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Foods That Clear Up Congestion

Foods That Clear Up Congestion

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Congestion, often accompanied by sinus pressure, is a symptom of many illnesses — allergies, a cold, and the flu, to name a few. According to WebMD, congestion stems from inflammation and irritation in the membranes lining the nasal passages, which then produce an excess of mucus. Keeping nasal passages moist helps membranes recover: humidifiers, steamy showers, consumption of fluids, and nasal saline sprays can all assist in easing irritation.

Breathe Easy With Help From These Foods

That said, according to Colorado-based nutritionist and health coach Krista Stover, “it is vital to get to the root cause of why you are congested” so that you can treat the illness, instead of just the symptoms. Stover says a balanced diet is the best line of defense against infections of the sinuses and recommends the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods to help decrease symptoms once they start.

Inflammation plays a large part in the misery accompanying congestion. The worst symptoms can be attributed to inflamed membranes: sinus pressure stems from inflamed sinus tissues, for instance, and repetitive blowing of the nose results in inflamed skin around the area. Acute inflammation in the body may promote illnesses such heartburn, arthritis, and asthma. Several foods possess natural anti-inflammatory elements: whole grains, leafy greens, and nuts are a good addition to a regular, balanced diet. While getting your airways open to drain excess fluid will help you breathe easier, relieve pressure, and naturally rid the body of some bacteria, treating the symptoms of congestion isn’t quite enough. Recipes that incorporate anti-inflammatory ingredients with congestion-busting ingredients are ideal for when a cold comes knocking at your door — they offer a one-two punch of relief that targets both cause and symptom. And, as always, avoiding processed foods in favor of whole foods and freshly made dishes is essential to boosting the immune system and easing suffering when sick.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Turmeric

While this concoction, recommended by nurse, author, and healthcare advocate Michelle Katz, is actually a gargle instead of a drink, she reports that it breaks down the mucus in airways, clears chest congestion, and soothes a sore throat. Certified Chinese nutritionist Neka Pasquale also supports the use of turmeric, as it has antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Pair one half tablespoon turmeric with one-half cup apple cider vinegar and gargle for as long as you can.

Chicken Noodle Soup

As if grandmothers the world over weren’t expert enough, in 2007 The New York Times reported that chicken soup has proven to be effective against colds. According to studies published in the medical journal Chest, the hot fluids increase the flow of nasal fluids and improve the function of cilia, the tiny, hair-like protuberances that help move mucus and bacteria out of the nose, thus helping to break down congestion.

8 Foods That Reduce Mucus, Phlegm and Snot

Having a constantly phlegmy build-up in the nose and throat can be a nuisance needing to constantly swallow down the slimy stuff is quite disgusting and the build-up of mucus and phlegm in the throat or snot, to use the vernacular, in the nose can even cause bad breath.

While a relatively minor problem, it can affect quality of life with sufferers feeling unable to leave the house without a pocketful of tissues and, if sensitive to the reactions of others, unwilling to stand too close to people in case their halitosis causes distress!

What is a Stuffy Nose (Nasal Congestion)?

A stuffy nose, or nasal congestion, is caused by inflammation of the tissues in the sinus cavities. Allergies, a crummy case of sinusitis, or cold/flu (caused by one of over 200 virus strains) can all cause the yucky phenomenon we know as a "stuffy nose."

When the membranes in your sinus cavities and lining of the nose become inflamed and irritated, excess mucus and swelling creates nasal congestion. Luckily, there are some natural ways to stop that stuffy nose and nasal congestion!

Have a stuffy nose due to seasonal allergies or a bad cold? If you need some natural ways to get rid of congestion, here are seven easy tips for you. These natural decongestants will help you feel better fast! #allergy #badcold #decongestant #congestion #sinus #stuffynose #getridof #healingharvesthomestead

Traditionally found in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, cardamom is known for its many health benefits including antispasmodic properties, which “make it effective against a cough, and it can help relieve congestion in the nasal passages and lungs.” This Cardamom Coconut Chia Pudding recipe by Kanchan Koya Ph.D. offers up a protein-rich, slightly naturally sweet yogurt treat that will also help relieve mucus buildup!

Whether it’s a cold or seasonal allergies, this Cleansing Detox Soup by Shannon Leparski will help clear congestion, reduce mucus buildup, fight-inflammation, and nourish your body. This recipe includes the congestion-fighting elements of cayenne pepper, lemon juice, onion, garlic, and ginger, along with a whole host of plant-based ingredients that will restore you to health!

