Today is World Microbiome Day, a day devoted to celebrating all things microbial worldwide. The theme of the 2019 World Microbiome Day is ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE.
The day is dedicated to introducing international microbiome researchers to the public to raise awareness of the diverse world of microbes and how they need to be protected.
“Microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, fungi, viruses, archaea, etc) can be found everywhere in and on plants, animals, water, soil, food and humans. Within each of those habitats, microorganisms live together in communities called microbiomes. Microbiomes have an effect on (amongst others) human health; therefore, scientists are exploring how these communities of organisms co-exist with each other, with us and our environment.
“The 2019 World Microbiome Day theme is ‘Antibiotic Resistance’. Antibiotics are life-saving drugs against harmful bacterial infections that also affect the beneficial bacteria of the human, animal and plant microbiome. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics can lead to bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotics making them ineffective. That’s why we need everybody to help raise the profile of this important issue and empower people to use antibiotics responsibly.” (World Microbiome Day, 2019)
World Microbiome Day 2018: “Mind Our Microbes”
HUMAN & OTHER MICROBIOMES
The human body contains collections of micro-organisms that include bacteria, protozoa, fungi, viruses and other one-celled organisms living in and on the body. Our bodies’ interactions with these microbes are crucial to the state of our health. These microbes live both INSIDE us – in our digestive organs and lungs — and externally ON us – on our skin, mouth, genitals. Our microbiomes serve many essential functions in the body: aiding digestion, supporting the immune system living in our guts and preventing infections. In addition, the gut microbiome continually interacts with the brain, making it possible to support mental health through changing your gut microbiome. Humans are actually ECOSYSTEMS made up of our human cells and billions of these other micro-organisms. (World Microbiome Day, 2019)
Other animals on earth living on the land, in the water and the sky also need ecosystems made up of their own cells and a healthy variety of micro-organisms. The same is true of plants’, the soils’, food sources’, oceans’, rivers’ and lakes’ ecosystems.
The poisoning of the ecosystems on our planet and climate change have done serious damage to the planet – with dire consequences.
I’ll let Jasmina Agranovic, whose principal interest is the skin microbiome (she’s the president of Mother Dirt*), speak in her own words to explain the importance of the various microbiomes in the human body:
“There’s an important dynamic at play between consumers and scientists right now. These two worlds were once far apart, but have recently started to overlap. This is especially evident in the field of the microbiome, where it could even be argued that public demand has become a driver of the science. Never before has a topic been spoken about so publicly and marketed ahead of extensive clinical and scientific validation.
“The gut microbiome has done a lot of the heavy lifting in reframing our relationship with bacteria. As people are becoming more aware of the benefits of good bacteria in digestive health, there is also a shifting view our bodies as ecosystems, rather than simply tissues and organs. While still a stretch, it is slowly becoming less of one to see how the same is true for their skin….
“The impact of this ongoing and prevalent conversation is something you can see already: It’s now becoming more common for primary care doctors to prescribe a probiotic in conjunction with antibiotics. Kombucha has transformed from a specialty item found only at health food stores to something you can pick up at your local drug store. Kimchi and Sauerkraut have become dietary staples, along endless other fermented and probiotic-infused foods.
“This public interest has placed more scrutiny on the science. Together, these are driving a big financial appetite by investors, creating support for entrepreneurs and researchers with big ideas in the space.
“Companies like Ubiome specialize in at-home gut and vaginal biome screenings. OpenBiome works in stool donations, enabling people to get live-saving fecal transplants. Seres Therapeutics was also the first publicly traded microbiome biotech company based off of their work on treatments for C Diff. In 2016 the FDA banned triclosan, which is the active ingredient in many antibacterial soaps, stating it’s no more effective than washing with soap and water, and that it could actually do more harm than good over time.
“Even museums have started to showcase the microbiome as part of our future. The Victoria & Albert Museum in London has an exhibit on display until Nov 2018 called “The Future Starts Here: 100 projects shaping the world of tomorrow” where one of the projects included in the show is Mother Dirt representing the skin biome and what might exist in a future home.
