This is the story of my family's successful Sinusitis Treatment using an all natural, easy home remedy.
[2018 UPDATE: The first part of this story was originally posted December 6, 2013. It is the background story of the original sinusitis treatment - its discovery and my family's experiences with it. The treatment worked so well that we all have been cured of chronic sinusitis, and we have been off all antibiotics for over 5 years. Scroll down for later progress posts - HINT: it's good. Since then we've also found other probiotic products to treat chronic sinusitis, such as Lacto Sinus. [See The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis for information on brands, products, and various treatment results from people contacting me, and see SINUSITIS TREATMENT SUMMARY page for quick summaries of how we do various treatment methods.]
During the 2012-2013 winter my family was struggling with chronic sinusitis that no longer responded well to antibiotics. My oldest son had just been told to get another CAT scan and to prepare for ENT surgery to "open up the sinuses more". We were desperate for something that would help us that didn't involve antibiotics or surgery.
BACKGROUND: This story started many years ago when we (husband, myself, 2 sons) moved into a house with an incorrectly installed central air conditioning system. We all developed mold allergies and repeated bouts of acute sinusitis, which then led to chronic sinusitis. Eventually we discovered the problem, ripped out and replaced the air conditioning system and all duct work, but by then the damage was done. Even though antibiotics helped acute sinusitis symptoms which occurred after every cold and sore throat, we always felt like we had chronic sinusitis. Over the years we tried everything we could think of, including antibiotics, decongestants, allergy pills, nasal sprays, daily sinus rinsing with salt water, vitamins, steam inhalation, etc. Both sons even had balloon sinuplasties, which had helped for a short while, but no longer. We had avoided sinus surgeries because we didn't know of anyone who had been "cured" going that route, even with repeat surgeries.
THE RESEARCH: But then I read with great interest all the latest research about bacteria and how all of us have hundreds of species of microorganisms (our microbiome), and how they may play a role in our health. In fact we are more microbes than cells!
Especially exciting was a small study published in September 2012 which looked at 20 patients about to undergo nasal surgery - 10 healthy patients (the controls) and 10 chronic rhinosinusitis (sinusitis) patients. The researchers found that the chronic rhinosinusitis sufferers had reduced bacterial diversity in their sinuses, especially depletion of lactic acid bacteria (including Lactobacillus sakei) and an increase in Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum (which is normally considered a harmless skin bacteria). They then did a second study in mice which found that Lactobacillus sakei bacteria protected against sinusitis, even in the presence of Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum . The researchers were going forward with more research in this area with the hope, that if all goes well, of developing a nasal spray with the beneficial bacteria, but that was a few years away. (Source: Nicole A. Abreu et al - Sinus Microbiome Diversity Depletion and Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum Enrichment Mediates Rhinosinusitis. Science Translational Medicine, Sept. 12, 2012 )
But we were desperate now and didn't want to wait. What to do?
THE EXPERIMENT: I thought that the answer lay with Lactobacillus sakei (or L.sakei) and I read everything I could find on it. I tried to find a natural and safe source for it, and eventually decided on kimchi. Kimchi is a Korean fermented vegetable product which can be made with varying ingredients, usually with cabbage. According to studies done in Korea, many (but not all) brands of traditionally made kimchi contain L. sakei (as well as many other species of bacteria) after fermentation. It seemed to me that my best bet was to try an all natural kimchi made with cabbage, without any additives,preservatives, and no fish or seafood in it (personal preference). The kimchi brands I bought had to be refrigerated before and after opening. They could not be pasteurized because it was bacteria that I wanted, lots of bacteria. Kimchi fermentation is carried out by the various microorganisms in the kimchi ingredients , and among the bacteria formed are the lactic acid bacteria, one of which can be L.sakei.
In February of 2013 I was off all antibiotics, but feeling sicker (with sinusitis) each day, when I decided to go ahead with the Sinusitis Experiment and purchased several brands of cabbage kimchi (all natural, vegan). Over the next 2 weeks I tried two brands, one after another. Not only did I eat a little bit every day, but I also smeared a little bit of the kimchi juice in my nose, going up about 1/2" in each nostril - as if I were an extremely messy eater. I did this once or twice a day initially. And yes, I was nervous about what I was doing for this was absolutely NOT medically approved. Obviously I did not discuss this with any doctor.
