Managing your hormones and health

Why are hormones important?

Hormones are chemical substances produced by glands across our body. These glands make up what’s known as our endocrine system.

Our endocrine system, nervous system and immune systems all work together and rely on each other to keep us healthy (i.e., in our natural balance). In this context, hormones play the role as messengers to regulate the biological process that keep us functioning optimally.

From a naturopathic perspective, our body always does what’s needed for us to perform at our best; it is a self-balancing machine! Our network of glands – and thereby hormones – play a critical role in that and, if one hormone is out of balance, then all are out of balance which means we are out of balance.

Where are our hormones?

You may be familiar with some hormones more than others but they all play a critical role in our body’s operations and are be found across our body. If you’re familiar with chakras, each of the major chakra centres map to each of the major endocrine glands.

The primary seat of each of the major glands that make up our endocrine system is as follows, from bottom to top:

  • Ovaries / Testes

    Produce oestrogen / progesterone and testosterone respectively and are known as the ‘sex hormones’

  • Pancreas

    Produces insulin which helps maintain our blood sugar levels

  • Adrenal glands

    Produce adrenalin and cortisol, critical in fight or flight situations and known as the ‘stress hormones’

  • Thymus

    Located near our heart and supports our immune system by producing white blood cells (T cells)

  • Thyroid

    Produces thyroxine which is essential for our metabolism (of energy)

  • Pituitary

    Located near the base of our brain; it’s the master gland, sending messages to all the other glands

  • Pineal

    Located in our brain and produces melatonin, important for sleeping in line with circadian cycles (also called ‘the third eye’)

Staying in your natural balanced state is good for your hormone health
How do hormones work?

The pituitary gland governs all of the other hormone glands in the endocrine system. It gets its instruction from something called the ‘hypothalamus’ which is a key part of our brain that maintains our homeostasis’ (i.e. natural biological balance). It continually checks what’s going on internally and externally and sends messages to the pituitary gland (via hormones) to take the appropriate action.

For example, our hypothalamus checks if are we too hot, too cold; feeling stressed or threatened etc. The pituitary gland then sends messages (hormones) to all the other glands.

Let’s take a common, practical example of how our hormones work; something we’re all familiar with…stress!

The hormone process of dealing with stress:
  1. The hypothalamus registers increased mental stress via our nervous system
  2. It sends a message to the pituitary gland
  3. The pituitary gland tells the adrenal glands (by releasing hormones) to produce adrenalin or cortisol for a ‘flight’ for ‘fight’ scenario respectively. Adrenalin is responsible for ‘fight or flight’ but If the stress continues then the body swaps to cortisol production to help us deal with continual stress
  4. The production of adrenalin or cortisol by the adrenal glands causes an insulin spike by telling the liver to release sugar that it has stored
  5. The insulin gives the body the energy to either fight or take flight by taking the sugar into the cells.

So as one hormone increases (i.e., moves beyond its regular level) it causes the others to do so too because when one part of our body takes the strain, the other parts have to compensate. 

What causes our hormones to go out of balance?

As you can see, hormones are critical to our wellbeing. The challenge is that hormone imbalances are relatively easy occurrences because they are very sensitive.

The stress example shows how easy it is for our whole endocrine system – and therefore our body – to get pushed out of its natural balance (optimal wellbeing). And believe it or not, the biggest trigger for a hormone imbalance is…stress!

A hormone imbalance is ultimately the result of a stress on/in the body, whether the stress is current or historic – and it doesn’t matter what that form of stress is (e.g. mental, physical, food allergy, inactive hereditary gene, nutrient deficiency etc).

Some body types (such as Blue body types) are naturally more susceptible to stress. Even with more resilient body types (like Green body types) continually overdoing things will eventually breach the body’s natural threshold, pushing the hormones out of balance. How that manifests is down to our inherent weaknesses, lifestyle, diet and environment; these factors determine what part of our system goes out of balance, by how much and for how long.

A HORMONE IMBALANCE IS ULTIMATELY THE RESULT OF A STRESS

Food choices plays a key role here; for example, dehydration will stress the body. While we may think of preventing that by drinking plenty of water, foods like tea and coffee are diuretics and so cause us to urinate more which can bring on dehydration.

Dehydration is a type of stress on our body and so, if you tend to drink more tea or coffee when you’re mentally stressed in order to power through it, you’re actually making things worse!