“So what’s the next big thing in bacteria? We earnestly believe that relationship with the microbial world is one of the most important shifts in public health of our generation. For many, the microbiome and the importance of good bacteria in and on your body might be the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to many of the health issues we are still trying to solve. We don’t know what we don’t know, but many are rightfully excited at the prospect of exploring this field for all the potential it seems to hold. The public interest has helped push the gas pedal on the scientific progress. As we continue to make progress in new discoveries in the field, it will be increasingly important that the science remains rigorous and that we also temper expectations.
“Keep asking questions, keep challenging the norm, and keep pushing for more, and together we’ll create a world where clean comes with healthy.”
Mother Dirt is a company in Cambridge MA that makes skin biome-friendly products based on extensive research on the skin microbiome and the Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB) our skin needs to stay healthy .
“For most of human existence, there was a peacekeeping Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB) that lived on our skin. It wasn’t until the last 100 years when indoor lifestyles and personal care products removed it. This bacteria is still found on untouched indigenous tribes, whose skin is in a native, healthy state.” (Mother Dirt, 2019)
We believe that the diverse world of microbiomes deserves more recognition due to its effect on human, animal and environmental health! Join us in celebrating World Microbiome Day 2019 and communicating the effects of antibiotics on the microbiome.
(World Microbiome Day 6/27/2019)
You can go to the World Microbiome Day 6/27/2019 site to learn more about the importance of microbiomes and take some quizzes to test your knowledge about six microbiomes: Food, Plant, Soil, Animal, Marine and Human.
CLIMATE CHANGE HAS LANDED US IN ANOTHER BAD ALLERGY SEASON AND I’M HEARING FROM MANY PEOPLE THAT THEY’RE IN MISERY AGAIN WITH SEVERE SINUS CONGESTION. SO I’M REPOSTING THIS PIECE DESCRIBING THE PROTOCOL I CAME UP WITH TWO YEARS AGO FOR CLEARING SINUS CONGESTION WITHOUT PHARMACEUTICALS.
I RARELY SUCCUMB TO VIRAL ILLNESSES BUT LAST WEEK, DURING A TIME OF GREATER THAN USUAL STRESS, WAS FELLED BY A NASTY HEAD COLD THAT FILLED MY SINUSES WITH GUNK SO I COULD BARELY BREATHE AND THEN PROGRESSED INTO MY LUNGS WITH A DEEP, WET COUGH.
THIS PROTOCOL WORKED AGAIN. I’VE USED BOTH PRODUCTS IN MY NETI POT THREE MORNINGS IN A ROW AND HAVE FELT INCREASINGLY BETTER EACH DAY. THIS TIME AROUND I MIXED BOTH SUPPLEMENTS TOGETHER:
ALLICIDIN – A POTENT GARLIC EXTRACT TO DEGRADE THE SLIMY BIOFILMS THAT HAD FORMED IN MY SINUSES
REPHRESH – PROBIOTICS TO REBALANCE THE CLEARLY OUT OF BALANCE FUNGAL AND BACTERIAL FLORA IN MY SINUSES
THIS METHOD ACTUALLY FIXES THE PROBLEM RATHER THAN TEMPORARILY EASING THE SYMPTOMS OF THE PROBLEM. IT’S A LIFE SAVER FOR ME SINCE MY BODY REACTS VERY BADLY TO BOTH DECONGESTANTS AND ANTIHISTAMINES.
HERE’S A VIDEO EXPLAINING THE NUMEROUS HEALTH BENEFITS OF PREMIER RESEARCH LABS’ NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT, ALLICIDIN:
I COULDN’T FIND AN INFORMATIONAL VIDEO ABOUT REPHRESH.
BOTH ALLICIDIN AND REPHRESH ARE AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON.
ORIGINAL POST 10/9/2016
Those of you who know me personally or follow this blog know my focus is on addressing the underlying cause(s) of a health problem rather than simply putting band aids on its symptoms – and also that I generally react badly to pharmaceuticals. So when my sinuses became horribly stuffed up during the second long period of very hot, wet weather this past summer (mercifully over now) and the congestion kept getting worse instead of going away, I knew I had to figure out what was causing this misery in my sinus microbiome and how to fix it.
After suffering through chronic sinus problems for decades, culminating in two surgeries to remove nasal polyps, and not wanting to live that way any more, I’d set myself the task of stopping my allergies and thought I’d succeeded once and for all. Yet, after many years of relatively easy breathing, this past summer’s extreme weather did me in.
