The key to prevent nasal polyps from recurring is to avoid allergies, keep your nose clean, treat sinus infection promptly, and diet that prevents nasal polyps from forming again. This article will tell you how to do all these to prevent nasal polyps from recurring.
What are Nasal Polyps?
The fleshy outgrowths of inflamed mucous membrane on the lining of the nose or sinuses are called nasal polyps. They are non cancerous. Initially polyps are small outgrowths but may become large or can grow in clusters making it difficult to breathe. They also lead to diminished sense of smelling along with giving headache, sleeplessness, facial pain and pressure apart from general discomfort. They may block the sinuses which blocks normal drainage from there further leading to frequent infections.
What Causes Nasal Polyps?
Nasal polyps form due to long-term untreated nasal inflammation. Although they can develop in people of any age, nasal polyps are more common in those who are over 40 years of age. Also men are more likely to develop nasal polyps than women. Children below 10 years of age rarely develop nasal polyps and if anyone of this age have them, its cause is likely to be cystic fibrosis. Following are some of the causes that are though to be behind development of nasal polyps.
Acute and chronic infections
What are the Symptoms of Nasal Polyps?
People having nasal polyps suffer from chronic inflammation of the lining of the nasal passages and sinuses. Following are the symptoms of nasal polyps that are more or less likely to present in anyone who suffers from it.
Runny nose. This is almost always there and it seems as if the person always suffer from cold.
Blocked nose and resultant difficulty in breathing.
Sleeplessness. As breathing becomes difficult, the person with nasal polyps cannot sleep.
Postnasal drip. As mucus continuously run down the back of the throat, patient of nasal polyp can feel it all the time.
Poor or no sense of smell.
Headache. As the sinuses are blocked, it leads to headache
Facial pressure. Also because sinuses are blocked.
Snoring. Blocked nose leads to snoring.
Itching around eyes.
Double vision. This symptom is present only in severe cases of nasal polyps, especially if the person also has allergic fungal sinusitis or cystic fibrosis.
Treatment of Nasal Polyps
If you have a runny nose since days and your cold doesn’t just go away, you must seek advice of an ENT specialist. This may be nasal polyps. The doctor generally uses a nasal endoscope (tool with camera) to see your nose and sinuses to find out whether you have nasal polyps or not. While he can see the polyps through endoscope, he may need a CT scan to see the severity of the same. To what extent your nasal polyps have grown and blocked the sinuses can be shown by a CT scan on the basis of which your doctor will decide whether you need just medicines or medicines and then surgery. The following medicines are generally administered to the patients of nasal polyps.
Nasal corticosteroid sprays- They can shrink and sometimes even eliminate the nasal polyps, especially when they are smaller in size.
Oral corticosteroids- They lessen inflammation, redness, itching, and allergic reactions.
Antihistamines- They control allergies.
Antibiotics- They treat underlying infection.
Surgery for Nasal Polyps
When the nasal polyps become too large or block most of your sinuses and nose, surgery becomes unavoidable. In such cases nasal sprays stand ineffective. Endoscopic nasal surgeries are conducted with the help of a small nasal telescope. The large polyps are removed from the nose and the sinuses. This is a surgery that doesn’t need the patient to stay at the hospital for many days. He is sent back home either on the same day or the next day of the surgery. However, a nasal pack is inserted which is only removed after 2-3 days. Medicines also continue for about 2-3 weeks depending upon the patient’s condition and requirement.
What is sad is the fact that even after surgery, nasal polyps come back. Some people are tend to develop polyps and these nasal polyps recur, sometimes as early as within a year or two. To prevent nasal polyps from recurring after surgery, it requires a continuous effort and management with right diet, medicine, nasal spray and other remedies.
How to Prevent Nasal Polyps from Recurring?
Nasal polyps seem to grow as a result of long-term swelling and irritation in your nose which may be due to allergies, asthma, or infection. Therefore the first few steps that you can take to prevent nasal polyps include:
Treat sinus infections right away when you get them.
Continue using nasal spray. This will shrink any small polyps that grow and will keep your airways open to let you breathe freely.
Keep your nose and sinuses clean and unblocked.
Have diet that prevents formation of polyps.
Additionally, you can practice pranayama, the Yoga breathing exercises that also help prevent nasal polyps.
Avoid Allergies to Prevent Nasal Polyps from Recurring
If you are prone to allergies or are asthmatic, manage them well with the prescribed medicines and do’s and dont’s specified by your doctor.