Another consideration of tea and coffee is that they are also stimulants (in the form of caffeine). This means they will also trigger the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, causing a release of glucose which, in turns, triggers the production of insulin which then opens the cells to allow the glucose to enter. Something to think about!

What are the signs of a hormone imbalance?

Whatever is causing the stress, it leads to increased cholesterol production, resulting in increased cortisol production. Cortisol is the most powerful anti-inflammatory we know but if not kept in check, this hormone builds up and triggers further biological responses (see below).

The disturbance to our natural hormone levels caused by stress can travel ‘up the endocrine system’ eventually affecting our thyroid function and metabolic health. Here are some of the escalating signs to look out for suggesting that our hormones are out of balance.

1. Ovaries/Testes: Fertility problems

A hormone imbalance usually first show itself in issues with reproductive health due to incorrect levels of oestrogen/progesterone/testosterone. Problems with conceiving are a major tell-tell sign and are becoming increasingly common.

2. Pancreas: Elevated blood sugar levels

As we have seen, stress causes our adrenals to produce more cortisol causing insulin spikes which, if a common occurrence over a number of years, will alter our natural blood sugar levels (eventually resulting in type 2 diabetes)

3. Adrenals: Burnout, digestive issues, high cholesterol

Ongoing stress cause the adrenals to keep firing until they eventually become fatigued (‘adrenal fatigue’ leading to ‘burnout’). Our natural instinct is to eat sugary food which won’t help!

This can be accompanied by poor digestion as the body de-prioritises the digestive function in order to deal with a perceived fight / flight situation (digestion is secondary to survival!)

High cholesterol may also be a tell-tale sign that your hormones are out of balance. Modern lifestyles tend to lead to elevated levels of stress which requires cortisol production to manage it; cholesterol is essential for producing cortisol. So, the more stressed we become the more cholesterol we produce in order to create more cortisol.

While we’re all now aware of having high cholesterol, it’s important to note that if our cholesterol it too low, our body will prioritise its production over other hormones. This will disrupt our overall hormonal health and general wellbeing as well as compromising our brain health (which requires an adequate level of cholesterol).

Green body types are strong enough to cope with multiple adrenal ‘asks’ but Blue body types will suffer adrenal fatigue and burn out much quicker.

4. Thymus: Compromised immune system

Overloading our adrenal glands and spiking insulin puts pressure on our thymus gland which causes our immune system to weaken; this is why we’re more likely to catch a cold (or covid!) when we’re stressed. This can also lead to increased allergies

5. Thyroid: Feeling overly hot/cold, hot flushes, weight gain/loss, insomnia, autoimmune disease, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto disease, aches and pains, feeling stiff in the morning, hair loss

Anyone with a naturally weak thyroid function (which can be hereditary) can react to ongoing stress with a thyroid imbalance. Because our thyroid governs metabolism and temperature regulation, this can result in us feeling either too hot (including hot flushes) or too cold. 

Thyroid issues tend to be more common in women and especially after giving birth or around menopause because those are both times of big hormonal changes. If previous underlying hormonal issues are present, even if having gone unnoticed, the effects can be especially pronounced.

A hormone imbalance in the thyroid leads to either an overactive or underactive thyroid, described as hypo-thyroid and hyper-thyroid respectively. Each carries its own issues and if the imbalance deepens, hyperthyroidism can lead to hypothyroidism although this can take years. Any thyroid symptom is best checked out professionally as soon as possible to prevent further health complications.

Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid because the body creates too much of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine. This results in the metabolism speeding up; increased heart rate, feeling hot. lack of sleep, weight loss, eye irritations

Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid because the body doesn’t create enough thyroxine. This results in the metabolism slowing down which can lead to slower heart rate, weight gain, feeling cold, sleeping more than you need, hair loss (including losing the outer ends of your eyebrows).

Graves’ disease is a form of hyperthyroidism where the immune system attacks the thyroid, causing inflammation there. Conversely, Hashimoto’s disease results in hypothyroidism due to the same issue of the immune system attacking the thyroid.

It is worth noting that gluten can inhibit thyroid hormone production and is common in people with an autoimmune disease which can be a result of an underlying thyroid issue.

So, to recap, a hormonal imbalance which isn’t addressed in the context of ongoing stress can escalate up the endocrine chain thereby pushing the body ever further out of it natural balance.

