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Chronic Sinus Problems: Another Role for Probiotics?


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Almost 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis. Unfortunately, most conventional treatments are not effective and don’t address the underlying cause. Find out why probiotics may represent the future of treating chronic sinus problems.

probiotics for sinuses
Sinus pressure and pain can be debilitating. b-d-s/iStock/Thinkstock

Chronic sinusitis (also known as chronic rhinosinusitis, or CRS) is one of the most common human diseases, affecting 1 in 7 American adults. And like many other modern, chronic conditions, its prevalence appears to be increasing.

CRS is a debilitating and often intractable disease. Over 20 percent of patients are unresponsive to drug therapy, and up to 40 percent of patients do not respond to surgery.

The conventional viewpoint is that CRS is caused by the presence of certain harmful species of bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis. (1) In other cases, CRS may result from an immunologic reaction to fungi that colonize the sinuses. (2) Fungal species associated with this syndrome include Bipolaris specifera and Aspergillus, Curvularia, and Fusarium.

However, in a recent paper out of the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Susan Lynch demonstrated that the primary difference between patients with CRS and control subjects was not the presence of any particular pathogenic species (which both groups had in similar amounts), but the overall diversity of the sinus microbiome. (3)

This discovery has important implications for how we can successfully treat CRS, and I will come back to it later in the article. But first, let’s take a step back and discuss the sinus microbiome—since this may be the first time you’ve heard about it.

The Microbiome: It’s Not Just about the Gut!

If you’ve been following this blog, listening to my podcast, or have read my book, you’ll know that the gut microbiome is one of my favorite topics.

But I’m not alone. Even mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, and FOX News have done major stories on the gut microbiome and its importance in health and disease. It’s no longer an exotic concept that only scientists and health care professionals discuss; it’s now a household term.

Could probiotics be the answer to chronic sinusitis and nasal congestion?

Yet while it’s true that the majority of microbes that comprise our microbiome live in the gut, it’s also true that we have microbes in other areas of our bodies that play similarly important roles in maintaining health and preventing disease. These areas include the skin, vagina, penis, mouth, respiratory tract, and—you guessed it—the sinus cavity.

Prior to the development of DNA/PCR technology, our ability to determine the composition of microorganisms in these various areas was extremely limited. But thanks to recent advances in technology, we now have a much better idea of what “normal” and “abnormal” microbiomes look like—not only in the gut, but also on the skin and the penis and in the mouth, respiratory tract, and sinuses.

This understanding has profound implications for how we view the pathogenesis of diseases like CRS, and in turn, what treatment options might be available to patients in the future.

It’s the Forest That’s Important, Not the Trees

As I was reading Dr. Lynch’s seminal paper, I came across the following quote, which summarizes the importance of these recent discoveries and how they will change our approach to treating conditions that are microbial in their origin:

Because of extensive use of conventional laboratory culture approaches to detect microbial species, we have been conditioned to view chronic or acute infections as exclusively due to a single pathogenic species. However, recent studies have demonstrated that the composition of the resident microbiota in a given niche can strongly influence the behavior of specific species, particularly pathogens, and, as such, represents an important contributory factor to disease etiology.

The idea here is that it isn’t the presence of a particular pathogen that matters most, but rather the environment in which the pathogen is present. If you extend this idea to thinking about treatment approaches, it follows that focusing on eradicating a particular pathogen or species may be misguided, and that a better approach is restoring microbial diversity.

This has already become evident with the gut microbiome. Clostridium difficile is a virulent infection that still kills almost 30,000 people in the U.S. each year. We’ve thrown every antibiotic we have at it, but they are often ineffective in the most severe cases.

Yet fecal microbiota transplants—which are essentially massive infusions of human probiotics—are over 90 percent effective, even in cases where patients have failed multiple courses of antibiotics. (4)

If we apply this same reasoning to the treatment of CRS, it suggests that probiotics—rather than antibiotics—may be a better solution. Antibiotics may kill harmful species of bacteria, but they are likely to further reduce microbial diversity, which would be expected to worsen CRS over time if Dr. Lynch’s theory is correct.

With this in mind, let’s see what the research has to say about probiotics and sinus problems.

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Probiotics for Chronic Sinus Problems

As it turns out, there are several published studies suggesting that probiotics may be an effective treatment for chronic sinus problems.

One review in the Journal of Allergy found that “an emerging number of publications demonstrate beneficial effects using probiotics in clinical double-blind placebo-controlled trials in allergic rhinitis (AR).” (5) Although data on probiotics and non-allergic CRS are lacking, there are several lines of evidence to suggest that probiotics may be effective in these cases.

First, probiotics have been shown to disrupt biofilms, which are present in CRS and difficult to eradicate through other means. (6)

Second, both human and animal studies have shown that oral probiotics reduce colonization of the nose and upper respiratory tract by pathogenic bacteria (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and β-hemolytic streptococci). (7, 8)

Third, upper respiratory tract infections often precede the development of CRS, and probiotics have been shown to be effective in preventing them. (9)

Finally, although this is certainly not peer-reviewed evidence, I can tell you anecdotally from my work with patients that many CRS sufferers do seem to improve with strategies aimed at restoring the microbiome—such as eating more fermentable fiber and fermented foods, and/or taking prebiotics and probiotics.

