Sinus Congestion: Causes, Symptoms & Support Strategies
Are you dealing with sinus congestion? Having a chronic stuffy and runny nose is not fun, yet it is more common than you think. Many people are dealing with chronic sinus congestion due to chronic sinus infections, seasonal and environmental allergies, mold, food sensitivities, and other reasons. If you are one of those people struggling with chronic sinus congestion, you don’t have to suffer anymore. You can try some natural support strategies to support your immune health and improve your well-being.
In this article, you will learn what sinus congestion is. I will explain the symptoms and major causes of chronic sinus congestion. I will offer some natural support strategies for sinus congestion to improve your immune system and overall health.
What Is Sinus Congestion
Sinus congestion is a common condition caused by fluid being trapped in your sinuses. This may feel like your sinuses are blocked or painful. It is often accompanied by nasal congestion. Nasal congestion is commonly referred to as ‘stuffy nose’ because of the stuffy or plugged feeling caused by excess fluid in your nasal and adjacent tissues. Nasal congestion may or may not be accompanied by nasal discharge or ‘runny nose’. Besides nasal congestion, sinus congestion may be characterized by a list of other symptoms that you will find in the next section.
Acute or temporary sinus congestion is a well-known symptom of the common cold and sometimes the flu. It is also a symptom of seasonal allergies. However, many people experience chronic sinus congestion due to a number of reasons, including chronic sinus infections, mold, environmental allergies, nasal polyps, food sensitivities, and histamine intolerance (1).
Sinus Congestion Symptoms
If you have sinus congestion, you may experience a number of symptoms, including (1):
- Sinus congestion or stuffy nose
- Nasal discharge or runny nose
- Post-nasal drip or mucus dripping down your throat
- Facial pain or pressure
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
Major Causes of Sinus Congestion
You may develop sinus congestion for a number of reasons. Let’s look at the top major causes of sinus congestion.
If you have a sinus infection, it means that your sinus cavities become inflamed leading to swelling in your sinus tissue lining. Sinus congestion is one of the main symptoms of sinus infections. You may develop a sinus infection due to the common cold, allergies, nasal polyps, or a shift in your nasal cavity (deviated septum).
You may develop an acute sinus infection as a result of an illness or allergies that may last anywhere between a few days and a few weeks. However, sinus infections can turn chronic leading to chronic sinus congestion that needs more attention and addressing the root cause of your symptoms (2).
Mold is a fungus that can grow and thrive under many conditions in most places, especially in a warm and moist environment. It is versatile and can grow both indoors and outdoors. Indoor mold is most commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements where the environment is damp, wet, moist, and warm.
The problem is that even if you have mold in one spot, its microscopic spores can travel and spread far and wide. Mold exposure and mold toxicity can be very harmful to your health. It may lead to chronic sinus congestions, respiratory issues, allergies, headaches, brain fog, fatigue, and other chronic symptoms. To learn more about mold toxicity and how to address it, I recommend reading this article (3, 4).
Environmental allergies are your immune system’s reaction to something in the environment that seems harmful to your body. Environmental allergies may lead to sinus congestion, runny nose, coughing, fatigue, wheezing, headaches, and symptoms similar to the common cold.
Common environmental energies that you may encounter in your home, other indoor environments, or outside, include dust mites, pet render, pollen, mold, and cigarette smoke. According to a 2005 study, indoor air pollution can be particularly damaging to your respiratory health. To learn more about seasonal allergies, I recommend reading this article and to learn more about the problems with indoor air pollution, I recommend reading this article (5).
Nasal polyps are small, soft, painless, and non-cancerous growth inside your nasal passages and sinuses. They look like small teardrops that hang like grapes. While they are not dangerous to your health, they can lead to some uncomfortable symptoms.
According to 2008 research, nasal polyps may increase chronic sinus congestion, post-nasal drip, nasal obstruction, or facial pain. Traditional treatment of nasal polyps includes corticosteroids or surgery (6).
Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities do not tend to cause immediate reactions, such as sudden hives or difficulty breathing. Instead, they lead to chronic symptoms over time as you are consuming foods that you are sensitive to.
One of the common symptoms of food sensitivities is chronic sinus congestion. Other symptoms may include headaches, migraines, digestive complaints, depression, anxiety, brain fog, and fatigue.
Common food sensitivities include wheat, gluten, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts, however, you may be sensitive to less common foods as well, so discovering and eliminating your personal food sensitivities is critical for your health. To learn more about food sensitivities and how to reduce them, I recommend reading this article (7).
Histamine is a chemical that is responsible for removing allergens from your body as part of your immune response, triggering stomach acid and supporting digestion, and communicating with your brain. In a healthy body, your body releases certain enzymes to break down and remove histamine build-up.
But if you have too much histamine in your body due to a high-histamine diet, nutrient deficiencies, mast cell activation syndrome, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MHFR) mutation, gut infections, leaky gut syndrome, or other reasons, your body won’t be able to keep up leading to excess histamine. Histamine intolerance means that your body has too much histamine.
