Jala Neti Cleansing to Combat Allergies and Sinusitis

Written by Philip Walter on Dec 3 at 10:25 pm in holistic healing, itBODYnature

It seems inevitable that as the quality of the air we breathe, particularly in big cities, gets worse due to the tragic overuse of motor vehicles and other such problems, the occurrence of allergies and allergic symptoms also gets worse. I can’t keep up with the number of people I know who regularly take Allegra, Singulair, and similar drugs, much less the others who complain of symptoms while treating them with over the counter medications. Is there anything to be done?

Well, if you don’t mind a bit of weirdness (and if you can keep said weirdness from totally weirding out your spouse), there’s an ancient practice modern research has shown can help alleviate allergic symptoms and even chronic sinusitis. I am speaking of the practice of isotonic or hypertonic saline nasal irrigation known to Ayurvedic practitioners as Jala neti (water cleansing).

The practice involves filling a neti pot with typically 4 or 8 ounces of saline solution. Next you’ll allow the solution to run through your nasal cavity, thus cleansing your nostrils of all sorts of undesirables. It is safe, gentle, effective, and time-tested.

Why Salt Water?

The salt is really added for comfort. Its purpose is to get the salinity in the cleaning solution to at least the same level of salinity in the cells and fluids of your body. If this balance is not achieved all hell breaks loose in the epithelial tissues of your nasal passages as the cells there race to regulate the osmotic pressure between intracellular and extracellular fluids. This osmotic regulation results in a burning sensation in the nostrils and is a product of the fact that animal cells, unlike plant cells, do not have a rigid cell wall surrounding it.

There is some debate as to the magic ratio of salt to water for the saline solution, but it is generally accepted that ½ tsp per cup of warm water is a good start. This seems to get you an isotonic (equal salinity to bodily cells) solution. Some recent research indicates that hypertonic (higher salinity than bodily cells) solutions are even more effective, and my yoga teacher recommends 1 full tsp per cup of water.

So in my neti pot, which holds only holds 4 ounces, I mix ½ tsp, and that generally works well. You will know it if you need more salt, as you’ll feel a mild burning sensation in your nostrils.

How Do You Do It?

In my opinion the only sensible place to do Ayurvedic Jala neti cleansing is in the shower. Some recommend doing it while leaning over their sink, and that’s perfectly fine. But the shower is the place for cleaning your body, and since water is already cascading over your whole naked self, it’s easy to schlock a little extra-mucous-y saline solution out your nose in the name of clearing out your sinuses.

So you’ve got your neti pot, you’re taking a shower, and mix up the proper saline solution. Now just lean forward so your head is more or less parallel with the ground, turn your right ear to the sky, place the open end of your neti pot in your right nostril and tilt it upward. Breathe slowly and deeply through your mouth with your epiglottis closed as if you were trying to avoid smelling some particularly fragrant dog-toots. The water should run slowly out your other nostril. Let it continue to do so until your pot is empty. Repeat on the other side.

Some water may run out your mouth. No biggie. Just let it happen … another reason I prefer doing this in the shower. I usually do it once a week, twice on each side. Traditionally this was a routine performed as often brushing teeth, so I don’t really think you can overdo it, but I find that once or twice a week is plenty to see results. In addition to decreased occurrences of allergic symptoms and resulting sinusitis, you may also notice decreased snoring and better concentration, among other things.

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