Dealing with congested sinuses? Use these 6 methods to clear your stuffy nose without drugs—and to help keep it clear naturally!
6 Ways to Clear a Stuffy Nose Naturally
Raise your hand if you hate having a stuffy nose. Now raise your other hand if your nose gets stuffy from time to time. I bet 100% of you had both of your hands up, right? Having a clogged-up nose is a frustration that we all have to deal with.
Fortunately, I have a great life hack for unclogging that nose and bringing you sweet relief. It’s simple, fast, easy, and surprisingly effective, even when you’re dealing with a completely blocked airway.
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The main method I’m going to show you involves a breathing strategy that tricks your body into reducing your inflammation response and opening your airways. It works best on breathing problems caused by allergies, inflammation, stress, and environmental irritants. It sometimes is not as effective for blockages caused by extreme mucus buildup, such as with certain infections. But even in these cases, it will usually make a noticeable difference.
For those cases where you have a particularly sniffy snout, I am including a section further down with additional tips for soothing an irritated airway. Now let’s clear up those noses!
Can’t Breathe? Stop Breathing.
First things first. I need to include a word of caution. This method puts a slight strain on your cardiopulmonary system. If you have any medical conditions that limit your ability to exercise, or that trigger dangerous respiratory reactions, consult a medical professional before continuing.
Okay. Let’s start. The first thing you need to do is hold your breath. It’s counterintuitive, but when you’re having trouble breathing, you need to stop breathing. It sounds crazy, but it really works. You can start with your lungs full or empty. I like starting empty, because the effects happen sooner.
Keep holding your breath until it becomes as uncomfortable as you can tolerate. How long this takes will be different for everyone, but the longer you wait, the more dramatic your results will be. There seems to be a critical point at which the magic happens. I know that, for me, I will feel a peculiar sensation as though my stomach is dropping down into my feet. When I experience this, I’ve gone long enough. I also tend to experience a sensation of heat across my skin and I start to produce a light coat of perspiration.
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When you can’t wait any longer, breath in and out through your nose. This is important, as I will explain later. If you still can’t breathe through your nose, you may breathe through your mouth, but you’ll probably find that your sinuses are at least partially clear.
Get control of your breathing as soon as possible. Go ahead and recover, but try to do so within 2 or 3 breaths. You can continue breathing slowly and lightly for a few seconds, but then it’s time repeat the process. Go through a total of 3 cycles of breath-holding and recovery. I know that holding your breath isn’t comfortable, but if you can bear just a little bit of temporary discomfort, you can glean amazing results. Watch the video below for an example of the process.
Now that you’re done, you should notice that your airway is clear and you’re breathing easy. Keep breathing through your nose with slow, light breaths for maximum relief. You don’t need to be uncomfortable or deprive yourself of oxygen at this stage. Just don’t start breathing deeply without a reason. Also, keep breathing through your nose. If you switch to mouth breathing, you’ll likely find your stuffy nose returning rather quickly. Let’s explore why.
Why It Works to Clear a Stuffy Nose
This breathing method works by manually taking over your body’s inflammation response. When you stop breathing, you use up your supply of oxygen and replace it with carbon dioxide. As you know, oxygen is kind of important to our bodies. However, too much oxygen is actually harmful to us. It can put stress on our bodies, causes irritation and inflammation, and puts us into an acidic state.1)Behnke, A. R., L. A. Shaw, C. W. Shilling, R. M. Thomson, and A. C. Messer. “Studies On The Effects Of High Oxygen Pressure.” American Journal of Physiology-Legacy Content107, no. 1 (1933): 13-28. doi:10.1152/ajplegacy.19220.127.116.11.
On the flipside, an increase in carbon dioxide helps to protect our organs and decreases inflammation, allowing our airways to expand and take in more air.2)Laffey, John G., and Brian P. Kavanagh. “Carbon Dioxide and the Critically Ill—too Little of a Good Thing?” The Lancet354, no. 9186 (1999): 1283-286. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(99)02388-0.3)Ure, B. M., T. A. Niewold, N. M. A. Bax, M. Ham, D. C. Van Der Zee, and G. J. Essen. “Peritoneal, Systemic, and Distant Organ Inflammatory Responses Are Reduced by a Laparoscopic Approach and Carbon Dioxide vs Air.” Surgical Endoscopy and Other Interventional Techniques16, no. 5 (2002): 836-42. doi:10.1007/s00464-001-9093-7. This is what causes the seemingly miraculous clearing of your nasal passages.
However, if you’re not careful, those nasal passages will quickly close back down. Oxygen is important, but too much isn’t good for us either. When we breathe through our mouths, or unconsciously breath more deeply than we need to, our bodies increase the inflammation response and swell our nasal passages shut in an attempt to correct our over-oxygenation. That’s why it’s important to take relaxed, shallow breaths through your nose once your airways have cleared.
