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What else can the amazing beneficial bacteria Lactobacilus sakei treat? We know it can treat sinusitis (sinus infections) - based on the original Abreu et al (2012) research, personal experiences, and feedback from hundreds of people since I started this site in 2013. Can it treat bronchitis? Earaches? How about skin infections? L. sakei dominates over and inhibits growth of pathogenic bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus. Instead of using antibiotics - what else could L. sakei be used for?

I've been hearing interesting stories from people - a number of people have found that it (kimchi, sauerkraut with garlic, or a L. sakei product such as Lacto Sinus) works to treat coughs (bronchitis), or prevents upper respiratory infections from developing into serious sinus infections, gets rid of fungal balls in the sinuses, treats earaches, and even treats small skin infections. People have been using the various products in creative ways - all self-experimentation!

Several people have told me it treated bronchitis (coughs) for which they would have taken antibiotics in the past - by swishing L. sakei powder (such as Lacto Sinus) in the mouth (but not in the nose). For example, one person reported that she occasionally gets bronchitis, but never sinusitis - and she successfully used Lacto Sinus to treat the bronchitis by swishing it in the mouth. The first two days she used it 2 x per day, and after that once per day until she felt better, but not totally well - and when she stopped the bronchitis (cough, phlegm) came back. So she used the L. sakei again until she felt totally healthy - and this time the cough stayed away. Since I personally know this person (we take walks together) I was able to observe her progress - cough & phlegm, then improvement, then backwards slide, and then total health when she used the product again. Hmmm... Definitely wasn't an imaginary effect or wishful thinking (placebo effect).

Not wanting to dab kimchi juice in the nostrils (the usual way to use kimchi) some gargled with kimchi juice and also swished it in the mouth and then didn't eat or drink for a while - but I don't know how the results compare to the usual kimchi method. One person dabbed kimchi juice in the ear for an earache and thought it helped (see Sinusitis Success Stories). For skin infections some individuals mixed L. sakei with a little water and applied to infection - this has been reported for both frozen Bactoferm F-RM-52 and refrigerated Lacto Sinus. But at any rate, the reports from people of various ways to use a L. sakei product are interesting. Just remember - this is all self-experimentation - which means results can be positive, negative, or no effect. And please be cautious!

For ways people use the various Lactobacillus sakei products to treat sinus infections (both chronic sinusitis and acute sinusitis) see the Sinusitis Treatment Summary page. The Best Probiotic For Sinus Infections gives an in-depth look at the different L. sakei products and results.

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Probiotics are the future of sinusitis treatment. Research found that a probiotic (beneficial bacteria) that is lacking in those with chronic sinusitis and which successfully treats sinusitis is Lactobacillus sakei. This article is the full summary of what has been learned over the past 6 years: the best L. sakei products (such as kimchi and Lacto Sinus - which can treat even the worst recurring sinus infections), results of people trying various L. sakei products, ways to use the products, and other possible probiotics for sinusitis and sinus health.

Back in 2012, a study by Abreu et al suggested Lactobacillus sakei as a possible treatment for sinusitis. In the past 6 years those conclusions have been supported by the experiences of hundreds of people contacting me, and my family's experiences with L. sakei products. It really is the best sinusitis treatment for most people!  When Lactobacillus sakei works as a treatment - it can seem miraculous as sinusitis symptoms gradually disappear or greatly improve. Unfortunately it doesn't work for everyone - for a minority there seems to be no effect, and it is not clear why. It also doesn't treat allergies or allergy symptoms. (See Treatment Summary page for different ways to use products.)

Sinusitis research in the last decade has found that not only do sinusitis sufferers lack L. sakei, they have too much of some other bacteria, and they also don't have the bacteria diversity in their sinuses that healthy people without sinusitis have. In other words, the sinus microbiome (microbial community) is out of whack (dysbiosis) in chronic sinusitis -  with a depletion of some bacterial species, and an increase in "abundance" of other species.

Luckily Lactobacillus sakei is found in some foods (such as some brands of live fermented kimchi), some sausage starter cultures (such as B-2), and recently in some probiotic supplements (e.g. Lacto Sinus). One reason it is used in sausage starter cultures is because L. sakei dominates over and inhibits growth of pathogenic bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus.

BACKGROUND STORY: Six years ago there were no probiotics containing L. sakei. None. So instead members of my family experimented using a very easy kimchi sinusitis treatment (basically dabbing and smearing kimchi at certain stages of fermentation into the nostrils like a very messy eater) and found that it cured  chronic sinusitis of many years within several weeks. Obviously it contained L. sakei. It felt miraculous, especially because it was so easy to do. (See Sinusitis Treatment Story page for our background story).

After 6 years we still feel great! Generally all 4 of us only need to treat again with a product containing Lactobacillus sakei (we've been using refrigerated Lacto Sinus) after a virus which goes into sinusitis, or if for some other reason we feel like we're sliding into sinusitis. The last few years we've needed to do this far less (and more minimally) than the first year because every year we have improved – fewer colds and viruses, and an improved sinus microbiome. Because we no longer have chronic sinusitis and can easily treat sinusitis if it occurs with L. sakei, we have NOT taken antibiotics or any other bacteria killing spray or product (such as xylitol) for over 6 years. We do not use cortisone or antihistamine nasal sprays either.

WHEN A TREATMENT WORKS: Many of you have contacted me to report your own progress with various sinusitis treatments. Thank you! People used terms such as "miraculous", "transformative", and "fabulous" when they had positive results with a product containing L. sakei. I’ve also heard from a few people of some other beneficial bacteria species that may treat sinusitis. When a treatment works, then all sinusitis symptoms go away, including post nasal drip, sinus headaches, "clogged ears", bad breath, and sinusitis-related coughs. Even tonsil stones! (Please note that trying such products to treat sinusitis is self-experimentation - effects can be positive or negative. One should always be very cautious.)

