What I Did for Sinus Misery
Climate change has landed us in another bad allergy season and I'm hearing from many people that they're in misery again with severe sinus congestion. So, I'm reposting this piece describing the protocol I came up with two years ago for clearing sinus congestion without pharmaceuticals.
I rarely succumb to viral illnesses but last week, during a time of greater than usual stress, was felled by a nasty head cold that filled my sinuses with gunk so I could barely breathe and then progressed into my lungs with a deep, wet cough.
This protocol worked again. I've used both products in my neti pot three mornings in a row and have and have felt increasingly better each day. This time around I mixed both supplements together.
ALLICIDIN – A potent garlic extract to degrade the slimy biofilms that had formed in my sinuses.
REPHRESH – Probiotics to rebalance the clearly out of balance fungal and bacterial flora in my sinuses.
This method actually fixes the problem rather than temporarily easing the symptoms of the problem. It's a lifesaver for me since my body reacts very badly to both decongestants and antihistamines.
Here's a video explaining the numerous health benefits of premier research labs' nutritional supplement, ALLICIDIN:
I couldn't find an informational video about REPHRESH.
BOTH ALLICIDIN AND REPHRESH ARE AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON. ORIGINAL POST 10/9/2016
Those of you who know me personally or follow this blog know my focus is on addressing the underlying cause(s) of a health problem rather than simply putting band aids on its symptoms – and also that I generally react badly to pharmaceuticals. So when my sinuses became horribly stuffed up during the second long period of very hot, wet weather this past summer (mercifully over now) and the congestion kept getting worse instead of going away, I knew I had to figure out what was causing this misery in my sinus microbiome and how to fix it.
After suffering through chronic sinus problems for decades, culminating in two surgeries to remove nasal polyps, and not wanting to live that way any more, I’d set myself the task of stopping my allergies and thought I’d succeeded once and for all. Yet, after many years of relatively easy breathing, this past summer’s extreme weather did me in.
My symptoms this time around were:
Intense pressure above and below my eyes – felt like polar bears were lodged in the sinuses behind my cheeks, pressing down on my upper teeth
A chronically dripping nose
Frequent, violent sneezing spells
A raw throat from the post nasal drip
Inability to breathe through my nose
Lack of energy
Momentary temperature spikes
Feeling like Spanish moss was wrapped around my vocal cords
Coughing and need to clear my throat
Blocked up ears
Chronically dry mouth
Decreased sense of smell and taste
Gasping for air while eating
Interrupted sleep since lying down made everything much worse
Bad breath (not that I could smell it myself)
Generally feeling exhausted and disgusting
I was miserable but at least I didn’t develop a sinus infection or start growing nasal polyps again before figuring out what to do. Here’s a 3-D Animation describing how the sinuses work, what can go wrong, and a medical procedure for blockage that I’d never want to have:
WHAT I TRIED First I turned to my old standbys for sinusitis and various promising-sounding things other people suggested, each of which provided a modicum of relief for short times – 10 minutes to a few hours:
Washing my sinuses out with a mixture of sea salt and filtered water
Sinusin (a homeopathic nasal spray)
Aller-Max (a gluten free, non-drowsy supplement containing quercetin, bromelain, and Vitamin C)
XClear (a nasal spray containing xylitol)
Sinusalia (a homeopathic supplement)
Firmly pressing on acupressure points on my face and chest that impact the sinuses
Two homeopathic remedies, Drainage Tone and Aller Chord II
Coating the inside of my nostrils with castor oil
Dots of eucalyptus and tea tree oil below my nostrils
Using an electric steamer/inhaler to make my sinuses drain
A ThermalOn Dry Eye Compress (to put moist heat directly over my sinuses)
Eating more fermented foods
Belly laughing to stimulate my vagus nerves
Himalayan Chandra Neti Wash Plus
Clearly this persistent sinus congestion was different from anything I’d experienced before. I felt frustrated and exhausted – pretty much like this but nowhere near as cute:
So I did some more research and learned about the formation of biofilms in the sinuses. BIOFILMS: BACTERIA & FUNGI “Biofilms are highly structured communities of microorganisms that attach to one another and to surfaces. The microorganisms group together and form a slimy, polysaccharide cover. This layer is highly protective for the organisms within it, and when new bacteria are produced they stay within the slimy layer. With the introduction of antibiotic-produced glycogen, the biofilms have an almost endless food source that can be used once antibiotic exposure has ended.” (Oak Crest Institute of Science, 2013)
Many types of bacteria clump together inside protective biofilms, making the bacteria inaccessible to pharmaceuticals and natural substances that would weaken or kill them – producing chronic misery when this happens inside our noses and sinuses. Bacterial biofilm in a person with chronic sinusitis
And to make the sinus congestion situation worse, fungi (molds are types of fungi) have also been shown to form biofilms on the mucosal linings of the sinuses and nostrils. (Healy et al, 2008).
