Good To Nose Baraka Blog

Can Nasal Sprays Make You Prone To Sinus Infections?

Written By: Sue
February 26, 2013


sinus infectionQuick Fixes: Too Good to be True.

While traveling in South America, I landed in Lima, Peru where I picked up the worst sinus infection I’ve had in a decade. Initially, it started out as nasal inflammation possibly because of the high pollution and mold in the city. Unfortunately, I was without my neti pot or sinus oil. In desperation to get a good night’s sleep, I grabbed an OTC nasal spray. What a mistake that was!  While I did sleep better for a few days, a sinus infection crept in and soon my nasal cavities were a mess.

After writing last week’s blog, I began to wonder if that nasal spray could have lowered the biodiversity in my nose; in other words, had the nasal spray reduced the good bacteria? Could that have made me vulnerable to an infection? After all, many of these sprays contain preservatives such as benzalkonium chloride or phenylcarbinol whose only purpose is to destroy or slow the growth of microorganisms that could potentially enter the nasal spray bottle after it’s opened. While these preservatives aren’t strong enough to eliminate a sinus infection, they could disrupt the balance of bacteria in the nose and leave it prone to infection.

I did some research to see if there was anything written on the subject but I found nothing. Still I wondered. While it’s hard to say why I got a sinus infection, it makes sense that these preservatives would act like an antimicrobial in my nose lowering the biodiversity. It’s well known that overusing nasal sprays can cause a rebound effect (i.e. worsening congestion), but no one talks about the potential for increased infections.

The kind of experience I had in Lima always reinforce my belief in the importance of finding remedies that work with the body to address the root cause of disease, not just for a bandaid or quick fix. Sometimes we’re in situations where we have no choice but to use what is available, but maybe I could have been more creative. Diet, for example, plays a role in sinus congestion. I might have eliminated all inflammatory foods including alcohol or I could have walked down by the ocean to get some fresh air. Sometimes what we think is going to be a quick fix isn’t!

The more knowledge we can collect about the ways the body is interconnected, the more we’re able to take preventative measures and to boost the areas that need extra support. The longer I work with ˜natural medicines” plants, herbs and naturally occurring substances, the more I see they are the keys to our health. They support the body without pushing it. And they don’t result in worsened symptoms.

Above all, I wish I had travelled with my neti pot and Sinus Rejuvenation Oil. Lesson learned!

Probiotics for the Nose!?

Written By: Sue
February 19, 2013

Sinus Health and Probiotics

Probiotics are a common topic of discussion as of late, mostly related to intestinal health.  Now there is research suggesting the use of probiotics can alleviate sinus infections.  According to Susan Lynch, Associate Professor of Medicine at UCSF, chronic sinus sufferers have less biodiversity in their noses than healthy individuals. The nasal cavities, like our intestines, need a variety of bacteria to maintain a healthy environment. If these bacteria are compromised by antibiotic use, antimicrobial nasal sprays or a weakened immune system, for example, the biodiversity is reduced. Remember not all bacteria are bad; if you take an antibiotic, it can’t differentiate between the bacteria that benefit your body and the ones that don’t.

Lynch, who was interviewed on NPR last Fall, studied the effects of inhaling probiotics into the nasal cavities. Her team studied mice induced with a sinus infection. This created a situation where the biodiversity in their noses was compromised. After inhaling lactobacillus, a species of bacteria naturally found in our bodies and often used in oral probiotics, the mices sinuses returned to normal.

In addition, Lynch spoke of a study involving 300 children who had rhinorrhea and/or upper respiratory problems. After being given an oral lactobacillus or bifidobacterium (both ‘probiotics’), their symptoms were reduced.

What does this all mean if you suffer from ongoing sinus problems? Unfortunately current regulations do not allow for probiotics to be marketed for inhalant use, but you might think of getting it to your nose through your gut. It’s worth a try. We have to remember, our bodies aren’t isolated parts put together. If you are unclear about how your digestive tract interacts with your nose, check out this blog written on GERD.

In addition, here’s another great article on the subject.


Neti Pot Water

Written By: Stephani
January 1, 2013


The question we receive most frequently at Baraka is “What kind of water should be used in a neti pot?”  The water you use in your neti pot is as important as the type of salt you add.  Use a salt that has not been highly processed, however it is important to use water that has been treated in some form.

