Keeping Your Nose Clean

Allergies are a huge problem in our society.  I used to suffer like lots of people.  I took an almost daily cocktail of Zyrtec and 2 Advil to keep the terrible sinus headaches at bay.

Last year I started doing one thing and was able to stop taking medication and over a year later, my allergies are still manageable.  I still occasionally get sinus headaches, but just taking an occasional Advil is much better than taking something every day.  Got your interest?

The thing that worked for me is the neti pot.  It is also called nasal irrigation or nasal lavage and is basically a salt water rinse of the nose.  Several doctors had previously recommended it casually to me, but it really should be recommended more strongly.

simple ceramic neti pot

simple ceramic neti pot

The Pot

I have a simple ceramic pot that I got at Whole Foods, our local health store chain.  They also come in plastic, glass, or metal.  I have tried the ceramic and plastic and can’t tell much difference.  Just get one and try it and you can always replace it with something else later.

The setup under my sink - salt box and pot

The setup under my sink - salt box and pot

The Salt

You could purchase specially formulated salt, but the price adds up quickly.  I recommend getting bulk sea salt from your local health food store.  A big bag will be less than a dollar and will last several months.  Managing that much salt can easily be a mess.  Do *not* keep it in a bag.  It will make it too hard to manage and you won’t keep up with it.  I put mine in a disposable Ziploc Tupperware box and keep it under the sink with my neti pot.  Keep a plastic spoon on top and figure out through trial and error how much salt you like in the mix.

The Process

First, make sure you have a box of tissues on your counter right next to the sink within reach.  You’ll appreciate this later.  Let the hot tap water run for a bit to warm up while you spoon some salt into the pot.  Fill the pot up with warm – almost hot water.  Too hot and it can easily burn your sensitive nasal membranes.  Too cold and it feels strange and bad.  Stir it with the spoon.  Now the actual process takes some trial and error to get right, but you will know when it is working.  Lean over your sink and tilt your head to the left and put the tip of the pot into the right nostril.  You have two variables to adjust – the tilt of your head and the tilt of the pot.  If you tilt the pot too much then the water comes out the top of the pot.  If this happens, you need to tilt your head more and the pot less.  When done right, the water will go in the right nostril and pour out the left nostril.  Now you can tilt your head to the right and put the pot into the left nostril and do the same for the other side.

I do this daily and on regular days I do one pot between both nostrils switching about half way.  Occasionally – maybe one a week or so – I will do one full pot for each nostril.

The Finish

When you are done you will still have salt water in your sinuses and dripping out your nose.  Grab a tissue (you did remember to put the box close, right?) and gently blow your nose.  Do not hold one or both of your nostrils closed!  Just blow gently but firmly out of both nostrils.  If you hold one side you can easily force salt water back up the sinuses towards your ears.  This can feel uncomfortable and is not a very pleasant sensation.  Next, lean over at the waist and tuck your chin to your chest.  Wait a few seconds for the salt water to drain and then blow your nose again.  Do the same thing here with a gentle but firm blow out both nostrils.

Advanced

What I outlined above is considered Level 1 of Jala Neti.  It cleanses the upper nasal sinuses and is what I do on a daily basis.  This is good enough and you can get great relief from allergies and sinus irritation by doing only the Level 1 steps.  If you are interested, there are additionally levels 2 and 3.  I’ll cover these in future posts in more detail.

A few minutes a day can make a life-changing difference.  I love not having to rely on allergy drugs and my extreme headaches are much less frequent.  Have you had a positive – or bad – experience using a neti pot?  Comment below and tell me about it.