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Your Sinuses – As I See It

How many us have suffered with a sinus infection or worse have chronic sinusitis?

The pain and discomfort, fever, headaches nausea and cough associated with sinus infections send thousands of us to the doctor every year. I don’t have NZ Statistics but in the U.S. 40 million people suffer with sinus infections each year and up to 33 million have chronic sinusitis, which means the infection does not go away.

We all have eight sinuses (four matched pairs of hollow cavities) forehead (frontal) behind the cheekbones (maxillary) between the eyes (ethmoid) and behind the eyes (sphenoid).  All of our sinus cavities are attached to the nasal passages and indeed to the nostrils themselves.
So what do our sinuses do?  They seem to have a number of roles including regulating pressure in the nasal cavity giving resonance to voice, absorbing shocks and contributing to facial growth. However the two most important roles that we need to be aware of are; our sinuses form mucus and they increase the surface area of the mucous membranes to warm and humidify the air we breathe. In terms of our health, our nasal cavity and sinuses are our first line of defence working hard to filter up to 90% of bacteria entering the body and protecting against viruses, fungi, toxins and allergens. Touching our noses is the primary means of contamination with cold and flu viruses.
When it comes to producing mucous the amount can be up to one litre every day.
When the sinuses are functioning properly millions of tiny hairs (Cilia) have the job of moving the mucus through into your nose and down into the throat.
Problems arise when the mucus is not able to be cleared due to the passageways being obstructed and the sinus cavities fill with fluid and become blocked. Inflammation is most often the cause and the villains behind the inflammation can be bacteria – viral or fungal infection and allergies. Structural issues when nasal passages are restricted and nasal polyps can also contribute to sinus woes.
Treating sinus infections can be a challenge because viral infections – fungal growth and allergies will not respond to antibiotics.  Mainstream treatments have largely focused on antibiotics - antihistamines – decongestants and even steroids but there has been little success and with the over prescribing of antibiotics we are now faced with antibiotic resistant bacteria some which have developed as ‘superbugs’ e.g. MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus).
While the nasal mucous is the primary defence against any pathogens (infectious agents) the nose is also a breeding ground and incubation reservoir. The colonisation of our nasal cavities by bacteria is a concern for many of us and there are three bacteria that are often involved:  Staphylococcus Aureus – Streptococcus Pneumoniae - Haemophilus Influenzae and research indicates that many of us are ‘carriers’ who can infect others even if the ‘carrier’ has no symptoms. Studies show that as many as 90% of people with chronic allergies are colonised with these bacteria.
Clearing these bacteria from the nasal cavities would be the most effective way to prevent and treat sinus infections but until now this has been a challenge because dosing large numbers with antibiotics would only increase problems associated with antibiotic resistance.
For some time I have been very enthusiastic about the use of Probiotics (for life) for improving digestive function and supporting the immune system. Probiotics simply help us restore and maintain optimal levels of so called ‘friendly’ bacteria that populate our gut. It’s estimated that we have about 100 trillion microorganisms in our intestines, a number ten times greater than the total number of human cells in the body.  Given that gut ‘flora’ plays such a massive role in our immune function we should be paying close attention to it.
When I read a book by high profile American Clinical Micro-Biologist - Prof John G Thomas entitled ‘Probiotics And Your Sinus Health’ I was really excited to learn about how four specific strains of Probiotics may provide a powerful safe and very simple alternative to existing treatment options for sinus infections. Prof Thomas says that “Probiotics can break the vicious circle by: balancing beneficial organisms to help eliminate harmful bacteria viruses and fungi – strengthening the immune system increasing its ability to fight off infections and promoting the healthy flow of mucus to eliminate harmful organisms from the nasal passages”.
Swiss researchers discovered that Bifidobacterium Bifidum – Lactobacillus Acidophilus – Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Streptococcus Thermophilus are the key players when it comes to maintaining healthy levels of flora to support nasal Sinus health.  Even though I don’t have significant problems with my sinuses I was keen to do my own research and I have been taking a product developed specifically to incorporate the four probiotics mentioned above. I have been taking one 3 times daily on an empty stomach and I have been more than a little surprised. My nose which was often a bit ‘stuffy’ in the morning has completely cleared and I find myself sniffing often because it’s such a pleasant experience to have both nostrils completely clear. As I see it, the great thing about trying such things is that even if they don’t work they will do no harm.

John Appleton –
Ph: 09-489-9362

by John Appleton