So to answer the question, the following types of water can be used in a neti pot:

Boiled water

Distilled water

Filtered water (.2 micron filter)

Bottled water

If using boiled water, boil water for 3-5 minutes to ensure bacteria is removed.  The water should then be cooled to room temperature. Since waiting for the water to cool may take some time, you can also fill the neti pot about ¼ of the way with boiled water to dissolve the salt and then use room temperature filtered or bottled water to fill the rest of the pot.

It is most important to not use tap water.  Tap water can be heavy in minerals that can irritate the nasal cavities. Tap water can also contain chlorine, fluoride or microbial contaminates.  Some bacteria in tap water can actually cause infection.  Nasal rinsing is safe and effective when using a proper water source in your neti pot.

What type of water do you use in your neti pot?  Let us know on Facebook!

The Nasal Cycle

Written By: Sue
May 4, 2012

Breathing Right or Left?

Unless you’re congested, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about the volume of air you breathe into each nostril. Surprisingly, each nostril delivers a different amount of air to your lungs through a mysterious phenomenon called the nasal cycle.

What is the nasal cycle? If you close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nostrils, you’ll notice one nostril seems a bit more congested than the other. That’s the nasal cycle at work. Your body is alternating the flow of air between the nostrils every 1-4 hours. In other words, sometimes we breathe predominately through the right nostril and other times we breathe predominately through the left nostril.  The nasal cycle feels like an alternation between congestion and decongestion of the nostrils. While you aren’t sick, one nostril is constricting airflow while the other one is open and allowing a free flow.

Some in the medical community are unclear as to why the nasal cycle exists. While others say that alternating between nostrils prevents excessive drying, crusting and infections that would be caused by a constant, static flow of air. Still other research suggests the nasal cycle is necessary to give us an optimal sense of smell since different chemical compounds absorb through our nasal mucous at different rates; if both nostrils were wide open, smells from our food and other odors would move through the nose too quickly making it impossible to smell certain compounds.

Ayurvedic medicine has a completely different take on this. It suggests that alternating the volume of air through each nostril stimulates the cerebral cortex. For example, when breathing predominately through the left nostril, you are stimulating the right cerebral cortex, which controls the parasympathetic functions. This system is responsible for activities of “resting and replenishing” that occur when the body is relaxed.  According to Ayurvedic medicine, left nostril breathing increases acidic secretions and is warming. When breathing predominately through the right nostril, you are stimulating the left cerebral cortex, which controls the sympathetic functions. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for stimulating activities associated with the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Right nostril breathing increases alkaline secretions and is cooling. Hatha yoga (part of Ayurveda) has a variety of breathing exercise that work between the two nostrils to purposely stimulate these parts of your body, especially if they are out of balance. See David Frawley’s book Neti: Healing Secrets of Yoga and Ayurveda for more information on this.

If you want to know which nostril is the dominant one in any given moment, you can place a small mirror beneath your nose and just above your lip. Hold it horizontal to the floor and exhale through your nose. That exhale will create condensation on the mirror from each nostril; the largest amount of condensation is the dominant nostril for that moment. To track how often you change breathing cycles see this link at Vanderbilt University for instructions.

Truth About Plastic Neti Pots

Written By: Sue
April 25, 2012

Green Nose!

With so many neti pots on the market these days I can’t help but write about the plastic ones and their impact on the environment. In 1996 when we began producing our Baraka neti pot, there were only a handful of companies making them, and like ours, most were ceramic. However, in April 2007 Dr. Oz introduced nasal rinsing to the general public, and it went from being in a niche market to the mainstream. Suddenly neti pots could be found everywhere and most of them were made of plastic.

While I’m glad more people are nasal rinsing, there are a few things you should know about plastic neti pots.

  1. Few neti pot on the current market are made from BPA-free or food grade plastics. BPA is a known carcinogen found in many plastics. It can leech into anything that’s put in it – which means the saline solution for your neti pot. For more information on eco-plastics view our previous blog on the subject.
  2. Plastic can easily harbor bacteria. Manufacturers of plastic nasal rinsing devices recommend that you replace their product every year. They warn you to look for any discoloration in the plastic. What they don’t mention is the discoloration is often caused by mold or bacteria.
  3. If you have a plastic neti pot with a hollow handle, bacteria is even more likely to be present. Since the handle is narrow and curved, it receives less water flow and is very difficult to clean, making it an ideal breeding ground for pathogens. If you own a plastic pot with a handle- or know someone who does- do your own investigation.
  4. Salt can deteriorate plastics; therefore, you will have to replace your nasal rinsing device more frequently. The more replacement products you buy, the more waste is produced for our landfills.
  5. Some plastics can emit a strange odor as they age. These are the cheaper plastics and their spout can have rough edges which hurt the nostrils.