My symptoms this time around were:
Intense pressure above and below my eyes – felt like polar bears were lodged in the sinuses behind my cheeks, pressing down on my upper teeth
A chronically dripping nose
Frequent, violent sneezing spells
A raw throat from the post nasal drip
Inability to breathe through my nose
Lack of energy
Momentary temperature spikes
Feeling like Spanish moss was wrapped around my vocal cords
Coughing and need to clear my throat
Blocked up ears
Chronically dry mouth
Decreased sense of smell and taste
Gasping for air while eating
Interrupted sleep since lying down made everything much worse
Bad breath (not that I could smell it myself)
Generally feeling exhausted and disgusting
I was miserable but at least I didn’t develop a sinus infection or start growing nasal polyps again before figuring out what to do.
Here’s a 3-D Animation describing how the sinuses work, what can go wrong, and a medical procedure for blockage that I’d never want to have:
WHAT I TRIED
First I turned to my old standbys for sinusitis and various promising-sounding things other people suggested, each of which provided a modicum of relief for short times – 10 minutes to a few hours:
Washing my sinuses out with a mixture of sea salt and filtered water
Sinusin (a homeopathic nasal spray)
Aller-Max (a gluten free, non-drowsy supplement containing quercetin, bromelain, and Vitamin C)
XClear (a nasal spray containing xylitol)
Sinusalia (a homeopathic supplement)
Firmly pressing on acupressure points on my face and chest that impact the sinuses
Two homeopathic remedies, Drainage Tone and Aller Chord II
Coating the inside of my nostrils with castor oil
Dots of eucalyptus and tea tree oil below my nostrils
Using an electric steamer/inhaler to make my sinuses drain
A ThermalOn Dry Eye Compress (to put moist heat directly over my sinuses)
Eating more fermented foods
Belly laughing to stimulate my vagus nerves
Himalayan Chandra Neti Wash Plus
Clearly this persistent sinus congestion was different from anything I’d experienced before. I felt frustrated and exhausted – pretty much like this but nowhere near as cute:
So I did some more research and learned about the formation of biofilms in the sinuses.
BIOFILMS: BACTERIA & FUNGI
“Biofilms are highly structured communities of microorganisms that attach to one another and to surfaces. The microorganisms group together and form a slimy, polysaccharide cover. This layer is highly protective for the organisms within it, and when new bacteria are produced they stay within the slimy layer. With the introduction of antibiotic-produced glycogen, the biofilms have an almost endless food source that can be used once antibiotic exposure has ended.” (Oak Crest Institute of Science, 2013)
Many types of bacteria clump together inside protective biofilms, making the bacteria inaccessible to pharmaceuticals and natural substances that would weaken or kill them – producing chronic misery when this happens inside our noses and sinuses.
Bacterial biofilm in a person with chronic sinusitis
And to make the sinus congestion situation worse, fungi (molds are types of fungi) have also been shown to form biofilms on the mucosal linings of the sinuses and nostrils. (Healy et al, 2008).
“You might be wondering why antibiotics and antifungal drugs are ineffective for chronic sinus infections. It’s because of the Bio-Film formation. Biofilms are colonies of microbes that form a mass which is resistant to drug therapy.
“Chronic Sinusitis, nasal polyposis, asthma and eosinophilia are quite common and may co-exist as a syndrome. Chronic bacterial or fungal sinus infection with Bio-Film formation has been implicated in this syndrome. Many of these patients have been on multiple courses of antibiotics and/or antifungal drugs which are completely ineffective because of bio-film formation. Many of these patients have undergone repeated nasal sinus surgeries, and are commonly steroid dependent from chronic use of prednisone.” (Dach, 2014)
A LINK BETWEEN ANTIOBIOTICS & BIOFILM FORMATION
Here’s more evidence for how antibiotics can be harmful: ‘Scientist Finds Link between Antibiotics and Bacterial Biofilm Formation Cause of Chronic Ear, Sinus, and Lung Infections’.
