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The Top Sinus Infection Causes|nasal infection concept|woman lacking sleep|Nasal polyps|cinnamon leaf essential oil bottle|turmeric powder|A bottle of essential oil with fresh marjoram twigs on a table

Health & Wellness

The Top Sinus Infection Causes

Sinus infections are a common problem, affecting 31 million people a year who spent more than $1 billion a year on over-the-counter medications and another $150 million on prescription meds to treat them, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 1

Colds are often mistaken for sinus infections, but most sinus infections are caused by bacteria, which makes them more difficult to treat. Sinus infections also last much longer. Colds usually last less than a week, while acute sinus infections stick around from 10 days to eight weeks. A chronic sinus infection could last for months.

There are many different causes of sinus infections. If you are one of the unlucky people who suffer from fairly constant sinusitis problems, you should know the causes. Understanding the underlying reason can help you avoid triggers and put a stop to the problem.

nasal infection concept Here are Some Common Causes:


Viruses. While colds and sinus infections are different things, a cold caused by a virus can lead to a sinus infection because it can cause nasal tissues to swell, although it won’t be one that can be treated with antibiotics, according to Health magazine. 2

Bacteria. Colds can sometimes trigger bacteria, which is the main cause of sinus infections. Bacteria festers in clogged nasal passages, which then turns what was a common cold into sinusitis, a much more serious condition that requires antibiotics to see improvement.

Dry air. If you are living in a home with dry air – super common in the winter, when the heat is on or a fire is burning in the fireplace – sinuses tend to dry out, which causes inflammation, sinus blockages and headaches from congestion. You can avoid this type of sinus infection by adding a humidifier to your home. It will keep the air moist, so you will be less prone to experience winter-related sinus infections.

Allergies. Allergies, especially pollen released during the spring and fall, are one of the top causes of sinus infections, especially chronic sinus infections. During pollen season, nasal and sinus passages become swollen, congested and inflamed as a way to try to expel the pollen particles that are triggering the allergy symptoms. Mold, mildew, fungus, dust mites and pet dander can also trigger similar symptoms.

woman lacking sleep More Causes


A proper lack of ZZZZZs. A lack of sleep can cause the body’s immune system to become weak, making it more vulnerable to infections, including those of the sinus cavities. According to the Sleep Foundation, the body not only responds to a lack of sleep the same way it responds to chronic stress, but it also limits the body’s ability to make cytokines, a protein that fights infection and inflammation, putting your body more at risk of developing an infection due to that weakened immune response. 3

A n improper diet. Since sinus infections and inflammation are so interconnected, eating a diet of foods that trigger inflammation can cause sinus infection symptoms to worsen, according to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. (Eastern medicine has long embraced the idea that the foods we eat play a major role in the way we feel.) Some foods to avoid include: 4

    • Processed sugar. Remember, sugar hides everywhere, in bread, crackers, yogurt and other seemingly healthy things. Carbs will turn to sugar when consumed, so limiting pasta, potatoes and other starches can also help.

    • Saturated fat. Foods high in saturated fat, such as processed meat products, pizza, full-fat dairy, and other greasy dishes can trigger inflammation.

    • Also known as monosodium glutamate, this classic addition to Chinese take-out and other fast foods, canned foods, processed soup mixes, and soy sauce, is also an inflammation trigger.

    • Found in wheat, rye, barley, and other grains, gluten can trigger inflammation in those with a gluten allergy. According to U.S. News and World Reports, approximately 3 million Americans, just one percent of the population, suffer from celiac disease. However, there are more who may have a sensitivity to gluten. 5


Nasal polyps Even More Causes


Pollution. Exposure to pollutants in the air can destroy the mucus membrane of the respiratory tract. The membranes contain cilia, which is responsible for filtering out debris and bacteria in the sinuses. Without cilia, both indoor – perfume, for example – and outdoor environmental toxins can cause both acute and chronic sinus infections. 6

Nasal conditions. Nasal polyps, a narrowing of the sinus opening and irregular formation of the bone that separates the two nasal passages can make sinus infections more likely.

Stress. Stress weakens the body’s immune system, causing higher levels of cortisol, making it more vulnerable to the inflammation associated with sinus infections. It also lowers the body’s immune response, making it more difficult to fight off infections.

Immune Boost Can Help Protect Against Sinus Infections


Essential Oils that can help: 

Cinnamon leaf essential oil. Cinnamaldehyde, the main compound in cinnamon leaf oil, helps control inflammation. According to a 2008 study that appeared in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicity, cinnamaldehyde plays a role in the production of cytokines, a protein that helps control inflammation. 7

Turmeric essential oil. Tumeric is one of the most powerful of spices. A 2003 study from San Francisco researchers in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that the curcumin in turmeric helps control inflammation. 8

Marjoram essential oil. Simply smelling marjoram essential oil can ease the production of cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone, in the body. This is according to a 2012 study from Korean researchers in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. High cortisol levels can trigger inflammation. 9

Other immune-boosting essential oils include basil, caraway, copaiba, dill seed, lemon, and mandarin green.

The citrus oils are especially effective as immune boosters. They are rich in vitamin C and also the compound limonene, a monoterpene which acts as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. This helps it fight free radical damage that can weaken cells, making them more vulnerable to illness.

Photo credits: Lightspring/shutterstock.com, fizkes/shutterstock.com, catalina.m/shutterstock.com, tarapongsrichaiyos/shutterstock.com, KleberCordeiro/shutterstock.com

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