Cleaning Your Personal Filter

An ancient tradition offers modern relief
By Craig Gustafson

Checking the owner’s manual on nearly any engine will reveal the need to keep its air filter clean.

Why? Clean air filters mean fewer maintenance issues. Long-term benefits include longer engine life, better mileage, and better overall performance. While the air filter installed in your body cannot be replaced, cleaning it regularly has similar benefits, according to Hana Solomon, MD, author of Clearing the Air, One Nose at a Time: Caring for Your Personal Filter.

“I have been touting the benefits of nasal cleansing for 25 years and am a believer that washing the personal filter, your nose, makes great sense,” says Solomon, who also identifies herself as “Dr. Hana.” These benefits include the prevention of upper respiratory infections, enhanced sense of taste and smell, reduction of allergic rhinitis, reduction of cough and post-nasal drip, reduction of nasal dryness, and reduction of dependency on medications such as antibiotics, antihistamines, nasal steroids, decongestants, and asthma medications.

Dr. Solomon explains that nasal washing, or nasal irrigation, is an ancient Ayurvedic technique known as Jala neti, which is a Sanskrit term translated literally as “nasal cleansing.” With origins based in the yoga tradition, nasal washing has been used throughout India and southeast Asia. Most often, the procedure makes use of a teapot-shaped vessel called a neti pot. Eastern cultures have performed Jala neti as routinely as brushing one’s teeth for centuries.

The use of a neti pot is often associated with cleaning out one’s sinuses; however, Dr. Solomon maintains that introducing water into the sinuses can cause problems—especially if the water being used is contaminated. In fact, two incidents in 2011 involved brain infections that were caused by neti use  with contaminated tap water. In both cases, the deadly infection was due to an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri.

Dr. Solomon says there are two ways to avoid this type of infection. The first is always using distilled water. The second is never using plain water to wash. Netipot solutions are saline mixtures that can be isotonic (salt levels equivalent to body fluid) or hypertonic (salt levels greater than body fluid). Hypertonic solutions pull the fluid out of pathogens, which kill them.

Eliminating the chances for contamination improves neti safety, but does not address the fundamental issue of introducing water, and more importantly, contaminated nasal debris into the sinuses, says Dr. Solomon.

“I have always been of the commonsense opinion that we humans should never flush water into the sinus cavities,” she says. “The sinuses are closed cavities that produce up to a quart of mucus per day which then drains through a single 1/4-inch opening into the nasal cavity. The direction of flow, assisted by the cilia (which are little sweeper hairs), is outward. If the drainage opening is kept clean and open, the mucous and debris produced in the sinuses can exit and all is well. Common sense dictates that the sinus opening was never meant to allow entry of water or debris into the sinuses.”

Instead, Dr. Solomon encourages the natural drainage of mucus by flushing along the nasal floor and cleansing of the sinus-drainage opening. Washing along the nasal floor is more comfortable since the head remains upright during the wash. Mucous, irritants, and debris are cleared from the nasal cavity, while the sinuses are assisted through the cleansing of the sinus opening and suction that helps them drain in the natural direction through the Bernoulli effect—a physical principle that describes fluid being drawn into a connecting body through the action of a current running past it.

“Wash along the nasal floor—not into your sinuses—with a hypertonic solution. Nothing less will do, and you will breathe easier, naturally!”

For more information about Dr. Solomon, her book, and her custom-designed, Nasopure nasal-washing system, visit nasopure.com.