Future Directions: Nasal Probiotic Sprays for Repopulating the Sinus Microbiome?

So far we’ve been talking about the role of oral probiotics in treating CRS. But if a disruption of the sinus microbiome is the true underlying cause of CRS, wouldn’t it make more sense to address that more directly?

Dr. Lynch found that most patients with CRS are lacking in a particular species of bacteria called Lactobacillus sakei. This bacteria is a natural, protective species in our nose, but (as the name implies) it is also used to make certain fermented beverages and foods like sake and kimchi.

One might suspect that Dr. Lynch and her peers are developing a nasal spray that contains Lactobacillus sakei to be used in the treatment of CRS. Of course such a treatment will have to be developed and tested for safety and effectiveness in human clinical trials.

Given that this may take several years, some folks have decided to take matters into their own hands, er, noses.

A blog called Lacto Bacto, which is written by CRS sufferer Mara Silgailis, describes a DIY approach that appears to have helped many people with CRS. It involves putting small amounts of kimchi juice directly into the nostrils. According to Mara, she has essentially cured herself and her family of their long-term CRS, and they have been antibiotic-free for more than two years.

Along the same lines, I’ve heard anecdotal reports from patients and people online who have created DIY nasal probiotic sprays and even crushed up probiotic tablets and sniffed them, achieving somewhat miraculous results.

Of course I can’t recommend or endorse these procedures, because they haven’t been tested for safety or efficacy. It would seem that the risk is relatively low, but it’s at least possible that some of the other microbes in kimchi or other oral probiotics may not be beneficial for the sinus microbiome. We’re really just starting to scratch the surface in this area of research, and there’s still a lot that we don’t understand. So if you decide to perform these experiments at home, proceed at your own risk!

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Join the conversation

  1. I started taking a probiotic years ago to prepare for a trip to Mexico. When I escaped Montezuma’s revenge and my husband did not, I knew I had a new supplement for life. Finally a great side effect…it also took care of my spring and fall sinus infections! I had been getting them for years and finally, FINALLY, they ceased! I completely contribute them to my daily use of probiotics. My kids have had the same result and I am so thrilled to be rid of that annoying chronic illness!

  2. I have opened up a capsule and poured it on the back of my tongue and let it dissolve. It stopped the sinus drainage and pain in the back of my throat in minutes. This makes so much sence to add good bacteria to overtake the bad. I have suffered with migraines and need to keep my sinuses clear to prevent the migraines so……this is a life saver.

  3. I confess. I have snorted kimchee. It is the most uncomfortable experience I have ever loved outside of having babies. I’m curious as to what role the actual peppers have in helping clear a sinus infection since putting Tabasco or another hot sauce on my food helps temporarily by reducing the congestion. I wish we could use another probiotic but unfortunately I think the pepper is important as well. I wish I’d read this article before my daughter chose her science fair project!

    • Studies suggest that the garlic, and also ginger and leek (and perhaps other seasonings) are the source of the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus sakei in kimchi that treats sinusitis.
      Over the course of fermentation the L. sakei multiplies with some studies suggesting (and my experiences) from about day 14 to about 2 1/2 or 3 months. And then dies down. (the study is discussed more at the Lacto Bacto site).
      This is why sauerkraut doesn’t work to treat sinusitis – no spices, no garlic, no seasonings – and no L. sakei.

  4. My only concern with instilling probiotics nasally is the cellulose that is in with the cultures. Wouldn’t this cause a problem? I REALLY want to do this, but need some reassurance that it will not cause a problem.

    • One would inhale a few droplets of the liquid per nostril when using kimchee. I can’t imagine inhaling a crushed tablet is a great idea because of the cello lose or whatever might be added to the tablet. A spray would be the way to go.

  5. Hi Chris,
    Can’t believe I found this blog! I’m dealing with the ‘remnants’ of severe sensitivities due to long standing non-allergic rhinitis ( age 7) that , due to work in questionable school environments, seemed to snowball after working in ( and most likely being anxious about) a ‘water infused’ school building . I still have issues with mold, dust, occasional bleach, cigarette smoke ( even on clothes) . Soooo much better after mindfulness training, natural heavy metal detox , etc ( also I probably had 140 courses at least of antibiotics over many years until three years ago when I went off all medications and replaced with amazing essential oils and a natural sinus regime and a much healthier diet with some fermented foods, drinks, etc).These issues are presently limiting me from finding per diem jobs because you can never find the perfect environment ( I’m an SLP) My doctors have been talking about probiotics for several years, but never explaining their benefits and I was always too busy or sick to feel like looking up what probiotics could do for you. My natural path and reflexologist are now saying that probiotics could really decrease my sinus issues/nasal reactivity. I’m ready and praying! Just curious about your insight.
    Thanks very much,

    • Probiotics used intranasally are magnificient. Please take some precautions:
      1.- google Nasal irrigation – adverse effects – wikipedia
      2.- google biofilms – nih…..then on the search engine….biofilms for the complete picture…..This is the real reason probiotics in the nasal cavities can not adhere at ounce and for all…you have to get rid of biofilms…research is still fresh….but colloidal silver ionic 50/50 with colloidal silver nano will almost get rid of biofilms, ionic silver will take care of bacteria and silver nano of fungi/mold/yeast. Some other component will aid colloidal silver to compleately eliminate biofilms. Research is being underway with fantastic results….but for the time being silver is more than enough till the probiotics enter in the batle…
      Best regards,