“You might be wondering why antibiotics and antifungal drugs are ineffective for chronic sinus infections. It’s because of the Bio-Film formation. Biofilms are colonies of microbes that form a mass which is resistant to drug therapy.
“Chronic Sinusitis, nasal polyposis, asthma and eosinophilia are quite common and may co-exist as a syndrome. Chronic bacterial or fungal sinus infection with Bio-Film formation has been implicated in this syndrome. Many of these patients have been on multiple courses of antibiotics and/or antifungal drugs which are completely ineffective because of bio-film formation. Many of these patients have undergone repeated nasal sinus surgeries, and are commonly steroid dependent from chronic use of prednisone.” (Dach, 2014) A LINK BETWEEN ANTIOBIOTICS & BIOFILM FORMATION Here’s more evidence for how antibiotics can be harmful: ‘Scientist Finds Link between Antibiotics and Bacterial Biofilm Formation Cause of Chronic Ear, Sinus, and Lung Infections’. From the article: “Researchers from the University of Southern California and the Oak Crest Institute of Science have discovered the link between antibiotics and bacterial biofilm formation leading to chronic lung, sinus and ear infections. The study results, published in the current issue of PLOS ONE, illustrate how bacterial biofilms can actually thrive, rather than decrease, when given low doses of antibiotics.
“’This research addresses the long standing issues surrounding chronic ear infections and why some children experience repeated ear infections even after antibiotic treatment,’ said Paul Webster, Ph.D., lead author, senior staff scientist at USC and senior faculty at the Oak Crest Institute of Science. ‘Once the biofilm forms, it becomes stronger with each treatment of antibiotics.’” (Oak Crest Institute of Science, 2013) And from an article called ‘Antibiotic Use Increases Risk of Developing Chronic Sinusitis’: “Yes, of course, this makes sense!…. Many rounds of antibiotics have an effect not just in one area of the body, but kill off both good and bad bacteria in many areas of the human body. The researchers in this study found that taking antibiotics for a reason other than sinusitis was associated with an increased risk of developing chronic sinusitis (as compared to those people not receiving antibiotics). Use of antibiotics more than doubles the odds of developing chronic sinusitis without nasal polyps. And this effect lasted for at least 2 years. Other research has already associated antibiotic use with “decreased microbial diversity” in our microbiome and with “opportunistic infections” such as Candida albicans and Clostridium difficile. Diseases such as Crohn’s disease and diabetes are also linked to antibiotic use. In other words, when there is a disturbance in the microbiome (e.g.from antibiotics) and the community of microbes becomes “out of whack”, then pathogenic bacteria are “enriched” (increase) and can dominate.” (Silgailis, 2016)
WHAT WORKED TO BREAK DOWN THE BIOFILMS This was helpful information. Now I knew I was probably dealing with biofilms that had started growing in my sinuses and nostrils to protect colonies of bacteria and molds. This certainly explained why nothing I’d tried was slowing down my ever increasing sinus congestion.
I remembered that a garlic supplement called Allicidin had been effective in breaking down the biofilm-covered spores containing a nasty bacterium called Clostridium difficile that had taken over my colon in 2010. I’d read that some people with sinus infections had found relief from washing their sinuses with probiotics so I decided to try the same with Allicidin. I emptied the contents of an Allicidin capsule into my neti pot, added filtered water, and irrigated my sinuses with the mixture.
This worked immediately! It was messy, involved a fairly intense burning sensation, and left a mild smell of garlic in my nose for a while afterwards – but I was able to breathe through my nose again for the first time in many weeks. If you’re going to try it, I suggest doing it in the shower.
ANTIBACTERIAL – Various researchers have shown that garlic extracts exhibit a wide spectrum of antibacterial activity against gram-negative and gram-positve bacteria including species of Escherichia, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Bacilus, Helicobacter pylori, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
ANTIFUNGAL – Garlic extracts have a strong antifungal effect and inhibit the formation of mycotoxins like the aflatoxin of Aspergillus parasiticus. Pure allicin was also found to have a high anti-candidal activity and was effective against various species of Candida, Cryptococcous, Trichophyton, Epidermphyton and Microsporum.
ANTIPARASITIC – Garlic extract has been used for centuries to treat people suffering from dysentery, intestinal worms and intestinal protozoan parasites such as Giardia, Leishmania major, Leptomonas colosama and Crithidia fasciculate.
ANTIVIRAL – Research shows that garlic extracts are effective against numerous viruses that cause colds and flu. Evidence points towards allicin and ajone as the main components responsible for the antiviral activitiy.