What if the microbes in the kimchi did harm, even permanent harm? What really was in the kimchi? Even if the kimchi contained L. sakei , it also contained many other species of bacteria. The studies said that the bacteria in kimchi varied depending on kimchi ingredients (and each brand was different), length of fermentation, and temperature of fermentation. L.sakei is found in meat (and used in preserving meat), seafood, and vegetables, but I was nervous about other microbes found in seafood.This was a major reason I avoided any kimchi with seafood in it. After all, the labels on the kimchi I purchased said it was a "live product"(fermentation). When I opened the jars sometimes the liquid inside was bubbling and sometimes even overflowed down the sides of the jar. It takes a leap of faith to put a bubbling, strong smelling liquid in the nose!
RESULTS: By the end of the week I found that the one brand worked and it truly felt like a miracle! Within 24 hours of first applying it I was feeling better, and day by day my sinusitis improved. All the problematic sinusitis symptoms (yellow mucus, constant sore throat from postnasal drip, aching teeth, etc.) slowly went away and within about 2 to 3 weeks I felt great - the sinusitis was gone. After a few weeks the rest of the family followed, one by one, in the Sinusitis Experiment. All improved to the point of feeling great (healthy) and have been off all antibiotics since then. All four of us feel we no longer have chronic sinusitis. We are very, very pleased with the results.
Please note: everyone in my family is over 21 years of age - thus consenting adults. And yes, we all knew this was an experiment with unknown results.
KIMCHI TREATMENT METHOD: 1) Wash hands, and then use a clean teaspoon to put a little juice from the kimchi jar into a small clean bowl. 2) Dip finger in the kimchi juice and dab it or smear it along the insides of one nostril (about 1/2" into the nostril). 3) Dip finger in kimchi juice again and repeat in other nostril. 4) Do this several times. If I needed to blow my nose at this point I would, and afterwards I would put more kimchi juice up each nostril (again repeating the procedure) and then not blow my nose for at least an hour (or more). 5) Afterwards, any unused kimchi in the little bowl was thrown out and not replaced in the main kimchi jar. (Note: Put the main kimchi jar back in the refrigerator. Also, once opened, take kimchi juice from it for no more than 6 days.)
My rationale was that I was inhaling the bacteria this way and that it would travel up the nasal passages on their own to my sinuses. I did this regimen once or twice a day initially until I started feeling better....... We used live (fermented and not pasteurized) vegan (no seafood added) kimchi. Choosing vegan (no seafood added) kimchi is a personal preference. L. sakei is found in meat (and typically used in preserving meat), seafood, and some vegetables..
Interestingly, the spices in the kimchi seem to also have a temporary decongestant effect after we apply the juice to our nostrils. We are careful to always blow our noses thoroughly before irrigating with saline solution (which many sinus sufferers do routinely). Don't want to shoot any residual spices up into our sinuses!
MAINTENANCE: After I felt better, I first cut back on my kimchi juice applications to about once every few days, and then once a week, and then only as needed. We all noticed that even months later that we seemed to need "maintenance" or "booster" kimchi now and then. We experimented with how frequently we should apply kimchi juice when feeling well and learned to only use it when needed.
We all still have allergies so we take antihistamines as needed, and we also took decongestants and guaifenesin (Mucinex) as needed (usually when ill). The interesting part is that we actually feel healthier and more resistant to illnesses since starting the kimchi regimen.
Were there any setbacks? YES. After about 6 weeks of the kimchi regimen and finally feeling great, all of a sudden one son started sliding backwards into full blown sinusitis. He did the kimchi regimen daily, but kept getting worse over the course of one week. I purchased fresh jars of kimchi to try, and perhaps on the third jar of trying the kimchi juice, he stabilized and slowly got better to the point of feeling normal and healthy again. One possibility that I thought of was that there wasn't any or enough L. sakei in that specific batch of kimchi. Perhaps that original batch of kimchi hadn't fermented enough - after all, one study suggested that L. sakei only appears about 2 weeks after the start of fermenting (which is from when it was initially made).