OVERALL RESULTSThe majority of people contacting me with results reported positive results (chronic sinusitis greatly improved or totally gone) from some form of L. sakei treatment. Successes have been from the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. But since it's from self-experimentation and not a clinical trial, then I don't know the actual percentage of positive results. Some of the people reporting success have had multiple operations, some currently have deviated septums, some with nasal polyps, and all have had long-standing chronic sinusitis, some for decades.

Those same chronic sinusitis sufferers also reported that the same treatments also worked to treat acute sinusitis. It seems that after colds, etc. they (including myself) may develop acute sinusitis again and need re-treatment (apparently the L. sakei frequently doesn't stay or colonize in the sinuses from earlier treatments). However, the sinuses do continue improving over time so our experience has been that fewer and more minimal treatments are needed over the years. Another very small group reported that other probiotic strains helped (but it is not always clear whether they also tried a L. sakei product), and minority of people reported that nothing has helped and there could be a variety of reasons for this (see below). Some people reported that one product helped, but not another - whether kimchi or a L. sakei product.

THREE MAIN PRODUCT CATEGORIES: Currently there are 3 main categories of products containing live Lactobacillus sakei, and which people have reported success in treating sinusitis: kimchi (and some sauerkraut), refrigerated products (e.g. Lacto Sinus), and frozen products. Note that at this time the FDA does not allow any probiotics to be sold as a medical treatment – they can only be sold as a supplement. Using the following products to treat sinusitis is self-experimentation (results are unknown and can vary). Always be cautious when testing a new product. (See Sinusitis Treament Summary page for treatment methods.)

KIMCHI - Many people report that kimchi helped them (without naming brands), while others named brands that helped them. And one person reported a homemade kimchi worked great (he was finally symptom free after 8 years). A few have even mentioned that kimchi has helped sinusitis with fungal problems. Kimchi brands that people reported helping their chronic sinusitis: Sinto Gourmet brand kimchiMama-O's Premium Kimchi, the white Napa kimchi and cabbage kimchi made by Choi's Kimchi Company (in Portland, Oregon), Farmhouse Culture Kimchi (in California), Mother-in-law's KimchiOzuke Kimchi (in Colorado), Sunja's Kimchi(medium spicy cucumber kimchi and mild white kimchi), in the United Kingdom the brand Mr Kimchi, and in Australia Kehoe's Kitchen white kimchi. I'm sure some (many?) other brands also contain L. sakei.

(Not all kimchi brands or types of kimchi within brands contain L. sakei - finding one that has it is due to self-experimentation. The kimchi must be live, and not pasteurized. We found that kimchi may contain L. sakei from about day 14 (or earlier) to about 2 to 2 1/2 months (from the day it's made). When the kimchi contained L. sakei we felt the same or started feeling better within one or 2 days. If we felt more mucusy or phlegmy over the next 2 days, or the acute sinusitis kept getting worse, than it did not contain L. sakei.) Some researchers feel that it's the garlic in kimchi that encourages L. sakei growth.

SAUERKRAUT - Sauerkraut has worked for some people if it is sauerkraut made with garlic. Some researchers feel that it's the garlic in kimchi that encourages L. sakei growth, and sauerkraut typically doesn't contain garlic.]

REFRIGERATED LACTOBACILLUS SAKEI PRODUCTS  – A high-quality refrigerated L. sakei product specifically meant for the sinuses and treatment of sinusitis is sold by Lacto Health. The kimchi derived Lactobacillus sakei product called Lacto Sinus is meant to be used when needed. Lacto Sinus  is sold as a dietary supplement, holds up well in the refrigerator, is effective, reliable, and easy to use. This product ships well because it holds up for a while (days) without refrigeration.

People have reported success using it mixed with bottled water (dabbing, smearing, spooning a little in nostrils), or swishing it dry in the mouth. I’ve been a consultant with Lacto Health on this product and have been testing and using this product successfully for over a year (self-experimentation!).    ...continue reading "The Best Probiotic For Sinus Infections"

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Last week a person told an amazing story in the comments section after a post on this site. After suffering from a "constant runny nose and a bad smell" in the nose for 2 years - which was diagnosed as "fungi and staph" in the sinuses - the person started doing "kimchi treatments" (as discussed in the Sinusitis Treatment Summary page). After 2 weeks a fungal ball was loosened, which came out of the sinuses and into the mouth, and was then spit out. About an inch in size - a smelly, grey/green, round fungal ball. Wow. Which leads to the question: Are any of the microbes in live kimchi anti-fungal?

Kimchi is an amazing live fermented food, typically made with cabbage and other vegetables and a variety of seasonings. Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and so there is tremendous interest in Korea in studying kimchi to learn about the many different microbial species in kimchi, including how they change over the course of fermentation. It turns out that kimchi contains many species of bacteria, including various species of Lactobacillus - which are considered beneficial. Of course one of the species found in kimchi over the course of fermentation is Lactobacillus sakei - the bacteria that successfully treats sinusitis, and which I have written about extensively. L. sakei predominates over pathogenic bacteria (antibacterial) - which is why it is also used as a sausage starter culture (to kill off bacteria such as Listeria). One study found that the garlic, ginger, and leek used in making kimchi were the sources of L. sakei bacteria found in fermented kimchi.

Studies show that a number of the Lactobacillus species found in kimchi are antifungal against a number of different kinds of fungi.  Some of these antifungal bacteria are: Lactobacillus plantarum, L. cruvatus, L. lactis, L. casei, L. pentosus, L. acidophilus, and L. sakei (here, here).