A HORMONAL IMBALANCE NOT ADDRESSED CAN ESCALATE UP THE ENDOCRINE CHAIN

Pills, patches and hormone function

Generally, women are more naturally in tune with their bodies and so are more sensitive to hormone imbalances. In addition, the menstrual cycle, childbirth and menopause are times of hormonal shifts.

As a result, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is most often a female consideration, although not exclusively, and is increasingly a choice for men with low testosterone. But what are the implications of HRT?

HRT replaces hormones that the body is low in and in most cases, this is oestrogen. When given HRT, the body responds by reducing and then stopping its own oestrogen production.

Heavy periods are often one of the issues that can lead to a course of action of either HRT or taking a contraceptive pill (which is sometimes used as an alternative to HRT).

However, it’s important to note that heavy periods are a sign that the body is actually moving out of balance and needs attention. They can result from a build-up of fibroids which in turn are a result of high oestrogen levels.

Periods perform a critical function in the body’s wellbeing because they allow the elimination of toxins. In cases where a hysterectomy results, taking periods out of the equation results in toxins building up in the body and places more pressure on the liver to detoxify. HRT and oestrogen based contraceptive pills actually increase oestrogen levels. This can lead to a downward spiral of health.

Know the full impact of painkillers on your mind and body

Painkiller Alert!

Probably the most common form of hormone disruption is through the use of painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen. These have been shown to interrupt the build-up of hormones.

The regular use of painkillers may seem like a no-brainer but they actually create a deeper issue in both the short and long term. A growing body of research underlines the health issues of strong pain killers (opioids), including infertility, anxiety, depression, muscle loss and long-term osteoporosis.

Self-care tips for balancing hormones

Hormones can largely be managed without medication with some simple steps based on the basic understanding outlined earlier.

Five steps for natural hormone management

1. Manage stress

As we have seen, stress in any form starts a hormonal shift which has a chain reaction to push the body out of balance. Tackling the cause has to be the first step and can be done naturally. Often, it’s just a case of taking time out when mental stress builds up.

2. Improve hydration

Stress has a diuretic effect on the body (causes water to leave the body), leading to dehydration. The first step is to reduce foods that encourage dehydration – like tea and coffee! They are both stimulants that we tend to reach for when stressed and in large quantities will actually increase stress.

The second step is to hydrate the body – that includes not just drinking more water but also more fruit and vegetables since they actually help the body absorb the water more efficiently.

3. Balance your blood sugar

As the body produces more insulin as a response to stress, it’s important to stabilise our blood sugar since we are not facing a real fight or flight scenario (and to avoid the sugar turning to fat). To do this, increasing our vegetable intake is key, especially leafy green vegetables. And we should support this with physical activity in line with your body type, helping cut stress and using up any excess sugar.

4. Try ‘Tapping’

Tapping is a kinesiology technique that has been shown to help restore our body’s natural balance. It’s especially beneficial for balancing the thymus which becomes suppressed with stress and supports our immune system.

Using your fingers, tap or gently thump (with a clenched hand) the centre of your upper chest, where your thymus gland is. Take a few deep breaths as you do that and this will correct the energy flow, giving your immune system a boost.

5. Increase Essential Fatty Acids

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) enable our endocrine system to work. EFAs are where Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 come from (although 7 & 9 are not essential). EFAs help reduce cortisol which helps prevent the chain reaction of hormone imbalance.

We primarily need Omega 3 and 6 for good hormone health; ideally, we should have four times more Omega 6 than Omega 3 in our diet. We can get this from nuts, seeds and vegetables for example. A lack of EFAs can lead to diabetes type 2 (EFAs and insulin have a symbiotic relationship and insulin prevents the breakdown of EFAs in our body)

A word on sleep, circadian rhythms and chakras:

Our endocrine glands work with light; sun exposure regulates our hormones; the most obvious example of the sunlight-hormone connection is the production of serotonin by the pineal gland to wake us up in the morning.

This is why going to sleep and waking up at the right time and working in harmony with nature’s circadian rhythms is key to our hormone health; when these rhythms are disrupted, so are our hormones. Nature gives us what we need, where we need it and how we need it!

Chakras are (light) energy centres and each of them directly corresponds to an endocrine gland. If you are familiar with them, balancing your chakras will also help balance your glands and therefore hormones levels.

