Chronic sinusitis is defined as an inflammation in the nasal passages that extends into the sinuses. There can be accumulations of pus, infected material, allergens, and immune cells. Sometimes the blockage can be so complete that there is little air space left in the sinuses. The normal function of the sinuses is to warm the air that we breathe in. The sinuses do this because of their rich supply of blood vessels. It is this rich blood vessel supply that provides a great number of immune system cells to the area as well. Thus, triggers that excite the immune system can cause a large amount of inflammation and pain in the sinuses. Notably, if there is stagnation in the sinuses, pus, activated immune cells, and debris can accumulate in the closed space, causing further stagnation and pain.
Common external triggers to chronic sinusitis
•environmental allergens such as pollen, dust, animal dander
•bacterial or viral infection
•fungal infection (most common)
Common internal triggers to chronic sinusitis
•hypersensitivity to individual fungal organisms or mold (most common)
•internal toxicities that contribute to immune system imbalances
•blood vessel tone and permeability irregularities
Naturopathic Program for Sinusitis
After an initial history and exam, the most likely acute cause is decided upon and treated. Usually a saline irrigation is taught, but depending on the individual case, an antifungal nasal spray with quercetin added may be used. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine that also has properties of stabilizing some of the immune system cells usually involved in chronic sinusitis. If the case dictates, more interventional treatments of ultraviolet blood irradiation (most useful in bacterial/viral infection), ozone therapy (useful in both infection and immune system disturbances), or IV vitamin C (acute allergic conditions and infections) may be started upon to give faster improvement.
Naturopathic Assessment for the Underlying Reasons for Chronic Sinusitis
Treating the consequences of chronic sinusitis alone is not useful. The symptoms of headache, congestion, pain, and mental fogginess are simply the consequences of an underlying condition that made a patient susceptible to manifesting the chronic sinusitis. The naturopathic approach needs to investigate possible internal triggers, external triggers, and the overall condition of the patient in order to diagnose and treat the true causes of sinusitis.
This may involve investigation into diet, past history of recurring illnesses, chemical and toxin loads, stress, and hormonal or nutritional irregularities. For example, a patient with long-standing sinusitis may benefit from skin testing by provocation / neutralization for a variety of fungal organisms if there is history of fatigue, worse symptoms indoors, worse symptoms in the morning, vaginal yeast infections, or even dietary tendencies toward carbohydrates and sugar. This process would involve small injections of fungal allergens using a very thin needle, with the goal of producing sinusitis symptoms or worsening of symptoms temporarily in the office. Finding a dose of the allergen that acts as immunotherapy, thereby eliminating symptoms and rebalancing the immune system finishes the visit then. If the patient was found to be positive, dietary modification and techniques to improve digestion and good microbial balance in the gut would be taught, as this is often the underlying imbalance.
Other cases may have a cause in impaired detoxification, which has lead to stagnation of the lymph vessels. While the patient will feel much better soon after the above treatments are started, if impaired detoxification is the cause, then lymphatic drainage medicines and techniques would be used, perhaps with sauna therapy, to decrease the toxin burden. In such cases the patient usually not only has a remission of sinusitis but has a great overall improvement in health and energy, because of the naturopathic detoxification techniques used to treat the underlying causes of sinusitis.
Either way, as with most other conditions, the actual disease is only a red flag that should point to an underlying physiological stress. Identifying, correcting, and understanding the reasons as to why the stress occurred will not only improve the disease, but more importantly, start the journey to optimal health. This is the crux of the naturopathic program.