A study from 2005 found that some Lactobacillus species found in kimchi are predominant over a fungi known to cause health problems in humans - Aspergillus fumigatus, a mold (fungi) which is the most common cause of Aspergillus infections. Aspergillus (of which there are many species) is very common both indoors and outdoors (on plants, soil, rotting plants, household dust, etc.), so people typically breathe in these fungal spores daily and without any negative effects. However, sometimes Aspergillus can cause allergic reactions, infections in the lungs and sinuses (including fungal balls), and other infections. (more information at CDC site). The study found that 5 bacterial species in kimchi were also antifungal against other species of fungi (Aspergillus flavus, Fusarium moniliforme, Penicillium commune, and Rhizopus oryzae). The 5 bacterial species in kimchi that they found to be antifungal were: Lactobacillus cruvatus, L. lactis subsp. lactis, L. casei, L. pentosus, and L. sakei.

Just keep in mind that fungi are everywhere around us, and even part of the microbes that live in and on us - this is our mycobiome (here and here). We also breathe in a variety of fungi (mold spores) every day. In healthy individuals (even babies) all the microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc) live in balanced microbial communities, but the communities can become "out of whack" (dysbiosis) for various reasons, and microbes that formerly co-existed peacefully can multiply and become problematic.  If the populations get too unbalanced (e.g., antibiotics can kill off bacteria, and then an increase in fungi populations take their place) then ordinarily non-harmful fungi can become pathogenic. Or other pathogenic microbes can enter the community (e.g., through infection), and the person becomes ill.

IN SUMMARY: Kimchi has beneficial bacteria in it that are effective not just against bacteria (antibacterial), but also against some kinds of fungi (antifungal). One 2016 review study went so far as to say: "Kimchi possesses anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, anticancer, antiobesity, probiotic properties, cholesterol reduction, and antiaging properties." Experiences of my family and people writing suggest that the L. sakei in kimchi (and other products) is also antibiofilm. Hopefully, there will be some research on this in the future. But in the meantime, please keep writing to me about fungal complications of sinusitis, and especially if kimchi, L. sakei products, or other probiotics helped.

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As you may have noticed, I write about the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus sakei a lot. This is because it has turned out to be a great treatment for both chronic and acute sinusitis for my family and others (see post The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis). We originally found it in kimchi (it occurs in the kimchi during normal fermentation), but not all kimchi brands. Kimchi is a mix of vegetables (including typically cabbage) and seasonings, which is then fermented for days or weeks before it is eaten.

Why is L. sakei found in some kimchi, but not all? Which vegetable or spice is needed or important for encouraging L. sakei growth? It turns out it is not the cabbage - which is why L. sakei is not found in sauerkraut. A recent study looking at several kimchi samples found that garlic seems to be important for the development of various Lactobacillus bacteria, of which L. sakei is one. The results mean that raw garlic has very low levels of L. sakei, and it multiplies during kimchi fermentation. Note that as fermentation progresses, the bacterial species composition in the kimchi changes (this is called ecological succession). Korean studies (here and here) have consistently found L. sakei in many brands of kimchi (especially from about day 14 to about 2 or 2 1/2 months of fermentation), but not all kimchi brands or recipes. L.sakei, of which there are many strains, is so beneficial because it "outcompetes other spoilage- or disease-causing microorganisms" and so prevents them from growing (see post).

Excerpts are from the blog site Microbial Menagerie: MICROBES AT WORK IN YOUR KIMCHI

Cabbage is chopped up into large pieces and soaked in salt water allowing the water to draw out from the cabbage. Other seasonings such as spices, herbs and aromatics are prepared. Ginger, onion, garlic, and chili pepper are commonly used. The seasonings and cabbage are mixed together. Now the kimchi is ready to ferment. The mixture is packed down in a glass container and covered with the brining liquid if needed. The kimchi sits at room temperature for 1-2 days for fermentation to take place....Kimchi does not use a starter culture, but is still able to ferment. Then where do the fermentation microbes come from?

Phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rRNA sequencing indicates that the kimchi microbiome is dominated by lactic acid bacteria (LAB) of the genus Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Weissella. Kimchi relies on the native microbes of the ingredients. That is, the microbes naturally found on the ingredients. Because of this, there may be wide variations in the taste and texture of the final kimchi product depending on the source of the ingredients. In fact, a research group from Chung-Ang University acquired the same ingredients from different markets and sampled the bacterial communities within each of the ingredients. The group found a wide variability in the same ingredient when it was bought from different markets. Surprisingly, the cabbage was not the primary source of LAB. Instead, Lactic acid bacteria was found in high abundance in the garlic samples

Note that Lactobacillus sakei is an example of a lactic acid bacteria. More study details from  the Journal of Food Science: Source Tracking and Succession of Kimchi Lactic Acid Bacteria during Fermentation.

This study aimed at evaluating raw materials as potential lactic acid bacteria (LAB) sources for kimchi fermentation and investigating LAB successions during fermentation. The bacterial abundances and communities of five different sets of raw materials were investigated using plate-counting and pyrosequencing. LAB were found to be highly abundant in all garlic samples, suggesting that garlic may be a major LAB source for kimchi fermentation. LAB were observed in three and two out of five ginger and leek samples, respectively, indicating that they can also be potential important LAB sources. LAB were identified in only one cabbage sample with low abundance, suggesting that cabbage may not be an important LAB source.

Bacterial successions during fermentation in the five kimchi samples were investigated by community analysis using pyrosequencing. LAB communities in initial kimchi were similar to the combined LAB communities of individual raw materials, suggesting that kimchi LAB were derived from their raw materials. LAB community analyses showed that species in the genera Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Weissella were key players in kimchi fermentation, but their successions during fermentation varied with the species, indicating that members of the key genera may have different acid tolerance or growth competitiveness depending on their respective species.

Although W. koreensis, Leu. mesenteroides, and Lb. sakei were not detected in the raw materials of kimchi samples D and E (indicating their very low abundances in raw materials), they were found to be predominant during the late fermentation period. Several previous studies have also reported that W. koreensis, Leu. mesenteroides, and L. sakei are the predominant kimchi LAB during fermentation (Jeong and others 2013a, 2013b; Jung and others 2011, 2012, 2013a, 2014). 

