I can guarantee that everyone has experienced a stuffy or clogged nose at least once in his or her lifetime. But if your nose is partially or fully blocked all the time, then it’s a problem that you likely want to deal with. The most common reasons for a stuffy nose include the common cold, allergies, nasal trauma, or sinusitis. But here are 7 unexpected reasons for having a study nose that you or your doctor may not have considered.
1. Crooked Teeth
You may be wondering how having crooked teeth can cause a stuffy nose. This concept is fundamental to my basic philosophy and the way I address sleep and breathing: If your facial bones don’t grow properly, then you’ll get crooked teeth, along with a high-arched hard palate. If your hard palate doesn’t drop properly during development, the nasal septum (the midline wall made of cartilage and bone) will buckle to one side, and the nasal sidewalls will not widen. I go into detail about why your mouth can not grow fully in my book, Sleep Interrupted: A physician reveals the #1 reason why so many of us are sick and tired. With a crooked nasal septum and more narrowed nasal sidewalls, your nasal passageways will be more constricted and be more prone to stuffiness due to colds or allergies. Lastly, since the angle between your septum and nostril is more narrow, it’s more likely to cave in as you breathe in.
2. Bottle-feeding / Thumb Sucking / Pacifier Use
This reason relates to #1, crooked teeth. It’s been shown that “non-nutritive sucking forces” prevents your jaws from developing properly. There are numerous studies showing that bottle-feeling is a known risk factor for crooked teeth (malocclusion). This is one of the earliest concepts that I came across that blew my mind: How you use your mouth can determine how well it grows. To paraphrase my late anatomy professor Dr. Melvin Moss, “facial bones don’t grow, they’re grown.” Your genes can only give you a template or range of possible expressions. The forces that are used when you suck, chew, swallow, breathe or talk have a significant impact on how your face grows. A great example of this is seen in children with nasal congestion due to large adenoids in the pack of the nose. The result is what’s called “adenoid facies,” with a long and narrow face with open mouth posture and recessed chin.
3. . Acid Reflux
You may think that acid reflux only happens in your stomach. Many of my blog readers may also realize that you can have silent reflux into the throat. But what was surprising, even to me, is that your stomach juices can even reach your nose, sinuses, ears, and lungs. What comes up is not only acid, but also includes bile, digestive enzymes, and bacteria. There are numerous studies showing that pepsin, a major stomach enzyme, can be found in the middle ear, sinuses, and lungs. In my book, Sleep Interrupted, I describe how obstructed breathing at night can cause vacuum forces that suction up normal stomach juices into your throat. Clearly, it can then go up into your nasal cavity and ears, as well as down into your lungs. Imagine placing a few drops of your normal stomach juice into your nose. Can you feel your nose clogging up?
Most people think of migraines being similar to headaches, but this is not always the case. Dr. David Buchholz author of the book, Heal Your Headache, makes the case that a migraine can occur in any part of your body where you have nerve endings. When your nerve endings are inflamed in your nose or sinuses, you can feel anything from pain, pressure, congestion, nausea, or sensitivity to odors, light, or sound. Neurologic inflammation in general causes your nasal blood vessels to swell up, leading to nasal congestion
Over the counter medications are often used to help you unclog your stuffy nose, but there are a number of commonly used prescription medications that are known to cause nasal congestion. Any medication that lowers your body’s sympathetic nervous system to relax blood vessels in theory can create a stuffy or runny nose. In particular, many medications that lower high blood pressure blocks particular alpha or beta receptors, which are responsible for constricting your blood vessels. Various other medications Viagra and other medications to treat sexual dysfunction have similar effect
It’s common knowledge that many pregnant women have stuffy noses, especially in the third trimester, when estrogen levels are at their highest. In general, women tend to have nasal congestion as they ovulate, when estrogen levels rise. Hypothyroidism that occurs naturally or by using medications can also cause nasal congestion.
One of the most common complaints by my patients is that whey when lay on one side, the nose opens up on the side up, where the side down gets stuffy. When turning over to the other side, the same thing happens. This makes sense since the nasal turbinates are made of very vascular tissues, and are susceptible to pooling of blood due to gravity.
There are a myriad of additional reasons for nasal congestion. Besides allergies, infections, or anatomic/structural reasons, the most common reason for a chronically stuffy or runny nose is likely due to nervous system imbalances in the nose. However, it’s important to understand that this imbalance (between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems) is happening all over your body, and not only in your nose. The more I research and learn about poor breathing and sleep, it’s not surprising that there will be nervous system imbalances. However, we still have a lot more to learn. At one end, we need to continue basic science and clinical research to better understand how to better treat nasal congestion. But at the other end, we have to prioritize optimal breathing and sleep, which is vital for optimal balance for our complete state of health. In an upcoming blog post, I will address in detail ways you can start to breathe better through your nose.