    • I’m a speech therapist with health issues also including chronic sinusitis. It’s impossible to find a good work environment like you stated so I’ve had to seek lots of medical care so that I can tolerate the terrible working conditions we have in our public schools. I recently did a nasal swab test that was only $150 and discovered I have a staph infection in my sinuses. I’m treating with silver and compounded antibiotics that I run through a nasal nebulizer. It’s the only way that the medicine gets into my sinuses. The sprays never worked for me. Anyways, just wanted to say I feel you sister trying to work in the school setting!

  6. I have read the mentioned article and used kimchi juice to colonise my sinuses with the b sakei and my chronic sinusitis for 35 yrs has vastly improved. I first of all used a saline nasal rinse combined with two drops of oregano oil ( strong antimicrobial and antibiotic) for a few days and then started using the kimchi juice (home made was best) to recolonise my sinuses. I first did this a few months ago and recently noticed my sinuses we reverting back and re-dosed them again with the kimchi juice – I have been amazed at how effective it has been

  7. I’m taking liquid probiotics ‘BIO-K’ and i’ve seen improvements in my sinuses, even my hearing has improved.

      • You can get bio-k at whole foods and I’ve even seen it at my local CVS in the pharmacy. It’s refrigerated. I gargle with a bit before bed when I have a cold and think it has made a difference, though hard to say as I take a ton of supplements and medications. However, it absolutely has worked like a dream with digestive upset and when every one else in my family had the stomach flu.

  8. This makes a lot of sense and also corresponds to how people with reflux (poor digestion and gut issues) get a lot of sinus problems.

    • Which came first, though… Sinus or gut issues? I’m wondering this as I have an autoimmune condition.

  9. Probiotics have changed my life. I wlways thought they were for stomach issues but then heard about the research for sinus problems. Like many of the folks here I suffered with sinus infections and terrible colds all of the time. I started using Udo’s Super 8 (42b) and within a month it made a huge difference. No more Flonase, rarely do I take sudafed anymore! My husband and daughter started taking them too. My 6 yo hasn’t been sick since–and she’s been exposed to every cold at school! My husband has been sick once. When we feel something coming on we take more–up to 3 a day. I’ve been known to take 2 at a time and that seems to kick most things out right away.

    I finally caught my first bad cold in over a year and tried adding my probiotic to my sinus cleanser machine–think neti pot but electric. I actually had to pull the machine out of the cupboard since I hadn’t used it. Anyway, adding the probiotic seemed to make a difference for sure. Not out of the woods just yet.
    I would highly recommend taking a strong probiotic if you get sinus infections and colds. I do think you need to give it a month because you may not see results right away. I was about to schedule sinus surgery but was so lucky this worked. I think Udo’s is great. I’ve also taken VSL after a colonoscopy per my nurse practitioner and I thought it worked great as well.

    Good luck!!

  10. Stop eating dairy! You’ll start seeing a difference after 3 days. I stopped coughing after 2 weeks of no dairy. Plus you’re doing your body a favor as dairy is cancerous.

  11. I saw a ‘medical intuitive’ this last Sunday (yes, I had never heard of such a person before…my friend had an event with this woman who read each of us in a separate room). She pinpointed all of my physical issues within a few minutes, one being sinus inflammation. She recommended sniffing/snorting a very small amount of probiotic powder from a capsule and yes, I tried it and yes, it makes a huge difference. I breathe much better and it took away the puffiness/darkness underneath my eyes. Only do this after cleansing the sinuses with a neti pot.

    • Hilary —

      Thank you for sharing. I read your post, The power of patient reported feedback: Part 1, but did not see any mention to your comment here regarding whether or not we know what we are doing with probiotics (though I found your post to be very interesting and helpful). I have been suffering from CFS/ME for a very long time and am desperately trying to find help.

      Recently, I have become fascinated by the gut microbiome because a round of antibiotics has drastically altered it and worsened my CFS which was manageable for many years.

      Would you mind elaborating on your comment?

  12. Any suggestions for sudden-onset seasonal allergies? I was eating Paleo, doing really well, off of Zyrtec for five months, and then BOOM: post-nasal drip filling my lungs every night, messing with my sleep. Is there a Paleo version of Zyrtec? Neti pot did nothing. Thank you!

  13. I am currently taking floxacillin for a sinus infection that won’t go away. The pharmacist told me to take a probiotic with the medication because the antibiotics kill the bacteria in the gut which leads to diarrhea. The probiotic is supposed to prevent the diarrhea but oddly enough I found that after taking the probiotic, my sinuses cleared up and I could breathe fantastic. I’m going in for a CT scan in a couple weeks so I’m hoping the infection is gone and I can just use the probiotic moving forward!

    • Which probiotic did you take that cleared up your sinusitis? I take organic apple cider vinegar. It takes away the pain and cogestion, but I get very itchy eyes instead. I think I need an effective probiotic.

