Neti pots have been used as a traditional method for cleaning the nasal passages for ages throughout Asia and India. Flushing the sinus cavities is a practice believed to treat and prevent certain diseases and irritations of the delicate nasal passages. But does it work?
If you've ever swum in the ocean, you've probably experienced the inevitable wave of salt water flushing up through your nose. After the momentary discomfort passes, did you ever notice a clean and more open feeling in your sinuses? This is the theory behind nasal cleansing; saline water helps to remove bacteria (salt is antibacterial) that can cause colds and flu and more serious sinus infections. It's also used to treat allergies by flushing out the irritating pollen. (*As a long time seasonal allergy sufferer, I can attest to the effectiveness of a Neti pot in bringing instant and lasting relief to irritated and congested sinuses.) Likewise, nasal flushing can reduce symptoms of pollution exposure and improve overall breathing—which is one of the main reasons it has become a common practice amongst yoga and mediation practitioners.
But Does it Work?
Experts suggest that by moistening the mucus linings in the nasal passages, using a saltwater flush/Neti pot can keep the incoming air filtered and at a good temperature, taking pressure off of your respiratory system to do this further down the line. It's also believed that nasal flushing can remove trapped dirt, dust and pollen before those potentially harmful intruders enter into the body's digestive system where germs can exacerbate into more serious illnesses.
According to Dr. Jordan Josephson, director of the New York Nasal and Sinus Center in New York City, Neti pots can help us a lot because the sinuses weren't designed to deal with the amount of toxins common in our environment. Josephson recommends nasal flushing as a daily habit, just like brushing teeth.
How to Use A Neti Pot
Using a Neti pot can seems scary at first, but it's easy to get comfortable with it rather quickly.
First timers may benefit by watching someone else do it a few times—either a family member or friend, or even a video.
To begin, fill your pot with warm water and a quarter teaspoon sea salt. Avoid using chemical or mineral salts as they can burn the nose. Too much salt or too little can also irritate the nose. Because it is a very delicate balance, mild burning and irritation is common, but will typically dissipate very quickly. The more you practice, the better you'll get at balancing the salt levels and reduce the risk of irritation.
With the full Neti pot, tilt your head slightly forward and to the left as you gently pour the water up and into the right nostril. The goal is for the water to come out the left nostril. If you're very congested, this may not happen. It can pour back out of the same nostril as it went up as you get the hang of it.
Be mindful of avoiding hunching your back and collapsing the chest and neck when you tilt your head. Ideally, you want to stand tall and tilt only the head enough to allow for the water to go up and out.
Switch sides. Repeat.
You may need to blow your nose in between flushing. Repeat 2-3 times per side as needed.
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