Recommended foods for good hormone health

As mentioned, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) play a critical role in keeping the endocrine system healthy and Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 is a major contributor to that. Including these foods in your diet will help achieve that:

Good sources of Omega 3:

Oily fish*; oysters, seeds (esp, flaxseeds*), nuts (esp. walnuts), algae, soybeans

Good sources of Omega 6:

Nuts* and seeds*, vegetables/veg oils (esp. sunflower oil), evening primrose oil, borage oil, fish, eggs, meat, poultry

Good sources of Omega 7:

Sea buckthorn* berries, avocado, olives

Good sources of Omega 9:

Fish*, seeds, nuts, soybeans, Olives, olive oil, vegetable oils, nut oils,

* highest natural sources

If you are suffering from any of the health conditions mentioned here and these diet and self-care tips don’t address your health concerns, you should seek the advice of a qualified professional.

More information:
Lowering cortisol 
Fish oils and stress
EFAs and stress
EFAs and mental health
Light and the endocrine system,

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Mary Sharma

Find out more about the Superfied Way

Dealing with allergies

What is an allergy?

Allergies are commonplace in our modern lifestyles and the severity can range from a mild reaction all the way to a fatal outcome. At least 1 in 4 of us will have an allergy at some point in our life but that statistic is on the rise.

Allergies are historically more common in childhood and can disappear as children get older, but adults can also react to something with which they weren’t previously allergic to. A good example of that is a food allergy or hay fever.

So, what exactly is an allergy? Well, it’s an adverse (incorrect) reaction to something we have come into contact with which is ordinarily harmless. The offending item that caused an allergic reaction is called an allergen.

What are the most common allergies?

The most common form of an allergy tends to be:

  • Food – triggered by either a specific food or groups of food (as in the case of Coeliac disease)
  • Hay Fever (allergic rhinitis) – triggered by grass or pollen
  • Dust – triggered by dust mites
  • Pet hair – triggered by tiny flakes of skin in pet hair or fur
  • Insect bites
Why do people get an allergy?

Now we’ve all experienced an allergy either directly or through a friend or family member and it’s not pleasant.

The reaction is just the tip of the iceberg – it’s the visible manifestation of a more-involved process. By understanding what this process is, we can be better equipped to manage an allergy. It all starts with our immune system…

A quick overview of the immune system

We can consider our immune system as made up of two parts:

Innate immune system: This is what we’re born with (it’s based on our parents’ immunity and environmental factors at the time)

Acquired immune system: This is what we develop as we age through the creation of antibodies which are a response to threats to our normal biological operation

The two parts of our immune system work together to keep our defences strong. The two parts keep themselves in balance through proteins called ‘cytokines’ that are released by our immune cells, such as T-cells.

Our body decides which part of our immune system is best placed to deal with a threat to our health. If one side takes the lead, the other drops back in dealing with that threat.  As we can see then, the healthy functioning of our cells is critical to a healthy immune system.

Our constitution (body type) plays a major role in how strong our immune system is – some of us naturally have a stronger immune system than others.

The key to having the best possible immunity for our body type is keeping our body in its natural balance. When this isn’t the case and we move out of balance, then our immunity can drop.

Our constitution and lifestyle mean some of us have a lower defence level than others – so it takes less for us to tip out of balance which increases the chances of getting allergies.

1 in 4 of us will suffer from an allergy at some point in our life

What causes an allergy?

The biggest disruptor to normal functioning of our cells is…stress!

Whether the source of stress is mental or physical, the result is a breakdown in normal operations at a cellular level involving cytokines. This lowers immunity.

Our body will react to stress in distinct ways depending on the scale of it and our natural constitution.

If we know what to look for in terms of its response, it can help us stay well, including avoiding or minimising the impact of allergies. So, let’s look at how stress affects allergies specifically.

How does stress lead to allergies?

Stress impacts our digestive system which in turn impacts our immune system (70% of our immune cells are created in our gut). This impacts our ability to deal with allergens.

Stress causes our adrenals to work harder. They produce adrenaline to deal with the stress and the longer that goes on for, the more fatigued they become, slowing down our response to managing threats.

The process of stress pushes our body out of balance and our body is always working to rebalance itself – it will always give us the absolute best it can, even if that looks like it’s not doing you any favours at the time!

