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Chronic Sinusitis: The First Time Western Medicine Failed Me

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In health care since 1977, but keenly aware of Western medicine's shortcomings, Rose Mary began exploring natural health in the late 1990s.

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.

We have maxillary, frontal, ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses.

We have maxillary, frontal, ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses.

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

Sinuses, with right side color coded. Frontal sinus is purple, ethmoid yellow, sphenoid blue, and maxillary sinus in green. The aqua green to the far left is the mastoid cells.

Sinuses, with right side color coded. Frontal sinus is purple, ethmoid yellow, sphenoid blue, and maxillary sinus in green. The aqua green to the far left is the mastoid cells.

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.

Sinus pressure and facial pain

Sinus pressure and facial pain

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 article 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

Question: 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.

Answer: 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."

© 2009 rmcrayne


entconsult from Los Angeles, California on July 09, 2014:

Nice article. There is a major need to reduce the dependence on antibiotics. Yogurt/probiotics help. So does measures to improve nasal cilia activity, these include green/black tea, humming, pulsatile irrigation, ruing Ringer’s solution for the nose.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on November 12, 2010:

Thanks Sal. Printing now...

Christy8914 on November 11, 2010:

This is still the best hub written by you. Sure hope to see second and third time on here soon.....I need another hard copy please. You ROCK

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on November 09, 2010:

Thanks for visiting kim. I'm not sure if it came across, but I got my fairy tale ending. I'm glad I didn't have to move, but now have the tools to live anywhere.

Kim Harris on November 02, 2010:

Interesting rmcrayne. thanks for taking the time to document your experiences with sinusitis. Yuck that you had the problems with sinuses and yeah that you found some relief! Finding the book was a surprise ending. I thought you were going to find a climate in your travels that was more conducive to your sinus condition....and live happily ever after. I really needed a fairy tale

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 03, 2010:

Thanks so much Sekharg. I hope my traffic to this hub will rise, so that it will help many others.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 03, 2010:

ketou I hope you'll try Dr. Ivker's program. It could change your life.

Sekharg from USA on October 03, 2010:


Thanks for very information hub on curing sinusitis.

This hub will be helpful for many. Glad you got better now.

Thanks for sharing you experience and how you found a solution.

ketou on October 02, 2010:

Great hub. i have had sinusitis for about 10 years now. Medicines have not really helped much but never done any surgery yet. Good information here.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on February 12, 2010:

Thanks mel. You've really given me something to think about. In my ponderings, I can't help but throw reflux in the mix (LTR- laryngotrachial reflux or extra esophogeal), which presents like sinus problems (that'll be my part 2 & 3).

mel22 from , on February 12, 2010:

I have bad sinusitis but only on one side so might be because of a deviated septum. Joking aside, I always wear an ear plug in the opposite ear of the side of my post nasal drip and it cures it, but then theres the problem of wearing an ugly ear plug. I try to wear it only at night but occasionally I have to elsewhere when its really bad and headaches are severe. Not sure why it works but has something to do with lowering the intonation of the ear drum which stops the inflamation and pressure in the sinuses Not a cure but helps when symptoms are severe !

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on February 06, 2010:

Thanks for reading habee. Dr. Ivker's protocol wiped out my sinus infections. Nasal irrigation is important, as are the supplements. Did you know Linus Pauling consumed about 20,000 mg of Vitamin C a day? I could never tolerate more than about 9000. Ester C is also good.

I was very fortunate. I'd say being stationed overseas, and the travel opportunities that brought, are on the top of my list of perks to having been in the military.

Holle Abee from Georgia on February 05, 2010:

Hubby and I both suffer from sinusitis and sinus infections. My neti pot deffinitely helps, and I'm also drinking loads of sugar-free C.

I didn't realize you were such a world traveller!

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on November 18, 2009:

Thanks for sharing part of my life story lrohner!

lrohner from USA on November 18, 2009:

Nice, nice, nice -- as usual RM! Informative and concise.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 26, 2009:

Thanks for reading elisabeth. I have bought at least 3 copies of Sinus Survival!

elisabethkcmo from Just East of Oz on October 25, 2009:

great hub, very interesting, informative, helpful

I have a friend with severe sinus problems, he had surgery for severe polyps which were an aftermath of HepC treatments, going to order some of the books that for him that you recommend, thanks!