If you see that you have caught an allergy or your asthma doesn’t seem to be in control, immediately consult your doctor.
Avoid anything that irritates your nose. Avoid breathing any airborne substance that may lead to irritation or swelling of your nasal lining. This may be smoke of tobacco or some chemical, dust, fine debris, pollens, pets dander etc.
Avoid bacterial and viral infections. The best way to do this is maintaining good hygiene. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to prevent getting infected by virus or bacteria.
Avoid too dry environments. Use a humidifier if the air in your home is dry. This will help keep your nasal passage moist and improve the mucus flow from your sinuses. As a result, you will be able to prevent inflammation, the main cause of polyps in nose.
Keep Nose Clean to Prevent Nasal Polyps from Recurring
Use Saline Solution to Clean Nose and Sinus
Saline water thins the mucus secretions and prevent it from crusting in the sinus. It also restores moisture to the dried nasal passages and sinuses which helps in reducing inflammation of mucous membranes. Too much salt, however, can be counter productive and dry out the nasal passage. The key lies in using just the right amount of salt. There are over-the-counter nasal sprays available too. They can even remove pollen from your nasal lining if you have been exposed to pollen that lead to allergy.
Saline sprays also keep cilia, small hair-like structures in your nose, healthy. Cilia works to trap bacteria and prevent them from entering cells which also keeps your sense of smell intact. If using homemade saline solution then you can make this by mixing 3-5 cups of water and ½ to 1 tsp of salt. Use a neti pot which is a container especially made for nasal irrigation. You may also use a bulb syringe, a plastic squirt bottle, or simply your cupped hands to do nasal irrigation with saline solution.
Wash Your Nose with Clean Water Instead of Blowing it
While I have already recommended nasal irrigation with the help of neti pot or other means, I am including this point to emphasize the importance of keeping your nose and sinuses clean in order to prevent further surgeries. Blowing your nose to clean has been a regular practice when you have runny nose or cold. This seems to be the most obvious way to clear off your nose! But stop now onward, don’t blow your nose, at least not too often and not at all with force. Researches have shown that blowing your nose exerts enormous pressure and force the mucus into the sinuses, every time you blow. This means that viruses and bacteria remain dwelling in the sinuses causing further infections. Not only this, blowing your nose also increases stuffiness, the same condition that you try to relieve by blowing nose. As the mucus goes back to sinuses, drainage becomes slow and causes even more stuffiness. This leads to formation of polyps, yet again!
What you can do instead, is to wash your nose, preferably with distilled or at least clean water, the one that you use for drinking. If you can’t do nasal irrigation, just pull into some water through nose from the cups of your hands and then let it drain off. This will be done easily after you have used oil in your nose. Remember, oil loosens up everything there in your nose and sinuses! The next section underlines the importance of using oil into your nostrils to keep it lubricated and why lubrication is important in managing nasal and sinus health.
Keep Nose Lubricated to Prevent Nasal Polyps
Too dry nose makes it difficult for mucus in sinus and nose to move and drain off. Accumulation of mucus may give rise to infection, congestion, inflammation and finally nasal polyps. While you can always use humidifier to keep your nose moistened, there is another way to keep it lubricated. You can use oil which is a traditional method to keep nose lubricated. Oils not only lubricate but also prevent bacteria and other harmful microbes etc. from entering your nose preventing any kind of infection. Here are some suggestions for you regarding what oils to use for nose.
Mustard oil has been traditionally used as one of the best mucolytics that are capable of breaking up mucous and help draining out sinuses. This oil has has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties along with various vitamins, minerals and beneficial fatty acids in it. Glucosinolate in mustard oil prevents microbes while the compound called allyl isothiocyanate in it prevents fungal infection. Glucosinolate is also anti-carcinogenic which prevents growth of cancerous tumors. Selenium traces found in mustard oil also makes it anti-inflammatory and the magnesium in it helps clear any congestion including chest congestion and the one which is due to phlegm. All these properties of mustard oil makes it best oil to treat your nose with. Just store a little oil in a squeeze bottle or a glass bottle with dropper. Pour a few drops of this oil twice a day- in the morning, preferably before you take bath and in the evening. You may also use your finger (wash it properly though) or cotton to put oil in your nostrils. Initially, you may feel a little uncomfortable if you are not used to put oil in your nostrils due to the strong character of mustard oil but be assured ,it will do no harm to you (unless you are really allergic to oils) and in a few days you will get used to it.
