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Flushing it out

Q: Is there anything I can do for the stuffy nose I seem to constantly have? I don’t want to try over-the-counter sprays–I’m afraid of becoming addicted.

Dr. Wright: The best way to eliminate the problem is to determine what’s causing it. The most obvious cause of stuffiness is inhalant allergies, but food allergies can also play a role. Chronic problems can be caused by infection. But antibiotics might not be much help because a surprising number of chronic infection-associated stuffiness problems are caused by fungi, not bacteria.

To determine what is at the root of your particular problem, it’s best to work with a physician skilled in nutritional and natural medicine. (To locate one in your area, contact the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians at www.naturopathic.org).

In the meantime, the natural sugar-alcohol xylitol is sometimes helpful for treating stuffy noses. It is used as a nasal spray, but since the ingredients are all-natural, xylitol spray doesn’t carry the risks associated with many of those patented, over-the-counter nasal sprays. It works by reducing the ability of allergens to stick to the lining of the nose and sinuses. A spray or two as far as possible into the nostrils twice daily should offer some relief.