The next time you feel clogged up from a cold, sinusitis or allergy, try natural relief for congestion. Overusing brand-name nasal spray decongestants, or medications may give you high blood pressure, heart disease or cause more congestion (a condition known as rhinitis medicamentosa). Make your own congestion remedies and practice good health habits to reduce or eliminate congestion, especially during the winter.
Avoid congestion from colds by dressing for winter weather, eating a good diet and getting enough sleep. Stress can break down your immune system, so meditate and exercise to better handle high-pressure life situations.
Regardless of the reason for congestion, you need to get rid of it by liquefying and coughing up (or spitting out) mucus. There are several easy ways to do this without resorting to over the counter medications. They include drinking hot beverages, eating chicken soup, using a black pepper or onion remedy, and taking a hot bath or shower.
Use a steam inhaler or breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water to loosen mucus in the nose and chest. Add eucalyptus oil or ginger essential oil to enhance steam's mucus-relieving power. Loosening congestion with steam and essential oil will make you cough up some of the remaining mucus and dissolves the rest. You can also take a long, hot shower to help break up congestion from a cold.
Use a humidifier at night to add moisture to the air in your home and help break up mucus. It's not just for kids – and it helps keep the air clean
A neti pot is a small pot used to expedite natural relief for congestion. Fill it with distilled or filtered water and non-iodized salt, and pour it into each nostril. (Never use straight tap water. This can be dangerous if there are bacteria or toxins in the water.) Choose a plastic pot over a ceramic one, since ceramic breaks easily, and clean it thoroughly after each use. If you don't want to use a DIY saline solution, there are pre-made saline solutions in mist and pump bottles for relief of allergies and congestion due to colds.
Don't want to buy a neti pot or steam inhaler? Take a hot bath or shower to loosen congestion. This will loosen mucus and help you cough it up. It's not necessary to take a prolonged shower or have the water at an uncomfortably hot level to accomplish this. Let the steam loosen mucus and have hot tea or soup afterward to break up congestion even more.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones. Clear mucus from your chest or nose without the drying effects of store-bought decongestants by using items you already have in your kitchen.
Eat chicken soup or sip hot broth. A study published in Chest: The Official Publication of the American College of Chest Physicians showed that Grandmas's chicken soup protected patients against inflammation-causing neutrophil chemotaxis. So Grandma was right, and there's scientific evidence to back up the congestion-clearing powers of chicken soup.
Drink hot ginger or herbal tea with honey and lemon. Ginger is a popular herbal expectorant. Make ginger tea using fresh ginger root or buy ginger tea bags from the supermarket, and add honey for more decongestant power. The hot liquid thins out and loosens mucus, and in a matter of days you'll breathe easier and feel better. Chewing small pieces of ginger throughout the day also relieves congestion.
Mucus or goblet cells are found in the intestines, respiratory tract and upper eyelids. Mucus is created to protect mucus membranes, and problems occur when excess mucus is produced. By trapping dust, allergens and bacteria, mucus acts as a barrier to keep irritating particles from getting in your lungs.
When your airway's mucus layers are overwhelmed by bacteria or allergens, they work harder to protect your system. This results in congestion, clogging your nose, chest and sometimes your throat with excess mucus.
Mucus warms and moistens inhaled air. It keeps mucus membranes and the “cilia”, or little hairs that line the membranes, lubricated. The cilia help remove particles trapped in the mucus layer. Thick mucus, the kind that leads to congestion and crusty residue, is caused by excessive dryness. (Too much air conditioning and heating can dry out your respiratory system.) That's why steam and humidifiers work so well as natural relief for congestion. Smoking, drying medications and not drinking enough water cause thick mucus. Drinking excessive amounts of coffee or alcohol also dry out your airways.
Phlegm, produced by the lower airways, is a mucus-type substance that clogs up your nose. If you have bronchitis or pneumonia, you may cough up phlegm. Green or yellow mucus or phlegm indicates infection. Seek medical attention if there's blood in your phlegm when you cough.