Cow ghee (clarified butter)
Ghee or clarified butter made from cow’s milk has many nutrients, fatty acids, antibacterial, anti fungal, anti-oxidants and antiviral properties. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicine, uses this ghee for a variety of medical conditions including bleeding nose, sinusitis, and headaches. You just need to warm a little cow’s ghee and put it in both of your nostrils, preferably at bed time. You may use a cotton swab or dropper or rub some of it with your finger inside your nostrils.
This oil has been used by Ayurveda to cure even chronic sinusitis. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal oil with many antioxidants in it. When you put sesame oil in your nostrils, it coats the mucous membranes in your nasal cavity and ease discomfort while killing bacteria.
It is again an antifungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial oil with all its useful medium chain fatty acids. It not only lubricates your nose but also give you relief from allergies. Put it in your nostrils the same way as you put any other oil. As it is in solid state when in cold temperatures, you may take some of it in your palms and rub a little. This will not only melt it to give you the oil but will also become a little warm. If it is already in oil form, heat the oil a little to make it warm before applying it to your nose.
Oil remedy for nose has been there from ancient times. After understanding the benefits of oil administered through nose, many modern doctors of today recommend this technique after nasal surgery for polyps. Many doctors suggest using oil in nose so that the oil may lubricate the interiors of nose and help loosen up all the debris that builds up there after surgical procedure. When you put oil in your nose, it moistens the dried up blood and other debris in nasal cavity as well as sinuses. This helps the debris to move smoothly and be discarded through nose or throat. Oil, and any oil, will help clean your nose excellently without exerting any force or pressure on the still-healing site after surgery. However, you should still consult with your doctor about using oil after surgery.
Diet Remedies to Prevent Nasal Polyps from Recurring
Nature has provided in abundance, everything that our body needs to keep itself healthy. This is true when it comes to preventing nasal polyps too. Inflammation and allergies are two major causes of nasal polyps. If you are able to prevent these two conditions, you may in fact be able to prevent the recurrence of nasal polyps. Experts say that foods that have such nutrients as Vitamin C, Quercetin (a flavonoid), Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin A and E, Beta-carotene, Selenium, and Bromelain are beneficial to have when you are prone to develop nasal polyps. Along with taking foods with these nutrients, you should also avoid food allergens or foods that cause allergy to you.
Have Vitamin C Rich Foods
The water soluble Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine that helps you prevent allergies. Histamine is a chemical produced by the body which triggers allergic reactions and also gives rise to inflammation. Vitamin C combats this histamine. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that fights off free radicals. Free radicals are linked to tissue damage in nasal polyposis. Vitamin C also supports the production of glutathione, which is again a potent antioxidant and which helps promotes the health of sinus as well as immune system and respiratory health. You should try to have as much vitamin C from foods as you can. Here is a list of foods that contain vitamin C.
List of Foods Rich in Vitamin C
Fruits: Guavas; black currants; mango strawberries; papayas; citrus fruits; elderberries; peaches; raspberries; loganberries; bananas; kiwi; honeydew; pineapple; cranberry.
Vegetables: Red bell peppers; green peppers; kale; parsley; broccoli; brussels sprouts; mustard greens; watercress; cauliflower; red, green and white cabbage; spinach; turnips; asparagus, cantaloupe; cayenne pepper; green onions; new lima beans; black-eyed peas, green peas; radishes; yellow summer squash; sweet potatoes; tomatoes; new potatoes; lettuce.
Have Quercetin Flavonoid Rich Foods
Flavonoids, sometimes also called bioflavonoids, are natural plant pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors. Quercetin is one such flavonoid which is also a natural antihistamine. It stabilize body’s mast cells so as to prevent manufacturing and release of histamine. It also contains allergic and inflammatory compounds. Quercetin also helps enhance the effectiveness of vitamin C and strengthens the walls of intricate blood vessels in your nasal passages. All these properties make the foods containing quercetin a perfect choice for prevention of nasal polyps.
List of Foods Rich in Quercetin
Fruits: apples; red grapes; cherries; citrus fruits; berries including raspberry, lingonberry, and cranberry
Vegetables: capers; yellow and red onions; lovage; broccoli; garlic; parsley; tomatoes; broccoli; lettuce
Other food items: tea; red wine; legumes
Have Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty Acids have natural anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties. These fatty acids improves immunity and also reduce any inflammation and pain related to an allergic response. They also support the production of prostaglandins that not only only counters inflammation but may also prevent formation of nasal polyps. Oily fish like salmon as well as nuts and seeds are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. You may also have fish oil supplements.