From the article:
“Researchers from the University of Southern California and the Oak Crest Institute of Science have discovered the link between antibiotics and bacterial biofilm formation leading to chronic lung, sinus and ear infections. The study results, published in the current issue of PLOS ONE, illustrate how bacterial biofilms can actually thrive, rather than decrease, when given low doses of antibiotics.
“’This research addresses the long standing issues surrounding chronic ear infections and why some children experience repeated ear infections even after antibiotic treatment,’ said Paul Webster, Ph.D., lead author, senior staff scientist at USC and senior faculty at the Oak Crest Institute of Science. ‘Once the biofilm forms, it becomes stronger with each treatment of antibiotics.’” (Oak Crest Institute of Science, 2013)
And from an article called ‘Antibiotic Use Increases Risk of Developing Chronic Sinusitis’:
“Yes, of course this makes sense!…. Many rounds of antibiotics have an effect not just in one area of the body, but kill off both good and bad bacteria in many areas of the human body. The researchers in this study found that taking antibiotics for a reason OTHER THAN SINUSITIS was associated with an increased risk of developing chronic sinusitis (as compared to those people not receiving antibiotics). Use of antibiotics more than doubles the odds of developing chronic sinusitis without nasal polyps. And this effect lasted for at least 2 years. Other research has already associated antibiotic use with “decreased microbial diversity” in our microbiome and with “opportunistic infections” such as Candida albicans and Clostridium difficile. Diseases such as Crohn’s disease and diabetes are also linked to antibiotic use.In other words, when there is a disturbance in the microbiome (e.g.from antibiotics) and the community of microbes becomes “out of whack”, then pathogenic bacteria are “enriched” (increase) and can dominate.” (Silgailis, 2016)
WHAT WORKED TO BREAK DOWN THE BIOFILMS
This was helpful information. Now I knew I was probably dealing with biofilms that had started growing in my sinuses and nostrils to protect colonies of bacteria and molds. This certainly explained why nothing I’d tried was slowing down my ever increasing sinus congestion.
I remembered that a garlic supplement called Allicidin had been effective in breaking down the biofilm-covered spores containing a nasty bacterium called Clostridium difficile that had taken over my colon in 2010. I’d read that some people with sinus infections had found relief from washing their sinuses with probiotics so I decided to try the same with Allicidin. I emptied the contents of an Allicidin capsule into my neti pot, added filtered water, and irrigated my sinuses with the mixture.
This worked immediately! It was messy, involved a fairly intense burning sensation, and left a mild smell of garlic in my nose for a while afterwards – but I was able to breathe through my nose again for the first time in many weeks. If you’re going to try it, I suggest doing it in the shower.
The Broad-Spectrum Anti-Infective Properties of Allicidin™
ANTIBACTERIAL – Various researchers have shown that garlic extracts exhibit a wide spectrum of antibacterial activity against gram-negative and gram-positve bacteria including species of Escherichia, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Bacilus, Helicobacter pylori, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
ANTIFUNGAL – Garlic extracts have a strong antifungal effect and inhibit the formation of mycotoxins like the aflatoxin of Aspergillus parasiticus. Pure allicin was also found to have a high anti-candidal activity and was effective against various species of Candida, Cryptococcous, Trichophyton, Epidermphyton and Microsporum.
ANTIPARASITIC – Garlic extract has been used for centuries to treat people suffering from dysentery, intestinal worms and intestinal protozoan parasites such as Giardia, Leishmania major, Leptomonas colosama and Crithidia fasciculate.
ANTIVIRAL – Research shows that garlic extracts are effective against numerous viruses that cause colds and flu. Evidence points towards allicin and ajone as the main components responsible for the antiviral activitiy.
BIOFILM DEGREDATION – Biofilms are sticky slime that surround large clumps of bacteria. These biofilms protect pathogenic bacteria and helps them spread throughout the body. Stabilized allicin has been shown to have a powerful capacity for biofilm destruction, therefore rendering bacteria helpless.
Ideal for Supporting the Following Conditions:
Fungal (mold/candida) and Bacterial Infection
Blood Pressure, Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Health
(from Allicin OrganoSulfu Complex™)
Vegetable Cellulose Capsules
100% solvent-free, excipient-free vegetable capsules. No magnesium stearate (a toxic excipient), corn, milk, soy, salt, sugar, wheat, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, binders, glues or other toxic tagalongs as found in tablets and gelatin capsules.
