Chronic Sinusitis: The First Time Western Medicine Failed Me
My Early Years
The first time I realized Western medicine had failed me was in the late 1990s. By 1998, I’d had about 12 rounds of antibiotics for chronic sinusitis and sinus infections in the preceding 24 months, and 2 surgeries since 1992. I was at the end of my rope.
I had always had allergies. My grandmother said I was borderline asthmatic as a child, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I had near-fatal bilateral bronchial pneumonia when I was 4. In my teens, I remember having to prop up my head in bed many nights because my nose was stopped up.
In my early 20s, I started having episodes of post-nasal drip every year, at the transition from summer to fall. I would cough uncontrollably when these episodes occurred. I coughed until my chest hurt, my throat hurt, and my feelings hurt. It kept me and anyone else around up at night. Nothing over the counter worked. This always ended in a trip to the doctor for prescription something. It started out as a prescription strength antihistamine or cough suppressant.
I had allergy skin testing and was determined to have dust allergies. Apparently there are a variety of dusts as well as dust mites, and I was allergic to all of them. I had weekly allergy shots for a while, but didn’t really see changes and just drifted away from them.
Living in Turkey
In 1991, at age 32, I was stationed overseas to do school-based therapy for our Department of Defense Dependents in Turkey. I flew one to two round trips a month to the other schools in Turkey. I started having the post nasal drip, turning into sinus infections two times a year. I started having sinus headaches daily during the humid hot months which were about 5 months out of the year. I started having more sinus infections. I was given an array of decongestants, antihistamines, daily nasal sprays and antibiotics during this time. I also had a couple of rounds or “bursts” of steroids.
I was skin tested again two times for allergies while stationed in Turkey, and again began allergy shots. I never made it to maintenance dose for more than a week or two. I’d always have a big reaction on my arm and have to almost start over with doses.
I was eventually seen by the ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor, who diagnosed me with vasomotor rhinitis, in addition to my known allergic rhinitis (to dust). Vasomotor rhinitis inferred we know the cause, which we don’t. It is now called non-allergic rhinitis. Triggers for symptoms include strong smells and fragrances, cigarette smoke, red wine and change in weather. The change in weather was the eureka part for me. It was the first time my summer to fall episodes made sense. The doctor told me, in his experience, those with vasomotor rhinitis did not really benefit from allergy shots. Since I was not progressing, I gladly stopped.
Around 1993, the same ENT cauterized my nasal turbinates due to engorgement from long term sinus problems. The procedure was not bad. No real pain or anything. Unfortunately no impact on the chronic sinusitis and sinus infections either. It did however resolve my sinus headaches which have remained infrequent to this day.
X-Ray of Sinuses
Living in Germany
I left Turkey in August of 1994 for an assignment in Germany, also doing school-based therapy. I continued to be plagued with chronic sinusitis and sinus infections. It was one of the preschool teachers who suggested it was not uncommon to be sick a lot when you first start working with children, aka germ factories. Okay, fine, but by now I had been working with kids for 4 years, and pretty much was sick all the time.
I underwent many more rounds of decongestants, antihistamines, sprays and antibiotics. Add to this multiple primary care providers and sinus x-rays. Along the way I had allergic reactions to Augmentum and Septra, meaning I could no longer take penicillin or sulfa antibiotics.
Finally I was deferred again to the ENT. More drugs, more allergy testing, more x-rays and now CT scan. I was up to 5 to 6 rounds of antibiotics a year. The ENT performed window surgery, enlarging my openings between the sinuses and their drain points. He also removed half of my “diseased” ethmoid sinus tissue. Mind you, the radiologist’s assessment of my CT was normal ethmoid tissue but I was desperate; sick all of the time. Any impact on sinus infections? Absolutely none at all. I had another year of 5 to 6 rounds of antibiotics. I also had another couple bonus rounds of steroids. My ENT wanted me to return to remove the remainder of my ethmoid tissue.
Temporary Duty on Okinawa
In January of 1997 I went to Okinawa as part of an inspection team for their school-based therapy and early intervention program. I flew to Okinawa on antibiotics for a sinus infection, and had to go to the hospital there two times for uncontrolled coughing from post nasal drip and was given more antibiotics, “wide spectrum”. Some blamed the coral for my symptoms.
