Nasal Polyps: Symptoms, Causes and Natural Support Strategies
Nasal polyps are teardrop-shaped, noncancerous growths on the lining of the nose or sinuses. They usually occur in both the right and left nasal passages and can block the flow of air. They are also usually triggered by chronic inflammation and are associated with a number of health conditions.
Conventional medicine uses drugs and even surgery to treat nasal polyps. However, there are many safe and effective natural remedies for nasal polyps. This article will cover what nasal polyps are, potential causes, complications, and natural support strategies for nasal and immune health.
The Facts about Nasal Polyps
Nasal polyps are growths that line the nasal passages or sinuses (1). They are translucent, grape-like masses that are colored yellow to gray.
If they become too large or there are several of them, they can block the nasal passages and make it hard to breathe, leading to complications.
Types of Nasal Polyps
There are two types of nasal polyps, antrochoanal polyps and ethmoidal polyps. Antrochoanal polyps are less common and originate in the maxillary sinuses.
Ethmoidal polyps are the most common type of nasal polyps. These polyps develop from the ethmoidal sinuses.
Causes and Risk Factors for Nasal Polyps
While there is no known cause of nasal polyps, scientists do know that nasal polyps may result from chronic inflammation of the nasal passages and sinuses. It is not clear why certain people develop chronic inflammation or why the inflammation triggers polyp formation in some people but not in others. It appears to be due to different immune system responses and chemical markers in certain people (1).
Conditions which cause chronic inflammation in the sinuses have been associated with nasal polyps. These conditions include, allergic rhinitis, asthma, aspirin sensitivity, allergies, cystic fibrosis, and chronic sinus infections.
Nasal polyps are most common in young to middle aged adults, particularly men over 40 years of age. However, nasal polyps can occur in anyone at any age.
Signs and Symptoms of Nasal Polyps
Signs and symptoms of nasal polyps include blocked nasal passages, post-nasal drip, runny nose, sneezing, pressure over the forehead and face, and facial pain. Other signs you may have nasal polyps are a loss of taste and difficulty with smell, itching around the eyes, pain in the upper teeth, infections, vocal changes, and snoring. Many people with nasal polyps do not realize they have them and mistake the symptoms for the common cold.
Nasal polyps may cause complications if they block airflow and prevent drainage of mucous fluids. Potential complications associated with nasal polyps are obstructive sleep apnea (you stop and start breathing while sleeping), asthma flare-ups, and chronic sinus infections.
Diagnosis and Treatments For Nasal Polyps
Diagnosis of nasal polyps is most commonly done by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist). There are several medications used to shrink or eliminate nasal polyps.
Drugs, such as nasal corticosteroid sprays, oral and injectable corticosteroids, antihistamines, and antibiotics, are often used by conventional doctors to treat nasal polyps. Surgery is also sometimes used to remove nasal polyps. Unfortunately, even after surgery, nasal polyps often return.
Natural Support Strategies For Nasal Health
There is no generally agreed upon consensus on what causes nasal polyps. Considering this, there is also not a cure for them. Luckily, we do know that because nasal polyps are associated with chronic inflammation of the sinuses, we can incorporate strategies to improve inflammation throughout the body and support optimal nasal health
The following are some of the most powerful strategies I have come across for achieving this effect. In the process, you will improve the overall health and vitality of your body. It is important to understand that these strategies are not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure nasal polyp’s and shouldn’t be confused as such.
Healing Diet Removing Food Sensitivities
One of the best strategies for healing and preventing nasal polyps is to consume an anti-inflammatory, healing diet. It is also critical to remove any foods to which you may have a sensitivity or intolerance. Doing so will be one of the primary methods of reducing overall inflammation and boosting your health.
A healing diet removes foods that cause inflammation and includes organic, non-GMO vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and clean protein. A healing diet reduces inflammation, stabilizes blood sugar, reduces toxic load, provides necessary nutrients, and supports healthy blood pH levels.
The foods to avoid on a healing diet are refined sugars and grains, and any foods that are easily metabolized into sugar (high glycemic foods). These foods upregulate inflammation, and create extra acidity in the tissues. Meat and dairy from conventionally-raised animals, farmed fish, processed foods and highly processed vegetable oils, such as canola, grapeseed, and safflower, also promote inflammation and should be eliminated.
