Question: I have been using a nasal steroid for the past 10 years at least to control congestion and allergies. Are there any alternatives?
Answer: This seems to be very common and yes naturopathic doctors have much success in helping people eliminate or lessen their dependency on steroids. Elimination diets are often effective in reducing inflammation and mucous production in particular eliminating cow dairy, gluten, oranges, peanuts and sugar.
In many cases, food allergens and fungal overgrowth (found in 85 per cent of chronic sinusitis cases in a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic) both contribute to chronic sinus problems. Ironically, corticosteroids contribute to this fungal overgrowth because they suppress immunity. NDs strive to address the cause of the problem whenever possible, not just the manifestation. A safe, side-effect free treatment for fungal overgrowth of the sinuses is a nasal spray containing grapefruit seed extract. Licorice root as a solid extract, much like the consistency of molasses is helpful to help one wean off steroids as it increases your own production of cortisone and it also has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.
You can always try eliminating the above foods for two weeks completely and trying grapefruit seed extract and/or licorice root extract and try stopping your steroid nasal spray at day four of the diet change and see how you get along. You can always go back to it.
At the end of two weeks, if you are doing great and you are wondering what is helping, then reintroduce lots of low sugar dairy such as milk, yogurt and cheese to see if you notice mucous production.
The idea is to assess food categories in isolation of each other to pinpoint your reactions to them. Typically, the cumulative effect will be what leads to chronic problems. Eating allergens once or twice weekly may cause symptoms but will clear by avoiding the substance for four days.
Grapefruit seed extract and licorice are not meant to be used constantly, just to clear the sinuses. If you temporarily overindulge in allergens or fungus feeding foods such as sugar, alcohol and baked goods you can use these herbal supplements to get back on track.
Question: My 11-year-old son takes a steroid inhaler for asthma. I have tried reducing dairy to see if it decreases his dependence. How strict do you need to be?
Answer: Initially, for at least a couple of weeks, and maybe indefinitely, he needs to be very strict, avoiding all milk, cheese, yogurt, whey protein and ice cream. Butter is fine if you clarify it first by melting it and skimming off whey.
Lactose-free products contain the protein, which is the suspected culprit in affected individuals. The immune system can detect a virus which is microscopic, so if he is reacting to dairy protein, even a little each day will cause inflammation of the airways.
If you can reach a state that you are free of your inhalers (although I recommend keeping one on hand and watching expiry dates along with your fast acting inhaler) then you can try having dairy one serving then strict avoidance for four days. Reactions are individual, and it is about gently and gradually sensitizing the body to a substance.
A high-quality fish oil supplement containing 90 per cent omega 3 may lessen allergic reactivity as well.
Those who use corticosteroids are more at risk for respiratory infections so it is in one’s best interest to rule out any and all triggers that lead to steroid use.
Kali Simmonds, ND, is a doctor of naturopathic medicine who practices in Charlottetown. The information provided is not intended to diagnose or substitute the advice of your healthcare professional. Consult with a health- care provider before making any changes. She welcomes questions for this column, which is published the first Tuesday of the month in The Guardian. She can be reached by mail at 34 Queen St., Charlottetown, C1A 4A3 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.