Nervous Neti? Not If It’s Nice! by Dr. Hana Solomon, M.D., as published in January 2013 issue of Alternative Medicine Magazine
For years we have been reading about and recommending nasal washes for the maintenance of good health. And by now, most health-care providers understand the obvious benefits of this practice. We know that it makes sense to clean the body’s respiratory filter and to keep the cilia healthy so they can function well. Washing with saline solution removes a significant amount of offending particles caught in the nose, thereby helping to prevent allergic reactions and respiratory illnesses.
And while all this makes perfect sense, many of our patients still resist the idea and the actual practice of washing their noses. Why do they resist?
Fear is usually the first obstacle I encounter in my practice. Many people with nasal woes are scared of pouring water into their nostrils. They fear a feeling of drowning, they may not understand that the water cannot get into the brain, or they simply gross out at the idea of mucous and boogers. Now this is key: The first, most important, way to help people understand is to be comfortable with washing your own nose. Practice and get your technique down pat; when you have succeeded in performing a refreshing wash of your own nose you are 200% more effective as a teacher to others.
As one who is experienced, you can take some time to clearly explain to others where the water goes. Anxiety is somewhat lessened once the anatomy of the nose and mouth are clearly explained, but there is nothing like a successful wash to prove that it is safe and actually feels good. If you don’t want to demonstrate on your own nose, use a model or a video so they can see how simple the nose really is. Then guide your patient through that first wash right there with you to help them. It only takes about 3 minutes to demonstrate if you have the right equipment handy.
Did I say ‘right equipment’? Yes! The right nasal wash system can make all the difference, not only in compliance but in comfort and effectiveness.
First, let’s look at the neti. These can be easy to use. However, the neti requires the patient use gravity for an effective wash. They must bend over, turn their head to the side and pour the solution into one nostril, hoping it will flow out the other side. If the nostrils are congested, the water will not be able to flow through the nose and may go into the Eustachian tubes instead. Ouch! If they are young, elderly, or have difficulty with dizziness or neck strain, they may not be able to assume the correct position for the flow to be effective or comfortable. Patients are also advised to ‘breathe through the mouth while pouring water through the nose.” That’s hard!
One solution to these problems is to use a power system that pulses water through the nose. Not user friendly, these systems eliminate the need to rely on gravity, but at the cost of patient control and ease of use. There is nothing like a motor to make you feel plenty of power while tied to the grid!
A variety of squeeze bottles are available, and some can provide the best control and convenience, but even within the array of bottles offered there are vast differences in effectiveness and comfort. Well-designed tips can create an effective seal against the nostrils to prevent backflow. Some have straws and encourage the patient to direct the flow straight up into the nasal cavity. This is misdirection because straight-up flow is more likely to shoot the contaminated contents of the nose right into the sinus cavities. The best, most comfortable and effective systems I have found encourage flow along the floor of the nasal cavity (aimed to the level of the ears, not the eyes). This washes the solution past the sinus openings, effectively drawing out the contents and washing them away. The right direction of flow also washes past the Eustachian tubes, opening and decongesting the ears instead of filling them with solution.
Did I say ‘solution’? Yes! The right solution is all about effectiveness and comfort! One of the most common questions I am asked is, “Can I just make my own with table-salt?” And my answer is, “Yes but the magic is in the mix. And if it hurts the first time, you won’t want to do it again. You may not create the right concentration so it may irritate your sensitive mucous membranes.”
The best solutions are made with pharmaceutical grade salt buffered with bicarbonate, creating a pH that is just perfect for soothing nasal woes. Isotonic (the same pH as the nose) solutions feel fine, and are effective for cleaning out mucus. But perfectly buffered solutions allow washing with a much stronger hypertonic (saltier than the nose) solution which is much more effective at shrinking swollen membranes and decongesting. Hypertonic solutions are also better at killing viruses and bacteria, and for augmenting the healing process. You wouldn’t be able to tolerate hypertonic solutions if salt was the only ingredient in the mix.
For the best experience, I encourage everyone to use high quality pre-measured packets of buffered salt, mixed with warm clean water. They start out with an isotonic mix to get used to it, and then gradually move on up to hypertonic for the most effective washing experience. This works even with my two-year olds’ stuffy noses!
So during the winter season, remember how important nasal washing is to help prevent colds and flu. When spring arrives, you’ll find nasal washing the first best natural technique for managing allergies. And if the experience is as refreshing as it is effective, cleaning your body’s filter simply makes sense all year round.
Keep yourself healthy by getting a good washing system, learn to use it well, and then share your talents with others. They will thank you for it.
Hana R. Solomon, M.D.
Author of Clearing The Air One Nose At A Time, Caring for your personal filter
Inventor Of Nasopure
President of BeWell Health, LLC
copyright November 28, 2012