      • Is it possible you’re sensitive to the apple itself somehow? Apples are high in salicylates. Salicylates cause a lot of problems in salicylate sensitive people, especially mood and behavior problems. Also, is it organic acv? Apples are notorious for containing pesticide residues because insects love to eat them as they’re developing on the tree. Maybe your having trouble with a pesticide. Also, know that you don’t have to be clinically allergic to get itchy eyes or another seemingly allergic reaction from something.

    • Doug:
      Quit antibiotics as soon as possible since you are killing the bad bacteria as well as the rest of the good bacteria, if there is any left in your gut and organs, specially your nasal cavities. Use colloidal ionic/nano intranasally for 3 days along with probiotics intranasally as well as a potent probiotic supplement orally.
      Continue intranasally for 7 days, stop for a week and restart for another week, and then stop for good. In the case of the oral supplementation continue for at least 3 months until you learn how to treat biofilms in the digestive track. Probiotics in the digestive track in the presence of biofilms just pass by aiding only in digestive issues and is still unknown if it adheres to the intestinal menbranes. It is a hot isse at this time in medicine…..but the near future is fantastic news. Until you deal with intestinal biofilms, reduce the dose a 1/3 of the potent dose, and I warn you Doug, DO NOT EVER TAKE PROBIOTICS ORALLY UNLESS YOU FEED THE BILLIONS OF NEW GOOD BACTERIA YOU ARE ADDING TO YOUR FLORA AND THE BILLIOMS THAT THEY REPRODUCE DAILY!!!! Fiber,fiber,,fiber…ONLY FROM FRUITS, VEGETABLES AND ROOT VEGETABLES……NEVERRRRRRRR from grains and legumes since lectins in grains, whole or refined, legumes prepared or not, will destroy your intestinal lining and destroy your inmune system with unknown outcomes.
      People are crazy after probiotics supplements and for the best of all reasons….HEALTH, but most MDs do not tell them that starved bacteria increasing by the billions daily will end up eating the food that is supposed to be for the body and eventually eat glucose, proteins and others that are in the tissues and eventually acting as carnivores. They will migrate to the small colon searching for food and creating inmense damage to the digestive system, they can even end up in the stomack destroying th liver,pancreas and the rest is history…..
      Best wishes for you….
      Best wishes for you…….

      Note: It is my greatest desire that Chriss could evaluate these tips that NOOOOO site in the net addreses. Hope He be the first to take them into account.

      • Hi, very interested in your comment. When you mention taking probiotics intranasally, could you give us some advice around which probiotics you advise and how to take them intranasally? Thanks

      • What do you mean? I took antibiotics with probiotics with my surgery because of dirraarr also the nurse told me too. That’s how I started taking probicticis. Is that what makes the biofilm?? I’m worried now, I’ve been taking probicticis since August 8th 2016 I eat a lot but I don’t go to the bathroom everyday Iike I did after surgery. Please explain to me why you told Doug not to take probiotics till he got the biofilm out. I’m new to this I have a sinus infection also but I’m worried now if there is biofilm in my gut. I have a lot of stomach pain. Please explain this to me. Thank you so much.

  14. I have had chronic sinus problems since I was a child but recently I was dealing with an infection that wouldn’t go away and I happened to accidentally sniff up a bunch of sea water. The next day I felt much better. I have used the Neil med with the packets but now I create a super hypertonic solution and rinse my sinuses but then inhale it deeply into the cavity while titling my head to the various areas I feel pressure and it works like a charm. It does burn but I think doing this occasionally when everyone else in my family is sick and I can feel it (taste it) coming on is probably ok. I hope this helps others as I can’t believe I didn’t discover this hypertonic rinse idea until now. Oh yes, and right before going to bed I gargle with a very salty mixture and then don’t drink anything. I feel like the virus or bacteria is prevented from infecting my tonsils like the salt acts as a natural barrier. Hope this helps.

  15. One thing that has helped me greatly and may help others is a regular (2 x per week) bath with added Tea Tree oil. It was prescribed by my Chiropractor/Kinisiologist when I was having sinus problems from mold/fungus. I add 12 drops to a warm bath as it is filling. I spend about 15 minutes in the tub. The oil gets in the steam enters the sinuses that way. Some of it also enters the sinus by way of the bath water. It is very gentle! (Using Tea Tree in a more direct way can be very damaging to the mucous membranes.) It is a simple remedy that leaves me feeling super refreshed all over and clears my sinuses completely.

    • “Using Tea Tree in a more direct way can be very damaging to the mucous membranes.”

      Jessica’s statement would appear to imply that the advice I have given here could be harmful, as an emulsion of *several* (even up to 15 or so) drops of essential oils, including tea tree oil in 500ml of warm water is indeed a more direct application, certainly, than the vapors from an oiled bath.

      So, let me make this clear: that implication is quite incorrect, and could scare some people away from the strength of treatment that they may NEED. If an oil-infused bath works for you, fine! but where’s the evidence that the dilute emulsion treatment I suggested (being that it is indeed “more direct”) is “very damaging” to the sinus tissues? Certainly, a non-diluted application of tea tree oil, or any other essential oil for that matter, is very ill-advised…but no one has advised that, of course. You know IS very damaging to the sinus tissues? Chronic infection.

