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Sinusitis -- is fungal infection the hidden culprit

Sinusitis affects millions of people every year. An inflammation of the nasal passages, it can cause headaches, facial pain, cough, fever, bad breath, nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip and even toothache and an impaired sense of smell and taste. For many it can become a chronic problem which seriously affects their quality of life.

Most cases of sinusitis are treated with antibiotics, but unfortunately these only help if bacteria are the cause of the infection. Where the cause is a virus, antibiotics do not help. Sinusitis is also known to be caused by allergies such as hay fever or pollutants such as nasal sprays which irritate the nasal passages. However, new research points to yet another cause which may in fact be the hidden culprit in most cases of chronic sinusitis - fungus.

We are all exposed to fungus and mould spores in the air, and most of us have fungi in the mucous membranes of our sinuses as a result. However, in some people the fungi trigger inflammation and the symptoms of sinusitis. In these cases, antibiotics not only fail to help, but make the problem worse.

It is hoped that this new research will lead to the development of new antifungal medications to treat sinusitis. However, naturopathic doctors suggest that there are simple steps we can take to avoid the root cause of the problem by helping our bodies to keep fungus under control. Here are some tips for doing this:

  • Eliminate intake of sugar and reduce carbohydrates such as flour, rice, corn or maize, pasta, pizza, potatoes, cakes and cookies. These all break down into glucose (a form of sugar) in our body - the sugar is what the fungi feed on
  • Take good quality cod liver or fish oil each day to boost levels of the omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for a healthy immune system
  • Use coconut oil for cooking (but ensure it is made from fresh coconuts, not dried ones). The lauric acid it contains is known for its antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties
  • Avoid eating foods which are often contaminated with fungal toxins called mycotoxins, such as alcohol, corn, wheat, barley, sugar, sorghum, peanuts, rye, cottonseed oil and mouldy hard cheese
  • Take regular exercise - physical activity causes sinuses to expand and helps air and cleansing mucus to move through them

If your sinuses are congested, wash them out with saline solution. This treatment has been used in Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) medicine for many years and is now being recommended by many western doctors. Use half to one teaspoon of salt to two cups of tepid water. Adding a pinch of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can also help to break up the mucus. Inhaling steam for 10 minutes two to four times a day from a bowl of boiled water with a towel over your head to prevent the steam escaping, or taking a hot, steamy shower can also help.