Foods That Are Good for Stuffy Noses

Sick young woman sitting on sofa blowing her nose
Blowing a stuffy nose is often ineffective and may actually be irritating. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Lightwavemedia/Getty Images)

Whether that stuffy nose comes from the flu, a cold or allergies, it’s a real nuisance. Caused by swelling in the tissues due to inflamed and congested blood vessels, a stuffy nose is also one of the possible symptoms of a sinus infection. Although the infection will eventually clear up and allergies may go away once pollen season is over, there are some ways to deal with a stuffy nose. Among them are eating spicy foods with peppers, slurping chicken soup, sipping peppermint tea or sloshing out your sinuses with table salt dissolved in warm water.

Spice It Up

If you’ve ever taken a bite of a particularly spicy dish, you may have noticed that your eyes and nose start to water within a few minutes. Peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, which is the chemical that gives peppers their bite. All peppers except bell peppers contain capsaicin. In one study reported in the August 2011 issue of the “Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology,” researchers found that study participants who used a homeopathic preparation containing capsaicin experienced decreased nasal congestion, sinus pain and sinus pressure. The capsaicin remedy was more effective than placebo. Wasabi mustard and horseradish are two other spicy foods than may make your nose run, according to alternative medicine proponent Dr. Joseph Mercola.

Soup Is a Comfort

Mama may have been on to something when she served you chicken soup for a cold. When tested against cold water, chicken soup and hot water increased the flow of nasal mucous, according to an October 2007 article in “The New York Times.” The chicken soup did a better job than the hot water, however. Chicken soup also has anti-inflammatory effects, according to a February 2014 article on the website of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Cool with Peppermint

The University of Michigan Health System recommends products with menthol for sinus congestion, and peppermint contains menthol. Menthol doesn’t actually make the congestion go away, however. It stimulates nerve receptors in the nose, which makes it feel as though more air is going through. The menthol also makes the air feel cooler. You could drink peppermint tea or put a peppermint tea bag in a basin of hot water and breathe in the steam; the UMHS also recommends steam inhalation for sinus congestion.

When Nothing Works

In many cases, a simple home-food remedy will do the trick, but sometimes you may need medical attention. If you have thick drainage that is any color other than white or yellow, or you are running a fever, Medline Plus notes you could have a sinus infection that requires treatment with antibiotics. A severe headache may also be a sign that it’s time to contact your doctor.

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