Family members have had several colds over the past year (which yes, resulted in full blown sinusitis symptoms again). The sick person increased the kimchi juice regimen to every other day or daily until feeling better, and then gradually reduced frequency until back to normal (which took a few weeks). And yes, each time it has worked successfully (without antibiotics). Please note: However, if it had become necessary, we would not have hesitated to go to the doctor for medical treatment and antibiotics.
There are times when I again see some yellow (in the mucus) when I blow my nose, but then eventually it would improve again on its own. I would only use kimchi juice if I felt I needed to - if I felt I was sliding downward to sinusitis.
WERE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS? What, other than feeling great? There were no negative or any other side effects that we know of. The first month I had a minor headache 2 or 3 times, but I don't know if it had anything to do with the kimchi.
HOW DO I KNOW THERE IS Lactobacillus sakei IN THE KIMCHI? Studies (typically done in Korea) found that over the course of fermentation the bacteria populations in kimchi are changing - both in types of bacteria and proportions of each bacteria. At least two studies found that L. sakei was not present in early fermentation (the first few days), but appeared after fermentation had progressed for a while (in one study starting at about 12 to 14 days). After about a month of fermentation some studies found L. sakei amounts to drop. The one consistency among studies that I looked at was that there was variation in results. One study found that out of 5 commercial brands tested, only three contained L. sakei and even among those the proportion of L. sakei varied.
Based on our experiences using one specific commercial kimchi product, it seems that beneficial L. sakei bacteria are in kimchi that has fermented at least 2 weeks and up to at least 8 weeks. Thus we do not open any kimchi jars for the first 2 weeks after the kimchi is packed into jars, so as to allow at least 2 weeks of fermentation to take place.
Based on our experiences, we don't use the kimchi juice from an opened jar for more than 6 days after opening, because we noticed that L. sakei numbers have dropped too much by then. We also noticed that some batches of kimchi somehow seemed more potent or beneficial. But this is to be expected because it is a live product. (Of course the kimchi could still be eaten - and we did so.)
It was very simple: If the kimchi contained too little or no L. sakei, then we felt the same or "more phlegmy" the next day. If it had L. sakei, then we felt better the next day. If we were already feeling good, then a "good batch" of kimchi juice seemed to make no difference in how we felt (we felt good before, and we felt good after).
I did read that there are many strains of L. sakei out there, especially strains used in meat preservation, but initially I was afraid to try anything like that. I decided I wouldn't stick anything up my nose other than a natural food and no more than what would occur if I were a really, really "messy eater" (or perhaps fell face first into my food).
What other microorganisms are in the kimchi? Studies say that the microbial community varies depending on when the kimchi jar is first opened and the fermentation interrupted. I looked over the bacteria lists from some of the published kimchi fermentation studies (done in Korea in the past decade) and did not find any that raised a red flag. Also, research has also found several types of Lactobacillus bacteria in kimchi, and Lactobacillus bacteria are generally viewed as beneficial.
WHAT ELSE ARE WE DOING FOR SINUS HEALTH? After reading all the latest research suggesting that a number of diseases may be linked to our microbiome being out of whack (dysbiosis), and how research is now exploding whether adding "missing" bacteria can improve health, we have all made a major effort to feed and nurture our bacteria.
We eat as many unprocessed natural foods as possible. Years of taking antibiotics (even though they had helped at the time) had definitely eliminated many species of bacteria in our sinuses (the sinus microbiome) and we now wanted to replenish the bacteria in our body as much as possible.We eat more fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut), as well as whole grain foods, organic yogurt, grass fed meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes (beans), seeds, and cheeses. I want to mention that we found that eating kimchi did not have any immediate sinus treating effect, even though it was surely good for our overall health.
As in years past, we tried to avoid mass-produced highly processed foods, fast-foods, preservatives, additives, partially hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, and titanium dioxide (nanoparticles). I read all labels, and even avoided as much as possible "natural flavors" (What chemicals are being added? And why are they necessary?)
