Over the last few months I’ve been hearing about a lot of people who have been ill with terrible head colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, flus, and sinus infections.
It always seems strange to me when people are coming down with stuff like this in what is not typically considered the cold and flu season. But when you stop to consider the diet and subsequent state of health of people in general, it really shouldn’t be surprising.
In the summer of 2006 my husband, son, and I all became ill with a terrible sickness that I might have otherwise described as West Nile Virus – except for the fact that none of us had been bitten by mosquitoes or been around any areas where mosquitoes inhabit. Our symptoms were severe – extreme fatigue, malaise, body ache, and high fevers that lasted for over a week (in my son’s case he had a fever for 15 days!). From start to finish, the entire episode lasted for nearly two months. But our symptoms started subsiding immediately after we paid a visit to my acupuncturist and Chinese herbal doctor.
Since then I’ve been a devoted follower of natural treatments. This year, I was once again reminded just how useful natural treatments are when the sore throat and body ache I came down with turned into conjunctivitis and a horrible sinus infection. The sickness first came on in mid-June, and I figured it would just be a mild sore throat that would last a day or two…after all, I’m a pretty healthy person who eats a good diet and doesn’t get sick much anymore…but I was wrong. The sore throat, headache, body ache, fatigue and cough went on for about five days. Day six found me with a sinus headache and red, weepy eyes. I assumed these symptoms would go away without much consequence. Wrong again.
The normal course of action I take with a sinus infection is to use my neti pot and breathe hot steam with essential oils. Because at first my condition didn’t seem too severe, I didn’t irrigate frequently enough. Within a few days the infection became so acute I was in excruciating pain daily until afternoon when the congestion would subside and have me believing that it was on its way out. Then, the following day I’d wake up again only to be in agonizing pain within an hour or two.
Just two days before my sinus infection developed, I had paid a visit to my neighbor, a nutritional therapist. She said that I had strep in my body, and I tested positive for candida. I had performed a candida cleanse in 2007 which lasted about 14 weeks. I wasn’t too thrilled about having to do another candida cleanse, but knew from talking with her and my own research that both the sinus problem and the conjunctivitis could likely be caused by a candida overgrowth. After I put these things together in my head I decided to do another candida cleanse and went on a grain and sugar-free diet. My normal diet is pretty healthy anyway, so I just removed a few things and also began taking Candidase by Enzymedica. This is a product I’ve used before in the past, but there are other products formulated for candida removal as well.
In the meantime, I was seeing little improvement. I tried everything my neighbor had suggested – I took an oil of oregano supplement and colloidal silver. My research revealed that goldenseal, apple cider vinegar, and various immune-boosting herbal products I already had in my house were effective natural treatments for a sinus infection. I also used hot compresses with oil of oregano, peppermint, lemon, melaleuca, and eucalyptus, breathed essential oils in hot steam several times a day, and used my neti-pot ’round the clock. I was drinking a lot of water and eating well, but nothing seemed to work.
During this time of course, everyone around me was urging me to go to the doctor and get a prescription for antibiotics. All I could think of was how this would wipe out my immune system – especially because I now had some kind of candida problem that would inevitably only get worse with antibiotics.
I’ve had enough!
Although I thought I’d lose my mind if I didn’t figure out a way to get over the sinus infection, this factor alone is what kept me from breaking down and going to a conventional doctor. Finally, I decided to go see a naturopathic doctor who also has an M.D. working in her office. I decided that if she couldn’t help me with something natural, I’d have her do a culture to determine the cause of the infection – bacterial or fungal, as any sinus problem that goes on for that long is not usually caused by a virus. If the culture came out positive for something besides a virus, I was nearly resigned to taking antibiotics or an anti-fungal medication if necessary. From my experience and what others have reported, most medical doctors don’t think of sinus infections as being caused by fungal sources, they usually just tap on your head and write out a prescription for an antibiotic. I wanted to find out what was causing it and fix it. I didn’t want to be given some random medication and sent on my way.
The naturopath said she wasn’t sure that anything else she could do would cure my sinus infection since I had already been doing those things for three weeks and had not achieved results. But she was willing to try and wait to see if I felt any improvement the following day. We agreed that if what she did failed to work, I would come back and do a culture to find out what type of medication would be best.
The first thing she did was perform some manipulations (she knows chiropractic treatment) on my neck and head. Then she took four long cotton swabs and soaked them in essential oils and pushed them up into my nasal passages – yes, inside my nasal passages! It felt very odd, but once they were in it wasn’t a problem and she left them there for ten or fifteen minutes. While the swabs were in, she did some head and facial massage and manipulations on pressure points corresponding to my sinuses. After she was finished with these treatments, my head was almost completely pain free – for the first time in over two weeks! It was amazing. She also told me to go home and do alternating hot and cold compresses on my sinuses before bed, take an herbal tincture from her office, and perform a sinus rinse with colloidal silver in my neti-pot (I had tried the colloidal silver as a nasal spray already with no success).
Later that afternoon I talked to my neighbor again and she suggested putting a probiotic capsule in my neti pot. I take daily doses of probiotics, but had not yet tried breaking open the capsule and putting it in the pot. I used self-massage on my sinuses throughout the rest of the day, as shown by the naturopath. I also did the compresses and took the tincture as directed.
