Why Finding and Treating the Cause of Chronic Sinusitis Was My Path to Healing
By Erin Porter
For almost 25% of the population, there is a genetic T-cell abnormality present that creates a heightened sensitivity to mold. It’s actually more than a increased sensitivity, it makes that person 9,000 times more reactive to mold antigens due to the defect in the T-cell receptor site. It also creates an immune breakdown caused by the fungal antigens that triggers a person’s immune system to be on constant attack. Just think of your immune system trying and trying to do its job to “clear” the mold antigens from your body, but repeatedly being unsuccessful and never ceasing the attack. All sorts of things go haywire! Until I understood mold/fungus to be my immune system trigger or “cause” (as may also be the case for up to 93% of people with chronic sinusitis per the Mayo Clinic’s findings), I would spend sixteen years trying to eradicate constant sinus infections.
What follows is my story of linking mold to my chronic sinus infections and what I did to heal my body and reclaim my health. My hope is that my story will help you unravel the complicated process by which sinuses can become infected and the even more complicated process by which I was able to get well and recover.
Your Environment and the Air You Breathe Matters
I had everything going for me. I was 18 years old and had just landed a job in Manhattan. Moving away and escaping my difficult childhood had been my number one goal as a teenager—and here I was doing just that! Of course, with my limited budget, I had jumped at the first apartment I could afford and quickly settled in to my new life. What I didn’t know was that my choice of where to live would change the course of my life and health for years to come.
Yes, the apartment had roaches, even the occasional mouse, but neither were strangers to many New York tenants. Unfortunately, this apartment had something far worse than mice and roaches, it also came with visible mold. At the time, visible mold growth seemed very normal, almost common—I never thought twice about it. In fact, it would take me almost two decades to connect the mystery of my chronic illness with my exposure to the mold in that apartment.
The Beginning of My Chronic Sinusitis
Within a week or two of moving in, I developed a runny nose. It wasn’t your typical runny nose, though. I couldn’t physically bend my head forwards without watery sinus drainage embarrassingly dripping on the floor, the table, or even onto my clothes. Before long, I was taking over-the-counter sinus medications daily in an attempt to try to knock out the intense pressure in my head. When nothing worked, I knew it was time to make a doctor’s appointment. For those of you reading this who also struggle with chronic sinus infections, you already know what comes next: I left that appointment with a prescription for antibiotics. This marked the beginning of a consistent cycle of taking antibiotics to treat my recurrent sinus infections.
After nine months of living in my moldy apartment, I finally moved to a small but beautiful apartment where I was close to the gorgeous views of the New York skyline. There was only one problem, I was not only still sick with a sinus infection at this point, but my overall health was also taking a nosedive. I spent many a lunch hour running around to the best Ear, Nose, and Throat doctors in Manhattan, only to leave with more prescriptions for stronger antibiotics and now steroids too. After my first year on constant antibiotics, I developed chronic fatigue, heart arrhythmias, and severe joint, and muscle pain. The sinus infection seemed to be the least of my worries at this point. At the time, I was only 21-years old, but my life of sickness looked and felt very different than the lives of others my age around me. Physically I would often wake up feeling worse than when I went to bed and had to take every opportunity I could during my work hours to nap. The exhaustion was debilitating and was taking its toll. I would go on to be diagnosed with more illnesses and recurring viruses, but today I want to stick to the sinuses.
Mold/Fungus and Sinusitis
I had come to the point where I would do anything and spend amount to get better: sinus surgeries, (I had four), antibiotics, steroids, and even strange concoctions I would buy off the internet promising to clear sinus infections. I had no idea what was really in some of the concoctions or if they were even safe, but I was desperate. There wasn’t much I wouldn’t try. Allergy shots, acupuncture, more health supplements, more surgeries, colonics, infrared saunas, and much more, but I drew the line when an infectious disease doctor advised I have a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line put in my body in order to get stronger antibiotics around the clock. By this time, I knew in my heart that antibiotics were not only not helping but harming me in the long run. Some of the things I did in order to get well would prove to be very healing. For example, the infrared sauna and certain nutritional supplements, but until I could see the full picture of causation and what needed to be done, these interventions were merely Band Aids and simply were not enough.
Switching Gears to Treat the Cause
After enduring my fourth sinus surgery, I woke up with a sinus infection within one week. Instead of heading to the doctor’s office I headed over to a local health store and sobbed to the owner as I explained my predicament. She advised that I would have to heal my gut if I ever had any chance of healing my sinuses. I walked out of that store thinking that she had just given me the craziest advice I had ever heard. What could my “gut” possibly have to do with my sinuses? It would take almost two years for that concept to sink in. It turns out she was correct, as was Hippocrates some 2500 years ago when he said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
Seemingly that fourth sinus surgery had been a waste of time, money, and energy as I was still sick, but something positive did come from it. I was finally diagnosed with something in addition to my usual pseudomonas aeruginosa and staphylococcus aureus infections (two bacterial infections which are very, very tough to get rid of). My nasal cavity pathology had also cultured Curvalaria fungus. I was used to the bacteria, but fungus? This wonderful new ENT was not surprised at the fungal findings as he had taken one look at my CT scan during my first visit and told me I had one of the most severe fungal infections he had ever seen. This is when I took on the role of “researcher” to learn everything I could about mold and fungus. In my mind, I knew I would have to get to know my enemy to defeat it. Unfortunately, healing is not always linear, though, so just knowing my enemy was not going to be enough quite yet.