The rest of life stayed the same, other than if felt great to feel healthy and not be sick with sinusitis. Totally fantastic!
WHAT'S NEXT? There are so many possible research areas with important questions - for example, can a person's sinus microbiome ever fully recover after years of antibiotic treatments and constant sinusitis? What will many courses of antibiotics do to the sinus biome and how long will it take to recover? What about "snot transplants"?
I also suspect that there are many, many people out there who would love to have inexpensive, safe, and natural ways to deal with chronic sinusitis. Therefore, donations are welcomed. Donations will be used for research. Research is needed for natural ways one can improve the sinus microbiome. Also, what other foods contain L. sakei?
As I've been saying on Lacto Bacto for the past week, microbiome research and treatments for diseases is the exciting future. A whole paradigm shift in how we view health and the microorganisms within us.
Posted December 6, 2013
Sinusitis Treatment Update (Still Successful)
[Posted February 21, 2014.This is an excerpt.] It is now over a year since I successfully started treating chronic sinusitis with kimchi, and almost a year for the other 3 family members. The kimchi treatment continues to be amazingly effective. We all continue to feel great and we have not taken any antibiotics in all this time. (See my December 6, 2013 post ) No more symptoms of acute or chronic sinusitis!
We have made some recent changes though. We decided to stop doing frequent kimchi "booster" or "maintenance" treatments. Instead, we decided to only use kimchi when there is a definite need, for example after a cold or other virus when we have gone into acute sinusitis, or when our sinuses don't feel right for several days. Since adopting this policy we haven't done a kimchi treatment in over a month and continue to feel great. (Our new motto: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.)
We came to this decision because in December two of us noticed we were only getting a partial response to the type of kimchi we had been using for almost a year, but when we switched to a new kind of kimchi (but again vegan) we once again felt fantastic.....
Year Two of Successful Sinusitis Treatment
[Posted June 2, 2014. This is an excerpt.] It is now more than 69 weeks since I first successfully started using kimchi to treat the chronic sinusitis that had plagued me (and my family) for so many years. ...
.... Well, it is different and even better than year one. Now in year two we notice that we absolutely don't need or want frequent kimchi treatments - even when sick. Daily kimchi treatments, even during acute sinusitis (after a cold), actually seems to be too much and makes us feel worse (for ex., the throat becomes so dry, almost like a sore throat). But one treatment every 2 or 3 days while sick is good. In fact, this year we have done so few treatments, that even when ill, each time the sick person stopped doing kimchi treatments before he/she was fully recovered, and any sinusitis symptoms kept improving on their own until full recovery! Amazing!
To us, this is a sign that all of us have much improved sinus microbiomes from a year ago. And interestingly, we are getting fewer colds/viruses than ever. Our guiding principle this year is: "Less is more." In other words, at this point only do a kimchi sinus treatment when absolutely needed, and then only do it sparingly. Looking back, we think we should have adopted the "less is more" last year after the first 6 months of kimchi treatments.
See the May 2018 updated post for the latest SUMMARY OF MY FINDINGS for sinusitis treatment, L. sakei products and brands, other treatment possibilities: The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis
Click on the category Sinusitis for posts on the latest research on sinusitis (e.g., biofilms, nasal irrigation, the future of probiotics in treatment, phage therapy, etc)
See the July 2, 2014 post "Which Kimchi is Best For Sinusitis: Vegan or Seafood?" It turns out that currently more L. sakei is found in meat than in plants, and that there are at least 230 strains of L. sakei.
See the page SINUSITIS TREATMENT SUMMARY for quick summaries of sinusitis treatment methods for L. sakei from kimchi, from starter cultures, and other probiotics.
June 28, 2014 STARTING TODAY, PLEASE POST COMMENTS IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF A RECENT POST, the post THE ONE PROBIOTIC THAT TREATS SINUSITIS, SINUSITIS TREATMENT SUMMARY PAGE, CONTACT PAGE, OR WRITE ME AN EMAIL.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical doctor and cannot give medical advice. I am only sharing my family's story.
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