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It is now 104 weeks being free of chronic sinusitis and off all antibiotics! Two full years since I started my easy do-it-yourself sinusitis treatment! And my sinuses feel great! I would never ever have thought such a thing was possible several years ago. Thanks to the probiotic (beneficial bacteria) Lactobacillus sakei I got my life back. Yes, I know I'm gushing...

After reading the original ground-breaking research on sinusitis done by Abreu et al (2012), it led to finding and trying L. sakei as a sinusitis treatment. Of course, there is an entire community of microbes that live in healthy sinuses (the sinus microbiome), but L. sakei seems to be a key one for sinus health. As you may have guessed, the name of this web-site Lacto Bacto is in homage to the bacteria Lactobacillus sakei.

Thank you all who have written to me  - whether publicly or privately. Please keep writing because it is adding to the sinusitis treatment knowledge base. I will keep posting updates.

I will be trying to find more sources of L. sakei this year and also look for other microbes that help treat sinusitis. And the foods or products that they're in. As of today, my family (all 4 members) have successfully used live kimchi and even sausage starter culture (both containing L. sakei) to treat both acute and chronic sinusitis these past 2 years. Based on our experiences and those of others, finding live L. sakei in kimchi (not all brands have L. sakei in it) and other products can be tricky, but when the product has live L. sakei in it - the results are absolutely great! We have also learned that L.sakei products should be used sparingly - only as needed.

(NOTE: I posted a number of posts with sinusitis treatment information, with the last updated one being January 12, 2015 -  The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis. This post has the updated list of brands and sources of L. sakei. I wrote the story of our Sinusitis Treatment back in December 2013, and there is also a  Sinusitis Treatment Summary page. One can also click on SINUSITIS under CATEGORIES to see more posts, such as "Which Kimchi is Best for Sinusitis Treatment: Vegan or Seafood?")

Yesterday I read and reread a very interesting journal review paper from Sept. 2013 that discussed recent studies about probiotics and treatment of respiratory ailments, including sinusitis. Two of the authors are those from the Abreu et al sinusitis study from 2012 (that I've frequently mentioned and that guided our own Sinusitis Treatment) that found that Lactobacillus sakei protects against sinusitis and treats sinusitis. Some of the things this paper discussed are: microbial communities in the airways and sinuses vary between healthy and non-healthy individuals (and each area or niche seems to have distinct communities), that lactic acid bacteria (including Lactobacillus sakei) are generally considered the "good guys" in our sinus microbiomes (the communities of microbes living in our sinuses), and that treatments of the future could consist of "direct localized administration of microbial species" (for example, getting the bacteria directly into the sinuses through the nasal passages with a nasal spray, or dabbing fermented kimchi juice like I did). They also mentioned that maybe one could also get probiotics to the GI tract (e.g., by eating probiotics) and maybe this would have some benefits. So far it seems that administering something containing L.sakei directly (by nasal spray or dabbing kimchi juice - as I did) seems to work best for treating sinusistis.

They also discussed that lactic acid bacteria are found in healthy mucosal surfaces in the respiratory, GI, and vaginal tract. They then proposed that lactic acid bacteria (including L.sakei) act as pioneer, or keystone species, and that they act to shape mucosal ecosystems (the microbiomes), and permit other species to live there that share similar attributes, and so promote "mucosal homeostasis". It appears that having a healthy sinus microbiome protects against pathogenic species.

So yeah - the bottom line is that microbial supplementation of beneficial bacteria seems very promising in the treatment of respiratory ailments. And for long-term successful sinusitis treatment, one would need to improve the entire sinus microbial community (with a "mixed species supplement"), not just one bacteria species. (By the way, maybe that is also why using kimchi in our successful Sinusitis Treatment works - it is an entire microbial community with several lactic acid species, including the all important Lactobacillus sakei. (NOTE: See Sinusitis Treatment Summary page and The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis for some easy methods  using various probiotics to treat chronic sinusitis. These articles get updated frequently.) From Trends in Microbiology:

Probiotic strategies for treatment of respiratory diseases.