WHAT WORKED TO KILL THE MOLDS AND BACTERIA
Now that the biofilms growing in my sinuses had been disrupted, exposing the molds and bacterial colonies proliferating in there, I set about finding a combination of probiotics to zap those bacteria and molds.
As a starting point, I turned to Chris Kresser’s excellent article Chronic Sinus Problems: Another Role for Probiotics? and also looked through the many readers’ comments to see what other sinus sufferers had found helpful. I recommend this article to you. (Kresser, 8/18/2015)
Based on a convincing recommendation by one of Kresser’s readers, I first emptied the contents of two capsules of Bio-Kult Advanced Probiotic Multi-Strain Formula into my neti pot, added filtered water, and did a nasal irrigation with the mixture. This helped a lot – but only for a few hours.
So I went back to Kresser’s article to search more deeply and followed some links to two articles by Silgailis, where, in her readers’ comments, I found information about the effectiveness of two probiotic bacteria, lactobacillus reuteri and lactobacillus rhamnosus, for sinusitis. (Silgailis, 2015) & (Silgailis, 2016)
Bio-Kult contains some l. rhamnosus (but not a lot) and no l. reuteri. So I did another Google search for a supplement containing only these two particular strains of probiotic bacteria and found a product called RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Feminine Supplement that contains large amounts of l. rhamnosus GR-1 and l. reuteri RC-14. L. The box says, “Balances Yeast & Bacteria to Maintain Feminine Health”.
Yeasts, like molds, are fungi. So this probiotic combination looked promising for treating my sinusitis. L. rhamnosus in particular is known to be effective against both fungi and pathological bacteria. (Kiefer, 2008)
The Product Description on Amazon:
RepHresh Pro-B is a probiotic feminine supplement taken orally once daily to balance yeast and bacteria.
Lactobacillus, yeast, and other bacteria are all naturally present in your body and optimum feminine health occurs when there is a healthy balance of these elements to support feminine health.
RepHresh Pro-B feminine supplement contains patented and clinically tested strains of probiotic lactobacillus that have been shown to work with your body to balance yeast and bacteria.
RepHresh Pro-B supplement lets you take control of your feminine health every day by helping to maintain flora in a normal range.*
RepHresh Pro-B is a natural supplement and comes in an easy-to-swallow capsule.
RepHresh Pro-B is the #1 feminine probiotic supplement in the US in the latest 52 weeks ending 16 March 2016 according to The Nielsen Company data.
L. rhamnosus GR-1, L. reuteri RC-14, Dextrose Anhydrate, Gelatin, Potato Starch, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Magnesium Stearate, Titanium Dioxide
So, when this probiotic supplement containing large amounts of lactobacillus reuteri and lactobacillus rhamnosus arrived from Amazon, I emptied the contents of two capsules into my neti pot, added filtered water, and did a thorough nasal irrigation with the mixture. As with the Allicidin mixture, this burned a bit but was very much worth it!
Since it’s a good idea to switch up your probiotics periodically, I’m now taking the Bio-Kult probiotics supplement by mouth and RepHresh Pro-B on alternating days to maximize the variety of helpful probiotics supporting my gut microbiome.
A Note on Vaginal Infections:
Vaginal infections are most often caused by an overrun of a yeast called Candida albicans. If your gut microbiome is out of balance or you use feminine hygiene products that destroy the balance in your vaginal microbiome, you’re likely to get at least one – if not many more – vaginalinfections in your lifetime. See ‘Warding Off Chronic Yeast and Bacterial Infections’ to learn how to use probiotics to prevent both chronic bacterial and yeast infections. (Kiefer, 2008)
USING A NETI POT
This video shows how to use a neti pot for sinus irrigation:
In the morning, I use my neti pot in the shower where it doesn’t matter how messy the process becomes. I’ve also installed a small, chlorine-removing water filter (available on Amazon, easy to install) so fill the pot directly with warm, filtered water from the shower head. The filter is a Rainshow’r CQ-1000-NH Dechlorinating Shower Filter. And, when I’m not using any of the supplements described above, I put some inexpensive La Baleine Fine Sea Salt in my neti pot in lieu of the salt packets the woman in the video uses.
