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Foods That Irritate the Sinuses

author image Rebecca Slayton
Rebecca Slayton is a Registered Dietitian and has worked in the nutrition field since 2006. Slayton received the 2005 Betty Feezor Scholarship Award for her studies. She holds a Master of Science in food and nutrition from East Carolina University.
Foods That Irritate the Sinuses
Some people say that eliminating dairy reduces sinus irritation. Photo Credit TAKASHI HAGIHARA/amanaimagesRF/amana images/Getty Images

Limiting or avoiding foods that irritate your sinuses, especially when you are sick, may provide some relief and comfort. Always consult your physician to determine the cause of any sinus-related issues. Don't forget to take into consideration environmental factors such as weather or allergies that may also be irritating your sinuses.

Common Food Allergens

Sinus irritation is not always caused by a virus or bacteria. Your doctor may find that you have a food allergy that causes your sinuses to be constantly sensitive. People can respond differently to food allergens. Reactions range from nausea to cramping to difficulty breathing -- or even flushing of the sinuses. Common food allergens include peanuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, tree nuts, wheat, soy and fish. Your physician can run a test if he suspects your sinus irritation is associated with food allergies.

Dairy Products

If you often experience sinus irritation, consider trying a dairy-elimination diet. This involves avoiding milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese and milk-based desserts. While many scientists debate the link between dairy consumption and increased sinus irritation, some researchers have found that participants’ health improves when eliminating dairy. According to a study published in Medical Hypotheses in 2010, a subgroup of participants found that their sinus symptoms improved after eliminating dairy.

Even participants with asthma reported less respiratory mucus when avoiding dairy. Because dairy does provide you with a good source of calcium, substitute other high-calcium foods such as sardines, calcium-fortified orange juice, kale or broccoli if you try a dairy-elimination diet.

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Spicy and Hot Foods

Remember back to the last time you ate something really spicy, whether it was hot wings or chili peppers. You may have observed your nose reacting by draining the way it does when you have a sinus cold. When you eat spicy foods, receptors trigger your central nervous system to respond. The body's response includes flushing of the sinuses, which causes your nose to drain. You may also notice a subsequent burning sensation or sweating. This too is part of your body's efforts to flush out the chemical response associated with the hot or spicy food.

Alcoholic Beverages

If you experience sinus irritation, avoid drinking alcoholic beverages or eating meals whose ingredients include alcohol. Alcohol can increase nasal congestion, irritating your sinuses further. With sinus irritation, the cause may be due to a virus, bacterium or health issue. Some illnesses not only affect your sinuses but also the liver. Alcohol is processed by your liver, and any consumption can cause it to overwork.

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