When I completed my assignment on Okinawa, I stopped off in the US for some leave with my family before returning to Germany. My dad had recently had a good experience with an arthritis self-help book. He said to me, “Have you thought about going to the mall and looking for a self-help book on sinus problems?” Now this might have sounded crazy to some people, but it certainly didn’t sound as crazy as having another surgery to remove the rest of my ethmoid tissue when the other surgeries didn’t help.
Dr. Ivker's Book
Getting My Life Back with Dr. Ivker’s Sinus Survival
The internet was in its infancy back then. I went to the mall and found a book called Sinus Survival: The Holistic Medical Treatment for Allergies, Asthma, Bronchitis, Colds and Sinusitis, by Robert S. Ivker, D.O. One thing that was very striking about the book was that Dr. Ivker got the patients no one else could help—in some cases patients who had previously had up to 10 sinus-related surgeries. Further, he stated one of the first things you need to do is get off of antibiotics.
The book recommended a daily routine of vitamins and supplements for prevention and a step-up program when sick, in my case for active sinusitis. I was eventually able to find most of the items and took them back to Germany with me. I started with the sick protocol. After about 3 months, I actually felt better and dropped down to the prevention protocol.
The book recommended other things, like nasal washes, which I was already doing. This has been popularized by Oprah and Dr. Oz with the Neti Pot. I’m hard core, I use a bulb syringe. These washes do two things. If you have congestion, make the water as salty as you can tolerate, and it helps pull fluids out of the engorged nasal membranes. My problem is the abundance of secretions. A PA once told me, some people are just super secreters. Great. Lucky me. The saline washes these secretions out.
The book also recommends a better diet of more fruits and vegetables, exercise, lots of purified water, and using an air ionizer. Supplement recommendations are thoroughly covered for adults, children and pregnant women. Many of the recommendations are for high doses of antioxidants and immunity-boosting vitamins and supplements. It is admittedly a lot of stuff, a small fistful 3 times a day. The “sick protocol” included all of the prevention supplements, but most of them in higher doses. Then there were additional supplements you only take when sick.
Implementing the Plan
The book was the first time I ever read about systemic candida. This is essentially an overgrowth of yeast that invades your body from your intestine. Excessive use of antibiotics makes you susceptible to this. The presence of candida can make you feel pretty lousy. Any questionnaire I’ve ever filled out for candida rates me in the “duh” range for the likelihood of having candida. Don’t even think of asking your doctor about this. I’ve had an MD and a PA insist I would be in the ICU if I had this. At any rate, I followed the dietary recommendations of minimal carbohydrates for several months.
After the initial 3 months on the “sick protocol” of the supplements, I continued on the prevention protocol for about 4 years. During this time, my high blood pressure resolved. I have only had maybe 2 courses of antibiotics in the last 12 years. I often wish I had stayed on the prevention protocol. The immune boosting supplements must be good for thyroid function and a whole lot of other body systems. But that’s all another hub or two.
I suffered 6 or more years with chronic sinus infections. Western medicine failed me. A self-help book on alternative medicine for sinusitis gave me my life back. Dr. Ivker’s protocols have been divided into two separate books in the latest editions. The sinusitis and allergy are in one book and asthma and bronchitis are in the second. Dr. Ivker also has a website. For a doctor, he’s A-okay in my book.
Neti Pot Demonstration
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Where can I get tested for Candida? I've had huge sinus problems with two surgeries over the last four years. I have nasal polyps, and they keep coming back.
First off, probably not with your medical doctor. I was told by an MD and a PA that if you had systemic Candida, you would be in ICU. I think most alternative, and natural medicine providers would recommend doing a Candida questionnaire. They will usually cover questions about risk factors, such as your history of antibiotic use, as well as symptoms. The gold standard is probably the lengthy questionnaire by Dr. William Crook. You can do a web search and find a short version of his original. Just search for "Dr. Crook Candida questionnaire."Helpful 1
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