The foods you should be eating on an anti-inflammatory, healing diet are whole, unprocessed foods. Choose grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught meats and fish. Enjoy a variety of lower carbohydrate, low glycemic, colorful vegetable and fruits for their abundant antioxidants and phytonutrients. Plentiful amounts of herbs are also wonderful to use on a healing diet.
There are many low to medium glycemic vegetables including cruciferous vegetables, leeks, shallots, cucumbers, asparagus, and leafy greens. Low glycemic fruits include berries, lemons and limes, grapefruit, and granny smith apples.
Healthy fats are a very important part of a healing diet. Healthy fats are found in coconut, olives, avocados, and their oils and in grass-fed butter and ghee. Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) found in wild caught salmon and grass-fed beef and dairy are fats with many health benefits. These healthy fats are an efficient source of fuel for the body to combat inflammation and support brain function.
Along with a healing diet, it is critical to avoid foods to which you have sensitivities or cannot tolerate. Food sensitivities cause an inflammatory spiral that is detrimental to health. Over 25% of Americans have food sensitives. The most common food allergies and intolerances are wheat and gluten, soy, dairy, fish, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts.
A healing, anti-inflammatory diet that removes sensitive foods is extremely important for good health. You should incorporate this diet as a remedy for nasal polyps.
Hydrating adequately is an important remedy for nasal polyps. Good hydration moisturizes mucous membranes and keeps mucus thin and loose which promotes drainage.
The best way to stay hydrated is to consume clean, filtered water throughout the day, preferably between meals. When consumed with meals, water can interfere with proper digestion by diluting stomach acid. A helpful strategy for optimal hydration is to super hydrate first thing in the morning by drinking 16-32 oz. of water when you wake.
The amount of water you consume is important. You should consume at least one half of your body weight in ounces of water every day. For example, a 130-pound individual should consume a minimum of 65 ounces of water per day.
130 pounds / 2 = 65 ounces
Water has many important roles in the functioning of the body such as improving oxygen delivery to cells, transporting nutrients, flushing toxins, and supporting the body’s natural healing processes. In addition to water, you can hydrate your body with broths, low-sugar smoothies, lemon water, apple cider vinegar water, and low glycemic vegetables.
Bone broths prepared from the bones of pastured chicken or beef can be particularly helpful for nasal polyps because these broths are high in the amino acids proline and glycine. These amino acids are great for inhibiting bacterial and viral inflammation.
Adding fresh lemon or lime juice to your water is another fantastic way to hydrate. Lemons and limes are naturally rich in vitamin C, citrus bioflavonoids, and key electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium. Optimal daily hydration is one of the top remedies for nasal polyps.
Apple Cider Vinegar
There are several ways apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be helpful for nasal polyps. ACV has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. In fact, vinegar has been used to fight infections and other acute conditions for centuries (2).
ACV is a powerful tonic with living nutrients. It has a unique blend of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. ACV can help break up mucus in the body and cleans the lymph nodes to allow for better lymph circulation. This can improve the immune system response.
Apple cider vinegar also contains acetic acid and other beneficial organic acids. The unique acids in ACV can bind to toxins and help the body eliminate them more effectively. The highest quality ACV is raw, unpasteurized, and with the mother intact. The mother is the fermenting piece of apple and has the highest concentration of beneficial enzymes.
Proteolytic (or systemic) enzymes are excellent for immune and nasal health because they break down scar tissue and abnormal tissue. Enzymes are biocatalysts that carry out and speed up chemical reactions in the body.
The functions of proteolytic enzymes in the body include modulating the immune system and metabolism, cleansing the blood, and fighting viruses. Proteolytic enzymes are also natural anti-inflammatories and have anti-fibrolytic activity (3). Enzymes can prevent the buildup of fibrolytic tissue and break down old scar tissue.
Proteo Enzymes is my favorite proteolytic enzyme supplement. This supplement contains pancreatic enzymes and serrapeptidase, a biofilm buster. It is important to take these away from meals to prevent them being used for digestion. It is important to know that this supplement is not FDA approved to prevent, mitigage, treat or cure nasal polyps and should not be used in such a way.
Having a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut is key to proper immune function. Imbalances of microorganisms in the intestinal terrain may contribute to yeast overgrowth, parasites, and harmful bacterial overgrowth. Bad microbes in the gut also cause increased inflammation in the body.
To improve the microbial balance in the gut, it is critical to avoid things that destroy the good bacteria in the gut. Some things that harm the intestinal flora include municipal tap water, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, antibiotics and more. You must also repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria.
