FHN Complementary Medicine Monthly Newsletter March 2002
This month we are going to talk about CHRONIC sinusitis. Health care experts estimate that 37 million Americans are affected by sinusitis every year and report 33 million cases of chronic sinusitis to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually. This represents 10.9 million doctor visits per year and 1.3 million hospital visits per year. We in northwestern Illinois seem to have our fair share.
Sinusitis simply means your sinuses are infected or inflamed, but this gives little indication of the misery and pain this condition can cause. Sinusitis is usually divided into 3 categories.
· Acute, which lasts for 3 weeks or less
· Chronic, which usually lasts for 3 to 8 weeks but can continue for months or even years
· Recurrent, which is several acute attacks within a year
Most cases of acute sinusitis start with a common cold, which is caused by a virus. These viral colds do not cause symptoms of sinusitis, but they do inflame the sinuses. If the immune system is sufficiently compromised or the mucous membranes do not have the proper flora (remember the newsletter on probiotics?) the inflammation can continue or even allow a secondary bacterial infection to occur. Most healthy people harbor bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae, in their upper respiratory tracts with no problems until the body's defenses are weakened or drainage from the sinuses is blocked by a cold or other viral infection. At this point antibiotic therapy may be appropriate. If we replenish the good bacteria after this, we may stop the cycle right there! If not we might progress to a more chronic inflammation. If we do not have the proper flora an opportunistic organism will grow.
Mayo Clinic researchers say they have found the cause of most chronic sinus infections -- an immune system response to fungus. "Fungus allergy was thought to be involved in less than ten percent of cases," says Dr. Sherris. "Our studies indicate that, in fact, fungus is likely the cause of nearly all of these problems. And it is not an allergic reaction, but an immune reaction."
At this point antibiotics and even antifungals are not real effective.
So let's look at some alternative therapies to break the chronic inflammation and deregulate the hyperimmune response.
The first and most obvious is PROBI0TICS BEFORE , DURING, AND AFTER any antibiotic therapy!
Acupuncture has been used for centuries for sinus and asthma treatment. Acupuncture can modulate the immune response (CD4's, CD8's, IL2 , etc.) , decrease pain, and reduce mucous secretion.
The bioflavonoid (another newsletter) Quercetin in 1000mg doses acts to slow histamine production at the mast cell. This helps to reduce inflammation and allergic response.
Proteolytic enzymes, papain (from papaya) and bromelain (from pineapple) act as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Herbal medicine offers multiple remedies to boost the immune system, reduce sinus congestion and provide symptomatic relief. For example, echinacea and berberine (active ingredient in goldenseal)are widely used to support the immune system. Use skullcap to combat excessive mucous. Ephedra is a very effective decongestant (in proper dosages) that is found in many herbal preparations. (Ephedra can elevate heart rate and blood pressure.) Stinging nettle may be helpful for sinusitis caused by allergies.
Increasing lymphatic drainage from the area is imperative. Manual lymph drainage can be effective as well as high frequency nanocurrent lymphatic stimulation.