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[UPDATE:  I added an Oct. 2018 update to the post The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis, which was originally posted in January 2015.]  Updates incorporate the latest information about treatments and products with Lactobacillus sakei  (kimchi brands, the probiotic Lacto Sinus , the sausage starter culture Bactoferm F-RM-52, etc.). According to research by Abreu et al (2012)Lactobacillus sakei is a bacteria or probiotic (beneficial bacteria) that chronic sinusitis sufferers lack and which treats chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis sufferers also don't have the bacteria diversity in the sinuses that healthy people have.

Many thanks to those who have written to me about their experiences with L. sakei products and sinusitis treatment.  Please keep the updates, results, and progress reports coming. If you have had success with other kimchi brands, please let me know so that I can add it to the list. And I also want to hear if other probiotics work or don't work, or if you have found other sources of Lactobacillus sakei or new ways to use L. sakei. It all adds to the knowledge base which I will continue to update.  You can Comment after posts, the Sinus Treatment Summary page, on the CONTACT page, or write me privately (see CONTACT page).

It is now over 2 1/2 years since my family (4 people) successfully treated ourselves with Lactobacillu sakei for chronic sinusitis and acute sinusitis. We feel great! With each passing year we can tell that our sinus microbial community is bettter, and levels of inflammation are down. As a consequence, we are getting fewer colds or viruses than ever. And best of all - no antibiotics taken in over 2 1/2 years! Yes, Lactobacillus sakei absolutely works as a treatment for sinusitis.

[Read the updated post: The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis - with Oct. 2018 update]

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(UPDATED October 2018) Probiotics and sinusitis treatment go hand in hand. In the last few years researchers found that one probiotic (beneficial bacteria) that chronic sinusitis sufferers lack and that treats and cures sinusitis is Lactobacillus sakei. The researchers Abreu et al found in their 2012 study that not only do sinusitis sufferers lack L. sakei, they have too much of some other bacteria, and they also don't have the bacteria diversity in their sinuses that healthy people without sinusitis have. In other words, the sinus microbiome (microbial community) is out of whack (dysbiosis). A number of studies since then also found that there is a depletion of some bacterial species, and an increase in "abundance" of other species in those with chronic sinusitis.

Luckily Lactobacillus sakei is found in some foods (such as some brands of live fermented kimchi), some sausage starter cultures (such as B-2), and recently in some probiotic supplements (e.g. Lacto Sinus). One reason it is used in sausage starter cultures is because L. sakei dominates over and inhibits growth of pathogenic bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus. This post discusses these L. sakei products and other possible probiotic treatments for sinusitis. [Treating sinusitis with beneficial bacteria (rather than with antibiotics, corticosteroid nasal sprays, and surgery) is the future in sinusitis treatment.]

BACKGROUND STORY: More than 5 years ago there were no probiotics containing L. sakei. None. So instead I experimented using a very easy kimchi sinusitis treatment (basically dabbing and smearing kimchi at certain stages of fermentation into my nostrils like a very messy eater) and found that it cured my chronic sinusitis of many years within several weeks. Obviously it contained L. sakei. Then the rest of my family also tried the kimchi treatment and were also cured of chronic sinusitis! It felt miraculous, especially because it was so easy to do. (See SINUSITIS TREATMENT STORY page for our background story).

After 5 years we still feel great! Generally all 4 of us only need to treat again with a product containing Lactobacillus sakei (we've been using refrigerated Lacto Sinus) after a virus which goes into sinusitis, or if for some other reason we feel like we're sliding into sinusitis. The last few years we've needed to do this far less (and more minimally) than the first year because every year we have improved – fewer colds and viruses, and an improved sinus microbiome. Because we no longer have chronic sinusitis and can easily treat sinusitis if it occurs with L. sakei, we have NOT taken antibiotics or any other bacteria killing spray or product (such as xylitol) for over 5 years. We do not use cortisone or antihistamine nasal sprays either.

WHEN A TREATMENT WORKS: A number of you have contacted me to report your own progress with various sinusitis treatments. Thank you! People used terms such as "miraculous", "transformative", and "fabulous" when they had positive results with a product containing L. sakei. I’ve also heard from a few people of some other beneficial bacteria species that may treat sinusitis. When a treatment works, then all sinusitis symptoms go away, including post nasal drip, sinus headaches, "clogged ears", bad breath, and sinusitis-related coughs. Even tonsil stones! (Please note that trying such products to treat sinusitis is self-experimentation - effects can be positive or negative. One should always be very cautious.)

OVERALL RESULTS: The majority of people contacting me with results reported positive results (chronic sinusitis greatly improved or totally gone) from some form of L. sakei treatment. Most have been from the USA or Canada, but successes have also been reported to me from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. But since it's from self-experimentation and not a clinical trial, then I don't know the actual percentage of positive results. (Please write!) Some of the people reporting success have had multiple operations, some currently have deviated septums, some with nasal polyps, and all have had long-standing chronic sinusitis, some for decades.

Those same chronic sinusitis sufferers also reported that the same treatments also worked to treat acute sinusitis. It seems that after colds, etc. they (including myself) may develop acute sinusitis again and need re-treatment (apparently the L. sakei frequently doesn't stay or colonize in the sinuses from earlier treatments). However, the sinuses do continue improving over time so our experience has been that fewer and more minimal treatments are needed over the years. Another very small group reported that other probiotic strains helped (but it is not always clear whether they also tried a L. sakei product), and a minority of people reported that nothing has helped and there could be a variety of reasons for this (see below). Some people reported that one product helped, but not another - whether kimchi or a L. sakei product. It also became clear that L. sakei does not treat allergies or allergy symptoms.