      • Correction: warm saline solution….as previously indicated. The salt is, of course, what allows fine emulsion of the oils.

      • the oil can’t enter the sinuses “by way of the bath water”. I’m glad the steam helps you, though!

  16. Mara (and any other interested parties), please see the reply I just made to Ricketyrack today. It has update. Also, while I’m feeling normal as far as the infection goes, I do not know if my left maxillary sinus is still occluded, just not infected. After about a month more of doing the protocol I have described, I am going to get another sinus scan and see if the sinus is clear (as well as not feeling infected, as it does not now seem to be.) I will let you all know. In any event, at a minimum, I feel confident about clearing a sinus infection to the point of no pain & appearing open for me to breathe easily.

      • Chris, Yes, I am better–the terrible pain, all over the left side of my face and head, including what felt like a toothache, evaporated within minutes of my sniffing about 13B probiotic in my left nostril. I can breathe easily. I only sniffed the pro b in my left nostril because I knew, through 2 cat scans, that it was my left maxillary sinus that has been occluded for at least 8 years. However, when I visited my naturopath about a week later, she said I should sniff it up both nostrils before I go to bed (and I leave it in all night). She also instructed me to neti a capsule in each nostril earlier in the day, and to ingest the same pro b after a meal. I do all of this, and more. I have also been researching sinus biofilm eradication, which is almost certainly an issue here, and I will write more about my findings later today or in the next few days. If you are going to sniff the Pure encapsulations pro b, it is Essential to buy it from an entity that has kept it Refrigerated. (Unfortunately Amazon does not keep it refrigerated.) Otherwise, there may not be enough potent bac to do the job. I really do not know if all the other stuff I am doing is necessary. It was about 1/4 capsule of the pro b that cleared the pain n a few minutes, and I only used even less than that for about a week subsequently, with no return of pain, until I had my naturopath visit, and she instructed the major increase, as well as some other things. PS I have NO financial association to Pure encapsulations. I have more to say, but time pressures force me to stop now.

        • Thx, Carol. I sniffed a refrigerated Jarrow probiotics and boy did that hurt. I just noticed it had a list of other ingredients. I have an Ultimate Flora 50 billion that I might try. It only has vegetable cellulose added. I’m waiting to get the l. Sakai in the mail to try. The kimchi I tried didn’t seem to help. There is a wash called Alkalol with a blend of oils. It might help break up biofilms but it also would kill any good bacteria so I am wondering if I should be using it. I was overdoing it with tea tree because I could feel my mucous membranes break down. Most importantly I am praying because that worked for me last year when I woke up healed and had a whole year healed. Thx for your comment.

          • Maybe we need to weed, seed and feed as in bowel protocols to eradicate the biofilm. Oils first then in with the probiotics and other co-factors?

            • Carol, I tried probiotics and apple cider vinegar up my nose and I got dramatically worse. So please be careful experimenting, folks. My jaw and teeth started hurting. Don’t know which thing it was that did it but it felt like my head was getting taken over by bacteria.

              • Hi Chris,

                All probiotics are not created equal. Most I would not put up my nose. It is only the Pure Encapsulations 50B probiotic that one has picked up from an doc office where it has been chilled during delivery and kept chilled in office refrigerator, and you keep it chilled on the drive home, and then into your refrig. Then it has the live bacteria you may need. (I have no connection to this company; my naturopath rec’d this. Also, since I was feeling better, I stopped using the probiotic and only neti potted in the eve. After about a month I felt the tooth ache feeling that for me presages a sinus infection. Hoping it would go away on its own, I waited until one night when I was awakened by toothache pain I could not ignore. I ran to the frig and sniffed 1/4 capsule of the Pure Encapsulations probiotic, and again within 5 minutes, I was fine, and went back to sleep. So now I am sniffing 1/4 capsule of the Pure Enc. probiotic every night. Also, since I apparently still have a biofilm issue, my naturopath has me taking Interfase Plus 2X day as well as Lysine, and on this coming Mon. she is going to do some special essential oil up the nose treatment that I will then have to subsequently do at home myself to break up the biofilm. But, importantly, I am not in any pain or discomfort. Still I want the biofilm gone, even if I can not feel it. (It showed up on x-ray as a still occluded left maxillary sinus–even though I was essentially symptom free.)