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 21, 2009:

freta expect good things! I've bought more than one copy of the book, but for more than .01. I've bought 3 copies however of A Woman's Guide to Natural Health for .01 + 3.99 shipping each. As we like to say at our house, books are our friends!

Alfreta Sailor from Southern California on October 18, 2009:

Thanks rm, after reading your hub, I went right over and ordered the book. I got it for .01, yes one cent. Thank you so much for pointing me in that direction. I will let you know what it does for me and others around me, when I get the book.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 01, 2009:

Robert, similar but maybe inverse to what you said, I got other benefits (blood pressure, thyroid function)from the supplement program for my sinuses. I have taken soooo many different antihistamines and decongestants. For a couple years I did great on 1 zertec a day, then that fell through. On a scary note, in Turkey I was on twice the normal recommended dosage of an antihistamine that was subsequently pulled from the market.

robertsloan2 from San Francisco, CA on October 01, 2009:

That sounds fascinating. I had bad sinus problems while I was growing up, but a lot of things that I did for other reasons have combined to beat back the problem. I think nutrition has helped a lot since Kitten and Karl started cooking my food, still used to get sinus problems. I do get dust allergies and found out that Claritin helps -- steadily, even when I take it frequently that will knock it out.

So I'm one of the lucky ones with the Claritin working. Reading about some of the heavy antibiotics stuff and surgeries you had has left me feeling like -- good, I'm glad I didn't seek out surgery for deviated septum. My nose can go on being crooked. I can breathe much easier now that I have help cleaning my room and someone else cooking my food and have access to the one medication that does help and doesn't seem to 'desensitize' after long term use.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on September 29, 2009:

Marisa, Stay tuned for my Reflux, The Second Time Western Med Failed Me. I had no GI symptoms. It felt like post nasal drip. In fact, I now think that all of my "allergy" symptoms have been reflux all along. BUT Dr. Ivker's plan resolved symptoms anyway. Likely because of the immune boost. I wrote a little about allergies and reflux in my "Books" hub.

Kate Swanson from Sydney on September 29, 2009:

I have had asthma all my life and my blocked nose always seemed like a minor irritation by comparison. However just recently I'm suspecting that I have a post nasal drip - I'll look into some of this advice, thanks.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on September 24, 2009:

MG, wow that's pretty amazing, just the Neti and the air cleaner. I have a Living Air ionizer that has served me well for 10 years now. I wash out with sea salt and a bulb syringe. I do it when I wake up every single day, before I brush my teeth. I've bought multiple copies of Dr. Ivker's book to give to friends.

Money Glitch from Texas on September 24, 2009:

Wow, oh Wow...I have been plagued with sinusitis as well for years, and suffered until I saw Dr. OZ and the Netti Pot on Oprah. As far as the vitamins, fruits and vegetables, I discovered that thru my own research and it was helping, but the Netti Pot and an expensive air pollution filter in my home has me living a normal life now... This is a great testimony I will be sure to share it with other sinus sufferers.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on September 24, 2009:

You are so right Mezo. I later had some issues that made me acutely aware of the impact of stress on the immune system and vice versa, and the impact on endocrine function. That will be in How Western Medicine Failed Me the 2nd and 3rd times!

Motaz from Egypt on September 24, 2009:

im glad you are better now, allergic sinusitis can be really annoying, what's bad about that it makes u vulnerable, and it's very affected by your emotional state

sounds like a great book

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on September 23, 2009:

Thanks for reading and commenting, and thanks for the compliments.

Catherine I'd absolutely urge your friend to get the book.

lyricsingtay thankfully the pain is no longer vivid to me, having been almost HA free for the last 15 yrs.

lyricsingray on September 23, 2009:

Fascinating-but how painful sinus headaches must be-well written, thanks!!

Catherine R from Melbourne, Australia on September 23, 2009:

A really informative hub. I have a friend who suffers bad sinus problems and I will refer her to this. Sorry that you had to suffer like this for all these years but it does go to show that often western medicine does not have all the answers. I have used the neti pot myself which I learned to do from my yoga teacher. It is just great for cleaning out the sinuses.