One of the best ways to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria is with a high-quality, multi-strain probiotic. To support a healthy gut and immune system, you should use a probiotic daily. You can learn more about which probiotics work best in this article. It is important to know that this supplement is not FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure nasal polyps and should not be used in such a way.
Garlic and Onions
Garlic and onions are excellent foods for healthy nasal passages. They contain numerous nutrients which act as powerful antioxidants in the body to support the immune system and reduce inflammation. Garlic and onions are allium vegetables which are rich in allicin, vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium, and naturally occurring glutathione.
Garlic has been used for centuries to fight infections due to its antibacterial effects. The antibacterial activity of garlic is attributed to allicin. Allicin is a sulfur compound that has antioxidant, antibiotic, and antifungal properties (4). Garlic is also rich in selenium, a naturally detoxifying mineral which increases the action of antioxidants.
Adding garlic and onions to soups and broths is a fantastic remedy for nasal polyps. Be sure to use whole garlic cloves rather than processed minced garlic or garlic powder.
Diffusing Essential Oils
Diffusing essential oils such as eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint, and clove can be an effective strategy for healing nasal polyps. These oils have healing properties and can help break up mucus and reduce inflammatory responses.
Peppermint is a superfood herb that contains rosmarinic acid. Rosmarinic acid has anti-oxidative activities, blocks the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, and encourages cells to produce key molecules that keep the airways open for easy breathing (5).
To diffuse essential oils, add 3-4 drops to half a cup of water and use an essential oil diffuser. You can also inhale essential oils directly from the bottle or rub a drop between your hands, cover your nose and mouth and take in a deep breath.
Diffusing essential oils, particularly peppermint and eucalyptus, can be an effective strategy for relieving nasal congestion and clearing the sinuses. Remember, essential oils are not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure nasal polyp’s and shouldn’t be confused as such.
Deep Nose Breathing
How you breathe is an important part of your health. There are two main factors in breathing: 1) mouth breathing vs. nose breathing, and 2) chest breathing vs. stomach breathing. Taking deep breaths through the nose is a healing strategy that can be an effective remedy for nasal polyps.
Mouth vs. Nose Breathing
Most people chronically breathe out of their mouths. This activates the sympathetic nervous system which is our fight or flight response. Activation of the sympathetic nervous system signals the production of greater amounts of stress hormones and elevates blood sugar.
Nose breathing on the other hand activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This part of the nervous system signals rest, regeneration, healing, and digestion. When you nose breathe, this lowers stress hormones, aids digestion and healing, and promotes relaxation.
Signs that you are a mouth breather are bad morning breath, snoring, dry mouth/thirst in the mornings, unrefreshing sleep, and poor oral hygiene issues. Mouth breathers have a greater bacterial load in their mouths which compromises the immune system making you more susceptible to chronic inflammatory conditions.
One way to train yourself to breathe from the nose rather than the mouth is to use mouth tape at night. My favorite mouth tape is the Micropore paper tape.
Deep vs. Shallow Breathing
Deep, mindful breathing has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure, releasing tension, relieving pain, and more. Rather than deep breathing, most people take short, chest breaths which reduce the body’s ability to effectively oxygenate.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing is necessary to move oxygen-rich air into the base of the lungs which has three times as many blood vessels for respiratory exchange as the upper lung area. This optimizes the body’s natural ability to pump fluid and nutrients to the heart and soft tissue structures around the spine. Deep breathing also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, releasing calming stress hormones and decreasing heart rate and blood pressure.
To practice deep, abdominal breathing through the nose:
- Be aware of your breath.
- Roll your shoulders back and slightly tip your head back.
- Put your hand about an inch away from your navel.
- As you take a deep inhalation through the nose; your navel should expand out and hit your hand.
- As you exhale through your nose, your abdomen should sink back in.
You should practice deep, mindful, abdominal breathing through the nose to improve nasal polyps.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that we must get from foods. Omega-3 fats are found in fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, nuts (especially walnuts), and seeds such as flaxseeds and chia seeds. Consuming foods with Omega-3s is a great natural remedy for nasal polyps.
Omega-3 fatty acids have wide-ranging health benefits. They are an integral component of the membranes that surround our cells and have an intimate role in the body’s hormonal responses. Omega-3s reduce inflammation in the body and lower the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Omega-3 fats are also essential for the health of the central nervous system (6).