Now here’s the most amazing part – at bedtime, I emptied the contents of a probiotics capsule into the neti-pot and proceeded to pour the warm water, salt, baking soda and probiotic mixture into my nasal passages. Immediately I felt a terrible burning sensation that went on for a good ten minutes. It was quite painful, but as it subsided, I was filled with a peaceful calm, and then retired to bed and had a good night sleep. The next morning, I awoke and was surprised to find that even as time went on, my head remained pain-free throughout the day. The horrible “ice pick” sinus pressure which was normally in full-swing by 10 a.m. was completely gone. Whenever I felt like I was getting a slight ache, I performed the facial massage to my temples and sinuses I had done the day before. I also used the probiotics in my neti pot a few more times over the next five days, along with my Whole Body Defense from Gaia Herbs, and some grapefruit seed extract (about 5 drops in 6 ounces of water twice a day). I was cured! I really believe those probiotics did some magical trick – although I’m sure some of the other things I did helped as well – because the first time I did it, after the burning came and went, the pain was completely gone and has not returned since.
Some people might still be skeptical after reading this and say, “yeah, you got well naturally, but it took nearly 4 weeks!” Yes, that is true. But how many people do you know who take antibiotics and don’t get well for weeks…or become sick again after thinking they are cured? How many others take one antibiotic, only to have it not improve their condition, and then return to the doctor for one or two more rounds of other antibiotics? This is a pretty common occurrence, and I didn’t want to be one of those people.
Here’s something else important to remember: the first two weeks I assumed whatever I had would go away on its own and didn’t make much of an effort to treat it sufficiently. It wasn’t until at least week two where I realized it was a serious infection and decided to do something. In many cases, the first thing you try isn’t the thing that is going to work. Just as described above, medical doctors often try many different medications before something actually brings results…and still, sometimes, it doesn’t work.
The other factor in all of this that people fail to take into account is the natural immunity granted to your body when you allow it to recover naturally instead of using pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications. These artificially-produced, toxic substances weaken the immune system by wiping out friendly bacteria and depleting the body of vital nutrients. They are also responsible for a wave of resistant bacteria which could ultimately cause the death of mass numbers of our population in the not-so-distant future. These bacteria become impervious to medications when they are actually needed, and in some cases, cannot be killed at all or will only be taken down by certain medications which are dangerous to use and can cause damage to the human body. Ultimately, I claim victory in this situation because even though it took me awhile to get over this, I did it without compromising my immune system and I gained natural immunity to whatever was making me sick.
Are antibiotics useful?
Remember that the word antibiotic literally means “anti-life”. Antibiotics have their place in the world, but they shouldn’t be used every time you get a flu, cold, or respiratory infection that lasts longer than 7 – 10 days . I once heard a story from a friend who went to the doctor and was given a prescription for antibiotics. When she asked whether antibiotics were really necessary, the doctor replied that she didn’t want to mess around with a possible infection and antibiotics were the best thing. My friend asked whether she would die if she didn’t take the antibiotics and to which the doctor replied, “it’s possible”. So what if she hadn’t taken antibiotics for her infection? What would be the likelihood of her dying because she did not follow the doctor’s recommendation? Most people have compromised immune systems due to diet and poor lifestyle anyway, but taking antibiotics when your health is compromised will only make the problem later worse – even if it temporarily stops an infection in its tracks.
If you become sick and take antibiotics, you are really only wiping out all the bacteria in your body. You are not dealing with the underlying cause of the illness, which is why you became sick in the first place. This is why people get sick over and over again, even though they have taken antibiotics.
Viewing health holistically
It goes without saying that maintaining wellness isn’t just about curing yourself. It should be viewed holistically through a healthy diet to give your body the foundation with which to fight off viruses, bacteria, and fungal infections in the first place. It’s also about getting enough rest, drinking enough filtered water, staying active, and avoiding chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, pesticides, and other toxins in the environment.
Would I do things differently in the future? I certainly would. But antibiotics still wouldn’t be part of my solution. Next time I feel something coming on, I’ll react more quickly to implement a natural remedy, and be more aggressive about treatment instead of waiting a week or two. After finding the right treatment, it worked to eliminate my sinus problem because the pain was still severe the day I went into see the naturopath, and when I left her office, the pain was almost 100 percent eliminated. Then, after following recommendations from the naturopath and my neighbor, the infection was gone and did not return. Nothing else I had tried up to that point made much difference. So, never again will I believe otherwise – proactive measures are the best bet for staying healthy.
UPDATE 10/26/2012: This last spring I had a pretty severe sinus infection again, and this time it didn’t respond to using my neti pot with probiotics in it.
My solution was to get a clean dropper bottle with warm filtered water (filled maybe about halfway full) and add liquid minerals to it (8-10 drops). I used Best Process by Dr. Morter’s liquid minerals. I switched liquid minerals brands this year because I had used Concentrace liquid minerals for a number of years and they didn’t really work for me (adding it to water).
Then I heated up a hot pack with buckwheat hulls in it (purchased from the health food store), and heated it in the microwave (the only thing I use the microwave for). I lay down on my bed and placed the pack on my forehead and then tilted my head back, and took the dropper bottle and put anywhere from 10-12 drops in my nasal passages and just let it stay there for a few minutes. You can do this while hanging your head off the bed or prop up a pillow to support your head so you can lean it back. After a few minutes, I either just let it absorb naturally or go to the sink and spit it out.
My ND told me that getting those minerals up in the sinus cavity is critical to eliminating the infection. One of the primary causes of most disease is mineral deficiency, and if you look at how deficient our soils and foods are of these important elements, this makes sense. It may take some days or a week or more of doing this multiple times a day until your infection will go away, and I had to do this for about 8 days, but it did work for me.