Out of sheer desperation, I was about to sign up for a fifth sinus surgery when, thank God, I found Dr. Donald Dennis in Atlanta. Ironically, he had performed my tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy sixteen years prior. (HERE is the story about my trip to see him, it really is an incredible story). Dr. Dennis helped me to understand that chronic sinusitis is a malfunction of the immune system in response to mold/fungus more than it is an infectious disease. Surgery would not be the thing to finally heal me, controlling my fungal load (environment, sinuses, and gut) would be.
So, now let’s move on to the exciting part, how to begin to get well! The main keys to recovering from chronic sinusitis (in my personal experience) are healing your gut, fungal load management, and addressing biofilms.
Healing the Gut
Leaky gut or intestinal hyperpermeability is when the intestinal lining which prevents toxins, bacteria, gluten, etc. from passing into our bloodstream is damaged. Damage can occur from things like toxins, mold, parasites, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS), antibiotics, excess alcohol, and dysbiosis, just to name a few. When the cellular gaps become wider, particles that would not normally pass into the bloodstream can easily get through. The body then detects these particles as foreign substances and triggers the immune system to activate causing inflammation.
In my case, the overuse of antibiotics had created dysbiosis or an imbalance in the normal flora or microbes that live in the gut. For example, antibiotics don’t just kill the bad bacteria but also destroy the beneficial bacteria in your gut as well. With the good bacteria that normally help to break down food and pathogens in check get killed off, the opportunistic bacteria and yeast, can gain a foothold, starting the disease process. Supplements like colostrum and probiotics can be wonderful gut-healing tools, as well as foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, bone broth, and broccoli. (Note: Not all people can handle fermented foods, especially those with histamine issues. It is always best to work with a skilled practitioner when treating gut issues.)
Of paramount importance for fungal sinusitis sufferers is also eating an antifungal diet, so that yeast cannot thrive in the body. I found Doug Kaufmann’s diet helpful for its guidance and simplicity. If you are ever looking for easy, great-tasting antifungal recipes, I feature many on my blog Eat, Pray, Get Well.
Fungal Load Management
You must also keep your fungal load down if you have chronic sinusitis. You want to concentrate on your home and other surroundings including your workplace and your car. It’s particularly important to fix any leaks and remedy all mold issues in your home.
After meeting Dr. Dennis, we got busy testing our home with mold plates.
We noticed our boys’ rooms had carpets with a high mold count (too numerous to count on the mold plates).
We got rid of the carpet and opted for wood floors. We then retested with mold plates and the air was clean.
We have also gotten into the habit of spraying our home (and cars) with EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate, and we even bought the EC3 Sanitizer Fogger in order to spray large areas quickly and to cover more ground. Quality air filters are also important for reducing allergens by removing particles like mold spores from the air and trapping them in a filter before you have a chance to breathe them in.
Equally important is keeping the mold count down on your clothes and bedding. To remove mold spores from all washables, the EC3 Laundry Additive is my go-to. Our home no longer has any sign of a mold problem. But mold is ubiquitous, and you can’t escape it entirely, so the more tools you have in your toolbox, the more control you have over your own health.
Treating Your Sinuses for Fungus
Since those words “you have a severe fungal infection” were first revealed to me, I realized I had to regain the balance of my microbiome and start to reduce the fungal load in my body too. I started with my nose since I had suffered many years from sinus infections. I realized bacteria were opportunistic and, until I could get the fungus under control, I would never be able to eradicate the infection. I spent many months using prescription Amphotericin B or Voriconazole in a nebulizer before irrigating with natural antifungals like CitriDrops Dietary Supplement. I also used Sinus Defense to lower my immune reaction to mold by when I am exposed. Sinus Defense also enables your immune system to recognize and efficiently deactivate and remove other triggers besides fungus such as bacteria and viruses that could be keeping you sick.
I know there are many of you out there who feel you have tried every antibiotic under the sun, but nothing works. Or maybe it did work for a short time only for the infection to return weeks after you finished your antibiotics. This is largely in part due to the bacteria’s (or fungi’s) ability to create something called biofilms. Bacteria and fungi are very sneaky, they will do whatever they can to stay alive. Biofilms are essentially a protective film that the bacteria or fungus creates around itself which makes it more difficult for them to be killed by the antibiotic or antifungal. Each time prescription antibiotics or antifungals are used, the bacteria and fungi become more adept at tolerating and withstanding the attack. Because of this increased tolerance, biofilms form and infections end up being chronic and harder to treat.
We can opt for supplements that can penetrate these biofilms. Colostrum is great for killing biofilms in the gut, and for the body and sinuses, proteolytic enzymes are great choice. Also wonderful for the sinuses is CitriDrops Nasal Spray which contains both Xylitol, a biofilm buster, and a natural antifungal. I have also gone the extra step in getting IV injections of glutathione, phosphatidylcholine, and certain vitamins to encourage my body to gently detox these mycotoxins out. Additionally, for people will a high toxic body burden from living in a moldy environment, it is also important to use binders. Once you kill the biofilms, follow up with a binder so, as toxins are released from the biofilms, they are bound and sequestered and do not reenter the bloodstream prior to excretion from your body. My favorite binders are charcoal, bentonite clay, and psyllium husk.
I pray my story brings you hope and gives you the tools to start your own healing process. I continue to share my journey, healthy recipes, and chronic illness insights on my blog www.eatpraygetwell.com. Please feel free to visit me there and say, “Hello.” My book Eat Pray Get Well – A journey from Chronic Illness, Brokenness, & Junk Food Junkie to Wholeness & Wellness is available now on Amazon and at www.eatpraygetwell.com. The forward was written by Doug Kaufmann, TV host of “Know the Cause.”