In the evenings before bedtime, I use the neti pot over the bathroom sink.
HIMALAYAN CHANDRA NETI WASH PLUS
Over the years, I’ve found it helpful to add this neti pot wash made by Himalayan Chandra occasionally when I use my neti pot in the shower. And now that those nasty sinus biofilms have been degraded, this wash has become effective again.
“Neti Wash Plus contains zinc and herbal extracts that add anti-microbial and anti-viral support to your nasal wash. Zinc helps to tone and astringe the nasal passages reducing excess mucus and promoting clear, healthy sinuses. Studies show that Zinc reduces the duration and symptoms of the common cold, slowing the replication of rhinoviruses which typically cause colds. Neti Wash Plus contains Zinc Acetate –a form of Zinc shown to be more effective in shortening the duration of the common cold. Neti Wash Plus also contains extracts of Grapefruit Seed and Goldenseal Root, found by scientists to inhibit the growth of hundreds of strains of pathogens. Grapefruit Seed Extract has been used by the natural foods industry for over 20 years as an antibiotic, disinfectant, and antiseptic. Perfect for use with the Himalayan Institute Neti Pot.*
TWO HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES FOR ALLERGIES AND SINUS CONGESTION
Before Allicidin succeeded in disrupting the biofilms, I’d started taking two homeopathic remedies my chiropractor had recommended for this summer sinus misery but then stopped when the congestion just kept getting worse. Now that the molds and bacteria living inside those biofilms have been exposed and destroyed, I’ve started taking these remedies again and am finding them helpful.
ALLER-CHORD F – a homeopathic remedy for food allergens
DRAINAGE-TONE – a homeopathic remedy for swollen glands, sinus congestion, and skin eruptions
Both are made by energetix.
SOME ADDITIONAL IDEAS
While researching this post, I came across this interesting idea for breaking down biofilms in the nose and sinus cavities:
“New sinus therapeutics, including baby shampoo sinus irrigation and probiotic sinus rinses, can lessen symptoms and ward off sinus infections, according to doctors at Baylor College of Medicine.
“These new therapies are targeting the bacteria in ways that haven’t been utilized in the past,” said Dr. Mas Takashima, director of the Sinus Center at Baylor. “These techniques are helping those with chronic and acute sinusitis. Whenever I tell my patients about the new therapeutic protocols they’re very surprised, but they get the results they want and need.
“He said the concept behind baby shampoo irrigation is cleansing the naval cavity with a surfactant. By doing this, the biofilms, or oily layers that bad bacteria create to protect itself from irrigation, are broken down.” (Parsons, 2015)
At least it doesn’t contain carcinogenic parabens.
Perhaps there’s a baby shampoo that’s free of toxic ingredients and still acts as a surfactant to break down biofilms. Please let me know if you come across one.
Another suggestion from my chiropractor, Denice Hilty Siedzik:
“You may want to consider emptying a probiotic capsule in a little water and swishing it in your mouth and swallowing just before bed. Be sure to not drink anything after. This may also help healthy bacteria migrate to your sinuses.” (Siedzik, 2016)
CLIMATE CHANGE AND MOLDS: LOOKING AHEAD
Unless you’re in steadfast denial, it’s obvious that climate change is real and that here in the Northeast US we’re likely in for warmer winters with fewer or no hard freezes plus longer, hotter, and wetter summers – ideal conditions for molds to proliferate. I know that Lower Manhattan, where I live, receives waves of pollens (which I’ve never been allergic to) blowing in from the west in the spring and fall so it eventually occurred to me that greatly increased numbers of mold spores were probably also blowing in now. I’ve been reactive to molds for as long as I can remember.
And if this wet, warming trend continues, it will be increasingly difficult to cope with molds in future years. So I was highly motivated to figure out how to improve my ability to deal with these minuscule airborne fungi and keep my airways open.
BETTER EQUIPPED TO DEAL WITH THIS ASPECT OF CLIMATE CHANGE
After breaking down the biofilms in my sinuses and nose with Allicidin and then zapping the molds and bacteria with the probiotics in RepHresh, the things and techniques listed in the WHAT I TRIED section above now help again to reduce sinus inflammation and keep me breathing through my nose.
