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Sinusitis Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Sinusitis is classed by inflammation and infection of one or more of the four paranasal sinuses that causes impaired sinus mucous clearance. Sinus cavities provide a perfect breeding ground for infection as the openings into the nasal passages are very small. Sinusitis may be acute or chronic. 

Sinusitis can be a recurring problem for many people with a range of underlying triggers such as mould exposure, food intolerances (especially diary), gut dysbiosis, autoimmune disease and a history of atopic illness involving respiratory infections.

Causes / Risk factors for Sinusitis

  • Acute:
  • Infection: viral (and sometimes bacterial) infections are the most frequent cause of sinusitis; it will usually resolve over the course of 7 to 10 days
  • Dental root infection
  • Chronic:
  • Allergy or sensitivity: to environmental or food allergens
  • Allergic rhinitis or asthma: sinusitis is often found in conjunction with atopic disorders – chronic suppression of hayfever symptoms may increase risk of chronic sinusitis
  • Exposure to environmental irritants e.g. second-hand smoke
  • High levels of fungal colonisation
  • Sinus obstruction or impaired ability to clear mucous: often due to structural abnormalities (e.g, deviated septum), nasal polyps or enlarged adenoids
  • Recurrent upper respiratory tract infections
  • Autoimmune disease

Signs & symptoms of Sinusitis

  • Headache – dull, constant, over eyes
  • Facial pain or pressure – dull, constant, aching over affected sinuses
  • Pain worse when bending over or lying down
  • Localised tenderness over sinuses
  • Thick nasal discharge
  • Mouth breathing, snoring, waking with dry mouth or foggy head
  • Dizziness or vibrating sensation in head
  • Fever (in acute sinusitis)

Differential diagnosis

  • Common cold
  • Tension and vascular headaches
  • Meningitis
  • Brain and epidural abscesses
  • Viral, allergic or vasomotor rhinitis
  • Tumours or cysts


  • Identify /address underlying cause (infection, allergy, irritants etc)
  • Treat underlying infection (if relevant)
  • Clear sinus congestion / tone mucous membranes
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Reduce allergic response (if relevant)
  • Stimulate circulation
  • Support immune function

Diet plan guidelines for Sinusitis

  • Identify/remove allergenic foods: wheat and dairy are major factors
  • Emphasise anti-inflammatory foods: in cold-water oily fish, berries, nuts and seeds, turmeric, ginger, green tea, olive oil
  • Emphasise antioxidant-rich foods to support immune function: berries, green tea, turmeric, fruits and vegetables
  • Minimise pro-inflammatory foods: sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, excessive commercially produced red meat, saturated fats, omega-6 fatty acids, caffeine and alcohol
  • Include vitamin C and quercetin-rich foods: e.g. berries, cherries, citrus, apples, onions, parsley, black and green tea, kale, broccoli
  • Increase mucolytic foods: garlic, onion, watercress, horseradish, mustard, parsley, celery, rose hips tea, pickles, lemons
  • Include pre- and probiotic foods to regulate immune function: high fibre foods, fermented foods

Supplements that support Sinusitis

  • Vitamin C + bioflavonoids – assists with fighting sinus infections
  • Zinc – immune booster
  • Vitamin A – immune and mucous membrane repair
  • Probiotics  – assists regulating gut microflora

Herbal medicine treatment that supports sinusitus

  • Immune stimulants: echinacea, andrographis, astragalus, olive leaf
  • Anti-allergy: albizzia, baical skullcap, chamomile
  • Antimicrobial: goldenseal, garlic
  • Mucous membrane tonic: goldenseal, bayberry
  • Clear congestion: anise, fenugreek, eyebright, goldenrod, mullein
  • Circulatory stimulants: horseradish, cayenne
  • Analgesic: Jamaican dogwood

Lifestyle / Physical measures that support Sinusitis

  • Steam inhalation: 1 drop each sage, eucalyptus, thyme, basil, rosemary + 1 tsp salt


Acute sinus infections will generally clear up within a week or two and pose no ongoing issue.  Chronic sinus infections where patients are reporting sinus infections multiple times per year or low grade continual chronic infections have underlying pathological root causes that must be investigated and address. 

Assessing exposure to mould and other environmental toxins, histamine processing, understanding gut function including the presence of any bacterial overgrowths or infections in the gut and in other mucous membrane areas such as the nasal passage and dental cavities are required to address chronic sinusitis.

At our Perth clinic of Advanced Functional Medicine have a wealth of experience with Sinusitis and investigate the root cause of chronic sinus infections.

If you or a family member are suffering from sinusitis or require assistance with another respiratory condition we would love to hear from you.  What sinus triggers do you have?  Do you have histamine issues?  Please write a comment below.

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The above information is intended to be general, educational advice only, on topics which are of interest to us. It is not intended to represent specific or individual health or medical advice and is not specific to your situation. The below information is educative and is not intended to advertise any service.

Before making any decisions in relation to your health, you should always discuss your individual situation with your own health practitioners to ensure that any advice you have read is right for you.

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper - ND is the founder of Advanced Functional Medicine Australia. He is a Naturopathic Doctor with extensive functional medicine training from leading practitioners in the USA and worldwide.

He is leading the way with advancements of functional medicine, clinically implementing worldwide best practices in Functional Medicine throughout Australia.

Jarrod consults in person from Perth, Western Australia and also online via Telehealth throughout Australia and worldwide.

If you are looking for personalised treatment, we highly recommend contacting Jarrod Cooper’s Advanced Functional Medicine clinic in Australia.

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