Tag Archives: Sinus Infection

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

This post is one of a series about the ongoing health issues I have had recently beginning in February 2011.

Once the GP and Ear Nose and Throat specialist had established that there wasn’t really anything significant wrong, the general advice was that I needed to ride out the infections, but would benefit from some lifestyle changes.

Of course this is the same sort of general healthy living advice that I suspect most people get when they visit their GP – certainly a colleague at work said he gets much the same every visit to his GP, however like most people I wasn’t eating as healthily as I could, and certainly wasn’t getting enough exercise.

I’d already changed some things as a result of the effects of the post nasal drip. For two or three months I’d been getting morning nausea, which really wasn’t helped by having milk on cereal in the morning. For part of the time I’d just cut out the cereal, but that left me feeling decidedly hungry by lunchtime. Since the previous belief that too many eggs were bad for you had been changed recently I decided to try poached eggs for breakfast – Sam had already developed a bit of a liking for eggs for breakfast too, so it wasn’t too much of a problem to change. The change was also beneficial in cutting my sugar intake, as the muesli I was having had rather a lot of sugar I discovered when I was advised to cut down.

So why cut down on sugar? If you take a look at this WebMD list of immune system busters and boosters third on the list is sugar intake – apparently it can have a dramatic effect on the immune system and it’s ability to fight infection, indeed Sinus Survival, one of a number of deal with your sinus problem guides that are available recommends cutting refined sugar and dairy products totally when you are suffering from a sinus infection.

I’ve had not too much problem cutting out sugar as I’ve never been a great one for snacks, however when the birthday cakes come out at work I have to keep temptation under control. Having said that wanting to end months of being ill is a good way to keep it at bay!

Dairy wise again I’ve pretty well cut it out, but then I never had much dairy anyway, aside from milk on breakfast cereal I’ve just had to stop having cheese. Beth has also cut down on sugar and dairy, although going dairy free was something she was thinking about anyway having had a friend who had children who were lactose intolerant, and had gone dairy free as a family for convenience, and then ended up feeling better for it. In the case of sinus problems the reason for doing so is that dairy products are believed to cause an increase in mucus production, so by cutting it out it reduces the mucus.

The other recommendation from the GP was to start taking some multivitamins, so I’ve joined Beth and the children in taking my vitamins every morning – initially an immune building mix but subsequently myself and Beth are both having the same standard multivitamin.

Alongside this we’ve increased our fruit intake – so we’re certainly eating more than our five a day I’m sure. But the big change on my part is that I’m making time for a walk, often at lunchtime, but with a longer walk at weekends.

Although I work in a town centre, I’m lucky that five minutes drive up the road are the RMA Sandhurst training grounds. Although I have tried walking up there, in the limited time available in a lunchtime it means you end up spending 20-30 minutes walking alongside traffic choked roads, and only get a limited time out in the public parts of the training grounds. Driving up gives time for a 2-3km walk in the hour for lunch. There are plenty of paths to explore, and even a couple of geocaches that I’ve picked up. If I want a shorter walk, heading from the office up to the Camberley Obelisk is about 1km there and back, even if the Obelisk itself is in a bit of a sorry state nowadays and the view is mostly obscured by trees. (Saddleback Hill in the RMA Sandhurst training grounds gives a much better view.)

I’ve also done longer walks in and around Arborfield and Finchampstead. There is a nice circuit from St James’ down through the village and across to Fleet Hill and back, and there would be an equally nice circuit from home around to Arborfield village if it wasn’t for the fact that one key path from Langley Common Road to the village appears to end at a dead end at somebodies back fence! I’ve also picked up quite a few of the local geocaches over towards Farley Hill.

Certainly the diet changes and exercise are making me feel better, but until the hayfever season is over, it remains to be seen whether I’ll finally beat the sinus problems!

Red Light Therapy for Allergies – Does it Work?

This post is one of a series about the ongoing health issues I have had recently beginning in February 2011.

Having blogged about something that I’ve found useful, now something that is very much in the not-so-much category.

I’ve had hayfever for many years, like many people it first surfaced in childhood, and I can well remember being sent out onto the field at primary school at break time after they had mown the grass either on the main field or the paddock behind and my eyes an nose absolutely streaming. Over the years I’ve started with the usual anti-histamines, and then more recently moved onto nasal steroid sprays, usually Beconase Nasal Spray which was generally fairly successful at keeping the symptoms down. Over recent years my symptoms have become less and less until they’ve not really been too much of a bother except when the pollen count was extremely high. This year though, after antibiotics didn’t seem to get rid of my post nasal drip, my GP decided that it was now an allergy problem, and put me onto Zirtek and Flixonase. Given that I’d had years of similar medicines I wasn’t expecting too much of a problem, however I was wrong.