THREE MAIN PRODUCT CATEGORIES: Currently there are 3 main categories of products containing live Lactobacillus sakei, and which people have reported success in treating sinusitis: kimchi (and some sauerkraut), refrigerated products, and frozen products. Note that at this time the FDA does not allow any probiotics to be sold as a medical treatment – they can only be sold as a supplement. Using the following products to treat sinusitis is self-experimentation (results are unknown and can vary). Always be cautious when testing a new product. (See Sinusitis Treament Summary page for treatment methods.)

KIMCHI - Many people report that kimchi helped them (without naming brands), while others named brands that helped them. And one person reported a homemade kimchi worked great (he was finally symptom free after 8 years). A few have even mentioned that kimchi has helped sinusitis with fungal problems. Kimchi brands that people reported helping their chronic sinusitis: Sinto Gourmet brand kimchi, Mama-O's Premium Kimchi, the white Napa kimchi and cabbage kimchi made by Choi's Kimchi Company (in Portland, Oregon), Farmhouse Culture Kimchi (in California), Ozuke Kimchi (in Colorado), Mother-in-law's KimchiSunja's Kimchi (medium spicy cucumber kimchi and mild white kimchi), in the United Kingdom the brand Mr Kimchi, and in Australia Kehoe's Kitchen white kimchi. I'm sure some (many?) other brands also contain L. sakei.

(Not all kimchi brands or types of kimchi within brands contain L. sakei - finding one that has it is due to self-experimentation. The kimchi must be live, and not pasteurized. We found that kimchi may contain L. sakei from about day 14 (or earlier) to about 2 to 2 1/2 months (from the day it's made). When the kimchi contained L. sakei we felt the same or started feeling better within one or 2 days. If we felt more mucusy or phlegmy over the next 2 days, or the acute sinusitis kept getting worse, than it did not contain L. sakei.) Some researchers feel that it's the garlic in kimchi that encourages L. sakei growth.

[NOTE: SAUERKRAUT had not worked for anyone until recently - one person improved with a homemade sauerkraut, and several people with a sauerkraut made with garlic. Some researchers feel that it's the garlic in kimchi that encourages L. sakei growth, and sauerkraut typically doesn't contain garlic.]

REFRIGERATED LACTOBACILLUS SAKEI PRODUCTS  – A refrigerated L. sakei product specifically meant for the sinuses is now available in the United States. The company Lacto Health has introduced a kimchi derived Lactobacillus sakei product called Lacto Sinus - to be used when needed. Lacto Sinus  is sold as a dietary supplement, holds up well in the refrigerator, is effective, reliable, high quality, and easy to use. This product ships well because it holds up for a while (days) without refrigeration.

People have reported success using it mixed with bottled water (dabbing, smearing, spooning a little in nostrils), or swishing it dry in the mouth. I’ve been a consultant with Lacto Health on this product and have been testing and using this product successfully for over a year (self-experimentation!).

FROZEN LACTOBACILLUS SAKEI PRODUCTS  While other frozen L. sakei products are now appearing, the main L. sakei products available in many countries throughout the world are various frozen sausage starter cultures. All L. sakei products needing to be kept frozen are generally reliable and effective for sinusitis treatment. They should only be used when needed. But negatives with all frozen L. sakei products are that they must be kept frozen, they don’t hold up well once the package is opened, and they can easily die off during shipping.

Sausage starter cultures include BACTOFERM F-RM-52 (many countries, made by Chr. Hansen), PRIMAL SK NATUR 50 (Europe, made by Van Hees), and BITEC LS-25 (Europe, made by Frusarum). Note that these starter cultures contain 2 types of bacteria (L. sakei and Staphylococcus carnosus) – little is known about S. carnosus, but it is considered non-pathogenic, and no one has reported negative effects from it. B-2, which is only L. sakei (made by Chr Hansen), is available in New Zealand and Bulgaria (but may ship elsewhere). The starter culture BACTOFERM  SM 160 (L. sakei, Staphylococcus carnosus and Debaryomyces hansenii) has also been used successfully for chronic sinusitis. But one should be very cautious because while the third bacteria is considered non-pathogenic, is common in food products, is used commercially to make B12 - it is a yeast species (fungi). One study says it secretes toxins capable of killing other yeasts.

Most use a frozen product by dabbing/smearing or spooning a little of the mixture (L. sakei and bottled water) into the nostrils, while a few others report using it in a neti pot, and one person even a nasal aspirator (bulb syringe) for a large one time dose. Sometimes a side effect on the day the product is used is a dry mouth and throat (and they can be very dry when overused - so it's important to use only a little in a treatment). The person who used the nasal aspirator reported a temporary decrease in her sense of smell.

[NOTE: I personally have overuse concerns (too strong a dose) with using L. sakei in a neti pot or nasal syringe, and so have never used any L. sakei product that way. My personal view: let the little suckers travel up to the sinuses on their own. And they do. And I always start first with the most cautious way to see if that works.]

SOME L.SAKEI ISSUES: I still think of L. sakei as fairly fragile – for example, it is killed off by antibiotics, by oxygen, and it only lives a limited amount of time at room temperature. [For ex.: the culture Bactoferm F-RM-52 package says that it dies off in less than 2 weeks at room temperature - therefore store in freezer.] On the other hand, many different Lactobacillus strains live and multiply in our bodies at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit - so L. sakei can handle warm temperatures just fine for a while. Please note that the L. sakei in any product can also die off during shipping if it takes too long (weeks), it’s too hot (e.g. inside hot postal vehicles in extreme heat), or some other reason. Thus we order 2 or 3 day shipping (if possible) and hope for the best. (Note: consider overnight shipping during 100+degree Fahrenheit heat waves). Also note that there can be some variability in how strong the L. sakei is in a batch – especially in kimchi. After all, it’s alive!

