This is Gross – but Read it Anyhow.

Glands in the lining of our throat, sinuses, and intestinal tract produce mucus, a thick, wet substance that helps trap and destroy foreign invaders, like bacteria and dust particles before they cause infection.

We don’t normally notice it because it mixes with saliva, drips harmlessly down the back of our throat, and we swallow it. When we produce more mucus than usual or it’s thicker than normal, we notice it as a runny (snotty) nose, a feeling of stuffiness around the eyes, sneezing, and repeated coughing. A common name for this situation is post-nasal drip, or PND.

Several medicines are on the market that are supposed to address mucous problems, usually by masking symptoms. Decongestants are popular approaches. They often work, but not over long periods of time. In fact, medicines like pseudoephedrine have side effects and they can cause “rebound congestion” – actually causing more congestion than they clear up. They are intended for temporary relief, not long standing, chronic conditions. Plus, these days we need to request at least one of the decongestants from a pharmacist because it’s kept locked up behind the counter.

Antihistamines are also used, but they are likely to cause drowsiness and dryness – even to the point of causing bloody noses when the humidity is low. There are also combinations of antihistamines plus decongestants. They work as well as can be expected – side effects are still an issue.

Does this mean that we’re “doomed” to sniffling, sneezing, and hacking if we don’t want to take drugs? Not necessarily. The first thing I suggest is a nasal cleansing. The Neti Pot idea is okay, but one company also sells a squeeze bottle with a special tip for nasal use. While the idea is similar to the Neti Pot, the squeeze bottle certainly seems more efficient. Just add a quarter teaspoonful of salt (or one prepared packet) and fill to the dotted line. Once daily in the morning keeps everything clear and running smoothly. When PND symptoms worsen (season changes, pollen, dust), do it twice a day – even more if needed because it is completely safe.

I was explaining this cleansing idea one evening as if it was a new idea. My friend’s mother (in her 80s) laughed and told us that they had been doing that in their family since they were kids and bathing in the stream. Heck, we clean most of our body, why would cleaning the sinuses seem unusual? It isn’t.

When our environment becomes excessively dusty or the trees are spewing pollen by the ton, merely cleaning with a nasal rinse device might not be enough. Is that the time to switch to drugs? Not when there is another approach that I can attest works.

Try using an enzyme called papain. It isn’t a pill or a capsule or a liquid. Instead, it is found in abundance in fresh pineapple. Slowly chewing a few small pieces of fresh pineapple releases the enzyme, which quickly begins breaking down the proteins in mucus, thinning them, allowing them to be more easily swallowed.

Canned pineapple can also work, but I advise rinsing off the sugar syrup because nobody needs more sugar.

Reach for the pineapple people.