Now that it’s October, the hot, humid weather has mercifully stopped, but I know my sinuses are still being exposed to an increased level of molds in the air. Since the initial irrigations with Allicidin and RepHresh in September, I needed to repeat the two-step treatment once last week when we had a return of some warm, humid days and the mold levels were high again.
Having these tools in my ongoing battle with nasal allergies, I now feel better equipped to deal with the hot, rainy summers in our future.
It is now known that microbes have an enormous impact – for good or ill – on people’s health and the health of the entire planet. Two days ago, on May 13 2016, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy heeded the advice of scientists and launched a new National Microbiome Initiative. The program will foster interdisciplinary study of the various microbiomes found in and on the human body and across diverse ecosystems. (Nather, 2016)
The new National Microbiome Initiative will begin with a federal investment of $121 million in funding from several governmental agencies and additional private support from more than 100 outside organizations, including $100 million over four years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Initiative will include $20 million in new research grants from the National Institutes of Health, as well as $16 million from the National Science Foundation, $15.9 million from the Department of Agriculture, $12.5 million from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and $10 million from the Department of Energy.
As the FACT SHEET issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in its announcement of the National Microbiome Initiative states:
“There is no part of the human experience untouched by microorganisms. Microbiome science has the potential to revolutionize healthcare, agriculture, biomanufacturing, environmental management, and even building design and construction.”
Microbiomes of the Human Body
The FACT SHEET explains why this Initiative is needed and its three main areas of focus:
“Microbiomes are the communities of microorganisms that live on or in people, plants, soil, oceans, and the atmosphere. Microbiomes maintain healthy function of these diverse ecosystems, influencing human health, climate change, food security, and other factors. Dysfunctional microbiomes are associated with issues including human chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and asthma; local ecological disruptions such as the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico; and reductions in agricultural productivity. Numerous industrial processes such as biofuel production and food processing depend on healthy microbial communities. Although new technologies have enabled exciting discoveries about the importance of microbiomes, scientists still lack the knowledge and tools to manage microbiomes in a manner that prevents dysfunction or restores healthy function.
“The NMI aims to advance understanding of microbiome behavior and enable protection and restoration of healthy microbiome function. In a year-long fact-finding process, scientists from Federal agencies, academia, and the private sector converged on three recommended areas of focus for microbiome science, which are now the goals of the NMI:
Supporting interdisciplinary research to answer fundamental questions about microbiomes in diverse ecosystems.
Developing platform technologies that will generate insights and help share knowledge of microbiomes in diverse ecosystems and enhance access to microbiome data.
Expanding the microbiome workforce through citizen science, public engagement, and educational opportunities.”
Click here to see an enlarged version of this graphic.
This National Microbiome Initiative is much needed and will be an important part of President Obama’s legacy to the country and our planet.
Since microbes’ roles in keeping us healthy or making us ill fascinate me, I’m greatly looking forward to seeing what useful knowledge emerges from this National Microbiome Initiative.
Extreme weather events, from coastal flooding, intense heat, record amounts of rainfall in some areas and historic droughts in others, are becoming increasingly common as the Earth’s average temperature rises. The World Meteorological Organization has linked some of 2013’s most extreme weather events – think back to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines as well as flooding in central Europe and record high temperatures in Australia, Asia and Africa to human-induced climate change. “There’s been a general disruption of nature,” says Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s health and environmental program. In may, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP) released a comprehensive report on the impacts of climate change. It bluntly states: “Over the last 50 years, much of the United States has seen an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, and in some regions, more severe droughts.”
This is very bad news for people with allergies and asthma – more moisture and higher temperatures mean increased levels of mold, pollen and air pollution.
Temperatures across the U.S. are projected to increase anywhere from 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century so the challenges we encounter from climate change are likely to get worse. (Gagne, 2014)
AIR-BORNE ALLERGENS ARE EXPECTED TO INCREASE
According to the EPA’s report on climate change and air-borne allergens, A Review of the Impact of Climate Variability and Change on Aeroallergens and Their Associated Effects (EPA, 2011):
Aeroallergens include pollens, which can be produced by weeds, grasses and trees, as well as molds, dust particles, ash and indoor allergens.
