Up until recently, I averaged two to three sinus infections each year, and antibiotics were a regular guest in my house. The very first time I fell ill with a sinus infection was in the winter of 2008, and I'll never forget it. My temperature was high and my breathing was so bad I was afraid for my life. The doctor had me admitted to the hospital, and I spent most of the night on an oxygen mask, undergoing all types of tests including ones for pneumonia, asthma, and COPD.
In 2015 I had five sinus infections. Each of them wiped me out for two weeks at a time. I lost my job as a result and became mildly depressed. I treated myself to a fun-filled weekend getaway to take my mind off things but ended up catching a cold, which of course turned into a sinus infection. More antibiotics. And by then the antibiotics took longer to work, and it was a good two months before I started to feel better. I kept asking myself why this was happening, and although I couldn't see it at the time I was blaming everyone but myself for my illness. I was taking zero responsibility for my own health and well-being—so no wonder I suffered.
The first step in healing? Stop being a victim.
One day as I was cleaning the garage I stumbled upon a book I'd bought some time ago called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. I recalled how its author, Susan Jeffers, explained how we suffer when we play the victim and how taking responsibility for everything that happens in our lives moves us from a place of pain to one of power. I reread the book that night from front to back and woke the next morning eager to put this concept into practice.
The first thing I did was write this note: "From this day forward I am taking responsibility for my health and well-being. I am no longer going to play the victim and blame everyone else for my illness." I found the very act of writing this and sticking it on my bedroom wall incredibly empowering. My doctor had given me a sinus management plan ages ago, but I never followed it regularly. I put it into practice a few times but stopped after a week or two. It wasn't anything over the top either: Steam once a day. Nasal rinse with a saline solution twice a day. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Drink more water.
The first month is the hardest, but no excuses!
So then I wrote another note: "From this day forward I commit to following my sinus management plan. It only takes five to ten minutes a day to steam and the pros far outweigh the cons. No more excuses!" Like any new discipline, the first month or two is the more difficult—I'd miss a day or three but I stuck with it as promised, and soon I found it became easier. Quickly it became a habit and the payoff was huge. I very rarely got a blocked nose or postnasal drip symptoms, and mornings of coughing and wheezing were few and far between.
Do your research, and follow your instincts.
It's common knowledge that vegetables are good for you, but as for which ones would help me prevent sinus infections I had no idea. As a mainly burger-and-fries man at the time I knew very little about picking the right vegetables and fruits. Many health professionals recommend at least two servings a day, while others hint that fruit isn't all it's cracked up to be and should be avoided or only eaten once in a while.
I spent some time researching these areas and found that overall, the most potent vegetables are broccoli, kale, spirulina, and spinach. The jury was still out on the benefits of eating fruit every day, so I just went my gut feeling and added apples and bananas to my plan. I included avocado because of its reputation as a top superfood and because it tastes so good! I won't go into detail about my new diet, but here's a rough outline of what it looks like:
A glass of lemon and water first thing and two eggs, boiled or fried with avocado on wholemeal toast.
Shredded chicken breast, or turkey wholemeal sandwich, with cucumber, tomato, spinach, and avocado.
Beef, lamb, chicken stir-fry, or pan-fried fish with a spinach, kale, and avocado salad.
My snacks throughout the day included spirulina smoothies, apples, and bananas.
After only a few weeks of this diet I had a new lease of life, and my energy levels had increased tenfold. I felt like a teenager again and was just as frisky.
Add in some additional healing practices.
I have kept to my sinus management plan and diet for a year now, and I am pleased to say that I haven't had a single sinus infection. To ensure it stays this way I have added a few more daily practices. I started doing Buteyko breathing exercises, a technique that I've found very helpful. I also take cold showers as some research suggests that cold showering might be good for preventing sick days. I experimented with ice therapy, and I wear an iced gel mask on days when the pollen level is high as I find this helps relieve symptoms like itchy eyes and headache better than heat. Like anything, test it out and find what works best for you. I also wash my hands correctly and often. I clean my bed clothes and pillowcases in hot water two times a week, dust my house a minimum of once a week, and vacuum at least every second day.
Find someone to help keep you motivated.
So this is how I overcame recurring sinus infections naturally. I strongly recommend letting a supportive family member or friend know what you're doing and what you want to achieve. Better yet, work with an accountability partner. Having an accountability partner is like having a "spotter" at the gym. They will call you out on your excuses, keep you on track, and help you push through the pain and discomfort so you can achieve your goals.