Update February 6, 2012: iodine has turned out to help a lot, too.
I didn’t know you were supposed to be able to breathe through your nose until the first day of swimming lessons, when we were told to go underwater and blow bubbles through our noses. I almost drowned. When I shot back up out of the water, my thoughts were dark.
This tragic rhinitis led me to a parade of over-the-counter and prescription decongestants and then to two years lost to nasal-spray addiction. Finally a sinus infection colluded with rebound congestion to scare me straight and I never touched the spray again.
The sinus infection debacle, combined with being told that I sounded funny all the time, made me determined to find a solution. I had my septum un-deviated and lo! I woke up breathing through my nose for the first time ever. Life was great for two years. But then my sinuses went back almost to their original state.
The gluten-free diet change helped a lot. Things improved more once I got the following back to normal levels:
— calcium and magnesium
— vitamin B-complex (maybe a little)
Even before changing my diet I noticed that toothpaste made the rhinitis worse, although just for an hour or so. Sulfates did, too, so I avoided beer and wine.
The two times my sodium level got too low, from getting dehydrated in the summer, my sinuses slammed shut. (Other symptoms were nausea, headache, and dizziness.)
After spending a week in an allergy-proofed house — specially-made heating filters and air ducts, mattress covers, etc. — my nose was so much better every morning that I made what changes I could to my ancient apartment.
I bought the quietest and best-rated air purifier I could afford and put it in the bedroom. After two days I was waking up without sneezing or sniffling, so I bought one for the living room, too.
I also replaced my humble vacuum cleaner with a much stronger one with a HEPA filter. I chose a hand-held model designed to remove pet hair from sofas and stairs and use it on the upholstery and throw rugs. The upright, full-scale versions of the hard-core allergen-sucking vacuum cleaners were around $700 and with my small apartment and hardwood floors it was overkill. The little vacuum’s transparent housing allows you to see what’s being sucked up and it’s either reassuring or disgusting, depending on your mood.
Illustration by MRhea.