One of my favorite sources of Omega-3 fatty acids is ProOmega CRP. ProOmega CRP has 1260 mg of EPA and DHA, concentrated Omega-3 fish oils. It also contains Optimized Curcumin, L-Glutathione, and N-Acetylcysteine (NAC).
This unique combination makes ProOmega CRP one of the most powerful supplements available for down-regulating inflammation and oxidative stress quickly. This supplement is not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure nasal polyp’s and shouldn’t be confused as such.
Zinc and Magnesium
Including optimal amounts of zinc and magnesium in your diet is important for supporting a healthy inflammatory process and ideal nasal environment. Both zinc and magnesium are important for supporting the immune system.
Magnesium and zinc are important cell ion channel mediators (7). Ion channels in cells play powerful roles in immunity because they are critical for cell to cell communication. The immune system relies upon efficient communication of information to adapt to threats.
Zinc also boosts the immune system by producing a protein called the human cytokine interferon alpha that inhibits the replication of viruses and by regulating the Th-1 and Th-2 systems. Zinc supports the immune system through enzymes, including superoxide dismutase (SOD). Superoxide dismutase are powerful intracellular antioxidant enzymes created by the body. These enzymes help break down potentially harmful oxidative molecules in cells, protect cellular genomics, and help prevent viral infections.
Foods high in zinc include pasture-raised chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef and dairy, spinach, and wild-caught salmon. Nuts and seeds such as cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and watermelon seeds are also high in zinc. It is best to soak or sprout nuts and seeds to reduce the level of phytic acids.
Magnesium is a crucial nutrient that supports over 300 physiological processes or functions in the body. It is called the “master mineral” and fully supports optimal circulation, cellular energy, the nervous system, and much more.
The top food sources of magnesium are leafy greens such as Swiss chard and spinach, sea vegetables, sprouts, and avocados. Grass-fed dairy and wild-caught fish are rich in magnesium. Pumpkin seeds, nuts, dark chocolate, and coffee are also good sources of magnesium.
Many people are deficient in zinc and magnesium. To help support a healthy immune system and nasal environment it is a great idea to supplement with both zinc and magnesium.
Nasal irrigation is a therapy that uses a salt and water solution to flush out the nasal passages. Studies have shown that nasal irrigation reduces inflammation in the nasal cavities and can help create a healthier nasal environment (8, 9).
Nasal irrigation can alleviate congestion and sooth facial pain and pressure. Nasal irrigation with a saline solution can help increase the speed and coordination of tiny hair-like structures called cilia that line the inside of the nasal and sinus cavities. This causes the cilia to more effectively remove the allergens and other irritants.
There are several methods of nasal irrigation including the Neti pot. Nasal irrigation can be very helpful but it is not FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure nasal polyps and shouldn’t be confused as such.
Steam Inhalation or Humidifier
Adding moisture through steam inhalation or a humidifier can help support a healthy nasal environment. Steam inhalation helps open up the nasal passages and thin out mucus, enabling it to drain from the sinuses.
Using a humidifier to add moisture to the air moistens the sinuses and soothes the tissues in the nasal passages. This can prevent dryness in the nose and throat which can cause irritation.
Humidifiers help also prevent the spread of airborne illnesses. Viruses and bacteria cannot travel as well in moist air (10). This reduces your risk of infections. Some humidifiers or water diffusing devices can have essential oils added them for added benefit.
Nasal polyps are benign, tear-drop shaped growths in the nose and sinuses. Nasal polyps are associated with chronic inflammation and a number of other health conditions. The signs and symptoms of nasal polyps can resemble a cold and include blocked nasal passages, pressure in the head and face, a loss of taste or difficulty with smell, snoring, and more.
There are many support strategies to help improve nasal health. One of the most effective includes eating a healing diet including apple cider vinegar and garlic and onions. It is also important to remove any foods to which you may have a sensitivity or intolerance.
Good hydration, deep nose breathing, diffusing essential oils, nasal irrigation and using a humidifier or steam inhalation are all very helpful for creating a healthy nasal environment. Certain high-quality supplements such as probiotics, Omega-3s, and proteolytic enzymes can also be helpful.
If you want to work with a functional health coach, I recommend this article with tips on how to find a great coach. At my clinic, we offer long-distance functional health coaching programs. For further support with your immune system and other health goals, just reach out and our fantastic coaches are here to support your journey.