WHY DOESN'T L. SAKEI WORK FOR SOME PEOPLE? Some possibilities to explain why some people trying various L. sakei products has not resulted in their sinusitis improving is that perhaps some other "keystone species" (a very important microbial species for a normal healthy community) besides L. sakei is  missing in their sinus microbiomes. Or perhaps they have microbes or biofilms that the Lactobacillus bacteria cannot overcome, even though it is viewed that some Lactobacillus species are anti-biofilm and anti-pathogenic. It is unclear whether the results are different if there are also nasal polyps. [Researchers now suspect that those with nasal polyps also have a problem with "primary inflammation".] We (modern medicine) know so little about the normal healthy sinus microbiome that there are many unanswered questions. (NOTE: click on the Category SINUSITIS for more posts on recent sinusitis research.)

PROBLEM WITH A PRODUCT SUDDENLY NOT WORKING, OR OVERUSE - Several people reported that a kimchi brand or L. sakei product that originally worked for them suddenly stopped working or not as well, but usually it had been the only product used for a while. We think this might be an issue of "too much of certain microbes" - and we (family members) have found that immediately switching to another product (e.g., from one brand or type of kimchi to another), or from a L. sakei product to kimchi, or swishing multi-strain probiotics (the dry powder) or refrigerated L.sakei in the mouth has corrected the situation for us. (Finding what works is self-experimentation, and varies from time to time). And weeks or months later, we can use the original product once again. This is also why we only use a product when needed.

BOTTOM LINE: When feeling good or healthy, stop using the L. sakei product. Use L. sakei products sparingly - only as needed (e.g. when developing sinusitis). And over time we’ve noticed that using less is better than more – probably due to our sinus microbial communities improving over the years. L. sakei seems to be necessary for sinusitis treatment for most people (a keystone bacteria), but there are also other important microbes in the sinuses - a whole community.

OTHER PROMISING PROBIOTICS - Some people have reported that multi- strain probiotics (but they did not contain L. sakei) treated their sinusitis. They mixed the powder in the capsules with water and smeared or dabbed the mixture in the nose, or even used it in a saline rinse (this last was rare). Different brands containing different mixtures of bacteria have been mentioned - but note that all were refrigerated probiotics. The following bacteria were mentioned frequently: Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. plantarum, L. reuteri, L. casei, Bifidobacterium longum, and B. lactis, B. bifidum, and B.breve. I have concerns with products that also contain titanium dioxide – this is because it may be in nanoparticle form, and recent studies have raised concerns that the nanoparticles can travel to other organs in the body, and are also inflammatory. So read the ingredients!

Some researchers are focusing on Lactobacillus sakei, L. rhamnosus, L. plantarumL. casei, and L. Johnsonii in the treatment of sinusitis and sinus health (see below Promising Probiotic Nasal Sprays and also the June 29, 2016 post).

OTHER PROBIOTICS MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BENEFICIAL EFFECTS - On the other hand, other people (including my family members) reported trying various multi-strain probiotics containing various Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species in the nostrils and found it did not help sinusitis. However, we found that when we feel a little “imbalanced” – perhaps a cough or phlegmy – then swishing the dry powder from one capsule in the mouth and then swallowing it - frequently results in some improvement (perhaps with a cough). Since sinusitis sufferers don’t have the bacteria diversity of healthy people, and the sinus microbial community is different in each person, then adding what are viewed as beneficial bacteria to the sinus microbial community might help some people.

The possibility remains that perhaps one or more bacteria species, or a combination of species, has effects similar to L. sakei. But which ones or which combinations of bacteria? (Just remember, trying L. sakei products or multi-strain probiotics is self-experimentation, and results are unknown and can vary - can be positive, negative, or no effect.)

STILL UNKNOWN: Some multi-strain probiotics now contain L. sakei, but may be problematic if they don’t need refrigeration (e.g. Multi-strain Probiotic by Innovix Labs). L. sakei products typically die after a few weeks without refrigeration, and die when exposed to oxygen (anaerobic).  So...while the L. sakei may be alive when the product is produced, is it alive weeks or months later at room temperature? Also, will a multi-strain probiotic containing both L. sakei and S. salivarius K12 (such as Pro-Kids ENT by Hyperbiotics) help or make things worse for those with sinusitis?  S. salivarius K12 has caused problems for some people (scroll down to "Problems With BLIS K12?").

PROMISING PROBIOTIC NASAL SPRAYS - The original sinusitis researchers (Susan Lynch, A. Goldberg) are still working on a probiotic nasal spray containing L. sakei. Another research group (at the Univ. of Antwerp in Belgium) is developing a nasal spray with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus caseiand other Lactobacillus species, including L. sakei. They are calling the nasal spray "Oronasopharyngeal probiotics", and say that these Lactobacillus  species (especially L. rhamnosus) are "anti-pathogenic and antibiofilm agents". 

NO EVIDENCE FOR JUST SWALLOWING PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENTS: Evidence (my family, people writing in, research) so far has been that only directly dabbing/smearing/spraying probiotics in the nose, or even swishing probiotics in the mouth may help treat sinusitis. I have not found any studies finding that just swallowing a probiotic pill has helped sinusitis (including a 2009 study looking at swallowing L. rhamnosus tablets 2 times daily for 4 weeks).

PROBIOTICS TO AVOID - The product NatureWise Maximum Care Time-Release Probiotics: 30 Strains, 30 Billion CFU contains a number of probiotic bacteria, including L. sakei. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria are generally viewed as beneficial. However, it also contains E. faecium (Enterococcus faecium) which is considered very controversial. This is because strains of this specific bacteria show multi-drug resistance (including to antibiotics). (See my Sept 2, 2016 Comment after the August 30, 2016 post for more information.)