  17. I had horrible sinus infections multiple times per year for a decade or so and it was only getting worse and I was reaching a place of true despair. I knew that regular oral antibiotics ravaged the normal healthy microbe ecology so I would try to do without but I would be so sick that I’d give in, again and again, just to get better THAT time. I read Dr Grossan’s articles (an ebook on sinus issues), bought his sinus irrigator machine, and figured that the obvious best route to deliver antibiotics to the relatively avascular sinus tissues was NOT through the blood stream but the DIRECT route: flood the sinus cavities. But, what antibiotics? That’s easy: essential oils! Changed my life. This method quickly gets rid of sinus infections! I haven’t really had one for years…I have felt one or two coming on, but they didn’t get a chance. See, because my immune system has had a chance to heal. It took me a few years with the irrigator / essential oils method before I stopped getting the infections. In other words, for those few years I would get the infection but it would be much less severe. Now, I started out using thyme, clove stem, cinnamon leaf and then I later added eucalyptus but now after tons of experience if I had to recommend just one oil it would be, hands down, tea tree for it’s soothing anti-inflammatory properties, along with the antimicrobial. How, exactly? That’s easy! Your warm saline solution emulsifies the oils well enough, so just add a few drops, and rinse away. If you have a really bad infection, then go heavier on the oils. ..add more drops. It may burn some, but it’s temporary and sometimes you need to “go nuclear”…I found that out the hard way once. I was in despair because I thought my remedy had stopped working, as a particularly nasty infection wasn’t responding. Then it hit me: everything is about dosage, no reason it should be any different with this method. So I put like 3x the amount of oils, and man did it burn! (that was back when I was using cinnamon leaf) But it was a good burn…I quickly got better, I swear I was feeling better almost right away, and within the hour I was like a different person. So now I just tell anyone who will listen, I know how SICK and MISERABLE sinus infections can make a person…but there’s a solution. Now, I drink homemade kefir everyday and am enjoying my “new” immune system…totally sinus infect free.

    • Hi Ricketyrack,

      Thank you for your post–very interesting and useful. I want to mention that while tea tree oil is wonderful for many issues, the only oil that I know of that has been shown to kill pseudomonas, which is what my nose culture reflected, is basil oil. My naturopath has me applying basil oil (with carrier oil) as deep as I comfortably can up into my sinuses in the morn 2 or 3 times, and then in the late afternoon doing 2 neti pots of my probiotic, eating one capsule of the same probiotic after the late afternoon/eve meal, and then sniffing 20B (each nostril) of the same probiotic right before I go to bed, leaving the probiotic in the nostrils overnight. I am continuing to improve, and the facial/head pain has not returned since I started this procedure. The pain and fatigue I experienced before doing this probiotic sniffing was very bad. (I also take a lot of immune boosting supplements & others & eat a rigorously healthy diet–veggies, mushrooms, beans, fruits, seeds, no meat, 2 small servings of omega 3 fish/wk, and exercise 6 days/wk.) I am very lean and fit. While I have only had 3 (terrible) sinus infections in 2 years, a CAT scan done for a skiing accident 8 years ago also showed a completely occluded left maxillary sinus. But, as I said, I did not have any sinus infection until the first one 2 years ago. Non holistic ent’s I at first sought help from all (3 of them) said I would have to have sinus surgery; however, my naturopath thinks I can do this (heal) w/o the surgery–and I think she is right.

      • Hi Carol,
        Thanks for your appreciation. You are right, pseudomonas resist being killed by tea tree oil. One definitely must to be ready to try different oils and/or read up on which microbes are best killed by which oils. Personally, I viewed using 3-5 different oils at once as a “broad spectrum antibiotic” approach. I never had a culture taken to see what kind of microbes I was fighting. Maybe I should have left out the “if I had to pick one” recommendation, as this might be a specious one that misleads people into thinking that will surely be all need. Wrong…maybe it will, maybe it won’t. I’ll rephrase it: Now that I seldom get full -blown sinus infections, it seems like a little tee tree oil saline rinse is all I need to fend off early signs of one. This happened in the summer of 2014, we were camping in the redwoods of N Cali. I started getting early signs of getting sick. I thought “oh, shoot!”, but made sure we got to a health food store ASAP which wasn’t hard, we hit a great one in Eureka. There I bought the highest quality tea tree oil I had ever had…it was really special, just potent and fresh beyond belief. Anyway, I had no paraphernalia, so I just eyeballed a pinch of sea salt, warm water and some goodly drops of the oil into an empty water bottle, stuck it to my nostril on one side and put my head down while half standing/crouching and inhaled the warm saline rinse into my sinuses. Switch sides, repeat. Yeah…I git better, FAST. I was so freaking relieved, too, because we were on vaca, across the continent from home, visiting a good friend we rarely see…being sick THEN would have been extra miserable and inconvenient.

        Anyway, re: picking the oils. As I think I mentioned, tee tree should be considered not just for the antimicrobial property, but also for the anti-inflammatory, which is very powerful. It is a “soothing” oil. This is very important in most sinus conditions, as there will be significant inflammation and the faster you can get things calmed down, the faster the healing. In fact, a lot of people get sinus infection that arise primarily from an allergic reaction…I was one of these. I had some allergies that affection my sinuses that would then “spark” a sinus infection. The tissues become inflamed, the sinus spaces get occluded, no air no drainage…boom. Bad news. Same thing when colds and flus are the initial cause. Everything that caused my sinuses to inflame would cause a subsequent nasty infection. Now that I have “healed all up”, even my allergies seem to have pretty much gone away, knock on wood.

        Having a crush injury that causes occlusion to the sinus space is very worrisome, for the reasons I just pointed out. My advice, and I’m sure your naturopath would probably concur, is to get strong anti-inflam action right up into the tissues. Because of that occlusion your maxillary sinuses need all the “breathing room” they can get, and can’t afford to be swollen. You should definitely look into a Grossan HydroPulse irrigator to make sure you get maximum delivery of the medicinal oils, and optimized mechanical pulse action to the cilia…and please consider tee tree oil for it’s “soothing” property. It may not be right for you, but it won’t hurt to try it, either…that’s the really nice thing about it.