Within a few days I was really starting to feel run down and fatigued, and sleeping much more than I usually would, and I was increasingly starting to get feelings of dry mouth and dry throat. Looking down the side effect lists for both drugs, fatigue and dry mouth were listed as side effects of the Zirtek, so I came off that, but although it improved, I was still feeling pretty lousy taking the Flixonase. At this point, and having had no real problems with Beconase over the years I asked to switch back to that. Although I still got the dry throat and dry mouth to an extent, it was better than on the newer drugs.

At this point it’s worth taking a little diversion into looking at hayfever. Basically what happens is that in certain people the immune system overreacts to inhaling certain pollens. For many people it’s grass pollen, but with others it’s different sorts of trees, or nettles for example. Ultimately the best solution to hayfever is not to expose yourself to the pollens, however if you take a look at a pollen map of the UK that is pretty difficult – the high pollen areas correspond with the most populous parts of the country. You don’t get any escape being in a city either as although pollen levels themselves are lower, pollution in the cities, particularly from vehicle exhausts exacerbates the symptoms. This can be seen most clearly on the map by looking at generally low pollen areas such as the Welsh Coast, and the area around Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, both of which are marked in red whilst most of the rest of the country is in green. Generally good places to be are on the coast, and due to the prevailing winds across the UK, a west facing coast, in an area with low pollution. It’s also advisable to avoid areas of intensive farming. Given this NASA produced map of worldwide pollution it looks like the best place for hayfever sufferers to head in the UK is the west coast of Scotland. Although of course out that way you do get more of a problem from the dreaded Highland Midge.

Anyway, given that like most people in the country my home and work is in one of the many red areas on the map, and that even the Beconase was giving me problems, I started to look around for any alternatives.

There are a couple of easy to try things to start with. One that comes up a lot is to eat local honey, although that does appear to be a bit of a myth, so although I’ve started eating local honey from a nearby farm shop, that’s as much to do with supporting local business as anything else.

One thing that came up quite a lot in the annual “how to beat Hayfever” articles was trying red light therapy. At first thought it sounds absolutely nuts, shining two red lights of a fixed frequency up your nose for a few minutes a couple of times a day, but there are a number of competing products and if you take a look at the reviews for the original device the Medinose, loads of people who say how amazing it is. There is also a sometimes bargain priced version sold by branches of Lloyds Pharmacy.

Not having a Lloyds Pharmacy close by I picked up a Bionase which is the newly rebranded version of the original product – you can read their medical evidence on their main website.

So the question is, does doing an impression of Rudolph several times a day do any good?

I have to say that I started the red light therapy before I stopped on the Beconase, and I have started sneezing more since then, however not as much as I would usually expect given the pollen levels – just occasionally when I’m exposed to high levels of pollen. For example coming back from a walk I’d be fine for the whole walk up to the point when I walk past a neighbour who is mowing his lawn and I’ll get a big reaction. It is also worth saying that the manufacturers advice is that you should start therapy in advance of your hayfever season rather than try and suppress the symptoms after they start. However it doesn’t seem to be doing any harm, and I have got generally reduced symptoms. In fact the only real problem seems to be that it eats through 9V batteries significantly faster than the 100 treatments the manual suggests.

So in conclusion it’s certainly not a miracle cure from my hayfever, but plenty of people seem to think it is. If you don’t have a Lloyds Pharmacy close by you can pick up a Bionase or one of the numerous competing products for about £30-£40, and all you have to contend with then is your family, and especially your kids staring at you as your nose glows red twice a day!

Nasal Irrigation and How It Helped with my Sinus Problems

This post is one of a series about the ongoing health issues I have had recently beginning in February 2011.

Probably the most useful thing I’ve tried during my ongoing sinus problems has been Nasal Irrigation with a simple saline solution, and I have to say that I’m kicking myself because I nearly tried it pretty early on, but decided not to. I only started shortly before I went to see the Ear Nose and Throat specialist, who backed it up as the best solution for a lot of sinus problems. Interestingly it also parallels the advice that is routinely given out for helping children with colds, where again the medical profession recommends using a saline solution squirted up the nose to clear the nostrils.

