Nasal Irrigation – Not as Scary as it Sounds

Nasal Irrigation - Neti Pot clearing nasal cavity relieving sinusitis

Nasal irrigation, intra-nasal douche, or nose bidet are all terms used to describe methods of cleansing and irrigating the nasal passages. One popular tool used for this purpose is the neti pot. While the appearance of a neti pot may not be particularly elegant – looking like the lovechild between a teapot and Alladin’s magical lamp, without the genie -, it is a practical and effective tool for practicing jala neti, an ancient yogic technique for nasal cleansing and purification.

The neti pot works by flushing warm saline water through the nasal passages, which helps to remove mucus, bacteria, viruses, dust, and pollen. The salt in the water also has the benefit of reducing swelling in the sinuses, preventing excessive mucus production, and providing relief from sinus pain. 

Traditionally, neti pots were made from silver or copper, but nowadays, they are available in various materials. Ceramic neti pots are aesthetically pleasing but can be fragile and prone to breakage. Glass neti pots, although transparent and visually appealing, can also pose a danger if they break. Stainless steel neti pots have become popular due to their durability, ease of cleaning, non-toxic nature, and resistance to breakage. 

In addition to neti pots, there are also squeezy nasal douches available that combine the benefits of traditional neti pots with modern convenience. They appear like an old-fashioned squeezy tomato sauce bottle; however, don’t be tempted to swap, as the nozzles on the nasal irrigation appliances are specially created for schnozzes and not sausage sandwiches. 

These plastic devices allow for better control and the ability to direct the solution further into the nasal cavity. They are commonly sold in pharmacies alongside saline sachets, which provide pre-measured salt packets for convenient and accurate preparation of the saline solution. The salt has antibacterial properties; however, if you are treating a stubborn sinus infection, there are saline sachets that include xylitol.  Xylitol, which has another life as an artificial sweetener, has additional antibacterial effects.   

Warm as your Blood, Salty as your Tears 

Traditionally used first thing in the morning, nasal rinsing can be done in the shower or over the sink. Nasal irrigation is easier than it looks, taking only a few attempts before you become a master or mistress of nasal irrigation. If the water drains down your throat, you may need to tilt your head more to the side. The water should gently drain from the opposite nostril.  Water temperature should be lukewarm, although some people prefer it to be cold. 

A traditional saying recommends that the water be as warm as your blood and as salty as your tears.  You can purchase sachets of salt, which will create the correct salinity, although if you prefer, you can use one teaspoon of sea salt per cup of water.  Use half the neti pot or bottle for one nostril before moving to the other side. It’s essential to use clean water and follow proper hygiene practices when performing nasal irrigation to ensure safety and minimise the risk of infection.

Ultimately, whether you choose a neti pot or a squeezy nasal douche depends on your personal preference and needs. Both methods can be effective for nasal irrigation and relieve sinus and hay fever symptoms. The Buteyko Breathing Method, which focuses on improving dysfunctional breathing patterns, also recommends regular nasal irrigation. We now know that anything that affects the upper respiratory tract also affects the lower respiratory tract, ie the lungs, and vice versa. This means that asthmatics and those with weaker lungs will also benefit from nasal rinsing; in fact, anyone with dysfunctional breathing symptoms will benefit. 

Nasal irrigation – Not as scary as it sounds!