A Gentler Alternative to Treating and Preventing Chronic Sinusitis
By Georgia Tetlow, MD
As the seasons change, most of us notice slight congestion or a little sinus pressure. But if you notice sinus inflammation and excess mucus for a prolonged period of time you may be experiencing a common condition called chronic sinusitis. This condition occurs when your nasal passages and cavities become inflamed and swollen for at least 12 weeks. Chronic sinusitis also known as chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) occurs when a blockage within the sinus interferes with natural drainage and causes significant discomfort even some pain around your eyes and nose. It is thought that this condition is caused by an overabundance of bacteria and/or fungus within the sinus which leads to a thick sinus lining, however recent research has concluded otherwise. What is the cause of CRS? How is this condition treated conventionally? How can we treat this condition with an integrative approach?
Conventional Approach to CRS
To understand the various treatment methods for this complex re-occurring condition, you must first understand the root cause. The inflammation within your sinus cavities is caused by inflammatory agents such as: an overabundance of certain fungi and bacteria, as well as allergens caused by environmental conditions and diet. While fungal CRS is rare, many conventionally trained providers choose to treat all chronic sinus conditions with antibiotics and antifungals. Is treating this condition with antibiotics and antifungals an effective approach?
An Integrative Approach vs. a Conventional Approach
Recent research supports the idea that CRS can be caused by a thickening of what’s known as “biofilm”. Biofilm is an extracellular matrix that bacteria and most pathogens reside within, and usually forms as a result of inflammation, a poor immune system, an allergic response, and/or surgery. Biofilms allow bacteria and pathogenic agents the ability to share nutrients and even disrupt DNA with your body while protecting these agents from our immune responses. While a conventionally trained provider may be well intentioned by prescribing round after round of antibiotics/antifungals, the medications will have difficulty providing relief unless they also contain substances that degrade the biofilm within your sinuses as well as addressing allergens.
An Integrative Approach
Once a CRS diagnosis has be made, we can proceed with a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses biofilm, bacterial and fungal overgrowth, environmental allergens and dietary factors that may be contributing. While this condition requires treatments from many angles, it is imperative to keep in mind it is a holistic and gentle approach. A frequently recommended treatment is a compounded nasal rinse or nebulizer treatment. This approach which often contains a combination of biofilm agents, antibiotics and/or anti fungals and steroids to be delivered directly to the nasal cavities, avoids systemic absorption and disruption of gut flora. Coinciding with the topical treatment, a systemic approach may help to eliminate the biofilm causing agents long term. We may recommend an enzyme compound such as Interphase Plus, which can degrade and eliminate biofilms throughout the body.
Addressing your Diet and Immune System
Antifungal/antibiotic and biofilm degrading treatments should coincide with changes to your diet. We recommend eliminating or minimizing mucin forming foods such as dairy products. Another key piece is to incorporate more foods that nurture your GI tract and beneficial bacteria such as probiotic rich foods. This step is of key importance because it will boost your body’s immune system and fight the biofilm agents naturally! We may test you for certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, your ability to absorb nutrients and fats, and inflammation/immunology markers within the body.
Support your Body during Detox
Throughout these treatments, your body is eliminating neurotoxins and mycotoxins. It is important to support your body with detoxing aids such as activated charcoal and bentonite-clay supplements to minimize detox side effects. As always, please discuss your health with your integrative medicine provider before making any changes to your diet, supplement regiment, and medications.
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