PROMISING PHAGE THERAPY - Some researchers in the USA and Australia are currently testing phage therapy to see if it could be used as a treatment for various conditions, including chronic sinusitis. A bacteriophage is a virus that infects bacteria, and the name literally means "bacteria eater". Phage therapy is the therapeutic use of bacteriophages to treat bacterial infections. See the June 3, 2016 post Phage Therapy May Help Sinusitis Sufferers for more information. The authors of one study I posted said that they had found evidence for people having "virus-like particles" in their sinuses, which they thought were bacteriophages.

SNOT TRANSPLANTS IN THE FUTURE? – Currently a “snot transplant” study from healthy persons to sinusitis sufferers is going on in Europe to see if it works as a sinusitis treatment. This possibility may work great, but researchers have the same concerns as with fecal microbial transplants (stool transplant) for the gut. For example, are diseases also being transplanted?

PROBLEMS WITH BLIS K12 ? - On a side note, two family members, plus several people contacting me, tried the probiotic BLIS K12 bacteria (also known as Streptococcus salivarius BLIS K12), but found it brought on sinusitis-type symptoms. Scientific research finds it to be an immune booster, is good for oral health, and it lowers the incidence of upper respiratory infections. But not for us - from the first tablet (ate it by slowly dissolving it in the mouth) there were problems - feeling phlegmy and yellow mucus. Two persons reported similar negative effects with PRO-dental tablets, which also contains BLIS K12. The message here is clear: these specific bacteria did not react well with our sinus and oral bacterial communities. Remember, whenever one introduces new bacteria into the human organism, there can be positive or negative effects.

PLEASE WRITE!  I would really like to hear how you are treating and curing your sinusitis, especially chronic sinusitis. Or even what hasn't worked. It all adds to the knowledge base. And let me also know if you've had additional problems or complications such as sinus operations, nasal polyps, a fungal problem, diagnosed with antibiotic resistant bacteria (for example: Pseudomonas aeruginosa), etc. Has L. sakei or another probiotic helped? Write to me privately, or can comment after any post.

(Note that most comments are after this post, the SINUSITIS TREATMENT SUMMARY page, the CONTACT page, and other sinusitis posts - see category SINUSITIS).

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[PLEASE NOTE THAT AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS POST WITH NEW INFORMATION, INCLUDING NEW PRODUCTS, WAS PUBLISHED IN MAY 2018: The One Probiotic That Treats SinusitisComments can be posted there.]

We now know that antibiotics, especially repeated courses of antibiotics, kills off bacteria and alters the microbial community in the sinuses (sinus biome). Research by Abreu et al (in 2012) showed that it is Lactobacillus sakei that is missing in chronic sinusitis sufferers, and that Lactobacillus sakei successfully treats sinusitis. From this research it is clear that Lactobacillus sakei is a  beneficial bacteria that can be used as a probiotic to cure sinustis.

It turns out that many brands of live fermented kimchi contain Lactobacillus sakei, and this is what my family used to treat and cure ourselves of chronic sinusitis (and acute sinusitis). So yes, kimchi can be probiotics for sinusitis. It is now over 85 weeks since I've been off all antibiotics and feeling great!

Until now I avoided naming the kimchi brand we used on this site because I believe that many brands of fermented kimchi (with cabbage) contain Lactobacillus sakei, and should be effective in curing sinusitis (this is by dabbing or smearing it in the nostrils - see Sinusitis Treatment Summary link for the METHOD and details).

WHAT BRANDS OR PRODUCTS WITH Lactobacillus sakei WORK?

The brand I use is Sunja's Kimchi (from Vermont). We originally were successful with the Medium Spicy Cabbage Kimchi and when that stopped being fully effective last winter (from overuse? recipe change?), we switched to Sunja's Medium Spicy Cucumber Kimchi (fermented at least 14 days and the jar opened less than 1 week).

Recently I heard from a woman in Nevada who wrote me stating that smearing/dabbing Sinto Gourmet Mild White Napa Cabbage Kimchi into her nostrils was successfully treating her chronic sinusitis (using the method described in the Sinusitis Treatment page)

One person wrote that he successfully cured chronic and acute sinusitis with a fermented sausage starter from Chr. Hansen containing L. sakei and another bacteria. He used it after mixing very small amounts in his  Neti pot - initially used it 1 x per day until cured, and then sparingly only as needed (after a cold) or as a maintenance booster once every 3 or 4 months (see his comment in the Contact page for more details). (UPDATE: one name for this product is Bactoferm F-RM-52, which contains Lactobacillus sakei and Staphylococcus carnosus  . See 1/12/15 post for more, including my experience with it.)

Eating kimchi does not seem to treat sinusitis, even though it may be good for the gut. Only smearing or dabbing it in the nostrils works.

Several people have reported that using sauerkraut has not helped their sinusitis, and scientific studies report that sauerkraut contains minimal L.sakei, if at all.

Others have also mentioned thinking about using lactic acid starter cultures containing L. sakei , whether using it alone or making kimchi with it, but I don't know how it went.

Finally, I would like feedback from you: 1) What brands of kimchi have worked for you in treating or curing sinusitis?     2) What other products containing Lactobacillus sakei have worked successfully for you? And how did you use it?   3) What other bacteria have worked for you in curing sinusitis?

Please let me know by commenting in the comments section or writing me an email. This way I can update this list.  The goal is to find ways to improve the beneficial bacteria in the sinuses and so treat, cure, and eventually prevent sinusitis.   Thanks!

[PLEASE NOTE THAT AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS POST WITH NEW INFORMATION WAS PUBLISHED IN MAY 2018: The One Probiotic That Treats SinusitisComments can be posted there.]