More recently, Abreu et al. profiled the sinus microbiome of CRS (chronic rhinosinusitis) patients and healthy controls at high resolution [2]. Microbial burden was not significantly different between healthy subject and CRS patient sinuses. Moreover, known bacterial pathogens such as H. influenza, P. aeruginosa, and S. aureus were detected in both healthy and CRS sinuses; however, the sinus microbiome of CRS patients exhibited characteristics of community collapse, in other words many microbial species associated with healthy individuals, in particular lactic acid bacteria, were significantly reduced in relative abundance in CRS patients. In this state of microbiome depletion, the species C. tuberculostearicum was significantly enriched. This indicates that composition of the microbiome is associated with disease status and appears to influence the activity of pathogens within these assemblages.

Although sinusitis patients in the Abreu study exhibited hallmark characteristics of community collapse, the comparator group – healthy individuals – represented an opportunity to mine microbiome data and identify those bacterial species specific to the sinus niche that putatively protect this site. The authors demonstrated that a relatively diverse group of phylogenetically distinct lactic acid bacteria were enriched in the healthy sinus microbiota [2]. As proof of principle that the sinonasal microbiome itself or indeed specific members of these consortia protect the mucosal surface from pathogenic effects, a series of murine studies were undertaken. These demonstrated that a replete, unperturbed sinus microbiome prevented C. tuberculostearicum pathogenesis. Moreover, even in the context of an antimicrobial-depleted microbiome, Lactobacillus sakei when co-instilled with C. tuberculostearicum into the nares of mice afforded complete mucosal protection against the pathogenic species. Although this is encouraging, it is unlikely that a single species can confer long-term protection in a system that is inherently multi-species and constantly exposed to the environment. Indeed, previous studies and ecological theory supports the hypothesis that multi-species consortia represent more robust assemblages, and tend to afford improved efficacy with respect to disease or infection outcomes [44,45]. This study therefore provides a basis for the identification of what may be termed a minimal microbial population (MMP) composed of multiple phylogenetically distinct lactic acid bacteria, including L. sakei. Such a mixed species assemblage would form the foundation of a rationally designed, sinus-specific bacterial supplement to combat established chronic diseases or, indeed, be used prophylactically to protect mucosal surfaces against acute infection.

Therefore, although site-specific diseases such as chronic sinusitis may well be confined to the sinus niche and be resolved simply by localized microbe-restoration approaches, it is also entirely plausible that an adjuvant oral microbe-supplementation strategy and dietary intervention (to sustain colonization by the introduced species) may increase efficacy and ultimately improve long-term patient outcomes. This two-pronged approach may be particularly efficacious for patients who have lost protective GI microbial species due to
administration of multiple courses of oral antimicrobials to manage their sinus disease.

Although it is impossible to define the precise strains or species that will be used in future microbial supplementation strategies to treat chronic inflammatory diseases, there is a convergence of evidence indicating that healthy mucosal surfaces in the respiratory, GI, and vaginal tract are colonized by lactic acid bacteria. We would venture that members of this group act as pioneer, keystone species that, through their multitude of functions (including bacteriocin production, competitive colonization, lactate and fatty acid production), can shape mucosal ecosystems, thereby permitting co-colonization by phylogenetically distinct
species that share functionally similar attributes. Together, these subcommunities promote mucosal homeostasis and represent the most promising species for future microbe-supplementation strategies.

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 One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis for more information, more probiotics one can use, and more L. sakei treatment information.)

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SUMMARY OF TREATMENT METHOD

The following is a quick summary of the method we use (from the Dec.6, 2013 post - Sinus Treatment page).   Please read the original post for complete descriptions and explanations. 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.

I spent time this past week searching the medical literature (US National Library of Medicine - Medline/PubMed) for the latest in sinusitis research. I wish I could tell you that amazing research has been happening recently, especially with the sinus microbiome (which could mean treating sinusitis with microbes), but I was disappointed. Really disappointed.

