Many people with repeated sinus infections try using saline nasal rinses or nasal irrigation at some point. This popular procedure can be easily done once or twice daily to relieve nasal congestion and clear the nose of mucus. Health care professionals now advise daily saline nasal irrigation as part of sinus infection treatment to keep nasal passages more open and to possibly prevent future sinus infections.
Studies agree that daily saline nasal irrigation helps a person feel better by improving some sinus symptoms. But they also find that they do not treat sinus infections and do not improve the sinus microbiome (the sinus microbial community of bacteria, fungi, viruses).
This is because while the irrigation treats symptoms of sinus problems, it does not treat the underlying cause of the sinus infection - the sinus microbiome being imbalanced. A sinus probiotic such as Lactobacillus sakei is needed to rebalance the sinus microbiome and to achieve sinus health.
What is nasal irrigation?
Nasal irrigation (also called nasal rinses) is the flushing of clogged nasal passages using a saline solution in a neti pot, bulb syringe, or squeezable bottle. Using the device, the user pours or sprays store bought or homemade saline solution (salt, baking soda, water) into one nostril. The fluid flows through the nasal cavity, into the other nostril, and drains out. Nasal irrigation is usually done once or twice a day, and can be continued routinely for weeks, months, or years.
People generally find that saline nasal irrigation clears mucus from the nose, and improves a stuffy nose or nasal congestion for a while. It also helps clear the nose of allergens in persons with allergies. Nasal irrigation is generally considered safe, and it has no effect on the sense of smell. However, some people (one study review said 23%) report temporary side effects such as some stinging in the nose, nasal irritation, a feeling of fullness in the ear, sneezing, or even nosebleeds (this last is rare).
Extra Ingredients Do Not Need to Be Added to the Saline Rinse
Researchers have been surprised to find that saline nasal irrigation is not enough to treat sinus infections or improve the sinus microbiome. This is why studies have been done adding other medicines or products to the saline rinses, but this has not resulted in additional improvement over plain saline rinses.
One recent study tested 3 kinds of saline rinses: ordinary saline rinse, saline plus xylitol, and saline plus the probiotic Lactococcus lactis in a group of persons with chronic sinusitis and a control group (healthy persons without sinus problems). Each study participant did 1 treatment (either L. lactis or xylitol nasal rinse) for 28 days, then 28 days of saline rinse alone, and then 28 days of the other treatment rinse. So ultimately each person tried all 3 methods.
The Univ. of Rochester Medical Center researchers found no significant differences among the different treatments, whether in sinus symptoms or the sinus microbiome. Those with chronic sinus problems still had them at the end of the study, and their sinus microbiomes and symptoms were still very different from those of the healthy participants.
Several studies found that saline nasal irrigation alone doesn’t change the sinus microbiome or significantly decrease harmful bacteria such as Pseudomonas or S. aureus or increase beneficial bacteria. Adding budesonide (a corticosteroid) to the saline rinse also doesn’t significantly change the results. One study found that the majority of people report some symptom improvement when doing nasal sinus irrigations, but this occurs whether they use saline nasal irrigation alone or with added budesonide.
These results hold even if nasal irrigation is done for years. A study conducted in Sweden found that 11 years after 34 persons received sinus surgery, most said that saline nasal irrigation and corticosteroids help the most with sinus symptoms. But almost all are still reporting sinus symptoms, a few have had multiple surgeries, and only 3 reported being healthy and not needing any treatment (e.g., saline irrigation, nasal corticosteroid sprays, antibiotics).
Bottom line: Daily saline nasal irrigation helps with some sinus symptoms and so makes a person feel better. But it doesn’t treat the sinus infection, which is the result of the sinus microbial community being imbalanced (dysbiosis).
In addition, using a probiotic such as Lactobacillus sakei (in Lanto Sinus) is helpful because it is naturally occurring in the sinuses and is considered a keystone bacteria – one that is needed for a healthy and balanced sinus microbial community. It also dominates over harmful (pathogenic) bacteria that are a frequent problem in sinusitis (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus).
Saline rinses and Lanto Sinus
Individuals purchasing Lanto Sinus experiment using it all sorts of ways (including saline rinses). At Lanto Health we generally recommend that saline nasal irrigation be done at least an hour before or after using Lanto Sinus. This is to allow the beneficial bacteria to move throughout the sinuses and respiratory system on their own. And they do!
After feeling healthy, there may no longer be the need or desire to do any more saline rinses. This is what happened to us. Living a normal healthy life feels great!
Final note: Always use bottled, sterile, or boiled and cooled water in saline rinses. And if making homemade saline solution, only use non-iodized salt. Kosher salt is a good choice.