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An Ancient Approach to a Modern-Day Problem

by / Thursday, 03 May 2012 / Published in Cleaning and Comfort

When we lay our heads down at the end of a long day, we hope to drift away into a blissful and rejuvenating night’s sleep. Unfortunately, we may run into obstacles that would deprive us of that goal. One such obstacle being sinus issues. These issues can range from stuffiness brought on by allergies, to annoying post-nasal drip, to full-blown colds or sinus infections. For many of us, this usually results in a visit to the medicine cabinet.

If your cabinet is like mine, it contains just about every capsule, pill, and ointment known to man, many of which do little more than take up space. The ones that do have an effect, often have a dark side to them. There are the potions that clear me up, put me to sleep, but leave me in a zombie-like stupor the next day. There are the nasal sprays that open my sinuses so wide, I feel like I have to fence off my nostrils to prevent small animals from getting inside. Then the next day, the “rebound effect” shuts them up tighter than ever, in an attempt to blackmail me into providing them with another dose. Finding an effective sinus treatment without adverse side effects can indeed be a challenge.

One approach that I’ve found to be effective, yet mild, has been nasal irrigation using a Neti pot. Until somewhat recently, this approach to maintaining good sinus health was relatively unknown in the West. The word Neti comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “nasal cleansing”, such cleansing being a part of traditional Indian medicine for centuries. A Neti pot is a small vessel shaped something like Aladdin’s lamp, and filled with a warm saline solution that is poured directly into one nostril, allowed to fill the sinus cavities, and then exit though the second nostril. This action can potentially flush out pollen, dust, and other debris. It can also eliminate encrusted and bacteria-laden mucus, thereby freeing up the nasal cilia to do their job more effectively. Seasonal allergy sufferers, as well as those who work in dusty environments, especially benefit from this sort of cleansing.

The solution introduced into the sinuses is typically composed of purified or distilled water mixed with sodium chloride (salt), and sometimes a buffer, like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Packets of Neti mix can be purchased, or the solution can be made from scratch at home. It’s very important to note that tap water should not be used in such a preparation unless it has been boiled first. Distilled water is the medium of choice, for the do-it-yourselfer. The salt used in the solution should be the non-iodized variety, like kosher salt. (Although not iodized, sea salt should be avoided because of its potential algae content.) After the mix is complete, it’s put into the Neti pot and heated briefly in the microwave until it’s approximately body temperature.

The Neti pot does take some getting used to. If not carried out according to directions, users might end up with the solution pouring down their throats, causing them to gag, and terminate the attempt. Others, due to physiological obstructions, may not be able to complete the nostril-to-nostril circuit, and not get the full benefits of nasal lavage. Most people though, find the Neti pot to be easy, refreshing, and very effective.

Those looking for a little extra “oomph” to the Neti pot experience, can purchase a Neti squeeze-bottle. Unlike the pot, the squeeze-bottle doesn’t rely on gravity alone to drive the solution through the sinuses. It allows the user to exert pressure, which can be helpful when congestion is particularly heavy.

Of course, as with any gadget, there’s also a super-duper electric model. This is essentially like a waterpik for your nose. A pulsating stream of solution is shot into your sinuses from a wand that’s connected to a pump and reservoir. To me, this approach sounds a little like overkill, but it does have its adherents. And I suppose, if it doesn’t work out, you can use the unit to pressure wash very small items.

Whatever your choice, nasal irrigation can be a low-tech, low-impact, approach to healthy sinuses. It can flush out the dust and pollen of the day, which can lead to a congestion-free night. It can also ease cold symptoms and get the jump on sinus infections, which means fewer trips to the dreaded medicine cabinet.

Better Rest Solutions does not endorse any particular treatment.