What’s New About The Ancient Practice Of Nasal Washing?
Why do we brush our teeth? Because we know that if we brush daily, we prevent cavities and we feel better. We also know that all sorts of filters - for the car, the clothes dryer, or the home air system - all work better if kept clean. Why not the body’s filter?
Nasal issues - wash the tissues! If the nose is clean, it can function. Washing your personal filter, is as sensible as cleaning any machine filter -- it helps the machine work more effectively. Exposure to irritants causes swelling of the membranes and an increase in thick and sticky mucus production, impeding the normal flow of drainage. A pH balanced buffered hypertonic salt solution washes irritants out, shrinks swollen membranes, and increases the filtering efficiency of the nose hairs by thinning secretions. This allows the tiny sinus to drain effectively and naturally.
It is no surprise that with the assault of chemicals, fragrances, pollution, dust and pollen that our nostrils are under enormous stress. Allergic Rhinitis is the fifth most common chronic illness in the United States, affecting 60 million Americans. 26.1 million Americans have ‘hay fever’ symptoms each year. Asthma is one of the leading chronic childhood diseases in the United States and a major cause of childhood disability. Childhood asthma prevalence more than doubled from 1980 to the mid-1990s and remains at historically high levels. Millions of people miss work or school each year, due to allergy symptoms. Most people who purchase non-prescription medications buy them in an attempt to relieve these symptoms. Doctors write forty million prescriptions each year for sinus infections - yet one recent study reveals that ‘antibiotics do not reduce symptoms of sinus infections’.
The ancient practice of nasal washing is performed as a daily hygiene routine throughout the eastern world. Even our grandmothers knew that moisture in the nose makes sense. Have you ever sniffed salt water when you had a cold? Ever used a humidifier? How about that clean feeling after an ocean swim? Washing the nose uses a similar principle, but far more easily, efficiently and effectively.
This year a pediatric ear specialty journal published a study that supports the use of nasal irrigation with hypertonic saline as a preventative approach to ear infections. Additional studies document regular nasal washing removes 80% of irritants and pollen. Previous studies have shown that children with allergies who nasal washed not only prevented their allergy symptoms and reduced use of medication, but ultimately the number of secondary bacterial infections they experienced prior to using nasal irrigation.
The simple technique is easy enough for those as young as 2 years of age, and is safe, economical and effective for any age. When done correctly, Nasal washing prevents symptoms and reduces the use of medications related to the allergy season.
Western medicine is based on the evaluation of scientific studies and the application of emerging evidence in routine clinical practice. Western medical health providers depend on the scientific, evidence-based approach. They often reject alternative approaches unless those approaches are based on sound, scientific evidence. The majority of studies in the field of allergy medicine focus on new medications or on manipulation of the immune system. But in the last quarter century, researchers have begun to apply serious scientific study to the time honored practices often based on “Grandmother’s wisdom”, and as consumers become aware of medication risks, they are self educating and searching for safer alternatives.
Scientific literature regarding nasal irrigation supports this simple idea: Nasal washing is a proven way to reduce, or even completely avoid, the use of medication that treats a host of nasal woes. Allergists, family doctors, pediatricians, otolaryngologists, naturopathic physicians and nurse practitioners all agree that nasal washing is safe and effective. Patients are showing us that those who wash their nose daily use fewer medications, sleep better, snore less and have fewer asthma episodes. Daily washing keeps your nasal passages and sinuses clean, clear and healthy.
Just like brushing your teeth, regular nasal hygiene can help you stay healthy and feel better.
So what’s new? The oldest thing in the world - wash it first!
2000 B.C.E.: "Here, eat this root.”
1000 C.E.: "That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.”
1850 C.E.: "That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.”
1940 C.E.: "That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.”
1985 C.E.: "That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.”
2004 C.E.: "That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.”
Be Well, Dr Hana
Hana R. Solomon, M.D.
Author of Clearing the Air, One Nose at a Time: Caring for Your Personal Filter