Sinusitis, a common condition characterised by inflammation of the sinus passages, can be both uncomfortable and debilitating. While medical treatments are essential, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that dietary choices can also play a role in managing and relieving sinusitis symptoms.
Experts say that food can be the primary factor determining whether the condition will worsen or get better. A range of foods and beverages included in the diet can help reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and ease the discomfort associated with sinusitis.
Let us delve into the science behind selecting foods for a sinus-friendly.
Hydration: the foundation of sinusitis management
An important aspect of managing sinusitis is staying hydrated. Adequate hydration helps moisten the throat and the body and fasten the removal of toxins from the body.
“Drinking an adequate amount of water helps thin the mucus, making it easier to clear congestion,” says Sonia Velarsan, a nutrigenomics and onco-nutrition specialist at the University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology, Bengaluru.
She adds that staying well-hydrated helps keep the skin and the mucous membranes within the sinuses healthy. This reduces irritation and preventing infections from getting worse or spreading.
Herbal teas for soothing relief
Herbal teas have long been used to provide relief from sinusitis symptoms. While often considered to be an alternative to regular tea or coffee and even seen as an immunity booster by some, it is important to note that herbal teas cannot cure sinusitis. However, they can effectively assist in the condition.
“Chamomile, ginger, and peppermint teas are popular choices due to their soothing effects,” says Yamini Priya, dietitian, Billroth Hospital, Chennai. “Chamomile contains antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation. Ginger, with its anti-inflammatory properties, can alleviate symptoms like nasal congestion. Tulsi tea has been studied for its potential to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.”
She also cautions against overdoing it, as overconsumption might lead to acidity. Two to three cups are enough to reap its benefits.
The spice rack: turmeric, garlic and peppers
Spices are more than just flavour enhancers; they can also be allies in managing sinusitis. Velarsan says that turmeric contains curcumin, a compound with well-documented anti-inflammatory properties. Garlic, with its allicin content, offers similar benefits in reducing inflammation.
Peppers, on the other hand, contain capsaicin, a compound that can ease pain, stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation.
While spicy foods can help relieve congestion, she says that it is essential to consume them in moderation to avoid potential digestive discomfort.
Omega-3 fatty acids: the anti-inflammatory allies
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds, can be valuable additions to a diet aimed at managing sinusitis. Omega-3s are known for their anti-inflammatory effects and may help reduce the overall inflammation associated with sinusitis and other nasal conditions.
A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy suggests that omega-3 shows a natural steroid-like effect [steroidal medication is known to be a magic drug to treat inflammation in the medical fraternity] and should be considered while tailoring the medical treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis and polyposis (nasal polyps).
Vitamin C: supporting the immune system
While citrus fruits are typically considered sour, they also provide a significant dose of vitamin C, which plays a crucial role in supporting our immune health. Moderate consumption of citrus fruits can contribute to overall health and help your body better combat sinusitis.
However, in some individuals, consuming citric fruits may aggravate the sinusitis symptoms despite having beneficial effects on immunity. The key here is to listen to how one’s body is responding towards citric fruits.
“Citrus fruits, while often nutritious and flavourful, can exacerbate sinusitis symptoms for some individuals,” says Velarsan. “Due to their acidity, it may lead to increased mucus production, irritation in [the] sinus lining, or trigger allergies.”
She concluded that one size does not fit all. We must remember that dietary responses can vary, so it is important to pay attention to our body’s signals and adjust accordingly. For some, lemon can be beneficial but for others, it might not.
Warm broths and soups for comfort and relief
Priya says that warm broths and soups are not only comforting but also effective in providing hydration and relief from congestion. The warmth can help soothe irritated nasal passages, while the warm fluids can thin mucus, making it easier to expel.
The healing honey
Honey is renowned for its antibacterial and soothing properties. Harvard Medical School also recommends a spoonful of honey to alleviate a sore throat, coughing, and nasal congestion. While it may not completely treat a sinus infection, it is a harmless way to address symptoms.
“Adding honey to warm water or tea can alleviate throat irritation, a common symptom of sinusitis,” says Velarsan. “Its antimicrobial properties may also help in managing infections associated with sinusitis.”
Nuts and seeds: a nutrient-rich boost
During a sinus infection, the body needs nutrients that boost its ability to fight the sinus infection. Nuts and seeds come to the rescue, with their wide range of nutrients.
Velarsan says that almonds, walnuts, pistachios, flaxseeds, chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are packed with essential minerals, vitamins, fibre, and antioxidants. These nutrients support the healing process and can help reduce the inflammation associated with sinusitis.
A handful of these, every day, can help support the body’s immune system to beat a sinus infection.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing sinusitis through diet, the evidence suggests that certain foods and beverages can play a vital role in alleviating symptoms and supporting the healing process.
By incorporating these foods and beverages into your daily routine, you can take a step towards managing sinusitis.
Read more: Foods to avoid with sinusitis