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Stuffy Nose, Headaches, and Honey

Stuffy Nose, Headaches, and Honey

Why Am I So Stuffy?

I’ve always been congested,” starts this week’s first House Call question. “My digestion is great, but my nose is always stuffy. I have two dogs, so I’m thinking that might be the culprit, but I think it might be allergies.”

Congestion, stuffiness, runny nose, post nasal drip, 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 Allergies: I often find that eliminating hidden food allergens can help get rid of troubling symptoms. When most people think of food allergies, 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 (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 allergic reaction can cause symptoms anywhere from a few hours to a few days after ingestion. So, my first recommendation is to go on an elimination diet like the 10-Day Detox to see if you can uncover hidden food allergies.

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).

In addition to going on an elimination diet for 2 to 4 weeks, you can also take a blood test for IgG antibodies to foods. This is useful and can pinpoint trouble areas, but it is not always 100 percent accurate.

Our reader mentioned that he has two dogs.  I’m sorry to say that the cause of his symptoms could definitely be man’s best friends. I would consider going to your doctor to get an allergy test to see if your dogs are the cause of your allergies.  If not, then it could be hidden mold in the home or other environmental toxins.

Supplement Wisely: There are a few supplements that I recommend for allergies. 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. You can find these and other allergy-relieving supplements in my store.

Heal Your Gut: Our reader mentioned that he did a gut-healing protocol, which 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.

Battling Headaches

Our next reader writes, “I am battling these horrible headaches for the past 3 years now and they never go away. Help! What can I do?”

Migraines are a big problem. In fact, they’re one of the most common reasons people end up the emergency room.

And here’s the truth about this painful issue … the root cause of your migraine may not be in your head at all; in fact, it may be caused by many other factors.

Migraines can be caused by:

  1. Food sensitivities. I had a patient who had migraines for 40 years, and we discovered that they were caused by the eggs she was eating. When she stopped eating eggs, the migraines went away; when she started eating them again, the migraines came back. Another common cause is gluten – the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt. This special kind of food allergy creates a lot of inflammation. For those who are sensitive to gluten, I definitely recommend an elimination diet.  Get rid of gluten, dairy, eggs and yeast for 3 weeks and then introduce each on individually for 3 days, then stop and take note of any symptoms.
  2. Hormonal imbalances. Many women get premenstrual migraines, which are often caused by imbalances in estrogen and progesterone — too much estrogen, not enough progesterone. This can be caused by stress; by consuming too much alcohol, sugar, flour and starches; and by not getting enough exercise or sleep.
  3. Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is the relaxation mineral. If you’re deficient in it, you can often get headaches and migraines. Take magnesium glycinate, citrate or aspartate in doses that relieve symptoms.  If you have kidney disease of any kind, do this only with a doctor’s supervision.
  4. Bowel and Gut Imbalances. Identifying and treating bacterial imbalances or yeast in the gut can also be helpful. Getting the gut healthy with enzymes, probiotics and omega-3 fats is important.

These four steps are where I typically start to end migraines; however, there are a few more things you can try. To read the full blog on how to end migraines, click here.

If I Can’t Use Sugar, Can I Use Honey?

The final question in this week’s House Call is, “If you have leaky gut syndrome, can you use honey in tea and coffee, instead of sugar?”

The facts are in, the science is beyond question. Sugar in all its forms is the root cause of our obesity epidemic and most of the chronic disease sucking the life out of our citizens and our economy — and, increasingly, the rest of the world. You name it, it’s caused by sugar: heart disease, cancer, dementia, type 2 diabetes, depression and even acne, infertility and impotence.

There are so many different kinds of sugars – honey, maple syrup, agave, cane sugar, etc.  And while there are some small differences among these sugars, for the most part, sugar is sugar is sugar. It can all wreak havoc on your health.

Now, as far as this question is concerned, it’s important to take a look at the whole diet instead of just focusing on one ingredient in your coffee. Are you consuming sugar throughout the day? What about hidden forms of sugar? The truth is: food manufacturers put sugar into everything from ketchup to bread and all food products in between.

If you’re eating a whole-food, low-sugar diet, a little bit of honey in your morning coffee or tea might not be a problem, but if your diet has a little more sugar than you’d like, it might be time to detox completely from sugar.

In this case, I recommend doing a diet overhaul and taking out all forms of sugar from your diet for at least 10 days. You can even follow the 10-Day Detox which gives your body the deep reset that it needs. You can reverse sugar addiction while enjoying powerful addiction-reversing foods that rewire and reset your brain and body.

And then after that the 10 days, I recommend treating sugar like a recreational drug. I treat it like alcohol, which is to say that I might enjoy a little bit of it every now and then, but I definitely don’t have it every day. 

Now I want to hear from you. Do you suffer from nasal problems? How about headaches? What are your thoughts on honey? Do you use it? Or do you avoid sugars? Leave your comments on my Facebook page. And if you liked this video, be sure to share it with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. Also, Tweet me your questions, and maybe next week I’ll make a House Call to you.

Wishing you health & happiness,

Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.