Deep Breathing

Remember, your rib cage is a major lymphatic pump that is necessary for healthy lymphatic flow. This means that while exercise is essential for your lymphatic health, deep breathing is just as important. Deep diaphragmatic breathing allows your lungs to press into the thoracic duct which presses fluid back into your bloodstream. Deep breathing facilitates proper lymph movement and detoxification.

To practice deep diaphragmatic breathing, breathe deeply through your nose, hold it in for four counts, then exhale for two counts through your mouth. Gradually increase how long you hold and release your breath until you can hold for 20 counts and exhale for 10 counts. Repeat this two to three times per session. Practice three times a day for the best results. To learn more about the revitalizing power of breathing, check out this article (5) .

Besides breathing exercises, you can try other stress reduction strategies to clear lymph congestion as well. Physical and emotional stress can both increase the risk of lymph congestion and health issues, so having effective strategies to cope with daily stress and to reduce overall stress is essential.

Mindfulness practices, meditation, guided imagery exercises, visualization techniques, grounding exercise, journaling, tai chi, yoga, spending time with loved ones, and playing with pets can help you to remain calm in the present moment, slow down, reduce stress, increase joy, and improve lymphatic flow.

4. Get moving.

Exercise may not sound appealing when you’re feeling like it’s hard to breathe, but moving your body can improve lung function and capacity, and clear congestion. Start small: take gentle walks or ride your bike. An elliptical trainer or step machine is a great way to exercise inside when cold weather may exacerbate your symptoms. Work your way up to more vigorous exercises, such as skiing, racquetball, jogging, or dancing. Aerobic exercise increases breathing rate and works the heart and lungs, improving their endurance and helping the body use oxygen more efficiently—which, in time, improves breathing. Running and other aerobic exercises also improve the tone of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, which improves breathing. If you’re short of breath from a virus, wait until you’re well before exercising.

Why Use Home Remedies for Congestion?

I don't like the side effects of over the counter decongestants (they either make me jittery, knock me out or make my head feel like it's going to shrivel up like a raisin), so natural decongestants are my option of choice.

Sometimes something as simple as an extra pillow to boost your head up will help, but most of the time I need something a bit more.

#1 – Tomato Tea

From Earth Clinic, the top choice for best natural decongestant is a recipe called “Jean's Famous Tomato Tea“.

This recipe has received rave reviews for nasal congestion. as well as fighting sinus infection and sore throats.


2 cups V8 Juice
2-3 cloves Garlic crushed (use more if you can)
2 T Lemon Juice
Hot Sauce (the more the better, so as much as you can handle)

Mix and heat in a pan or in the microwave. Sip slowly and re-warm as needed to get the full effects of the fumes. Let it sit in the back of your throat to bathe it. Suck the fumes through your sinuses and also down into your lungs.

If you don't have the exact ingredients – improvise! Below are some substitutes that may not work as well or as fast, but will still help. I've listed them by their likely effectiveness:


V8 Juice – tomato juice, vegetable juice, canned or fresh tomatoes crushed, tomato soup (if really desperate, try another kind of fruit juice, vegetable soup or even chicken soup. You're aiming for high Vitamin C content)

Garlic – garlic in olive oil, dehydrated garlic, garlic salt (aiming for the strong anti-bacterial/fungal effects)

Lemon Juice – Fresh lemons, bottled juice, limes, lime juice, oranges, frozen lemonade

Hot Sauce – ANY kind of hot sauce works, fresh hot peppers, cayenne pepper, dried pepper flakes (if really desperate, try horseradish, black pepper or even mustard. You're aiming for the highly anti-bacterial/fungal properties of capsaicin which is found in hot peppers, and its effectiveness at clearing out the sinuses.)

#2 – Apple Cider Vinegar

Whether you drink it, inhale it, gargle it or squirt it up your nose, Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is another popular natural decongestant choice.

For drinking, some folks take a shot of ACV straight up, others add lemon juice and cayenne, or mix it with water and honey.

  • 6 ounces of water
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (you could also use thieves vinegar)
  • 2 – 4 teaspoons honey

Consume this mix warm, every 6 to 8 hours.

To inhale ACV, boil some ACV on the stove and breathe the fumes, or mix a drop or two in your saline nose spray. (Make sure not to overdo it, and keep things clean.)