A stuffy nose or chest shouldn't stop you from doing yoga. Doing yoga relieves congestion while it keeps you limber. Stretch your back, chest, neck and stomach with the Bow pose to relieve breathing problems caused by congestion. This pose also helps you relax, reducing stress caused by cold or sinusitis symptoms, and sleep better. The difficult but detoxifying headstand makes blood rush to your head to energize you and bring relief from the lethargy caused by colds and congestion. The Camel helps clear air passageways by opening up your back and chest.
Bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapple stems and juice, has been used successfully to treat sinusitis, allergies and reduce nasal passage inflammation. A study conducted at the University of Cologne in Germany showed that patients who took bromelain tablets for sinusitis exhibited reduced mucous and less inflammation. Guard against developing congestion by drinking a pineapple-banana smoothie containing pineapple chunks, orange juice, banana, ginger, coconut water, kiwi and cayenne pepper. This smoothie provides plenty of free-radical fighting antioxidants, Vitamin C and the mucus-preventing power of bromelain.
Bromelain thins blood, so talk to your medical provider if you take aspirin or another medication with blood-thinning properties before taking a bromelain supplement.
Too much pepper makes you sneeze, and it acts as an expectorant when you're congested. Chew a few black pepper seeds per day when you're congested, or put a few seeds in your tea or milk. Black pepper provides relief from congestion due to asthma, colds, allergies or sinusitis. Make black pepper tea, a common Ayurvedic remedy for sore throats, coughs and congestion. Black pepper tea is made with freshly ground black pepper, lemon juice, honey and hot filtered water.
Loosen chest congestion by drinking onion juice with honey two or three times a day. Onions contain Vitamin, the antioxidant quercitin, and other inflammation-fighting compounds called isothiocyanates. Use a presser to make onion juice from a medium onion, and mix it with honey. Let the mixture sit for five hours, then drink in small amounts a few times a day. Onion tea offers similar benefits. Boil a half-pint of water with two or three big onions. Let it cool, add a few teaspoons of honey and drink the liquid.
You can also make an onion poultice by mixing fried minced onion, cornmeal and vinegar in a pan and heating til it forms a paste. Spread the hot mixture in a muslin cloth, fold it, and then place over your congested throat and chest area for up to 15 minutes.
Getting a bad cold and congestion isn't a foregone conclusion, even during the worst winter. Practicing healthy habits reduces the chance of developing congestion from colds, sinusitis, asthma or allergies.
If you're constantly stuffed up or congested, it may be due to an improper diet. Be aware of foods that create congestion. If you eat too many dairy products it can increase mucus production, causing or prolonging a cough and head or chest cold. Sugar, red meat, fatty foods, alcohol, wheat products and deep-fried foods make the body produce excess mucus. Combine a poor diet with a dry indoor environment, and you've got the perfect scenario to attract bacteria and inflammation that creates colds, coughs and respiratory problems.
Your body needs the right pH balance to stay healthy. Eating the right ratio of alkaline foods to acidic foods helps you maintain an optimal pH balance of 7.4. Ideally, you should eat 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods each day to maintain a healthy pH balance. Many Americans do the opposite – eating mostly fried, processed and sugary foods and including few fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts in their diets.
Alkaline foods include: melons, dates, berries, pears, squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, almonds, ginger tea, raw honey, wild rice, quinoa, olive oil, bananas and spinach. Brown rice, sunflower seeds, cold water fish, plain yogurt, eggs and other slightly acidic foods can be consumed in moderation. Eat acidic foods, like chicken, lamb, turkey, milk, oats, cashews, beans and potatoes occasionally. While these foods do have plenty of nutritional value, it's important to balance them with alkaline foods for better body pH. Soda, alcohol, candy, refined flour, Sweet ‘N' Low and other excessively acidic foods should be cut out of the diet. Blueberries, cranberries, beef and a few other excessively acidic foods have nutritional value and can be eaten when balanced with alkaline foods.
If you often suffer from congestion due to sinusitis, it may be caused by overuse of antibiotics, nasal decongestants or a high-sugar diet. Change your diet and practice other healthy habits ( better sleep, stress reduction, exercise), and your respiratory tract will remain clear.
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