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I’ve often found that I can get a partially stuffy nose to go away just by switching to nose breathing and relaxing. If I commit to doing this, my nose often opens up on its own after a few minutes.
People sometimes tell me that they don’t think this method will work for them, because they can’t hold their breath for very long. But that’s actually backwards. If you’re not good at holding your breath, you have the advantage here. The goal is to deplete your oxygen and load your blood with carbon dioxide. A body that’s less efficient with its oxygen will use it up faster. That’s why you can’t hold your breath as long. And in this situation, that’s actually a boon.
I’ve talked a lot here about breathing shallowly and taking in minimal air. I’d like to be clear that I am not advocating against breathing exercises in meditation, relaxation, or yoga that call for deep breaths. Each of those has their place and proper application, as does this breathing exercise. Our bodies are dynamic and call for different amounts of oxygen, and different patterns of breathing, at different times.
How to Clear a Stuffy Nose Naturally: 5 More Options
It’s always nice to have additional tools. For those of you with a particularly challenging airway blockage, I present these additional strategies.
Drink more water. A body that’s already clogged up with toxins and irritants will have trouble processing any new ones that come in, and irritants that would otherwise be filtered out may cause a nasal-blocking reaction. Thankfully, you can help to clear out your body by drinking more water. Almost all of us should be drinking more water anyway.
Recommendations vary, but a nice goal is to drink an amount in ounces equal to half your weight in pounds. So if you weighed 160 pounds, you would try to drink 80 ounces of water over the course of a day. (Or just drink water until you’re running to the restroom at an annoying frequency. That’s a good guide, too.)
Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Processed foods, breads, and refined sugars can cause a lot of inflammation in the body. Aside from the other problems with chronic inflammation, it can cause your nose to clog up. Ditch the easy carbs and heavily processed stuff to help clear your stuffy nose.
Gluten and milk can also cause problems for some people. Personally, I suspect that a lot more people have trouble with gluten than we currently recognize. Ancient grains, such as einkorn, are effective alternatives for some people. Similarly, a sensitivity to milk might be allayed by switching to goat’s milk or raw cow’s milk.
Bring the heat! The capsaicin from peppers has a remarkable ability to open your sinuses, if you can handle it. Add some peppers to your meals and revel in the soul-cleansing experience. You can also stir powdered cayenne peppers into water and swish it around your mouth. It’s very effective, but you should brace yourself for an intense experience.
Other hot foods, such as ginger and cinnamon, can be similarly helpful. They also have antibacterial properties that can help to stop the root of some stuffy noses.
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I need to tell on myself for a minute. I like using essential oils. Sometimes, I’ll use my facial hair as a diffuser by applying a drop to my mustache. One time, after having struggled with a stubborn cold for several days, I decided to place a drop of cinnamon oil on my mustache to see if it would help me breath.
Either my facial hair was too short, or the drop was too large, because the oil went straight to my upper lip. Wow! My sinuses opened up like a garden hose, but my face felt like a grass fire was burning across it. In short, it was highly effective, but I don’t recommend it.
Chronic stress can certainly promote inflammation and manifest in a variety of ways throughout your body. We can’t always get away from our stressors, but consistent stress-management habits can go a long way toward helping. Meditate. Read a book. Go to your happy place. Do some yoga. Take a nap. When you take some time to breathe, you may find that you actually can.
Even a few minutes of brisk activity can do wonders for clearing a stuffy nose. Try to breath through your nose so you don’t over-oxygenate your blood. Also, avoid cold air if you’re not already accustomed to exercising in it. Cold air can cause your body to further constrict your airways in an attempt to maintain your core temperature.
Next time you’re dealing with a stuffy nose, I encourage you to follow 1 (or all!) of these 6 simple tips. They can make a world of difference in your ability to breathe clearly!
What Do You Think?
How do you clear a stuffy nose? Share your best tips in the comments!
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|↑1||Behnke, A. R., L. A. Shaw, C. W. Shilling, R. M. Thomson, and A. C. Messer. “Studies On The Effects Of High Oxygen Pressure.” American Journal of Physiology-Legacy Content107, no. 1 (1933): 13-28. doi:10.1152/ajplegacy.1918.104.22.168.|
|↑2||Laffey, John G., and Brian P. Kavanagh. “Carbon Dioxide and the Critically Ill—too Little of a Good Thing?” The Lancet354, no. 9186 (1999): 1283-286. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(99)02388-0.|
|↑3||Ure, B. M., T. A. Niewold, N. M. A. Bax, M. Ham, D. C. Van Der Zee, and G. J. Essen. “Peritoneal, Systemic, and Distant Organ Inflammatory Responses Are Reduced by a Laparoscopic Approach and Carbon Dioxide vs Air.” Surgical Endoscopy and Other Interventional Techniques16, no. 5 (2002): 836-42. doi:10.1007/s00464-001-9093-7.|