Last week, a patient I had not seen in over 10 years showed up in my office for an appointment. His wife was with him for support (he had a new and very serious illness) and she sat quietly throughout his appointment. I thought she looked familiar… and at the end of the visit I found out why.
It turns out that she was a patient of mine as well and she had a single appointment with me about 12 years ago. She reminded me that she used to get frequent sinus infections, but ever since that appointment so many years before..she has not had a single one. She said was so thankful for my advice, but I had absolutely no memory of what I told her to do!!!
I admitted to lapse in memory and asked her what I said back then that made such a difference. She reminded me that she was a “horse lady” who spent lots of time riding and caring for horses, including cleaning out their stables. Whenever she spent a day with the horses, she would inevitably get sinus symptoms (and often a full-blown sinus infection) soon after. Not surprisingly, a horse stable is an environment full of airborne irritants and allergens.
My advice to her back then was simple. I told her to use a Neti Pot every time she got home after being at the stable. And it worked like a charm…
What is a Neti Pot?
I know, the term neti pot is not all that familiar. It even sounds like it could be the name of a character from Star Wars. But the device is not as far out as the name suggests.
A neti pot it’s a small ceramic or plastic device that looks that looks like a lot like one of Aladdin’s lamps. The pot is filled with a saline solution and then poured from the spout into one nostril at a time. The gentle pressure and flow of saline through the nasal passages flushes out trapped allergens and irritants in the mucus, which all comes flowing out the other side. It may sound a little gross at first, but I can assure you that this simple procedure works great, just like it did for the horse lady.
Naturopathic physicians have been recommending nasal irrigation using neti pots for ages because the saline flush helps clean the mucous membranes and clear out irritants which have accumulated in the nasopharynx. (Ear, nose, and throat doctors are starting to catch on now too.) Studies show that nasal irrigation is a very effective method of alleviating common sinus problems such as seasonal allergies, nasal congestion, and sinus-related facial pain.
How To Use a Neti Pot
Neti pots are simple to use and most kits come with instructions, but here’s a basic overview:
- Add ¼-½ teaspoon of finely-ground (non-iodized) of salt to 1 cup of warm water.
- Add a small pinch of baking soda to the solution.
- Pour the saline solution into your neti pot.
- Stand over a sink or in the shower.
- Tuck your chin (like you’re making a “double chin”) and tip your head at about a 45-degree angle.
- Put the tip of the spout into the top nostril and slowly pour the saline solution into your nasal passage. T
- You should feel the solution tracking through the nasal passages and out the other side.
- You can breath normally through your mouth the entire time.
- If you feel the solution in your throat, try tucking your chin again and leaning forward.
- When about ½ of the solution has poured through, stop pouring, stand up and blow your nose into the sink.
- Repeat the procedure on the opposite side.
If you want to see a live-action demonstration of me using a neti pot, click here.
An extensive body of research shows neti pots are both safe and very effective when it comes to relieving chronic nasal and sinus problems and preventing colds. More than 25 million American suffer from these issues, and yet neti pots have never really caught on in a big way in America.
The results are so impressive that I recommend that anyone suffering from chronic sinus issues make nasal irrigation using a neti pot part of their daily hygiene routine. In fact, in many countries, the neti pot sits on the bathroom counter and is used every day just like the toothbrush. Practice a few times and you’ll quickly learn that nasal irrigation feels good (and nothing like getting water up your nose in the pool) and you’ll be hooked… and breathing easy.
Take good care,
Dr. Joshua Levitt