        • The problem with tea tree oil is it’s very astringent, which can be too drying to the sinuses. I’d recommend coconut oil instead.

        • tea tree can be so strong drying reactive, and cause inflammation, but you are right that a lot times sinus inflammation rages on and gets the turbinites to close. Mast cell histamine allergen can be there causing issues and people try blast sinus with things that cause more histamine response. calming inflammation should be number 1 thing to do.

    • Mara, thanks so much for the info. I’m on my fouth antibiotic for a current infection and am desperate for alternatives. Ricketyrack, do you find water gets stuck in your head with the nasal irrigators? I’m concerned about water being forced up there. How many drops and how frequently do you use oils in your irrigators? I’m hoping to irrigate and alternate with kimchi.

      • Hi Chris. The saline solution doesn’t get “stuck” in your sinuses…but I have had it happen, once in a while, that I’d bend over after having recently rinsed, and a good tablespoon of water would suddenly drain from my nose…this could be embarrassing in the wrong situation! But, there is a path for the water into the sinuses, so there is a path out. This “leftover water” is not a problem and if you just bend over on purpose a few times to drain it after rinsing you’ll probably avoid any “inconvenient” draining later on.
        As far as drop dosage, start with a couple-few and see how it goes. If you are using several oils together then you can probably stay with just a few drops each. If you are using just one oil, you could go up. I’ve easily had 10 to 15 drops total in a 500 ml rinse, on a “heavy” day. I hope you’ve read my earlier comment about dosage. Don’t be afraid to go nuclear if you have to. More oils may cause a burning sensation, will make your eyes red…this is very short-lived, though.
        Frequency: depends on the severity of the illness. Part of “going nuclear” in a very severe case will be to use the oils more often. If I was really sick I would rinse with heavy doses of oil 3 times per day. If I was on the mend, I would dial back the oils, maybe switching to no oils just rinsing, or tea tree ONLY to calm the inflammation. Some of the antibiotic oils may be a little irritating, so you don’t want to keep using them longer than necessary. Tea tree, in my experience, is an anti-inflammatory topical.

        • I have to disagree somewhat about saline solutions ‘getting stuck’. Saline rinses can indeed dry out already dry sinuses, so in a way, could get ‘stuck’ there.

          A mixture of sodium and potassium bicarbonate is probably a better solution. And then it’s important to restore the microbiome as mentioned as well…

    • I also swear by steaming with essential oils! When I feel a sinus infection or cold coming on, I steam over a pot of oil of Oragano , tea tree and Olbus oils. Hurts like crazy, but works every time. I’ve avoided antibiotics this way for years now, and I used to get infections about 3x per year. The antibiotics destroyed my gut and now I have an autoimmune condition I’m fighting. Wish steaming could get that under control!

  18. This is really intriguing. And it connects to something I really, really, really wish you would write an article about. (Hint hint).

    I am a treatment free sustainable beekeeper. And after starting to keep bees I learned to my surprise that honey is not “antibacterial” as commonly believed. Rather it’s a very powerful live fermented food that contains several lactobacilli not found anywhere else except in bees’ honey crops. Bees go through an elaborate process of fermenting and dehydrating honey before sealing it in the honeycomb.

    I’d love to see someone who really understands this stuff write a serious article about the probiotics in honey. There is very little information out there, even in specialized beekeeping literature, about the specific lactobacilli bees produce or whether there is any overlap between them and human gut flora. But beekeepers generally agree that the old wives’ tale is true: feeding someone a teaspoon of local honey every day really does cure seasonal allergies. I always assumed this was because you were basically innoculating them with tiny doses of pollen with the honey.

    But maybe it’s the lactobacilli after all?

    I also can’t help wondering about the real role of honey in Paleo diets. There are cave paintings going back to the Paleolithic of honey hunts. And most traditional cultures consider honey a powerful medicinal product quite apart from its sweet taste.

    Let’s call it a gut feeling but I wonder sometimes if honey might have been honey was the first probiotic supplement? There’s certainly no doubt that gorging on raw stolen honey a few times a year would certainly have been a powerful reset for paleolithic hunters’ gut flora!

    Anyway … hopefully I’ve piqued your interest and I might get to read more about this on the website sometime???

  19. Nice article. As was discussed, the key ingredient in treating chronic sinusitis is Lactobacillus sakei because it dominates over other microbes.
    My family and people writing to me at lactobacto.com have reported it in some kimchis, one sausage starter culture, and the product Lactopy (from Korea). When it’s in a product, the results seem miraculous.
    We’ve had excellent results, but it is self-experimentation.
    I would love to hear from people if they have found other products that also contain L. sakei.
    Or other probiotics that successfully treat chronic sinusitis.

    • Mara, Please see my comments on Aug 23 & 24. My probiotic does not contain L.sakei, but was, for me, “miraculous” within a few minutes. My naturopath has worked out a daily routine for me, also including basil essential oil (because Dr. Tieraona Low Dog says this kills some strains of pseudomonas, which is what my nasal culture reflected). My naturopath also has me taking a lot of other supplements, and I eat a rigorously healthy diet, and exercise a LOT. But what stopped the pain (it has not returned) was immediately upon sniffing the probiotic up my nose. I had just read Chris’ article
      and was desperate. I know you affect a lot of people, and I want others to know this may make a big difference for them.

