfast or lunch your main meal of the day. Also make sure you eat food that is cooked from its raw state, i.e. not processed, and preferably clear of residues of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and so on. Finally give your body time to digest: don’t rush off immediately after eating.
Did you notice that there was no mention of Vitamin C? The reason is not that Vitamin C is unimportant – far from it – but that other matters take precedence, such as the temperature of what you eat or drink, and the way it acts in your body. Once you improve, by all means increase the fruit you eat, but notice more carefully after which kinds of food your nose runs.
If you can do that for a week or two, you’ll find the catarrh disappears, and only reappears if you revert to a poor diet and eating habits. If it doesn’t go, then you need treatment.
If your catarrh is yellow, makes you thirsty, is worse in warm air or central heating, gives you a headache and keeps you awake at night, you probably have at least the beginnings of sinusitis. Your doctor may want to give antibiotics, but although these may cure the condition, they often leave you with greater susceptibility to another illness. If you visit either a good homeopath or a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, both these forms of medicine are much gentler than antibiotics, and work so as to strengthen your body both against the infection and for the future.
The following, by Megan Burt, describes in more detail how Chinese Medicine approaches sinus-type problems.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Sinusitis
The Chinese pay particular attention to the seasons when it comes to maintaining a good level of health. Autumn relates to the element of Metal, which has an influence on our lungs and the associated sensory organ, the nose.
After the sometimes scattered lifestyle of the warmer summer, autumn brings a more focused time. Everything in nature starts to contract, trees lose their leaves, fruit drops and the sap goes back into the roots. It is a time to pull inward, gather the harvest and prepare for the stillness of winter. On an emotional level it can be a time to let go of old grievances and resolve the past.
Sinusitis can present itself as tenderness on the face around the nose, eyes and cheeks. There can be congestion and a feeling of stuffiness with or without pain. Sometimes there can be mucus and swelling of the membrane inside the nose. Symptoms can also be accompanied with dizziness, aversion to cold, feverishness, impaired sense of smell and headaches.
Treatment with Traditional Chinese Medicine will include facial acupressure massage, acupuncture, dietary advice and herbal formulae if necessary. Usually herbal treatments are not needed as acupuncture is effective enough on its own. The combination of Massage and acupuncture can help relax the muscles of the face and clear congestion in the sinuses. The acupuncture needles are very fine and most people are amazed at how painless the process is. The needles are retained for twenty minutes to half an hour. The experience can be very relaxing and it may also have a beneficial effect on sleeping patterns, energy levels and digestion.
Regular use of pungent foods such as garlic, ginger and radish may help to keep the sinuses free of mucus so as to prevent relapse. Dark green and golden-orange vegetables offer a protective effect because of their rich beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) content. Beta-carotene protects the surfaces and mucous membranes of the body. Such vegetables include broccoli, winter squash, carrots and turnips.
The number of sessions you need depends on how chronic your sinusitis is, but generally allow between 4 and 7 weekly treatments.
Megan Burt has been practising Traditional Chinese Medicine since 1996. She qualified at the Northern College of Acupuncture in York and furthered her experience in China.
If you wish to make an appointment you can contact Megan direct on 07903 503142. She works mainly in the Borders and also practises 1 day a week in Edinburgh.
Herbalism
There are many herbs, foods and spices which help alleviate the symptoms of the common cold. We have all experienced them and often get them at least once a year. Despite being perceived as a nuisance, colds fulfil an important function in our bodies. Every now and then our immune system needs a little chal¬lenge in order to maintain its flexibility, very much like our bodies needing some exercise on occasion for the same reason.
Colds are self-limiting viral infections and last usually a maximum of one week unless a further infection develops on top of it. Generally colds are characterised by nasal discharge, nasal obstruction, sore or ‘scratchy’ throat, headache and cough. Hoarseness, mild raised temperature, loss of taste and smell, mild burning of the eyes, and a feeling of pressure in the ears or sinuses due to obstruction and/or mucosal swelling may also occur.
Though there is no clinically recognised preventative of colds, Echinacea, Garlic and Elderberries are valued by many people, feeling that they do provide some protection, particularly for susceptible people, as well as being useful during an infection. Apart from supplementation with these herbs at this time of year, consideration should also be given to general lifestyle including a wholefood diet, plenty of fluids, regular exercise, stress reduction
and, of course, clothing appropriate to the weather.
The diet should be wholesome, containing fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and nuts and seeds and ideally be from organic cultivation. These food types will provide many of the essential nutrients required to maintain health even during the change of season. Tea, coffee and refined carbohydrates (includ¬ing sugars) should be avoided as they require many important nutrients for their metabolism thus taking them away from where they are needed.
If you are prone to excess mucous while experiencing a cold or sinusitis, cheese and dairy produce should also be avoided as they increase mucous production and essentially make the problem worse.
Home Remedies
Once a cold has started despite all efforts, there are a number of things you can do to alleviate the symptoms using simple herbs out of your kitchen cupboard. One of the most important factors however is rest; you should seek to stay wrapped up and warm in your bed regardless of what your boss may think.
Elderflowers
Elderflowers used to be called the peasants’ medicine chest as its uses are so diverse. However, one of its main strengths lies in the treatment of upper respiratory infection such as the common cold and sinusitis. It is an anti-infective, anti-catarrhal and a useful anti-pyretic. This means that the flowers, made into a tea, will actively combat the intruding virus, reduce the production of catarrh and thus nose running. Should a fever be present, the hot tea will promote sweating and the reduction in temperature.
Thyme
Thyme can be found in everybody’s kitchen cupboard but sadly its medicinal virtues are often neglected. It is powerfully anti-infective, both against viral and bacterial organisms, anti-catarrhal and assists expectoration. The latter is particularly of value when the cold has moved into the chest, making breathing or the bringing up of phlegm difficult. As Thyme makes mucous more liquid, expulsion of mucous from the lungs is made easier. For the same reason the herb is also useful when sinusitis or pressure in the sinuses or ears is a problem.
Sage
Sage is much talked about at present for its virtues in aiding memory and concentration as well as in relieving the hot flushes of the menopause. However; in addition, Sage is a most valuable remedy when fighting off a cold. It is powerfully anti-infective, comparable to Thyme, and is strongly diaphoretic when taken as a hot tea. By encouraging sweating Sage lowers fevers at the same time as clearing the head, reducing any woolly feeling and headaches. The anti-infective properties can be particularly applied by using cool sage tea as a gargle to treat sore throats and even tonsilitis.
Garlic
Fresh Garlic should not be forgotten here. One of the most effective antibiotics and anti-infectives of the plant kingdom, it finds use whatever the problem. Garlic has a particular affinity to the respiratory system and can be used to treat colds, coughs and sinusitis quickly and effectively and can just be added to the food (but must be eaten raw). The only hesitation is the smell of course, but considering that when we are not feeling well we do not tend to want to be close to other people, it might be advantageous and possible to put that particular hurdle aside.
There are many herbs, foods and spices which help alleviate the symptoms of the common cold. The above is intended to be a little reminder of the variety available and serve to empower you to seek out what would suit you best. So whether you decide on Elderflower, Garlic or even just a drop of Eucalyptus essential oil in the bath, be sure that, first and foremost, you are kind to, and take good care of, yourself.
You can contact Kara Melchizedek, BSc(Hon) MNIHM at Neal’s Yard Remedies, Edinburgh: 0131 226 3223

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