Why Am I So Stuffy?

By TJ Williams, DC, PhD

We frequently see patients who report suffering from constant sinus issues. Congestion, stuffiness, runny nose, post nasal drip, and other sinus problems… these are all caused by inflammation. Inflammation is part of the body’s natural defense system. So the question becomes, what is causing inflammation in the body?

Instead of covering up these symptoms with allergy meds and decongestants, Functional Medicine aims to get to the root cause. Let’s take a look at where this inflammation could be coming from.

Food Sensitivities: I often find that eliminating hidden food sensitivities can help get rid of troubling symptoms. When most people think of food sensitivities, they usually imagine someone eating a peanut and ending up in the emergency room with a swollen tongue, hives and difficulty breathing. That’s what is called an immediate allergy (also known as an IgE hypersensitivity reaction). This is very serious but thankfully, not common. There is another type of reaction to foods that is much less dramatic and deadly — but still very troublesome. It is called a delayed allergy (IgA or IgG delayed hypersensitivity reaction). This reaction is much more common and creates a lot of suffering for millions of people. This type of delayed reaction can cause symptoms anywhere from a few hours to a few days after ingestion. So, my first recommendation is to get tested for food sensitivities, which you can do through a functional medicine practitioner. While there are companies that now offer food sensitivity tests to the general public without the need for an ordering physician, in our experience these tests are frequently inaccurate.
If you do not want to get a food sensitivity test, you can try an elimination diet to try to uncover hidden food sensitivities. While everyone is different, there are some foods that irritate the immune system more than others. These include gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut), dairy (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt), corn, eggs, soy, nuts, nightshades (tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, eggplant), citrus and yeast (baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast and fermented products).

Supplement Wisely: There are a few supplements that I recommend for sensitivities once the foods are removed. Probiotics, which provide good bacteria to improve digestion and reduce inflammation. Other gut-healing nutrients include glutamine, zinc, curcumin and fish oil. I always recommend a high-quality multivitamin. Quercetin (which has anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties) and nettles can also relieve symptoms from allergies.

Heal Your Gut: Following a gut-healing protocol can be a very powerful tool in getting to the bottom of symptoms like a stuffy nose. Hidden or chronic infections, such as viruses, bacteria, yeasts or parasites could absolutely be the culprit. I’ve seen so many patients who have gotten rid of post-nasal drip and sinus issues when they treated yeast or bacterial overgrowth in the body. So, in addition to going on an elimination diet and getting tested for allergies, I highly recommend working with a Functional Medicine practitioner to see if there are any deeper imbalances in the gut.

If you would like more information regarding any of the treatments, therapies, or services offered at The Institute of Natural Health, please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit us at the theinstituteofnaturalhealth.com. Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 3:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.