At it’s simplest you can irrigate your nose by snorting water from your cupped hands, but it’s probably not very efficient. From there the next level up is perhaps the traditional neti pot which you fill with saline solution and pour into one nostril and out the other. There is a particular technique for doing this, which some people can master, and some people can’t.

Needless to say modern technology has produced a lot of modern versions of the neti pot which apply the saline solution by a number of techniques, and in the end I went for one of the more “gadgety” and expensive options and went for the SinuPulse Elite, but it does work remarkably well.

The basic principle is that you fill the water tank with distilled water (we have a nice little routine going of boiling the kettle, letting it cool and filling water bottles) and then add one of the premixed saline sachets. The device then pumps water up one nostril, and it drains out of the other, and then you reverse the process. It doesn’t take too long to do, and in effect cleans out the mucus that would otherwise end up dripping down my throat as part of my ongoing post nasal drip. It doesn’t stop my sinuses producing the mucus, but it deals with the results.

This brings me on to a little aside, if you’re a creationist, I’d love to know what you think God was thinking when he designed the human sinuses, because for a being that walks on two legs they are remarkably badly designed, indeed they work a lot better on an animal that walks on four legs… In particular one pair of sinuses drains from the top! This of course becomes quite important when you’re flushing your sinuses out with water, as I found initially when hours after having finished the process I’d bend over to pick something up and suddenly find water dripping out my nose. I’ve since got into the habit of bending over the bath after I’m done to get most of that water out.

It’s also interesting that even after blowing your nose quite how much extra mucus the Nasal Irrigation manages to flush out, and whilst the sinuses fill up again during the day, the whole process certainly keeps the worst under control.

Certainly there are competing products such as the Grossan Hydro Pulse, and simpler mechanical solutions, I’d certainly recommend the SinuPulse Elite as being a pretty straightforward solution to easily clearing out the gunk that has been clogging up my sinuses for months, as I said above, I’m just kicking myself I didn’t try it sooner!

A Note about Antibiotics and Sinus Infections

This post is one of a series about the ongoing health issues I have had recently beginning in February 2011.

As I mentioned previously over the past few months I have had probably the worst period of continuous illness I’ve ever experienced. A common feature across all of this period has been a continuous post nasal drip from my sinuses.

As with anybody, my first port of call when it seemed like these illnesses were going on a bit was my GP, after the initial sympathy routine they diagnosed a sinus infection, and followed what I have now discovered is the standard strategy, which is to prescribe a wide spectrum antibiotic, and when that doesn’t work, up the strength and length of the course. When that still didn’t work the diagnosis switched to allergies and I was prescribed antihistamines and a nasal steroid inhaler.

However the standard strategy really doesn’t help in the vast majority of cases one reason for this being pretty obvious – if you’re taking an oral antibiotic it struggles to reach an infection in your sinuses in any large capacity. Given that there are already concerns that the overprescription of antibiotics is leading to the rise of resistant bacteria and that in my case at least my already weakened immune system was further weakened by the several courses of antibiotics, leading to my second bout of norovirus this did start to point me in the direction of any other strategies for beating my sinus problems.

So what are the problems with taking a few antibiotics? How could they, in my case, make things worse? You can see the basic issue if you look at how they work. When a GP prescribes antibiotics, pretty well always he has no idea what bacteria you’re infected with, so a broad spectrum antibiotic is prescribed, i.e. it goes after everything. By way of an analogy, think of the infection as a terrorist cell infiltrating a town, in the town you also have defenders, who are trying, but failing to defend the town. Then in comes the help, which kills everything, including some of the defenders. Yes it defeats the invaders, but at the expense of collateral damage. An antibiotic is much the same, it comes in, but takes out more than just the infection, a normal healthy person can then recover, but repeated courses of antibiotics weaken your immune system. There are alternatives, Phage therapy was largely superseded by the discovery of antibiotics in western medicine, but targets specific bacteria with a specific virus, and is now being touted as a possible option as more and more antibiotic resistant bacteria develop, but we’re not there yet.

Just to be clear here, I’m not saying don’t ever take antibiotics, they certainly have a place, it’s more that I wasn’t really aware of the issues surrounding them before this bout of illness, and if, as evidence suggests they’re not going to be much help treating what I’ve got, I’d rather not waste my time taking them! So what have I done instead that has helped? More of that in subsequent posts.