The three stages of stress on our body

There are three phases of how the body responds to stress:

  • Phase 1 – Reaction
    body produces adrenaline to power through the situation
  • Phase 2 – Adaption
    body continues to produce adrenaline to manage the ongoing situation
  • Phase 3 – Exhaustion
    adrenal fatigue sets in causing the body to be more susceptible to allergies due to the weakened adrenal response

Generally, the adrenal glands will stop allergic reactions. This is why adrenaline is given for an acute allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, and why those at risk of anaphylactic shock (from eating peanuts for example) carry an EpiPen around with them.

To a much lesser degree, the lack of adrenal support also contributes to milder allergies such as Hayfever and allergies to pet fur.

A food allergy is an example of the body adapting to stress. An intolerance to a specific food can result in an initial (mild) reaction which you may not notice or connect to a food item. Although this has stressed your body, your body will learn to adapt to that food – but this will slowly push it out of balance, increasingly depleting your energy.

Since stress is a trigger for allergies and our adrenals are responsible for managing stress, the health of our adrenals is important for managing allergies. If you’re continually stressed, you may be suffering from burnout and your adrenals could be overworked as a result.

The relationship between stress and allergies

Stress triggers adrenaline which results in more cortisol being produced (the stress hormone). This affects our cellular electrolyte balance, which in turn increases our blood sugar level (for more energy) and dehydrates us. Dehydration causes a number of health issues including allergic responses.

Mental or physical stress increases the chances of an allergy

From stress to allergy in 10 steps
  1. Stress results in our body producing more cortisol and in doing so changes our cellular status quo
  2. Potassium and magnesium levels (inside the cell) become depleted resulting in our cells holding on to more sodium and calcium (which are generally kept predominantly outside the cell)
  3. This cell mineral imbalance results in a drop in our blood sugar level
  4. Stress is a diuretic, and so water is lost from the body, together with potassium and magnesium. This leads to dehydration and increased acidity in the body
  5. Our body realises its dehydrated and, to correct the cellular imbalance, it takes water from wherever it can afford. This might be the bowel (leading to constipation), muscles (aches and pains) or digestive tract (heartburn) depending on our natural weak spots (determined by our body type). The neurotransmitter which regulates water balance in the body is histamine. Therefore, a loss of water from stress will lead to increased levels of histamine as the body tries to compensate.
  6. The falling blood sugar level resulting from the electrolyte imbalances trigger a craving for sweet foods, caffeine etc and makes the body more acidic
  7. This creates an environment for bad bacteria to breed in our gut, leading to a toxin build up which creates more work for the organs that are designed to eliminate toxins – like our liver, kidneys, lungs, colon and skin
  8. If our body is not as healthy as it should be, stress can cause ‘leaky gut’. This results in toxins getting into our bloodstream faster, requiring more effort from our body to get rid of them. This extra burden further lowers our immunity
  9. The more dehydrated we become, the more histamine our body produces
  10.  The more histamine we produce, the bigger our allergic response
What are the symptoms of an allergy?

You may have experienced some or all of the symptoms of an allergy, but you may not have connected the dots to other health conditions which can actually be a consequence of an ongoing allergy (immunity) problem.

The immediate signs of an allergy tend to fall into these camps:

  • Respiratory issues – sneezing, wheezing, breathing difficulties
  • Skin and eye complaints – itching, weeping skin, water eyes
  • Swelling – eyes, lips, tongue, face
  • Digestion problems – upset stomach, constipation
  • Shock – a severe allergic reaction can result in anaphylactic shock which can be life-threatening

The knock-on effects of an allergy to look out for are:

  • Weakness – fatigue, exhaustion
  • Aches and pains (due to dehydration)
  • Heartburn (due to dehydration)
  • Candida (due to increased acidity in the gut)
Can multiple allergies be connected?

The short answer is yes!

The greater the burden on our body (i.e., stress), and/or the poorer our digestive system, the lower our immunity and so the lower our tolerance threshold for allergens. The longer that goes on, the more things we become vulnerable to.

So, if you’ve suffered from an allergy and you haven’t manged your stress levels, or diet and lifestyle, the chances are you will develop more than one allergy.

Given that our elimination organs (liver, kidneys, lungs, colon and skin) play such a big part in allergies, if they’re not functioning properly, our ability to deal with allergens will be compromised.

A healthy liver is especially important here and is a common factor in having multiple allergies. That becomes a challenge because our modern lifestyle habits aren’t the best support for our liver!