BIOFILM DEGREDATION – Biofilms are sticky slime that surround large clumps of bacteria. These biofilms protect pathogenic bacteria and helps them spread throughout the body. Stabilized allicin has been shown to have a powerful capacity for biofilm destruction, therefore rendering bacteria helpless.
Ideal for Supporting the Following Conditions:
Fungal (mold/candida) and Bacterial Infection
Blood Pressure, Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Health
Bladder Infection and Frequent Nightly Urination
Sinus Infection and Congestion
Allicin Organosulfur Complex™…………………………………………………………………………….350mg Garlic (bulb) Extract (Allium Sativum), Bear Garlic (leaf) (Allium ursinum)
Botani-Pro Blend™ ……………………………………………………………….....115mg Organic Hyssop (leaf, stem) (Hussopus officinalis), Parsley (leaf)(Petroselinum crispum), Asparagus
(Stalk) (Asparagus officinalis)
Allicin………………………………………………………………………………..1,890 mcg (from Allicin OrganoSulfu Complex™)
Vegetable Cellulose Capsules 100% solvent-free, excipient-free vegetable capsules. No magnesium stearate (a toxic excipient), corn, milk, soy, salt, sugar, wheat, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, binders, glues or other toxic tagalongs as found in tablets and gelatin capsules. WHAT WORKED TO KILL THE MOLDS AND BACTERIA Now that the biofilms growing in my sinuses had been disrupted, exposing the molds and bacterial colonies proliferating in there, I set about finding a combination of probiotics to zap those bacteria and molds.
As a starting point, I turned to Chris Kresser’s excellent article Chronic Sinus Problems: Another Role for Probiotics? and also looked through the many readers’ comments to see what other sinus sufferers had found helpful. I recommend this article to you. (Kresser, 8/18/2015)
Based on a convincing recommendation by one of Kresser’s readers, I first emptied the contents of two capsules of Bio-Kult Advanced Probiotic Multi-Strain Formula into my neti pot, added filtered water, and did a nasal irrigation with the mixture. This helped a lot – but only for a few hours.
Bio-Kult contains these live bacteria cultures: Bacillus subtilis PXN 21 Bifidobacterium bifidum PXN 23 Bifidobacterium breve PXN 25 Bifidobacterium infantis PXN 27 Bifidobacterium longum PXN 30 Lactobacillus acidophilus PXN 35 Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus PXN 39 Lactobacillus casei PXN 37 Lactobacillus plantarum PXN 47 Lactobacillus rhamnosus PXN 54 Lactobacillus helveticus PXN 45 Lactobacillus salivarius PXN 57 Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis PXN 63 Streptococcus thermophilus PXN 66 So I went back to Kresser’s article to search more deeply and followed some links to two articles by Silgailis, where, in her readers’ comments, I found information about the effectiveness of two probiotic bacteria, lactobacillus reuteri and lactobacillus rhamnosus, for sinusitis. (Silgailis, 2015) & (Silgailis, 2016)
Bio-Kult contains some l. rhamnosus (but not a lot) and no l. reuteri. So I did another Google search for a supplement containing only these two particular strains of probiotic bacteria and found a product called RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Feminine Supplement that contains large amounts of l. rhamnosus GR-1 and l. reuteri RC-14. L. The box says, “Balances Yeast & Bacteria to Maintain Feminine Health”.
Yeasts, like molds, are fungi. So this probiotic combination looked promising for treating my sinusitis. L. rhamnosus in particular is known to be effective against both fungi and pathological bacteria. (Kiefer, 2008)
The Product Description on Amazon:
RepHresh Pro-B is a probiotic feminine supplement taken orally once daily to balance yeast and bacteria.
Lactobacillus, yeast, and other bacteria are all naturally present in your body and optimum feminine health occurs when there is a healthy balance of these elements to support feminine health.
RepHresh Pro-B feminine supplement contains patented and clinically tested strains of probiotic lactobacillus that have been shown to work with your body to balance yeast and bacteria.
RepHresh Pro-B supplement lets you take control of your feminine health every day by helping to maintain flora in a normal range.*
RepHresh Pro-B is a natural supplement and comes in an easy-to-swallow capsule.
RepHresh Pro-B is the #1 feminine probiotic supplement in the US in the latest 52 weeks ending 16 March 2016 according to The Nielsen Company data.
L. rhamnosus GR-1, L. reuteri RC-14, Dextrose Anhydrate, Gelatin, Potato Starch, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Magnesium Stearate, Titanium Dioxide So, when this probiotic supplement containing large amounts of lactobacillus reuteri and lactobacillus rhamnosus arrived from Amazon, I emptied the contents of two capsules into my neti pot, added filtered water, and did a thorough nasal irrigation with the mixture. As with the Allicidin mixture, this burned a bit but was very much worth it!
