by Harry Hong, Ph.D., Licensed Acupuncturist
Many people suffer from frequent sinus infections (or ear infections for children), with symptoms of running nose, postnasal drip, headache or cough. If the mucus discharge turns to yellow or green, antibiotics may have to be used. This process often recurs every couple of months. Common understanding for the cause of this condition is environmental allergies and viral and bacterial infections. However, from my own clinical experience, gut problem is sometimes the root issue for this condition. The mouth, sinus and nose cavities are direct extensions of the digestive tract. A problematic digestive system always causes inflammation in the mucous membranes of sinus, nose and mouth.
A common digestive problem, dysbiosis, refers to a condition with microbial imbalances such as yeast overgrowth (Candidiasis) and the decline of the beneficial bacteria. Dysbiosis of the digestive tract often leads to dysbiosis of the sinus and ear cavity and causes inflammation of the mucous membrane, which in turn results in the blockage of the drainage ducts, fluid retention in the sinus and ear cavities, and bacterial infection later on. After using antibiotics to control bacterial infection, a Candida outbreak always follows and results in another sinus infection within a few weeks. It becomes a vicious cycle going on every month.
Many people with frequent sinus and ear infections also have symptoms of dysbiosis of the digestive tract, such as food indigestion, bloating, loose stool or constipation. Thus, treating digestive dysbiosis and Candida overgrowth should be the main objective for treating frequent sinus and ear infections.
First of all, dietary change is necessary to maintain a healthy gut. The popular American diet contains excessive sugar and refined carbohydrates, including sugary drinks, candy, chocolate, ice cream, cake, cookies, bagels, bread, pizza, pasta, breakfast cereal, pancakes, waffles, chips, etc. Everything containing sugar or converting to sugar quickly inside the body will overload the system and feed the intestinal yeast population such as Candida, which produces mycotoxins and triggers a series of pathophysiological responses.
Research shows that Candida overgrowth leads to cortisol raising, low thyroid function, depression, sugar craving, and a variety of inflammatory reactions. Candida overgrowth also drives away healthy bacteria and further weakens immune function in the gut. Candida-induced inflammation is one of the major causes for frequent sinus and ear infections. Antibiotics often suppress bacterial infection but promote Candida outbreak and lead the body into a vicious cycle of frequent recurring infections.
Healthy eating is a MUST to reduce Candida overgrowth. Increasing fiber and protein intake such as fish, meat, chicken, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and reducing refined carbohydrates such as wheat products are highly recommended. Dairy products are not recommended due to the hyper allergenic nature of milk and possible mold contamination in cheese. For those who follow a vegan diet, nuts and beans are the major protein source. Breakfast choices may include rice or organic corn based crackers; gluten free bread with peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower seed butter; almond milk or organic soy milk; walnuts and other tree nuts. Protein powders from rice or organic soy can be supplemented. Lunch and dinner options include salad with nuts and fruits, vegetable bean soup, and tofu-based main dish. In Asian culture, tofu is cooked in specific ways that make it taste like meat, chicken or fish. Being creative is the key in a vegan diet.
In addition to healthy eating, intestinal cleansing and detoxifying are necessary to stop the vicious cycle of recurring infections. Many natural supplements can be used to cleanse and detox the gut. However, I recommend people with long-term digestive issues seek help from healthcare professionals who have experience dealing with chronic digestive conditions. Many people who have tried to cleanse and detox themselves experienced detox response afterwards, including headaches, body aches, fatigue and depression. A preparation of the body, including liver support prior to the detox and cleanse program, can usually prevent detox response successfully.
Other important factors for frequent sinus and ear infections are allergy and sensitivity, including environmental and chemical sensitivities, food intolerance and allergies. Taking an antihistamine medication may successfully reduce clinical symptoms for a short time, but won’t resolve the root issues for the sensitivity and allergy. There are well developed theories and natural therapies dealing with allergy and sensitivity. The therapies may include allergy desensitization, intestinal cleansing, liver support and detoxification, adrenal support, etc. Treating allergy and sensitivity the right way maintains a healthy balance for the body, and prevents them going deeper and developing into asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and autoimmune disease.
Dr. Harry Hong is a licensed acupuncturist specializing in holistic healing for the highly sensitive. He teaches highly sensitive people to listen to their body and take charge of their own health. With his own systematic IBMT protocol that includes Chinese medicine, modern homeopathy, energetic testing and allergy desensitization, Dr. Hong helps highly sensitives gain back their immune strength and get their life back. He has offices in South Florida and Chicago.
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