This can lead to sinus congestion and other symptoms all over your body, including allergies, skin problems, headaches, sleep issues, anxiety, digestive issues, hormonal problems, and more. You may learn more about histamine intolerance by reading this article (8).
Natural Support Strategies
If you have sinus congestion, you can support your immune health through natural support strategies. Here are my favorite natural support strategies for sinus congestion I recommend to my patients, friends, and family.
It is important to know that not all of these strategies are FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any health conditions and shouldn’t be confused as such. With that said, these strategies can be helpful for the overall health of your immune and respiratory systems.
Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Plan
As a 2011 paper explained, chronic rhinosinusitis is characterized by chronic sinus congestion and related symptoms for 12 weeks or longer as a result of chronic sinus inflammation. This chronic inflammation may develop due to fungi, viruses, bacteria, airborne irritants, and allergens that I will discuss in later sections, but also as a result of your diet.
Eating an inflammatory diet may lead to increased symptoms, while an anti-inflammatory diet may reduce your symptoms and support your recovery. Eliminate inflammatory foods, including refined sugar, refined oil, high-carb meals, sodas and sugary drinks, artificial ingredients, deep-fried food, junk food, and processed foods.
Eat a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, including greens, vegetables, herbs and spices, low glycemic index fruits, fermented foods, healthy fats, pasture-raised beef, poultry and eggs, and wild-caught seafood. To learn more about the anti-inflammatory ketogenic diet I recommend, read this article (9).
Eliminate Food Sensitivities
If you have chronic sinus congestion, I recommend that you identify and eliminate all food sensitivities. To identify your food sensitivities, you can try a pulse test I talk about in this article or an elimination diet.
To do an elimination diet, remove all common food sensitivities, including wheat, gluten, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts, as well as any other foods that you may think can be triggering. Eliminate these foods for two to four weeks, then introduce them slowly one by one.
Keep a food diary to record your meals and any symptoms. Leave two to three days between each introduction and watch your body for reactions. If you notice any negative reactions, immediately remove this food. You may reintroduce one food two or three times to check for false negative or false positive reactions. The foods that you are continuously reacting to with any symptoms, you are sensitive to and need to remove them from your diet (7).
Consider a Low-Histamine Diet
As you’ve learned earlier, histamine sensitivity may be the reason behind your chronic sinus congestion. The best way to see if histamine sensitivity is the culprit behind your issues is to try a low-histamine diet. Eliminate high-histamine foods, including eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, citrus, processed and smoked meats, dried fruits, vinegar and vinegar-based foods, fermented food, soured foods, nuts, and shellfish.
Do a two-week trial to see if your symptoms improve. If your symptoms improve, you may try to re-introduce these foods one by one to see if you can tolerate any of them, otherwise, continue following a low-histamine diet (8).
Support Gut Microbiome Health
According to a 2018 study, your gut microbiome may play a critical role in developing chronic sinus congestion. Reducing bad bacteria and improving your gut health is critical for your immune system and may reduce your symptoms.
While eating a gut-friendly anti-inflammatory diet is critical for gut health, I also recommend that you take high-quality probiotics and try Gut Repair for gut dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome, and poor gut bacterial balance. To learn more about the importance of gut health, I recommend reading this article (10).
Clean Up Your Air Quality
Reducing your risk of environmental allergens is critical for improving your health if you have nasal congestion. Make sure that your house is mold-free. If there is mold in your house, make sure that you get professional mold remediation or move to a mold-free home. Vacuum your home regularly. Invest in a high-quality air purifier to lower your exposure to dust, pollen, and other allergens in the air.
A 2018 study on 46 individuals with self-reported allergies has found that using air filtration made a statistically significant difference in nasal allergy symptoms from circulating indoor allergens. I personally use and highly recommend EnviroKlenz for air-purification. Put plenty of natural plants in your home to increase fresh oxygen around you. Avoid using conventional toxic cleaning, beauty, and body products, and replace them with natural, organic, and DIY alternatives (11).
For immediate relief for sinus congestion, you may try a simple acupressure technique. Place and push your tongue against the top of your mouth. Instead of aiming for a specific point, simply push it flat against the roof. Then put your finger between your eyebrows and apply some pressure.
Hold this position for about 20 seconds. Chances are, you will feel your sinuses beginning to drain. Remember, this strategy is only for temporary symptoms relief that you can use alongside my other recommendations for immune support.
Diffuse Essential Oils
Diffusing essential oils is another strategy that may help you with symptom relief. Peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, and oregano oil may be particularly supportive. A 2014 animal has demonstrated that peppermint oil may be beneficial for inflammation, and a 2015 study has shown that it may help to fight bacteria responsible for sinus congestion.
According to a 2009 study, eucalyptus oil was more effective than a placebo for sinus issues. According to a 2009 double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled trial, carvacrol, a component of oregano oil may be effective against bacteria causing sinus congestion (12, 13, 14, 15).