20131201_101300 Several people have recently written to me about kimchi and asked why I originally chose vegan kimchi over kimchi containing a seafood ingredient (typically fish or shrimp sauce) for sinusitis treatment. I have also been asked whether vegan kimchi has enough Lactobacillus sakei bacteria in it as compared to kimchi made with a seafood seasoning. (see Sinusitis Treatment Summary page and/or Sinusitis posts for in-depth discussions of Lactobacillus sakei in successful sinusitis treatment).

Korean kimchi is a fermented food typically made with cabbage and other vegetables and seasonings, and can contain some seafood (perhaps fish or shrimp sauce) as a seasoning, or just be vegan (no seafood ingredients). It can also be made using a starter culture.

These questions arose because Lactobacillus sakei (L.sakei) is commonly found on meat and fish, and plays a role in the fermentation and preservation of meat. L.sakei "outcompetes other spoilage- or disease-causing microorganisms" and so prevents them from growing. Thus it is considered beneficial and is used commercially in lactic acid starter cultures (for example, in making European salami and sausages).

L. sakei was originally isolated from sake or rice wine (thus plant origin), is found in very low levels in some fermented sauerkraut, and according to the studies I looked at, is found during fermentation in most brands of Korean kimchi.

Currently there are over 230 different strains of L.sakei isolated from meat, seafood, or vegetables from all over the world (from S. Chaillou et al 2013 study looking at population genetics of L.sakei). So this bacteria, which is found by using state of the art genetic analysis, turns out to be quite common.

So why did I only use vegan kimchi and only mention vegan kimchi in our Sinusitis Treatment method?

It's because when I first started dabbing kimchi juice in my nose about 1 1/2 years ago, I was in uncharted territory. I was desperate for something with L.sakei in it, and from my reading I found kimchi. However, putting (by dabbing or smearing) a live fermented product in my nostrils was a big unknown. When I first opened some jars, the kimchi juice would bubble and sometimes overflow and run down the sides of the jar. Would the microbes in kimchi harm or benefit me? Obviously I was conducting an experiment with unknown results.

I settled on vegan (no seafood) kimchi because a totally plant-based product sounded safer to me. I wondered what other microbes are in the kimchi with seafood. Could any of them be harmful?  And my choice of vegan kimchi turned out great.

Our experiences with kimchi are that it works amazingly well in treating sinusitis and causes no harm (as far as we can tell). This is the best I've felt in many, many years - back to normal!

But I don't know if other brands of vegan kimchi, with different recipes and ingredients and thus different microbial communities, would have worked out so well. The levels of L.sakei and other beneficial microbes in the many kimchi brands are unknown.

So now I wonder- if L. sakei is so pervasive on meat and seafood, perhaps kimchi with a seafood ingredient in it would be even better, with consistently higher amounts of L. sakei. Or maybe there is no difference between the two kinds of kimchi. Only the very expensive state-of-art genetic testing would give me the answer to that question.

Based on my successful 1 1/2 years of vegan kimchi experience, I may be willing to experiment further and try non-vegan kimchi. Or maybe not. Perhaps it is better. But I'm very cautious.... 

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. I originally reported on the Sinusitis Treatment on Dec. 6, 2013 (the method is described there) and followed up on Feb. 21, 2014.

Based on the sinus microbiome research of N. Abreu et al (from Sept. 2012 in Sci.Transl.Med.) that discussed Lactobacillus sakei as a sinusitis treatment, I had looked for a natural source of L.sakei and found it in kimchi. Since dabbing the kimchi juice in our nostrils as needed, all 4 of us are still free of chronic sinusitis and off all antibiotics at close to a year and a half (I'm optimistic). So how is year two shaping up?

Well, it is different and even better than year one. Much of the first year seemed to be about needing to build up our beneficial bacteria sinus community (sinus microbiome) through kimchi treatments, eating fermented foods (such as kimchi, kefir, yogurt), whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. And of course not having to take antibiotics helped our sinus microbial community.

But 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.

The other thing we've done is cut back on daily saline nasal irrigation, especially when ill and doing kimchi treatments. We've started thinking that the saline irrigation also flushes out beneficial bacteria.

The conclusion is: YES, a person's microbiome can improve, even after years or decades of chronic sinusitis. It is truly amazing and wonderful to not struggle with it, and to feel normal.

(UPDATE: See Sinusitis Treatment Summary page and The Best Probiotic For Sinus Infections for more information, more products one can use, and more L. sakei treatment information. We are using the high quality refrigerated product Lacto Sinus these days.)

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SUMMARY OF TREATMENT METHOD USING KIMCHI

The following is a quick summary of the method we use (see Sinusitis Treatment Summary page).We use live (fermented and not pasteurized) vegan (no seafood added) kimchi. Choosing vegan (no seafood added) kimchi is a personal preference. Lactobacillus sakei is found in meat, seafood, and some vegetables.

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, then started doing it less frequently, and eventually only as needed.

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 or the Sinusitis Treatment Summary page for details on how we do various easy Sinusitis Treatments.)

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 brand 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. Why did this occur? I have two possible hypotheses: 1) Since kimchi contains so many types of bacteria, perhaps frequent "booster applications" also increased other bacteria in the sinuses that competed with the Lactobacillus sakei, and switching to a new kind of kimchi corrected this problem. OR 2) Perhaps the kimchi company changed their kimchi recipe or ingredients, and thus the Lactobacillus sakei numbers went way down.

We think that since we still get acute sinusitis after a cold or flu-type virus means that our sinus bacterial communities (sinus microbiome) are still not quite right, even thought they must be better than they've been in years (after all, we feel great and not ill, and have not taken antibiotics in over a year). Thus we are making every effort to eat fermented and pickled foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, raw cheeses, and kefir to naturally increase our beneficial bacteria numbers. We are not taking probiotics because no brand of probiotics currently available contains Lactobacillus sakei. We are also planning to test other brands of kimchi to see what brands are effective. And, of course, I'm always looking for new sources of Lactobacillus sakei and other effective natural sinusitis treatments.