Many people want a plastic neti pot to travel with because it won’t break. I fly frequently and have never had that problem with my ceramic neti pot. I wrap it in my clothes and put it into the middle of my suitcase. However, if you don’t trust your ability to pack it safely or the airline’s ability to not crush your suitcase, at least consider a steel or copper neti pot.

Plastics are a necessity in life. I think of the pacemaker in my father’s heart- a life saver! I try to use plastic only when necessary. I see the effects of gratuitous plastics while traveling in developing nations and it isn’t pretty. They don’t have the ability to hide it like we do in the United States. Every day when I’m offered something made of a plastic I don’t absolutely need, I say no.  It’s only my no,  but if more of us do that, we can make more positive impacts on the future of our planet earth.

Earaches and Flying

Written By: Sue
April 18, 2012

Flying with Congestion

Recently I flew with a cold that I hadn’t given much thought to until take off. Suddenly it became a flight I’d never forget! My ears started to crackle and my head felt as if it were in a vice grip. For a moment, I thought I was going to rupture an ear drum. Medically this sensation is known as sinus barotrauma or aerosinusitis. I call it ‘pain beyond belief!’ Aerosinusitis is your body’s inability to regulate to the cabin pressure because your Eustachian tubes are blocked. The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the nose. When they are inflamed and retain fluid due to a cold, allergies or an inner ear infection, your body is unable to adjust to changes in pressure.

Below are some suggestions of what you can do to avoid a painful flying experience:

  • Chew gum or drink liquid. These methods cause you to swallow frequently, which will relieve the pressure.
  • Valsalva Maneuver – Pinch your nose closed, hold your mouth shut and gently blow air into your nose. You might hear a popping noise as it equalizes the pressure.
  • Decongestants – I don’t often advocate decongestants, but there are occasions when it’s absolutely necessary. I recommend nasal sprays vs. oral decongestants which are dehydrating. Familiarize yourself with flying and dehydration with this previous blog. In addition, a nasal spray can be used at the last minute if the first two suggestions don’t work.
  • Ear Plugs – I’ve also been told there are special earplugs used to equalize the pressure. I don’t have any recommendations, but they’re all over the internet.
  • DO NOT FLY WITH AN EAR INFECTION WITHOUT THE ADVICE OF YOUR HEALTH PROFESSIONAL! An ear infection is very different than simply having your Eustachian tubes blocked from a cold or allergies.

While adults can use the techniques above, infants deserve special attention with or without a cold. In a previous blog, I discussed the reasons why children have a hard time with the change in cabin pressure during a flight.

Below are suggestions to help your child have a pleasant flying experience:

  • Breastfeed or use a bottle/pacifier. Like an adult, the constant swallowing equalizes the pressure. Make sure your child is upright while drinking.
  • Nose Sprays – There are some nose spray made especially for children.
  • Ultimately if you are caught unprepared on a flight or your child is unwilling to do the first two suggestions, you might try cupping both ears with two Styrofoam cups. Please see the blog I mentioned above.

If you are planning to fly and you or your child has congestion, don’t ignore it. The pain is not worth it and in most cases can be avoided with a little preparation.

Flying and Children

Written By: Sue
April 3, 2012

Prevent Painful Flying

Do you ever wonder why a child is more bothered by the change of air pressure on an airplane than you? Or why an infant, who has been silent the whole flight, starts screaming as you approach the runway? Children are much more susceptible to earaches while flying than adults for a couple of reasons.

First, children have shorter Eustachian tubes, which are responsible for equalizing air pressure.  The Eustachian tubes are narrower, more horizontal in orientation and lie closer to the nasal opening.  In other words, they aren’t developed enough to do their job well and the change in air pressure pushes the eardrum inward. Painful!

Secondly, the tonsils can be enlarged in children causing the Eustachian tubes to retain fluid. Tonsils are small in infants and adults, and peak in size for children between the ages of 2-5. The Eustachian tubes may be unable to drain fluid and equalize the cabin pressure while in flight. Check out this great link to learn more.