#3 – Steam – With or Without Herbs

A hot shower full of steam is a godsend when you’re dealing with nasal congestion, but you can sneak in a little relief in a much smaller area by using a bowl of boiling water tented with a towel over your head.

Take a large bowl and add fresh or dried herbs such as eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint or New England Aster.

Use a few drops of high quality essential oils if you prefer, or you can skip herbs altogether, but in my experience they do help.

Pour in boiling hot water. Lean over bowl and inhale the steam as best you can, tenting your head with a towel to trap the vapors. You can also use a personal steamer like this one.

#4 – Hot Tea – Herbal or “Regular”

Hot tea with lemon and honey has been a congestion fighting favorite of mine for years. Momma always stocked Lipton tea bags, but now I use bulk teas or herbal tea blends, such as tulsi (holy basil).

Lemon provides extra vitamin C, and honey is naturally antibacterial, so do include them in your brew.

The best teas for congestion include herbal teas such as mullein, sage, ginger, peppermint, chamomile, eucalyptus, wild thyme and blackberry. (Source – New York Sinus Center.)

To make an herbal tea, cover 2 teaspoons dried leaves or 1/4 cup fresh leaves with 1 cup boiling water, steep for five to ten minutes, then strain and enjoy.

For ginger root, use about a 1/2 inch piece of fresh root, or 1/2 tsp-1 tsp of dried root bits.

I like to steep in a tea pot or cover my tea mug to keep the vapors from escaping.

If you have a really stubborn cough or cold, check out the recipes for Cough-Be-Gone and Sore Throat Syrup and Cold and Flu Tea.

#5 – Choose Foods That Clear Congestion and personal experience suggests the following foods may help fight sinus congestion:

  • Pineapple
  • Omega 3 Fatty acids (found in cold water fish, walnuts, eggs, fish oil, cod oil and flaxseed)
  • Garlic
  • Spices and Herbs such as horseradish, hot mustard and cayenne pepper
  • Vitamin C

Back in college, a group of us went out to a Chinese restaurant. One of the guys had a bit of a head cold. Another guy dared him to sniff some Chinese Hot mustard.

Being a young and foolish male, he tried it. After yelping in pain, he did find that his congestion was gone. I'd recommend simply adding spices to your food.

It's also good to drink lots of water or other non-caffeinated beverages to help you stay hydrated and loosen phlegm.

#6 – Avoid Foods That May Make Congestion Worse

The Holistic Herbal suggests limiting the following foods to reduce mucus:

  • Dairy products
  • grains
  • sugar
  • potatoes and other starchy root vegetables

You can see why a paleo/primal diet may be helpful for those suffering with chronic congestion.

#7 – DIY Vapor Rub

Simply take a small amount of coconut oil or palm shortening (about an ounce) and add a good quality essential oil such as eucalyptus oil, mint or wintergreen. Use 7-10 drops and mix well.

Never use essential oil directly on your skin – always use a carrier oil. Spread on the chest area or dab under the nose.

Note: Eucalyptus and Rosemary essential oils should not be used for children under 10. Do not use mint essential oils for children under 6.

Pine, spruce, fir and cypress are safer alternatives for children over 2, but with the younger set I prefer to utilize the other home remedies for congestion. (More info at Food Renegade.)

Many essential oils are also problematic for pets, so it's best to avoid random exposure for them, too.

#8 – Oil Pulling

Oil pulling also helps to loosen mild congestion.

Simply take a spoonful of good quality oil, such as coconut or sesame, place it in your mouth, and squish for 10-15 minutes.

This can be a little tricky if you're having difficulty breathing, so it's not my first choice for severe congestion, but it will help loosen mild congestion.

#9 – Warm Salt Water Gargle

Again, this home remedy for congestion works best for mild stuffiness.

Warm salt water soothes throat tissue irritated by nasal drainage, and the heat, moisture and gargling action helps to move and shift booger build up.

#10 – Nasal Irrigation with a Neti Pot or Nasal Spray

Dry air and pollutants can irritate the sinuses. Nasal irrigation with a neti pot or saline spray may help to flush irritants (and boogers). Some people swear by nasal irrigation, others can't stand it.

For those with a deviated septum, it doesn't tend to work well as a home remedy for congestion. The warm water goes in, but doesn't come back out very well.

If you chose to use a neti pot, make sure to use sterile or distilled water. In rare cases, people have died from Naegleria fowleri (brain eating amoebas) in their neti pot water.