Use a Neti Pot
Netti pots are small personal hygiene appliances that are shaped like a teapot. They are used for nasal irrigation that allows you to pour saltwater solution into your nasal cavity to help relieve symptoms of nasal congestion. According to a 2009 scientific manuscript, using neti pots is a safe way to improve acute and chronic respiratory conditions, such as sinus congestion, with no to minimal side effects.
Using neti pots helps to flush your sinuses, relieve blockages, remove nasal debris, keep the mucous membrane moist, and improve breathing. It is important that your carefully follow the instructions on your neti pot and clean your neti pot carefully before using it to avoid infections. If you don’t have a neti pot, you may use a squeeze bottle instead (16).
Consider Using Colloidal or Nano Silver
Colloidal silver is made out of nanometre-sized silver particles that create a highly effective form of silver. Colloidal silver is created by mechanically grinding metallic silver into tiny silver particles or by converting silver salts into small silver crystals with the help of an electrochemical reaction. Two studies from 2011 have demonstrated the potential antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal effects of colloidal silver nanoparticles.
A 2013 study has shown that it may have antiviral benefits against the human parainfluenza virus which may lead to upper-respiratory infections and sinus congestion. Colloidal or nano silver spray may reduce fungal or microbial growth in the nasal cavity.
For immune and upper-respiratory health support, I recommend Silver Spray. I recommend one spray in each nostril every few hours until symptoms are cleared. To learn more about the potential benefits of colloidal silver, I recommend reading this article (17, 18, 19).
Improve the Sinus Microbiome
Within your sinuses, you have a microbiome that supports the mucus membrane and immune system. Sinus congestion is a warning sign of an overgrowth of pathogens within the sinus cavity.
To help clear this up, silver can be used, and then I also recommend a bioactive carbon based sinus spray that helps break down and detoxify bacterial and fungal biofilms. This is why I like ION Sinus, which is made up of mineral rich bioactive carbons and helps to harmonize the respiratory microbiome.
ION Sinus is a rinse for clearing dust, pollen and other air-born environmental irritants we’re exposed to every day. It’s your microbiome-friendly ally in caring for the respiratory system. Think of it as strengthening your very first line of defense.
To further support your immune health, there are a variety of immune-supportive nutrients you may try. Here is what I recommend:
Vitamin D is absolutely necessary for your immune health. According to a 2016 research, vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of nasal polyps and sinus issues. A 2011 and a 2013 research has demonstrated the benefits of vitamin D for your immune system health.
Sunshine is the best way to get enough vitamin D, however, our indoor lifestyle and in some places, cold climate and cloudy weather, makes it practically impossible to meet all your requirements. Taking a good quality vitamin D3 supplement on a regular basis and testing your 25-OH vitamin D3 levels a few times a year to make sure it is in the optimal 50-100 ng/mL range is recommended (20, 21, 22).
For maximum immune support, I recommend taking Vitamin D/K2 Power daily. I usually recommend around 1,000 IU’s per 25 lbs of body weight to help get your levels up to the optimal range and keep them there.
For some individuals who are very deficient, they may need larger dosages such as 2,000 IU’s per 25 lbs of body weight for a period of time. If you are getting a lot of whole body sun exposure, you may need little to no supplementation.
Zinc is critical for your immune health. According to a 2008 study zinc is important for the function of cells mediating innate immunity, neutrophils, and NK cells and according to a 2015 meta-analysis, it may be helpful for the common cold.
I recommend eating a zinc-rich diet full of pasture-raised beef, grass-fed poultry, oysters, wild-caught salmon, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and asparagus (24, 25). If you deal with a compromised immune system, it can be very helpful to take an extra 20 mg of supplemental zinc daily to support your immune response.
Zinc is important to take with meals, otherwise, you may experience nausea. Our Zinc Charge uses a highly bioavailable zinc glycinate form which has been shown to absorb better than most other forms of zinc.
Vitamin C is one of the most commonly known immune-supportive nutrients. A 2013 study has shown the antioxidant benefits of vitamin C on nasal issues (23).
To boost your vitamin C levels, I recommend using a good quality vitamin C supplementation daily along with eating foods rich in vitamin C, including citrus, kiwi, pineapple, tomatoes, green and red peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Bioflavonoids, also known as flavonoids, are phytochemicals that are often found together with vitamin C in nature and are one of the most interesting and powerful biological compounds. According to a 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis, bioflavonoids may be beneficial for respiratory conditions.
I recommend Super C, a supplement rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids to support your immune health and eating foods that are rich in bioflavonoids, including lemon, lime, oranges, cherries, grapes, strawberries, bell pepper, garlic, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli (26).
Chronic stuffy and runny nose from chronic sinus congestion is very common. Yet, there is no reason for you to deal with these uncomfortable symptoms anymore. Try my natural support strategies to improve your immune health and overall well-being.
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 health goals, just reach out and our fantastic coaches are here to support your journey.