Modern Living, Complex Health Problems
In our post-modern industrial polluted stress-filled bad-diet
culture, no one's health is simple. We are plagued by complex
long-term illnesses like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic
fatigue, fibromyalgia, AIDS, even sinus problems... it may
seem weird to you that I include sinus infections, but the
root causes of sinus trouble can be quite complicated...
Especially if they are long-term.
Antibiotic Overuse Problems
I hate to say it (because antibiotics are so great in some
situations, and so popular overall), but antibiotics complicate
things even more - there are conditions that do not respond
to them... and there are many situations in which they are
not even indicated.
Physicians have over-prescribed antibiotics for years...
they know it, there have been studies that show it, and
as a profession they've moved away from that. But people
still want to leave the doctor's office with a prescription,
a magic-bullet. Of course, sometimes the issue is which
antibiotic is the most appropriate one. They don't all work
for everything. (Also read about Colds
and Flu's II: Antibiotics, Herbs, and Oriental Medicine
Concepts of Immunity)
In this article...
|Antibiotic Side Effects - When They're Wrong
If the sinusitis hasn't responded to antibiotics, then either the wrong ones were prescribed, or you need to try another kind of treatment. Chinese Herbal Medicine can address the full spectrum of complaints and causes; we often treat the conditions which are not responding to
conventional treatments like antibiotics. A woman wrote me about how antibiotics
weren't solving her diarrhea problem- this can happen when
the disease is cold in nature. Antibiotics are cold and bitter;
these qualities help it fight the dampness and heat of bacterial
infections. But they are more of the same damage when the disease
is cold or deficient in nature. Acupuncture and moxibustion (the
warming of acupuncture points) can also be effective; some people
respond very quickly... results vary depending upon a number of
factors (the acupuncturist's education, accuracy of diagnosis,
frequency of treatment, and patient compliance with diet and lifestyle
Cold and Deficient
If the mucus is clear or white, then it is more likely cold in
nature. That fits with a Spleen-system deficiency and dampness.
That would fit with the pulse she felt. You would have lowered
appetite, feel fatigued, have loose stool, and possibly feel cold
easily. Antibiotics wouldn't help here, and could even make things
Sinus Infection Symptoms
The classic acute sinusitis symptoms are nasal congestion, green
nasal phlegm, facial/dental pain, eye pain, headache, and a cough
at night. Some patients also complain of fever, feeling ill, bad
breath and a sore throat. Chronic sinusitis is more difficult
to diagnose. You can have the same symptoms above in a milder
form. Chronic means long-term; it's not usually thought of as
chronic unless it's been going on for 2 months or more.
Sinus Infection Causes
Sinus problems can be caused by many things- you have to think
about environmental and food allergies (allergic sinusitis), chronic
sinus infection, and chronic colds. Without more information,
it's hard to be specific. Sinusitis often develops after colds,
and can become a chronic problem. The sinuses are very small...
one of our weak points, especially for people with weakened immune
systems or in the presence of irritants (once again, pollution,
allergens, etc.)... she probably asked about the farms and pesticides
while she was thinking about the cause of your chronic sinusitis.
For more, see this article: Sinus
Mold, Fungus, and Sick Buildings
And we can't forget about mold! While some people appear to be
more sensitive than others, fungus can cause fungal sinusitis.
This gets into the whole 'sick-building' topic... Mold can grow
in the walls of houses and offices, and is not always easy to
Decongestant Side Effects
Decongestants are often prescribed. They work by drying you out.
Unfortunately, they don't just dry the mucus. Long-term use of
decongestants can lead to other problems, like the dry or heat
types of sinus inflammation (for more on this,
read Sinus Congestion & Hoarseness).
This is why, in Chinese Medicine, we always balance an herb with
other herbs- if we are drying the phlegm, we also moisten at the
same time. Moisture helps the sinuses drain- you remember that
there are chinese herbs whose function it is to moisten and transform
Serious Causes of Sinusitis, and Serious
For those with chronic sinusitis, tests need to be done to rule
out the serious things. Sinusitis can be just a simple end-of-your-cold
complication, but it can also show up as part of: nasal tumors,
fungal infections, and HIV or other immunodeficiency. What about
the sinusitis surgery? It works from 50-93% of the time... so
it can be a great help if you're sick and tired of it, and nothing
else has worked. but it's also a super-painful process! I would
see an herbalist first.
For more, go to the next part, "Phlegm
Finally, "flem." I'm sure she meant "Phlegm." I'm not sure what
people think of when they hear this word- I think of an old smoker
coughing some up. And that is one kind of phlegm. But there are
others- CM has a broader idea of phlegm... from the coughing-up
kind (and the kind that's too dry to cough up) to "phlegm
misting the sensory orifices," a severe state of mental cloudiness
that can result in seizures and coma. But relax, she's not talking
about that! Phlegm as it relates to sinuses is a condensed form
of dampness. Dampness is any kind of fluid build-up that is not
healthy... whether it's edema, pus, or nasal mucus. I know, it's
gross. But you used to it. We medical professionals can talk about
phlegm over dinner... no problem!
But how in the world could phlegm and
pregnancy be related?
It's possible that she was saying that your pulses showed you
were either pregnant, or had lots of phlegm. She was probably
feeling that "slippery" quality. It's possible that the dampness
or phlegm could be in the Lung-system (of which the sinuses are
a part). In that case, you would have some extra mucus... the
color of the mucus would depend on whether there is heat (often
an infection) or not... and so would whether or not you could
get the mucus out, and how much came out. Sometimes there is so
much heat that the dampness or phlegm gets burned up... then what
little would come out would be yellow (green if there is a severe
Of course, no one's health is simple. It's hard for me
to say from a distance with little information. It's also hard
for many practitioners to have the right diagnosis the first time
without spending a good hour or two examining the symptoms and
signs. Once they get on track with your diagnosis and find herbs
that fit your patterns, you'll begin to see progress. If you feel
confident with that practitioner (you may want to ask her about
her education, etc. - see
this link for ideas about what to ask), then trying her out
for 4-8 treatments would be the way to get started.