Caught off guard on a flight with your child who begins screaming from an earache and you are hours from landing?  There is a trick. It may seem a bit complicated, but it is an emergency remedy that works!

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Ask the flight attendance to get you 2 Styrofoam cups, 8 cotton balls and some hot water. Because of tightened regulations, flight attendants may insist they don’t have cotton, but they do. Be persistent.
  2. Clump 4 cotton balls together (you’ll want to create 2 large balls) and put them into the Styrofoam cups.
  3. Pour a small amount of hot water onto the cotton balls ONLY to moisten them. You don’t want any liquid in the cup as it will burn your child. The water needs to be very hot to ultimately create a steam. AGAIN I CAUTION YOU TO ONLY MOISTEN THE COTTON BALLS.
  4. Bring your child to an upright position. This is very important because the Eustachian tubes can’t drain when they are horizontal and you don’t want the hot cotton balls to touch the skin.
  5. MAKING SURE THE COTTON BALLS ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CUP put one cup over each of your child’s ears and make sure to get a good seal. You may need another adult to help you with this if you are traveling alone and your child isn’t cooperating.
  6. The hot water on the cotton balls will create a steam that travels into the ears and helps clear the Eustachian tubes of pressure.
  7. Like adults, children should NOT fly while they have an ear infection.

Hopefully this never happens to you, but I’ve been on enough flights to know parents can get caught off guard and this is a lifesaver.

Relieving Congestion in Infants

Written By: Sue
March 27, 2012

A Holistic Approach

Many parents wanting to avoid using pharmaceuticals on their infant (or small child) often ask us, ‘What is a safe way to reduce nasal congestion?’ Believe it or not, the process is similar to relieving your own congestion. While you can’t use a neti pot in an infant’s nose simply because it’s too big, you can use a bulb syringe (also called a nasal aspirator) and the same saline solution you make for yourself.

First, create a saline solution by adding a 1/2 teaspoon of mineral salt to 10 oz. of warm water.  Then lay your infant on her back with the head propped up on a pillow or towel. Keep the chin slightly upwards. Using a bulb syringe (or an eyedropper), place 2 – 4 drops of saline solution in each nostril. Wait 30-60 seconds, while keeping your child’s head as still as possible. The mucous may drain, but if you aren’t sure, use the bulb syringe to suction out any excess saline and mucous. Make sure to compress the bulb prior to inserting the tip into your infant’s nose, and then slowly release to provide a light suction. Don’t suction the nose more than two or three times a day, or you can irritate the lining. Also, avoid using the saline drops for more than four days in a row as it can dry out the inside of your infant’s nose.

Another way to drain mucous is to make sure your child is lying with her head elevated. Place a rolled up towel or pillow underneath the crib mattress at one end to encourage the slight elevation. Lay your infant on her back with the head on the elevated portion, as this allows gravity to drain congestion out of the nasal passages.

Other suggestions are to use a humidifier or vaporizer. Both moisten the air to help break up nasal congestion and loosen thick secretions. A humidifier heats the water before it is sprayed into the air, while a vaporizer uses cool water. The humidifying effects of both devices are equal but parents often choose a vaporizer simply because the risk of their child getting burnt by the hot steam is eliminated. In both devices, you can add a few drops of eucalyptus or pine essential oil to the water. These oils are antimicrobial and decongesting.

If you urgently need to decongest your infant, many parents run a hot shower and take their infants into the steam for 5-20 minutes. This will loosen the mucous and ultimately give the infant some relief.

Have other suggestions on how to relieve congestion for infants?  We would love to hear them on our Facebook page.

An Acidic Stomach and a Stuffy Nose

Written By: Sue
March 13, 2012


It’s hard to imagine that an acidic stomach and a stuffy nose could be related. After all, your stomach is the midway point of your body and digests food, while your nose is located in your head where it draws in oxygen and enhances the taste of that food. To make things more confusing, if you were to have a problem with either of these organs you’d most likely see a specialist, and often times these specialists don’t make the link between your stomach and your nose.

