The Best Food to Eat When You Have a Sinus Infection

Your sinuses are the tiny air-filled pockets located along your eyes, nose, cheekbones and forehead. While sinus infections often stem from a cold or some other upper respiratory infection, they can also be triggered by allergies, nasal problems or seasonal changes. Inflammation is responsible for the pressure and pain you feel when you have a sinus infection -- inflamed sinuses prevent mucus from draining efficiently. Drinking plenty of fluids and eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help relieve symptoms as you recover.

A woman blowing her nose into a tissue. (Image: Kmonroe2/iStock/Getty Images)

The Right Fluids

Getting plenty of fluids is a top priority when dealing with a sinus infection. Staying fully hydrated helps your white blood cells work more efficiently, which enables your immune system to fight infection more effectively. Increasing fluid consumption can also help thin out your mucus, allowing it to flow more freely as inflammation subsides. The quality of the fluids you choose is as important as the quantity -- sugar-rich beverages, including orange juice and other natural fruit juices, can interfere with white blood cells’ ability to kill bacteria. Instead, opt for clear broth, tea or plain water. Warm fluids can be especially helpful in prompting mucus flow.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet -- centered on dietary fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants -- is generally considered one of the best defenses against infection in the first place. When you have a sinus infection, choosing foods that are strongly anti-inflammatory can help decrease sinus inflammation, which is the first step toward relief. Salmon, tuna, herring, sardines and other fatty fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their significant anti-inflammatory effects. The carotenoids and flavonoids in berries, cherries, beets, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, dark leafy greens and other colorful fruits and vegetables have also been shown to reduce inflammation.

Antibacterial Foods

Antibacterial foods can help your body fight infection, too. Garlic, which has long been used as a medicinal food, is widely valued for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s also prized for its antibacterial properties, which are generally attributed to allicin, the compound that gives raw garlic its pungency. Cooking garlic may deactivate this compound, but the Linus Pauling Institute notes that some researchers suggest letting chopped garlic rest for 10 minutes before cooking with it. Ginger is another anti-inflammatory, antibacterial food, as are onions and limes. According to the “Encyclopedia of Healing Foods,” lime juice has been shown to both protect against bacterial infection and boost immune system response.

Other Considerations

Treating a sinus infection means reducing inflammation and relieving symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Although this typically involves prescription-strength nasal sprays, antihistamines, decongestants or even antibiotics, your dietary choices can have an impact on your recovery. Staying hydrated and eating a whole-foods-based diet is only one half of the equation, however -- increasing your consumption of fluids and anti-inflammatory foods is far more effective if you also avoid the sugar, unhealthy fats and other highly processed foods that promote inflammation and inhibit immune system function.

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