List of Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish and meat– Oily fish like salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, and tuna; grass-fed meat
Seeds– Hemp seeds; flax seed
Oils– Canola oil, flaxseed oil
Have Foods Rich in Vitamin A
Vitamin A is not an anti-allergic but it helps protect the membrane linings of your sinuses. It is a vital vitamin for skin and mucous membranes because not only does it help them stay soft but also maintain their linings. Any weakness or breakdown in your mucous membrane linings makes it easier for bacteria to attack and give you infections which then lead to nasal polyps. Vitamin A is also counted as a potent antioxidant that can fight off chronic inflammation.
List of Foods Rich in Vitamin A
Fruits– Dried apricots, melons especially cantaloupe melon, mangoes,
Vegetables-Sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, squash, Romaine lettuce, red peppers, dark leafy greens like mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens
Other food items– Tuna fish
Have Foods Rich in Vitamin E
Vitamin E is yet again another potent nutrient which fights off free radicals. In this process it combats respiratory problems as well as maintains your immune system to fight off infections. Infections as you know can give rise to polyps.
List of Foods Rich in Vitamin E
Fruits– Avocados, papaya, olives, dried apricots, kiwi, mango
Vegetables-Spinach, broccoli, squash and pumpkin, Swiss chard, turnip greens, asparagus, mustard greens
Nuts and seeds– almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts
Other food items– Tofu, shellfish like shrimps, rainbow trout fish, olive oil
Have Pineapples to Get Bromelain
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple. It helps break down mucus, fight off infections and relieve the symptoms of sinusitis. A research was conducted on patients of acute sinusitis in the University of Leipzig, Germany. It found out that bromelain not only relieved the symptoms faster, but also cut the duration of sinus infections and healed it faster than when conventional medicines given without bromelain. In another study, bromelain cured sinus infections in 85% of patients within nine days of treatment. On the other hand, antibiotics were able to cure only 52% of patients. This gives enough reasons to include delicious pineapples in your diet to prevent nasal polyps.
Avoid Food Allergens
Along with having foods that will prevent recurrence of nasal polyps, you also need to avoid certain foods, the foods that lead to allergies. However, it might be a little difficult task for you to find out what all foods cause allergic reaction to you. You can do so by following the elimination diet. For some days you need to eliminate all the foods from your diet that you suspect to be causing allergic reaction, in this case, making your infection worse or making the polyps bigger which you can feel by the increased difficulty in breathing and other associated symptoms. If your symptoms diminish over the couple of weeks when you are not having the suspected food allergens, you will know that some foods from among the eliminated ones are really causing allergies. Now you need to reintroduce these foods one by one in your diet. Continue having one of the eliminated food for some days. If your symptoms reappear, that food item is the culprit. Do so with other eliminated foods too. This method, however, takes a long time to identify what foods you are allergic to. For faster process, you can opt for an allergy testing that gives you a list of certain allergens including foods, air borne particles, smoke etc. that you may be allergic to. For this, you need to give your blood sample.
Here is a list of foods that are thought to be causing allergic reactions in most of the people suffering from sinus infections and nasal polyps.
- Gluten which is found in such foods as wheat
- Food additives and preservatives found in packaged and canned foods, soft drinks etc. (like benzoates, tartrazine, monosodium glutamate, sulfite etc.)
Foods listed above may or may not trigger allergic reaction for you. You need to test them for your body’s tolerance to these foods.
Do Pranayama Yoga- Breathing Exercise through Nose
Exercising is essential for body which has been provided with various known and unknown mechanisms that are activated when you move your body! Regular exercising is also essential to keep your nasal problems at bay as it not only strengthens your immune system but also helps keep mucus flowing properly. Exercising releases many chemicals inside your body that helps to keep your organs working in a healthy manner. While exercising your whole body is essential, there is one more form of exercising that can help you to prevent nasal polyps. These are Yoga breathing exercising that are called Pranayama. Yoga, the ancient Indian exercising regime is a scientific one which has one or many exercises for each and every part of the body. There are about 10 or even more breathing yoga exercises out of which at least two can help you with nasal diseases including polyps. These are Bhastrika and Anulom Vilom Pranayama.
Bhastrika pranayama is ideal for diseases related to nose and chest. It also cures asthma. Bhastrika breathing exercise relieves inflammation of the throat, combats phlegm, cures diseases of nose. However, this exercise is not meant for those suffering from heart diseases or high blood pressure. Such people should not do Bhastrika pranayama. For others, here’s how to do this breathing exercise.