A stuffy nose, sinusitis, nasal congestion and a number of other problems can be due to a condition called GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease- a more severe form of acid reflex). GERD occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. You may think that’s a long way for stomach acid to travel but if we look at our anatomy it makes sense. The nose drains into the throat and esophagus; the esophagus drains into the stomach connected only by a valve. That’s it. There are no other filters or buffers along the way. If that valve doesn’t work properly, acid can back up into the esophagus and then to the nose. In other words, heartburn is stomach acid making its way into your esophagus; that same stomach acid can travel all the way to your nose and cause inflammation. In an attempt to rid your nose of this harsh acid (in other words, to wash it away), it produces more mucous and thus a stuffy nose.

Not everyone with GERD gets sinus problems, but if you frequently have an acid stomach AND a stuffy nose, you may want to discuss this with your health practitioner or do more investigating for yourself. Other symptoms of GERD include: difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, lump-in-the-throat sensation, chronic cough and throat clearing, and mucous build-up in the throat. People can suffer from one or more of these symptoms.

What are the solutions? In most cases, GERD can be reduced or eliminated by altering your diet. The idea is to eat foods that don’t increase stomach acid. Acid inducing foods include:

  • alcohol
  • coffee/black teas
  • sodas
  • fried foods
  • spicy foods
  • dairy

If the thought of permanently eliminating these foods is more than you can handle, consider this: once you eliminate them and your digestive tract has healed, you may be able to reintroduce these foods into your diet.  There are plenty of books out there that give suggestions on how to make delicious, tasty meals while eating a low acid diet. Dropping Acid: The Reflex Diet Cookbook & Cure by Dr. Koufman is a popular book on the subject. Other books on the subject are Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford or Donna Gates’ Body Ecology Diet. If you search these books into Amazon, they’ll give you other suggestions on books that are similar. Or ask your local health foods or herbal store for other good ideas!

As a culture, we can no longer deny that our food choices have consequences on our bodies. GERD is your body’s internal alarm system telling you something is out of balance. Don’t ignore it.

What The Heck Is Nasya Oil?

Written By: Sue
March 7, 2012

Ayurvedic Medicine

Recently Dr. Oz did a show on Ayurvedic medicine. We got wind of this days before the show, which we thought was going to be about neti pots. Again! This time he surprised us with a discussion on the different aspects of Ayurvedic medicine including nasya oil.  Although I think his show is a bit glittery, he does have some useful information and is bringing alternative therapies like Ayurveda to mainstream America which is great!

Before I explain nasya oil, I want to discuss Ayurvedic medicine, which is the traditional medicine of India. ‘Ayur’ means life and ‘veda’ means knowledge or science. Ayurvedic theory states that all areas of life (body, mind & spirit) impact one’s health. Those of you reading this blog may already understand this. When I discovered Ayurveda, I felt like I was coming home. I was seen as a whole person not just a body with parts. Ayurvedic theories are time tested and it is considered the oldest medicine in the world. People like Deepak Chopra and Robert Svoboda have brought it to the forefront in the US.

Nasya, an Ayurvedic therapy like nasal rinsing, helps improve sinus health and additionally does much more! The Ayurvedic Encyclopedia defines nasya as ‘nasal’ herbal therapy to be used for diseases of the throat, neck, head and senses.

Nasya, as practiced by most practitioners in the US, is made from sesame oil or ghee with medicinal herbs. There are actually five different kinds of nasya therapy that range from powdered herbs blown into the nostrils to herbal juices which are inhaled. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll only write about that which is made from sesame oil or ghee.

In Ayurvedic medicine, the nose is considered the gateway to not only our head but to our life force; our prana. Nasya oil made of sesame and ghee usually contains medicinal herbs that hydrate the nasal cavity, nourish the tissues and prevent colds.  The oil is often warmed before being administered into the nostrils via a dropper. It’s inhaled to the back of the throat and often spit out.

sinus rinseYears ago I was given a nasya treatment and was inspired to create Baraka’s Dry Nose Oil which is similar to nasya yet different. I wanted an oil that people could use when they were on-the-go so I chose an organic sesame oil combined with 4 essential oils. While the sesame oil moisturizes, the blend of essential oils mildly decongests and rejuvenates the nasal tissues. It is a lifesaver to combat dry nose in the winter or in high or arid climates and even during plane flights.

Many people like to nasal rinse and then use a nasya oil. It is often suggested to use it in the morning and before you lie down at night. How often you use it is up to you. If you have a dry nose you’ll feel its effects immediately. As with any therapy don’t over do it. Start slowly using it once or twice a day and see how that works.

We’d love to hear from people who practice nasya. Comment here or visit us on facebook.

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