      • Carol: This is great to hear! Yes, when the right bacteria get up in the sinuses, the improvement can feel miraculous!
        I would like to know when you feel the sinusitis is fully successfully treated. How many weeks? And what happens when you finally stop using the probiotic in the nose? Do the sinuses continue feeling fine or will it relapse?
        Also, do you put the probiotic into the nostrils dry or dilute in nonchlorinated or bottled water?

        The original L. sakei researchers (Abreu et al) said chronic sinusitis sufferers have less diversity of microbes in their sinuses, as well as lacking L. sakei (which they view as a “keystone species”).
        So it seems that one or more of these bacteria in the probiotic may be some of the “missing community of species”.
        By the way, this is interesting because I, and a number of people writing me, have tried smearing various probiotics in the nostrils and nothing has worked so far.
        Please give a progress report either here or on the lactobacto.com web-site.
        I will wait to write about it until a little more is known about your progress with it.
        And I will definitely order the probiotic to try it out.

        Another possibility is combining treatments to get a community up in the sinuses. Recently two family members successfully did that – first a kimchi treatment, followed by a Bactoferm F-RM-52 (mixed with bottled water) treatment several hours later. It worked great – only had to do that 3 days in a row to be successfully treated. (We only get sinusitis after a virus these days – and it’s no longer severe like it was years ago).
        Yes, we’re still doing self-experimentation.

        • Mara, I will write more when I have a little time. I am writing now to make sure you (& others) know that the probiotic I use (Pure encapsulations 50B) MUST be refrigerated to be effective. While you can buy it online, like at Amazon, this would be a waste of money because they do NOT refrigerate it. Buy it from some naturopath office or the like where they keep it refrigerated. (I bring a chilled container to drive home with it.) And I break apart the capsule and sniff it up my nose with about a 2″ straw. It burns a little at first, but I’m used to it and that, for me, is a small price to pay. If you go to FB and message me, I will send you my phone #, and we can talk. It takes a long time to write out everything relevant. I am the Carol Hemingway in Santa Barbara, CA.

          • Carol, I went to Pure’s website and there are many choices of probiotics there. I want to see what the bottle looks like that you are using before I go out looking to buy it in Reno, NV in a refrigerated condition. Can you show me the link to the actual product you use from this website, please?

            • Hi Ursula, I just saw your question. On the Pure website, there is a “search” button space. Type in “Probiotic 50B,” and you will see the product I use. Good luck!

          • Hi Carol, Thanks for your message on board regarding probiotics internasally. I am dealing with chronic sinus issues. Have done a couple rounds of bioxin with prednazone with really helped first time but recently not effective. I just feel blah with little energy at 62. I have read about Bactofin FRM52 along with a good probiotic.(ie BioK; Udo Super 8-42b; oe colloidal ionic/nano nasal sprays. But many have strongly advocated Sunjai White Kimichi too. Pls help 🙂 Thx

            • Paul:
              Research finds that the microbial community is out of whack (dysbiosis) in sinusitis. Antibiotics kill off bacteria, but using Bactoferm F-RM-52 is adding bacteria (Lactobacillus sakei).
              Using that alone (mixed a little with bottled water), OR kimchi alone (dab/smear a little of the juice in nostrils) may get you back to feeling normal.
              Try a local kimchi first to see if that works (cheaper and easier than ordering).

              There is no evidence that swallowing probiotics gets the desired bacteria to the sinuses. But swishing dissolved probiotic bacteria in the mouth (and then not eating drinking for a while) may help. People have tried this with various multi-strain probiotic supplements (self-experimentation).

              But…do not use baby shampoo, xylitol, antibiotics, or anything that kills bacteria when trying a L. sakei product (the Bactoferm F-RM-52, kimchi). It beats the whole purpose of adding bacteria to the nostrils (they then travel up to the sinuses).

        • Mara

          I suffer from chronic sinusitis for the past 16 years. I do daily nasal rinses and it seems help. But I still keep getting sinus infection. Where can I buy the Kimchi? I make homemade Kimchi and not sure if it has the appropriate strain.

          Where can I buy the correct Kimchi or Lactopy?

          Thx, Tessy

          • I recently posted an update to a post with kimchi brands that have worked for people, sausage starter culture Bactoferm F-RM-52, and Lactopy information. http://lactobacto.com/2015/01/12/the-one-probiotic-that-cures-sinusitis/
            I personally would try kimchi brands (to see if one brand works) that are locally available (e.g., Whole Foods) because that is the easiest to do and I know the product has been refrigerated since it was produced.
            Lactobacillus sakei can be killed off during shipping – so I always get 2 day shipping for either kimchi or the Bactoferm F-RM-52.
            I order the Bactoferm from sausagemaker.com because that is the closest supplier to me – and then I put it in the freezer.
            Please look at my Sinusitis Treatment Summary page to see how we used the products.
            Lactopy can be ordered through the dj-prostore site, but they don’t ship to all locations.

            The amazing part is that getting the probiotic L. sakei in our nostrils/sinuses has meant being successfully treated without having to do anything else at all – no other supplements, no oils, no dietary changes, no antibiotics, etc.