4 Simple Steps That Clear Sinuses FAST!

It’s about that time of year. The temperature is changing, knocking our sinuses out-of-whack. Being congested is frustrating, and let’s face it – kind of gross. Unfortunately, there’s more than one reason your sinuses may be congested. Here are some of the most common:

  • Rhinitis – An inflammation of your nasal cavity lining that may be allergic or nonallergic.
  • Common Cold/Flu – A virus that involves sneezing, a runny nose and a headache.
  • Sinus Infection – A common condition that affects 30 million Americans each year.
  • Allergies – If you think your congestion may be related to allergies, see a health care professional.

Almost everyone has experienced nasal congestion at some point. It can be painful and uncomfortable. In some cases, it even interferes with speech, hearing and sleep. Many people use over-the-counter medicines to help clear up congestion, but it comes along with unwanted side effects. If you aren’t a fan of medicine, there’s a completely natural method you can use to help clear up your stuffy nose.

How to Clear Your Sinuses

    and body at a 45-degree angle. Turn your head sideways and massage the sternocleidomastoid muscle in a downward direction 5 times. This muscle is located directly beneath the ears. It runs down the neck, perpendicular to the collarbone. Repeat this technique on the other side of your neck. This will also relax the neck to make the next steps more effective.
  1. Using your index fingers, locate the hard and boney part of your nose. It runs about halfway down the length of the nose. Move your fingers down until you locate the soft part of the nose where this bone ends. The area between the soft part of the nose and the bone is where you’ll focus this technique. Use a circular motion to massage this area with firm but comfortable pressure for approximately 20-30 seconds. Next, massage the muscles down the side of the nose toward the cheekbones. This will help to relax this area of the face.
  2. Using your index fingers, locate the upper orbit bone. This bone is found in the area above each eye. Next, locate the super orbital notch, which is a slight indentation located about the center of the eyeball. Use a circular motion to massage this notch with firm but comfortable pressure for about 20-30 seconds.
  3. With both hands, locate the center of the forehead. Use a circular motion with firm but comfortable pressure to massage outward until you reach the temples.

Tips to Reduce Chest Congestion:

Here are some tips that can help reduce chest congestion. These tips can help to clear the mucus from your lungs and prevent chest congestion completely.

  • Elevating your head while sleeping helps to promote drainage of mucus rather than a build up overnight. Always use a pillow to elevate your head.
  • Engaging in exercises and yoga help to open up the airways and drain out the mucus. Try a reclining bound angle pose for 10 – 15 minutes to get rid of chest congestion.
  • Smoking can aggravate respiratory problems, infections and lung problems and it can also irritate the mucus membranes, triggering excessive production of chest mucus. You should quit smoking as soon as possible.
  • It is important to treat sinus and nasal infections to prevent chest infections and accumulation of phlegm in the chest.
  • Practice pranayama in yoga daily as it helps to improve breathing and increases the lung’s oxygen intake capacity.
  • Use humidifier, especially in the night, to add moisture to the air that in turn can help you to breathe comfortably. It also helps loosen the mucus and make it easy to remove.
  • Try some back patting techniques. Ask someone to help you with the procedure that can loosen the mucus and reduce chest congestion.
  • Try some techniques like taking deep breath before each cough to make your cough more forceful. Another technique is lying on the bed with upper body hanging over the edge while keeping your head near the floor and then coughing. This process helps gravity drain the bases of your lungs.
  • Oregano oil is well known to provide relief from the chest congestion symptoms. You can apply a small amount of it on chest and throat or consume oregano oil capsules.
  • Vinegar is beneficial in treating chest congestion. Boil enough amounts of vinegar and inhale the steam coming from it.
  • For people who find steaming suffocating and invasive, try using heating pad instead of it. You can place a heating pat or hot water bottle on your chest area for 15 minutes. This helps in breaking down the fluids present in the chest.
  • Rosemary oil contains antimicrobial and antioxidant properties which are helpful in treating chest congestion. To a bathtub of warm water, add 5 – 10 drops of rosemary oil and use this mixture for bathing purposes.

Know When It's Time to Head to the Doctor's Office

Although nasal congestion will generally subside on its own, congestion that lasts for more than 7 to 10 days calls for a visit to the doctor, says Stringer. “A viral infection usually goes away on its own within a week or so, but an infection that lasts longer is often bacterial and may require an antibiotic,” he says. If you experience other symptoms, such as a high fever, one-sided nose bleeds, wheezing or shortness of breath, or persistent facial or tooth pain, see a doctor right away.