Since it’s a good idea to switch up your probiotics periodically, I’m now taking the Bio-Kult probiotics supplement by mouth and RepHresh Pro-B on alternating days to maximize the variety of helpful probiotics supporting my gut microbiome.
A Note on Vaginal Infections: Vaginal infections are most often caused by an overrun of a yeast called Candida albicans. If your gut microbiome is out of balance or you use feminine hygiene products that destroy the balance in your vaginal microbiome, you’re likely to get at least one – if not many more – vaginal infections in your lifetime. See ‘Warding Off Chronic Yeast and Bacterial Infections’ to learn how to use probiotics to prevent both chronic bacterial and yeast infections. (Kiefer, 2008)
USING A NETI POT This video shows how to use a neti pot for sinus irrigation:
In the morning, I use my neti pot in the shower where it doesn’t matter how messy the process becomes. I’ve also installed a small, chlorine-removing water filter (available on Amazon, easy to install) so fill the pot directly with warm, filtered water from the shower head. The filter is a Rainshow’r CQ-1000-NH Dechlorinating Shower Filter. And, when I’m not using any of the supplements described above, I put some inexpensive La Baleine Fine Sea Salt in my neti pot in lieu of the salt packets the woman in the video uses.
In the evenings before bedtime, I use the neti pot over the bathroom sink.
HIMALAYAN CHANDRA NETI WASH PLUS
Over the years, I’ve found it helpful to add this neti pot wash made by Himalayan Chandra occasionally when I use my neti pot in the shower. And now that those nasty sinus biofilms have been degraded, this wash has become effective again.
The wash is available on Amazon.
“Neti Wash Plus contains zinc and herbal extracts that add anti-microbial and anti-viral support to your nasal wash. Zinc helps to tone and astringe the nasal passages reducing excess mucus and promoting clear, healthy sinuses. Studies show that Zinc reduces the duration and symptoms of the common cold, slowing the replication of rhinoviruses which typically cause colds. Neti Wash Plus contains Zinc Acetate –a form of Zinc shown to be more effective in shortening the duration of the common cold. Neti Wash Plus also contains extracts of Grapefruit Seed and Goldenseal Root, found by scientists to inhibit the growth of hundreds of strains of pathogens. Grapefruit Seed Extract has been used by the natural foods industry for over 20 years as an antibiotic, disinfectant, and antiseptic. Perfect for use with the Himalayan Institute Neti Pot.*
“Ingredients: Zinc acetate, Goldenseal root (Hydrastis canadensis), Phellodendron bark (Phellodendron amurense), Coptis root (Coptis Chinensis), Barberry root bark (Berberis vulgaris), Grapefruit seed extract, vegetable glycerin and distilled, purified water.”
TWO HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES FOR ALLERGIES AND SINUS CONGESTION
Before Allicidin succeeded in disrupting the biofilms, I’d started taking two homeopathic remedies my chiropractor had recommended for this summer sinus misery but then stopped when the congestion just kept getting worse. Now that the molds and bacteria living inside those biofilms have been exposed and destroyed, I’ve started taking these remedies again and am finding them helpful.
ALLER-CHORD F – a homeopathic remedy for food allergens
DRAINAGE-TONE – a homeopathic remedy for swollen glands, sinus congestion, and skin eruptions
Both are made by energetix.
SOME ADDITIONAL IDEAS
While researching this post, I came across this interesting idea for breaking down biofilms in the nose and sinus cavities:
“New sinus therapeutics, including baby shampoo sinus irrigation and probiotic sinus rinses, can lessen symptoms and ward off sinus infections, according to doctors at Baylor College of Medicine.
“These new therapies are targeting the bacteria in ways that haven’t been utilized in the past,” said Dr. Mas Takashima, director of the Sinus Center at Baylor. “These techniques are helping those with chronic and acute sinusitis. Whenever I tell my patients about the new therapeutic protocols they’re very surprised, but they get the results they want and need.
“He said the concept behind baby shampoo irrigation is cleansing the naval cavity with a surfactant. By doing this, the biofilms, or oily layers that bad bacteria create to protect itself from irrigation, are broken down.” (Parsons, 2015)
I haven’t tried the Johnson’s Baby Shampoo technique myself (and don’t think I will because of the product’s toxic ingredients*), but here’s a report from someone who did and found it tremendously helpful. (Mertes, 12/4/2013)
* Ingredients in Johnson’s Baby Shampoo:
Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, PEG-150 Distearate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Polyquaternium-10, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Acrylates Copolymer, Yellow 6, Yellow 10, Parfum.
At least it doesn’t contain carcinogenic parabens.