What role does medication play in treating allergies?

Prescription or over-the-counter medication is plentiful and can help reduce allergy symptoms, but they are a temporary solution.

For example, antihistamine medication for hay fever may reduce your symptoms but they’re masking an underlying problem which can increase if left unchecked.

Allergy symptoms are actually your body telling you it’s out of balance and needs help. Relying on medications as a temporary fix ignores the underlying condition and can actually make the situation worse.

Steroids for example (whether topical or oral) push the toxins that your body is trying to eliminate back in! It’s like having rotting food in your kitchen and applying fly spray to keep the flies at bay!

Self-care tips for managing allergies

  1. Make lifestyle changes
    Stress is a major contributing factor to allergies so it’s vital to get a better work/life balance. Your immunity depends on it! And don’t forget that physical stress is still a form of stress – so if you are over-exercising and have a weak constitution, that can also be a factor

  2. Improve your digestion
    Our brain and gut is connected so our digestion can easily be a victim of stress. Keep your digestion strong with a diet suited to your body type and needs. As a rule of thumb, less processed foods and more veg (especially bitter leafy greens) is key. Remember bitter tasting foods are a great support for your liver

  3. Stay hydrated
    Dehydration sets off a chain reaction that results in impaired biological functions that pushes us out of our natural balance. The solution is simple – increase your water intake, especially when you’re stressed BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean drinking more water. Studies show that water can be better absorbed through water-rich foods like many fruits and vegetables than drinking it alone

  4. Drink less tea and coffee
    When we get stressed, we tend to reach for a cuppa, especially if we’re feeling exhausted! Both coffee and tea are stimulants, causing our adrenals to produce cortisol. Because they are diuretics (i.e. make us wee), they can actually dehydrate us and encourage more histamine production – meaning bigger allergic reactions!

  5. Identifying and removing any food triggers
    Common food triggers include wheat, potatoes, eggs, nuts, soya, shellfish and anything that contains gluten. You may have an intolerance to one or more of these items so it’s good to test each one. You can download and use the food sensitivity chart here
Important foods to minimise allergies

Being smart with a healthy diet is critical when you suffer from an allergy, even if it’s not a food related allergy. Eating to maintain your body’s natural balance is your best bet and to do this, the first step is to eat for your specific body type

If you don’t know what your body type is, you can either take the Superfied body type assessment or eat a diverse range of natural foods (of all colours and groups) as a general insurance policy.

Foods that contain all of the B vitamins but in particular, vitamins B5, B9 and B12 are especially useful for helping manage allergies. These include food like meats and fish and grains.  

Vitamin B12 and folic acid (vitamin B9) are especially useful in a biochemical process that supports a number of functions in our body including liver function, histamine metabolism and energy production, all of which help manage allergies. Vitamin B5 is particularly helpful for good adrenal function.

Eating foods which contain naturally occurring antihistamine are also beneficial. These include foods with high levels of vitamin C (such as citrus fruits, berries and peppers), quercetin (such as onions), or bromelain (such as pineapples).

As you can see, there’s more to allergies than meets the eye. If your allergy issues persist despite taking these steps or if you have long-standing allergy issues that are getting worse as you get older, you may benefit from speaking with a qualified expert to help you eleminate the root cause of the issue, professional food sensitivity testing may also be helpful as part of that.

More information:
NHS allergy information 
Allergy UK
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Mary Sharma

Find out more about the Superfied Way

Dealing with sinus issues

What is a sinus problem?

A sinus problem (called sinusitis) is inflammation of the lining of the nasal cavity. Sinusitis symptoms are our body telling us something is up – and a warning sign that it needs attention. In some cases, a sinus issue is like the straw that breaks the camel’s back, especially if the immune system is struggling to cope with underlying issues.

What causes sinusitis?

Sinusitis occurs as a result of toxin build-up which pushes the body out of its natural balance and compromises its immunity, thereby making it vulnerable. A number of things can be the resultant trigger of a sinusitis attack and often it can be a number of triggers combined. The summer season can make sinusitis worse because of increased environmental triggers (i.e. pollen) that put more load on an already overloaded body.

1. Micro-organisms
The most common trigger is a virus. Less common but still a culprit is a particular bacterium or even a fungus. The latter can have serious consequences but the chances of fungal infection are relatively low compared to a viral infection.