I did four searches: one for "sinusitis" (looked at 600+ studies dating back to summer 2013), then "chronic sinusitis" (going back to fall 2012), then "sinusitis, probiotics", and finally "sinusitis, microbiome". The "sinusitis, probiotics" search turned up 10 studies dating back to 2002. The "sinusitis, microbiome" search turned up a grand total of 13 studies, with the oldest dating back to 2004. Of course the sinus microbiome research by Abreu et al from September 2012  discussing Lactobacillus sakei and which I based my personal (and successful) kimchi sinusitis treatment was on the list (see my Dec. 5 post for a discussion of their research). But none of the other studies looked at Lactobacillus sakei (which is in kimchi).

Some of the findings among the many chronic sinusitis studies: microbial diversity is lower in antibiotic treated chronic sinusitis sufferers (than in healthy controls) and the microbial communities more uneven (meaning some microbes dominated over others), and greater Staphylococcus aureus populations among those with chronic sinusitis. After antibiotic treatment patients typically became colonized by microbes that are less susceptible to the prescribed antibiotics. One study found that Staphylococcus epidermidis (SE) may have some effectiveness against Staphylococcus aureus (SA) in the sinusitis microbiome in mice. Lactobacillus rhamnosus was not found to be effective against sinusitis. A number of studies reported biofilms in the sinuses which are highly resistant to medicines. Some studies found that smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke is linked to chronic sinusitis. (June 2016 UPDATE: I should have said that Lactobacillus rhamnosus (R0011 strain) was not effective against sinusitis when taken orally (a tablet) twice a day for 4 weeks in the study. There have been no further studies since then looking at L. rhamnosus for sinusitis treatment. It is unknown whether spraying or smearing/dabbing L. rhamnosus directly into the nostrils would have a positive effect)

Everyone agreed that state of the art genetic analyses found many more microbial species than older methods (the least effective was the traditional culture method). Several studies suggested that perhaps chronic sinusitis is due to immunological defects and one suggested that it was due to "immune hyperresponsiveness" to organisms in the sinuses. Surprisingly, some studies reported that there are more microbes or microbial species in chronic sinusitis patients than in control patients and that Staphylococcus aureus may be dominant (NOTE: These results may be due to not having been done with state of the art genetic analyses which would have picked up more microbial diversity. Another issue is where in the respiratory tract the samples were taken from, because it seems that the different areas have different microbial communities).

There was frequent mention that chronic sinusitis affects millions of people each year in the US, that little is known about its exact cause, and that there is controversy over appropriate treatment. Originally doctors thought that healthy sinuses were sterile, and it has taken a while to realize that is untrue. It is clear that researchers are only now trying to discover what microbial communities live in healthy individuals compared to those with chronic sinusitis.

But it appeared to me that the majority of the studies from the last 2 years indicated that treatment of chronic sinusitis is still: first try antibiotics, then antibiotics plus inhaled corticosteroids and perhaps nasal saline irrigation, then followed by endoscopic sinus surgery (or sometimes balloon dilation), then perhaps steroid drip implants (steroid-eluting sinus implants), and then there may be revision surgeries.

So I'm sticking with my easy-to-do, inexpensive, and fantastically successful kimchi (Lactobacillus sakei) sinusitis treatment. Of course! (see my Dec. 6, 2013 and Feb. 21, 2014 posts or click on the Sinusitis Treatment link for further information).

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.

This is the story of my family's successful Sinusitis Treatment using an all natural, easy home remedy. (UPDATE: The treatment worked so well that we all have been cured of chronic sinusitis, and we have been off all antibiotics for over 3 years.)

Ten months ago 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 ductwork, 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 last winter 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 Corynebacteriumt uberculostearicum Enrichment Mediates Rhinosinusitis. Science Translational Medicine, September 12, 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22972842 )

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 (this last was 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 harmful bacteria got up in my sinuses and overwhelmed my system?  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 some vegetables, but I was nervous about other microbes found in sea food. 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 of the Sinusitis Experiment: 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.

To continue reading the story...