Foods That Help Sinus Congestion

Bowl with Wasabi on wood
A small dish of wasabi paste. (Image: HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images)

Sinus congestion, or a stuffy nose, often accompanies sinusitis, but the former can occur for other reasons, such as a cold. Chronic sinusitis is more prevalent than heart disease or asthma and affects 37 million Americans every year, according to Mountain States Health Alliance. Additional symptoms include facial pain, trouble breathing through your nose, mucus, headache, fatigue, sore throat and teeth pain. You can opt for medication or sinus surgery, but try incorporating foods into your diet that relieve sinus congestion.

Spicy Foods

You probably know how it feels when your nose starts to run after eating a really spicy jalapeño pepper or adding extra wasabi to your sushi roll. The spice and acid in these foods, along with other spicy foods such as horseradish, hot sauce and hot mustard, break apart and release mucus in your nostrils, clearing your sinuses. If you suffer from acid reflux, which occurs when stomach acid travels back up to your esophagus, indulge with caution, however. Spicy foods can trigger heartburn, a burning sensation in your chest. When stomach acid flows back upward, it irritates and inflames your nasal passages, causing them to become swollen and blocked.

Chicken Soup and Warm Beverages

Chicken soup is good for the soul and the sinuses. It contains the amino acid cysteine. According to Vanderbilt University, cysteine initiates a process in your body that enables you to break down mucus, leading to a runny nose and cleared sinuses. Chicken soup, along with other warm beverages, such as tea, also moisten your mucus membranes, and this promotes movement of mucus through your sinuses.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin A protects the tissue lining your sinuses, and vitamin C keeps your immune system strong and may reduce swelling in your sinuses when taken with bioflavonoids, which are plant compounds. Dietary sources of vitamin A include leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes, fruits and some vegetable oils. You get vitamin C from fruits, especially citrus fruits, and vegetables. Vitamin E also keeps your immune system healthy, and zinc stops the growth of infectious viruses that can cause sinus problems. Vitamin E is in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, while zinc is most prevalent in red meat, poultry and seafood.

Other Potential Remedies

Pineapple and garlic are two foods touted for their sinus-healing properties, but there is insufficient scientific evidence behind such assertions. Pineapple contains bromelain, which has been used for centuries to treat inflammation after surgery, particularly sinus surgery. The University of Maryland states there is some evidence that bromelain reduces symptoms of sinusitis, swelling and inflammation. When you crush or chop garlic, it releases an enzyme that produces allicin. Allicin may destroy bacteria and kill viruses, some of which cause sinus infections. Let your chopped or crushed garlic stand for 10 minutes before cooking it to maintain its healing properties.

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