2. Nasal Polyps
Sometimes nasal polyps (growths) can be the cause of sinusitis and these are often linked to a food allergy. Although nasal polyps can be removed, they will grow back again if the root cause hasn’t been addressed. Their presence can make sinusitis attacks more prevalent but they themselves are a consequence of toxin build-up and not the root cause.

3. Allergies
Another source of sinusitis can be sensitivity to compounds in our foods such as oxalates and salicylates. Salicylates, for example, are found in pain killers such as aspirin and ibuprofen and also in many foods including a number of spices, some leafy green vegetables and stoned fruits. Other sensitivities include gluten or dairy foods.

4. Dental work
Sometimes sinus issues (like migraines) can stem from our teeth; a root canal that remains infected may lead to sinus issues.

5. Emotional Disturbances
At an emotional level, the cause could be as simple (and strange) as someone ‘getting up our nose’. Remember that toxic build-up can be caused by external triggers as well as internal ones! Long-term emotional toxin build-up in this context can lead to depressive states of mind.

6. High levels of Estrogen / Green energy
Sinusitis tends to be more problematic for Green body types and green energy imbalances since excesses lead to increased tissue growth. This can be anywhere in the body, not just in the nasal cavity. The modern equivalent is an elevated level of the estrogen hormone which can increase tissue growth. Interestingly, women actually tend to suffer more from sinusitis than men.

7. Stress
Stress compromises our ‘innate’ immune system and suppresses it, depleting our natural resources to deal with infections. As our innate immune system takes a hit, our ‘acquired’ immune system goes into overdrive, producing more antibodies and histamine. This results in more allergies as the body goes into being hyper-alert to protect itself.

What are the typical symptoms of sinusitis?

Typical tell-tale signs of sinusitis include:

  • Pain or swelling or tenderness in the cheeks, around the eyes, forehead
  • A blocked nose
  • Loss of smell
  • Mucous congestion
  • Headache
  • Toothache
  • Bad breath

These are manifestations of toxins accumulating at a local level. Acute sinusitis can be debilitating so it’s best to deal with it before it gets to that stage.

Do antibiotics or sinus pills work?

A streaming nose is the body trying to deal with an issue – an elimination of toxins (like a bath of bad stuff overflowing). It’s a necessary defence mechanism. Preventing that process can result in toxins being stored internally. Antibiotics and off-the-shelf drugs will dry up the mucous and relieve the congestion, but this can be a temporary fix that actually makes matters worse, long-term.

Medicine alternatives for sinusitis

There are a number of practical self-care steps you can take to resolve a sinus infection.

1. De-stress
Stress causes dehydration which impacts cellular function. Histamine regulates water balance in the body. If we are dehydrated, histamine levels will increase.

2. Drink more water
Drinking more water helps with efficient cellular function (note it should be room temperature and not cold as cold water reduces the digestive efficiency which is required to boost the immune system)

3. Avoid dehydrating foods and drinks
Foods that deplete the body’s water are counter-productive in this situation and so anything that is a diuretic should be avoided (e.g. alcohol, coffee, tea, sugar)

4. Avoid sugar, gluten and dairy foods, especially in the summer
These foods are likely to add to the burden your body is already under in fighting the sinus infection. Check your cravings because when you are out of balance, the things you crave are likely to be the foods that are stressing your body internally. For example, you may crave sugary foods because your body needs a boost in blood sugar levels to give you an energy boost

5. Adding more fresh fruit and vegetables
These foods can help to alkalise the body and bring the water into the cells in the best way.
Lightly cooking these foods won’t overburden the digestive system and thereby avoid increasing the load on the body.

6. Increase vitamin C intake
Vitamin C is a natural anti-histamine and so will play a part in managing the histamine spike likely
caused by bodily stress from diuretics, food sensitivities and stress itself.

7. Neti-pot
These devices are designed to help flush out the nasal cavity and ease nasal congestion. To use one, you must follow the appropriate guidelines to ensure you are using them safely and seek advice if you are not sure.

As you can see, there’s more to sinusitis than meets the eye. If your sinusitis issues persist despite taking these steps or if you have long-standing sinus issues that are getting worse as you get older, you may benefit from speaking with a qualified expert to get to the root cause of the issue. Specific food sensitivity testing may also be helpful as a part of that.

More information:
Salicylate sensitivity and nasal polyps
Women are more susceptible to sinus issues than men

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Mary Sharma

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