How to do Bhastrika Pranayama?
Bhastrika in Sanskrit means bellows and like a blacksmith blows his bellows rapidly, this exercise needs a person to breath rapidly.
- Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs folded (cross legged). You may use a mat to sit on.
- If you are not comfortable sitting on the floor, you may also sit on a chair.
- Sit straight with your waist, back, neck and spine erect.
- Now inhale deeply with your nose and fill your lungs with oxygen.
- Quickly exhale out all the oxygen.
- Again inhale and exhale quickly. You have to inhale and exhale quickly for 10-20 times.
- Inhale deepest possible breath after the final expulsion.
- Now very slowly exhale the air out. This marks the end of the first set of Bhastrika.
- Rest for a while after one set. Do this by breathing normally.
- Now repeat twice making it total of three sets of Bhrastika. Quickly inhale and exhale and slow down only in the finale inhalation and exhalation.
- Do three sets of this breathing exercise daily in the morning.
- Remember, while doing Bhrastika, any time you feel discomfort, you should discontinue doing the pranayama and take rest.
Anulom Vilom Pranayama
Anulom vilom or the alternate nostril breathing is meant for whole nervous system cleansing. However, it can also keep your nose clean . It is also known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama. ‘Nadi’ are the channels through which, according to traditional Indian medicine and spiritual science, the energies of our subtle bodies flow. Anulom vilom pranayama purifies them through rhythmic breathing. It also strengthens heart and improves blood circulation apart from relieving mental tension and worries.
How to Do Anulom Vilom Pranayama?
Unlike Bhastrika, this breathing exercise is done calmly while slowly and consciously inhaling and exhaling through alternate nostrils without making any noise.
Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs folded (cross legged). You may use a mat to sit on.
- If you are not comfortable sitting on the floor, you may also sit on a chair.
- Sit straight with your waist, back, neck and spine erect.
- Keep your left hand on your knees as you do not need to use it when using your right hand.
- You need to keep one of the nostrils closed while inhaling and exhaling. Close your right nostril with the thumb of your right hand.
- Now inhale slowly with your left nostril and fill up your lungs with air to your maximum capacity.
- Hold your breath for a while. However, do not hold breath initially when you just begin to practice anulom vilom. Start holding breath only after 2-3 months. Also, patients of hypertension and asthma should not hold breath and proceed to the next step.
- Now exhale through your right nostril while closing your left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand. Exhale slowly emptying all the air that you had inhaled. You can also use middle finger with your ring finger for pressing your left nostril so that it remains closed while you exhale through right nostril.
- While keeping the left nostril closed, inhale through the right nostril.
- Hold breath if you are supposed to (see step 7 above).
- Now releasing your left nostril, press your right nostril with the thumb of right hand and exhale through left nostril.
- This completes one set of anulom vilom- inhaling through left, exhaling through right, inhaling through right and exhaling through left nostril.
- Some people might find it difficult to use right hand to close the nostrils alternatively. They can use their left hand. To close the right nostril, press it with the ring finger of left hand and to close the left nostril press it with thumb of left hand. Keep the other hand on your right knee.
- To start with, you can do 4-5 sets and then gradually increase this number as per your convenience. With time, you’ll take more time to inhale and exhale as you will start breathing deeply and smoothly. You can do anulom vilom upto 30 minutes but that’s later in the process when you have practiced it a lot.
- Any time while you are doing anulom vilom, if you feel any kind of discomfort, discontinue doing the breathing exercise.
Warning: You should practice pranayama- any breathing exercise- only when both of your nostrils are clear. If you still have polyps in your nose or you are suffering from cold or you feel some blockage in your nose that doesn’t allow you to breathe comfortably then you should first address the issue. Once your nose is clear like after surgery to remove polyps, you can do pranayama. Remember, they are meant to prevent forming of polyps and not for curing them. One more thing to note is that you should not immediately start these breathing exercising after your surgery. Once your nose and sinus heals properly then only you should start doing pranayam to prevent polyps from coming back.
Don’t just forget your doctor and sit back at home after surgery is done. Pay your doctor a visit every 3-4 months to detect any early signs of polyp formation. This will help you deter the polyps, if any, from growing into larger ones. Early diagnosis may help you to treat your nasal polyps with medicines and sprays only and save you from having any further surgery.