Aeroallergens such as dust, ragweed, pollen and molds impact half of all Americans.
Treatment for allergies in the US costs $21 billion annually.
Three major allergic diseases have been associated with exposure to aeroallergens: hay fever, asthma and eczema. Collectively, these three allergic diseases rank sixth for annual expenditures among chronic health conditions in the United States.
Beyond the direct cost of medical care are the indirect, but substantial, costs associated with lost time at work, school and play.
Increases in temperature, carbon dioxide and precipitation will cause the proliferation of weedy plants that are known producers of allergenic pollen. Higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere act as a fertilizer for plant growth. Warmer temperatures and increased precipitation will cause some plants to grow faster, bloom earlier and produce more pollen.
Climate-related temperature changes are expected to increase the potency of airborne allergens, increasing the concentration of pollen in the air, the length of the allergy season and the strength of airborne allergens.
Climate change will allow allergen-producing plant species to move into new areas.
Wind-blown dust, carrying pollens and molds from outside of the United States, could expose people to allergens they had not previously contacted. Exposure to more potent concentrations of pollen and mold may make current non-sufferers more likely to develop allergic symptoms.
HEAVIER, MORE FREQUENT RAINS PRODUCE MORE MOLD
Molds can cause serious health problems in susceptible individuals. Here’s information from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on the city’s health crisis following Hurricane Sandy (RebuildAdjustNY.org, 2013):
Toxins produced by mold, known at myotoxins, can cause headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, inability to concentrate and memory loss.
Chronic exposure to mold can lead to permanent lung disease
According to the Institute of Medicine, “There (is) sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people.”
According to a World Health Organization-cited study, building dampness/mold increases the occurrence of respiratory and asthma-related health incidents by 30-50%.
A second study estimated that 21%of the cases of asthma in the United States could be attributable to dampness and mold in housing, for a total annual national cost of $3.5 billion.
Sandy-impacted neighborhoods are especially vulnerable to health effects from mold.
According to then Mayor Bloomberg, 70,000 – 80,000 homes suffered water damage due to Hurricane Sandy.
About 180,000 – 210,000 New Yorkers could be currently exposed to Sandy-related mold.
Mold is especially dangerous for 45,000+ children under the age of 5 and senior New Yorkers who are considered highly vulnerable to mod-related ailments.
Mold is especially dangerous for individuals suffering from asthma and other respiratory ailments.
Sandy-affected neighborhoods reported more than 30,000 asthma-related emergency room visits between 2008 and 2010.
Children and seniors comprise about 25% of the population in Sandy-affected neighborhoods.
Asthmatics comprise more than 25%of the Sandy-affected neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Mold damage is not always as easy to detect as in the photo above. It can be growing inside walls or behind wallpaper so not necessarily be visible.
And dead mold spore can still cause allergic reactions in some people so killing the mold may not be sufficient – it must also be removed. (EPA, 2012)
SO HOW CAN WE REDUCE OUR CHANCES OF INCREASED SUFFERING FROM ALLERGIES AND ASTHMA?
We know that 80-90% of our immune system resides in the mucosa of our guts. An unbalanced, impaired gut microbiome produces chronic inflammation in the body. Over time, this inflammation produces autoimmune conditions (such as allergies and asthma) – as well as gum disease, repeating UTIs, heart disease, nail fungus, some cancers, and much more.
Mast cells located in our skin, connective tissues, and the mucosal linings of our stomachs and intestines, are an essential part of our immune defenses. These unique cells are tasked with activating the immune system to defend us from harmful invaders.
In people with allergies, the immune system misidentifies innocuous substances as dangerous pathogens and sends out mast cells to combat them – as if Attila’s Huns were at the gate and needed to be attacked at all costs, even to the point of destroying the body in the process.
The real solution for both allergy and asthma sufferers isn’t just treating the symptoms but working to restore the health of the friendly bacteria living in the gut with the goal of normalizing the immune system. A healthy, balanced gut immune system will stop producing inflammation and allow a return to health.
As climate change exposes us to increasing numbers of molds and other allergens, we’re all going to need immune systems that are up to dealing with the challenge.
For more information on allergies, asthma, autoimmune conditions, the role of inflammation in these problems, and how to strengthen your immune system, see: