A Chinese Medicine Approach to Treating Sinus Infections – Part I

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Sinus infections are a common problem that affects 10-30% of people in the U.S. and Europe, and this stubborn condition usually needs some sort of intervention to be resolved. Here is a look at how Chinese Medicine views sinus infections with some suggestions on how to overcome this problem.

In Chinese medicine, we always look for the root cause of a problem, and classify it either as a problem of deficiency, excess or a combination of the two.  When it comes to sinus infections, we are usually dealing with a deficiency of qi, as well as an excess of water, phlegm and often heat. In this case the deficiency resides in the spleen and lungs, with the spleen deficiency resulting in damp phlegm and the lung deficiency resulting in an inability to remove the excess phlegm. As dampness stagnates, it begins to generate heat, which is another way of describing the infection in the sinus cavities.

Treatment and prevention

Acupuncture treatments and herbal medicine will initially be aimed at clearing the excess dampness, phlegm and heat (infection). Once the acute sinus infection has been resolved, treatments will deal with the underlying lung and spleen deficiencies. When the lung and spleen are strengthened through regular care, you can prevent sinus infections from occurring in the first place.

Your acupuncturist will also advise you on some dietary changes that you can make to help heal and prevent sinus infections. Avoiding dairy, beer, red wine, and fish are important changes, as all of these foods have a damp quality to them. Additionally, smoking will weaken the lungs and generate more heat which can contribute to infection.

Finally, Chinese medicine views the environment and climate as important factors when considering the causes for disease, and damp and moldy conditions are thought to contribute to sinusitis. In Colorado we are lucky to live in an arid climate, making it harder for the dampness that leads to sinus infections to grab hold.  Nonetheless, be aware of any mold that could be lingering in your home or place of work, especially if they are in older buildings. Make sure that the areas you spend a lot of time in are well ventilated, and if you suspect any lingering dampness, consider a dehumidifier.

Stay tuned for the next post on sinus infections, which will include more self-help tips, and which will explain how Chinese herbal medicine can be helpful.