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Winter Wellness Tips
Bronchitis? Sinus Congestion? Breathe Easy This Season

With so much attention on the flu this year, it’s easy to forget some of the persistent conditions that affect so many people, year in, year out, such as unpleasant upper respiratory problems with nose and chest. Read on for some tips on how to avoid and manage bronchitis and sinus infections.

Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the deep inner lung passages called the bronchial tree.

Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is frequently caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Acute bronchitis may also result from irritation of the mucous membranes by environmental fumes, acids, solvents, or tobacco smoke. Bronchitis usually begins with a dry, nonproductive cough. After a few hours or days, the cough may become more frequent and produce mucus. A secondary bacterial infection may occur, in which the sputum (bronchial secretions) may contain pus. People whose cough and/or fever continues for more than seven days should visit a medical practitioner.

Chronic bronchitis may result from prolonged exposure to bronchial irritants. Cigarette smoking, environmental toxins, and inhaled allergens can all cause chronic irritation of the bronchi. The cells lining the bronchi produce excess mucus in response to the chronic irritation; this excess mucus production can lead to a chronic, productive cough.

Bronchitis can be particularly dangerous in the elderly and in people with compromised immune systems. These people should see a doctor if they develop a respiratory infection.

Symptoms

Acute infectious bronchitis is often preceded by signs of an upper respiratory tract infection: stuffy or runny nose, malaise, chills, fever, muscle pain, and sore throat. The cough is initially dry and does not produce mucus. Later, small amounts of thick green or green-yellow sputum may be coughed up.
Chronic bronchitis is characterized by a productive cough that initially occurs only in the morning.

A constant, nagging cough may point to a case of acute or chronic bronchitis. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.

  • Fill up on fruits and veggies: Help keep your lungs healthy by getting the antioxidant nutrients you need from fruits and vegetables
  • Take some extra C: Help recovery from acute bronchitis by supplementing with 200 to 2,000 mg a day of vitamin C
  • Get to know NAC: Taking 400 to 600 mg a day of the supplement N-acetyl cysteine may reduce the thickness of lung secretions and improve symptoms of chronic bronchitis
  • Steer clear of cigarette smoke: Kick the habit to improve recovery

Sinus Congestion

Sinus congestion (also called nasal congestion or rhinitis) involves blockage of one or more of the four pairs of sinus passageways in the skull.

The blockage may result from inflammation and swelling of the nasal tissues, obstruction by one of the small bones of the nose (deviated septum), or from secretion of mucus. It may be acute or chronic. Acute sinus congestion is most often caused by the common cold. Sinus congestion caused by the common cold is not discussed here. Chronic sinus congestion often results from environmental irritants such as tobacco smoke, food allergens, inhaled allergens, or foreign bodies in the nose.

Sinus congestion leads to impaired flow of fluids in the sinuses, which predisposes people to bacterial infections that can cause sinusitis. At least two serious disorders have been associated with chronic nasal congestion: chronic lymphocytic leukemia and HIV. For this reason, chronic nasal congestion lasting three months or more should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Symptoms

Sinus congestion typically causes symptoms of pressure, tenderness, or pain in the area above the eyebrows (frontal sinus) and above the upper, side teeth (maxillary sinus). Other symptoms include nasal stuffiness sometimes accompanied by a thick yellow or green discharge, postnasal drip, bad breath, and an irritating dry cough.

Breathe freely again by clearing blocked passageways and easing sinus pressure. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.

  • Wipe out irritants: Keep your environment free of irritants and allergens that can trigger sinus congestion, such as dust, mold, smoke, chemical fumes, and animal dander
  • Steam clean with aromatic oils: Use steam inhalation with eucalyptus oil or products containing menthol to reduce nasal stuffiness
  • Try nasal irrigation: Prepare a warm, salt-water solution in a special ceramic pot known as a “neti” pot and pour it through your nose to relieve your sinuses
  • Uncover food allergies: Work with a knowledgeable practitioner to find out if food allergens may contribute to your sinus congestion
  • Get a checkup: Visit your doctor to find out if your sinus congestion may be caused by an infection, inhalant allergy, or other treatable medical condition

Copyright © 2009 Aisle7. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Aisle7 content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Aisle7. Healthnotes Newsletter is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Aisle7 shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. AISLE7 is a trademark of Aisle7.

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