Thursday, February 23, 2012

SWAMP: Treating Sinus Infections without Antibiotics

Note: I've made some edits regarding the safety of taking vitamin D. Please read this post for further details on taking a large dose of vitamin D.

SWAMP (sinuses with a mucus problem) is my hypothesis of treating sinus infections and other upper respiratory infections without antibiotics: to get rid of the bug infestation, you need to drain the swamp and activate some natural predators. You also need to restore the habitat's salinity.

Who this is for:
  • People with no access to medical care
  • People who prefer over-the-counter medicines
  • People who can't tolerate antibiotics, steroids and other medications
  • Eccentrics who like to self-experiment
If you have a serious respiratory illness, you can still do this, but please see a doctor as well--the sooner, the better.  My next door neighbor died of the flu; people die every day of pneumonia. If you need to save money, keep in mind that a serious case of pneumonia can put you in the hospital for several days. A sinus infection put me in the hospital for a week when I was a child.

SWAMP involves taking a large dose of vitamin D. According to what I've read in various books and medical journals, most people can safely take a one-time (say, three to four times per year) 100,000 IU dose of vitamin D. But there are some people who shouldn't do this; read this post for further details. See a doctor if you have any concerns about taking such a high dose.

While there is clinical and observational evidence to support vitamin D helping respiratory illnesses, this is just a hypothesis, and I'm not a medical professional. I'm just a regular gal who has done a lot of reading and had a lot of sinus problems. At this writing, I'm 99% better from a cold/sinus infection that has lasted over a month and didn't go away after a course of antibiotics. I've been doing the SWAMP protocol, more or less, since Sunday (four days ago). Without further adieu, here's the protocol.

What to take:
  • 50,000 IU of vitamin D3 for two days
  • Mucinex or other mucus thinner of your choice, as needed to keep your sinuses clear
  • A few teaspoons of salt
  • Extra fluids as needed
Vitamin D is a natural anti-inflammatory that should help open your sinus passages. It's also an immune cell activator that helps you fight viruses and microbes. It's the part that unblocks the swamp and activates the natural predators. According to what I've read, most Americans and Europeans are deficient in vitamin D. Although I had a normal level according to a test, I still ended up ill. I've been taking 20,000 to 50,000 IU for the past four days without any symptoms of toxicity. (Vitamin D toxicity symptoms include constipation, decreased appetite, dehydration, fatigue, muscle weakness and vomiting.) 50,000 IU of vitamin D is considered a high dose, so use some discretion and pay attention to how you feel. (Of course, it's possible to reach a toxic level with any substance.) Read the page linked to above.

A mucus thinner will help clear your sinuses of thick, sticky mucus. With most of the mucus gone, your sinuses shouldn't be able to support a big colony of bacteria (so the SWAMP hypothesis goes). It will also help relieve pressure that can cause headaches, toothaches, and facial pain. Don't wait until your sinus pain becomes intolerable--get the extra mucus cleared out.

With the mucus flowing, your body is using more fluids and more salt. Your nasal mucus is full of salt: I've made thousands of batches of saline solution to irrigate my nose. You need to replenish not only the fluids, but the salt, too. "Salt deprivation leads to lightheadedness, fatigue, headache, and malaise," say Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney in The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. This is probably why broth is such a popular cold treatment: it's full of salt.

For further reading:
"Sinus Infections: The Swamp Hypothesis" by Lori Miller. Pain, Pain, Go Away! blog. February 22, 2012.
"Vitamin D for a Respiratory Infection" by Lori Miller. Pain, Pain Go Away! blog. February 19, 2012.
"Vitamin D and Influenza" by Michael Eades MD. Protein Power blog, May 16, 2009.
"Avoiding the Swine Flu" by Michael Eades MD. Protein Power blog, May 4, 2009.
The Vitamin D Solution by Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD. Penguin Group, 2010.
The Vitamin D Revolution by Soram Khalsa, MD. Hay House, 2009.


FredT said...

I have been taking 3000 to 5000 iu /day for the last 4-5 years, without more than a few days of wet nose. However pills dump out in that range each day. Low carb may also help, as mucus is glucose rich. I suffer from dry throat.

Lori Miller said...

I don't think nasal mucus is supposed to contain glucose. According to one site, "Studies have shown that glucose can be detected in airways secretions from people with diabetes mellitus, stress hyperglycaemia and people with nasal epithelial inflammation due to viral colds."

Eliminating wheat has all but eliminated my nasal congestion, but low-carb in general hasn't helped my sinus infection.