More Fermented Foods, Less Runny Nose?

As recently as four or five years ago,and for many years before that, I often had a runny nose. I went through boxes and boxes of Kleenex. I carried a handkerchief everywhere and often used it. Not because I had a cold–I almost never got colds. It was different than that. You might say I was mildly allergic to something in the air.

Because of reading an article I will discuss in a moment, I have just noticed that my runny nose has vanished, both in Berkeley (clean air) and Beijing (dirty air).  So I don’t think it’s due to the dirty air in Beijing. There was no sharp change but as best I can remember it went away during the period when I started eating lots of fermented foods. Most days I eat about three types — yogurt and two other things, such as kimchi or kombucha. It is plausible that more exposure to bacteria caused my immune system to stop overreacting.

The article, from The Scientist, describes research suggesting that not enough bacteria can cause disease — specifically, sinusitis. Sinusitis, just like ulcers, has been associated with a particular bacterium, but the researcher involved, Susan Lynch of UCSF, has a more sophisticated understanding of causality than those two bacteria-causes-ulcers scientists and the committee that gave them a Nobel Prize. Lynch points out, quite reasonably, that the bacteria associated with sinusitis “have also been detected in the sinuses of healthy individuals . . . “Just because you find these organisms, it does not mean they are driving disease.” (The bacterium that supposedly caused ulcers, C. pylori, turned out to be very common. Almost everyone infected did not have ulcers.)

Lynch and her colleagues discovered

Samples from [sinusitis] patients tended to have less diversity of bacterial species than those of healthy controls. Furthermore the relative abundance of certain species differed between patients and controls. Sinusitis patients’s noses were enriched with a skin bacteria called Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum, for example, while samples from healthy controls were enriched with Lactobacillus bacteria, including L. sakei.

Which you could obviously get from fermented food. Following up this observation, the researchers did a mouse study that found that giving mice the bad bacteria caused sinusitis-like symptoms but giving mice both bad bacteria and good bacteria did not cause the symptoms. The good bacteria were protective.








5 Replies to “More Fermented Foods, Less Runny Nose?”

  1. Seth, your fermented probiotics may well have helped promote a healthier bacterial balance in your nasal microbiome, but could there also have been other factors?

    For example, had you been taking antibiotics earlier, and could the antibiotics have been killing off the “good” bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria?

    Seth: I had taken antibiotics 20 years earlier. I doubt their effect lasts so long. The first useful thing I learned from my self-experimentation was that antibiotics were not helping my acne, so I stopped taking them.

  2. Interesting, my spouse has developed a sporadic runny nose for the first time in his life, he was hospitalized a year ago and had some antibiotics at that time but none since. (His immune system has actually been very good for the last year, no or only very mild colds/flu) We were blaming it on the fact he has had to take lots of new medications, but they are for the heart, and we saw no connection whatsoever with his nose. He does eat yogurt, but not on a daily basis. Oh, and we both take Vitamin D, but I’m the one who has had several colds!

    Seth: great observation! I mean about your spouse.

  3. I used to carry handkerchiefs with me always too, and frequently use them, as did my father. After I adopted a Paleo diet, I found I no longer needed them.

  4. Despite a Weston Price + fermented food products I still had AM congestion (Spring trees, dust mites) although better but became incidentally dramatically improved after markedly reducing wheat. Am not 100% grain free by any means but must be some total load issue because doesn’t worsen after eating a wheat product. And I’ve certainly done the gamut of various allergy reduction supplements and treatments etc. My Kleenex utilization index has dropped dramatically!

    Question: is there any rationale for a sinus mucus “transplant”? That’s something I have yet to read anything about, a la fecal transplantation

  5. Can’t win, babe. Dirty air in Beijing, prob like smoking, Even worse. U may not need tissue. Later u can get a heart transplant to save u. Pollution might give brain tumor. U may know lots of stuff, but the chinx air will kill n=1!!

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