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Home Remedy for Cold & Flu Prevention – My Call for a Formal Study

Some years ago, I posted a page on my blog with homegrown steps for preventing colds and flus by heading them off before they get going. I am reposting them below, updated, for family and my doctor.

In the close to 20 years that I have employed these strategies, I have never had the incipient symptoms of an upper respiratory infections—like sore throat, congestion, cough from post-nasal drip—turn into anything. I’ve experienced the beginnings of runny noses or bad sore throats plenty of times—and I don’t mean minor ones, I mean the kind of sore throats that are so inflamed and painful, it’s hard to talk or swallow your own spit, including fever—and other symptoms that at one time would have always turned into a major illness.*

These strategies have reliably helped me (and my family members and friends who have used them) to cut those symptoms short and get better quickly without ever developing a systemic illness.

As with SolveEczema.org (environmental strategies for eczema and astham), the strategies involve taking simple measures that anyone can do, generally regarded as safe, and that are based on a combination of my own research and methodical, empirical observation. And just as with SolveEczema strategies, it can be easy to make wrong assumptions and miss getting the results unless one reads and understands that these strategies are something new and different despite familiar elements.

And just as with SolveEczema.org, I tend to keep things low-key until there is research to back it up—even more than SolveEczema, these flu-prevention strategies could be easily validated with appropriate clinical trials. Which are difficult to get done as an outsider. (As SolveEczema.org users know, I am not a medical professional.)

But as the Covid-19 pandemic has progressed, I feel I should speak up. Testing the above strategies would be easy and fairly low risk, with the potential benefit of reducing the number of people who get sick with Covid-19 after exposure, allowing for a faster recovery, faster resolution of the epidemiological “curve” and faster and more confident transition to normal life. Especially for healthcare workers and people in essential jobs like first responders, grocery and delivery employees, construction and transportation workers, having a way to regularly mitigate the likelihood of infection even after exposure or development of new symptoms would be very powerful. If these steps prove broadly effective, it could significantly reduce the risk of illness because of exposures in their work. The strategies could conceivably reduce transmissibility and thus cut short the epidemic.

There would be relatively few downsides to a clinical trial. The strategies could be employed by half of those with a known exposure but who have not gotten sick and comparisons made with the other half for how many came down with the full-blown disease. Another group could be health care workers or public health professionals who get constant exposure, with half getting the strategies (modified specifically for their circumstances), half not.

The best trial would be to test the strategies with people who get incipient symptoms like GI problems, sore throat, or congestion, because these strategies work best in my experience when used at the beginnings of an illness or right after a known exposure, rather than as regular well-care prophylaxis, but from what I understand, the typical symptoms of an incipient flu are not necessarily present very often at the start Covid-19.

The other kind of trial that might be helpful is to give the strategies to a portion of those who develop incipient flu symptoms and give only partial strategies that are already in common use to others, and see if it changes the number of people who get sick with flus. Even if the strategies don’t work with Covid-19 as well, if they are generally as effective as I have observed with flu, they could reduce the number of people who need medical services for flu, and thus help free up the healthcare system at this time of crisis. (And would also help reduce the number of flu deaths every year!)

These are not just typical strategies such as to reduce the pain of a sore throat by gargling with salt water, they are a combined set of strategies to eliminate the sore throat altogether within a short period of time and keep something worse from developing. I speculate from what I have observed that the strategies may allow the immune system to catch up, essentially.

I have updated the strategies and posted them below for convenience. My next post will include selected updated research support for this from medical literature, and why I believe these strategies could help with Covid-19 control WITH APPROPRIATE CLINICAL TRIALS FOR VALIDATION. Please note again that if you have symptoms, CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR. If you want to try these strategies, run them by your doctor and understand when you should call. Do not use something anyone provides you from the Internet, even me, in lieu of professional medical attention.

Wishing everyone Good Health as we all do our parts to end this pandemic as soon as possible.

Best,
AJ

*Only one time, I had something that seemed to go straight into my lungs without any sore throat or other symptoms first, but even then, the strategies allowed my to keep the coughing from starting up so I could sleep.

Better than chicken soup* – Our family’s best home remedy for heading off colds, sore throats, and cough from post-nasal drip

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is what we do during cold and flu season — it really seems preventive and to head off sore throats, colds and coughs. I couldn’t say if it beats my Grandma’s onion poultices because — sorry Grandma! — making onion poultices is not my idea of a soothing solution when I am sick! These steps seem to work fast — without onions — and help head off the congestion that tickles the back of the throat and becomes a cough, especially at night.

As you might expect if you follow SolveEczema.org, I developed this because of research I read over the years, and copious experimentation and observation. Since following these steps, I’ve never had a sore throat turn into anything, and the few times I’ve had problems that seemed to bypass the sore throat stage, it was still helpful at heading off the coughing and letting me sleep at night — without a lot of medication.

Image courtesy of m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

DISCLAIMER: As always, I feel like I need to make a disclaimer, because even if this is effective for you — especially if it is effective for you — DO NOT do this instead of consulting your doctor. Only do with your doctor’s blessing, and after making sure nothing more serious needs to be addressed! That H1N1 flu, for example, moves FAST into the lungs and gets scary serious even faster — this is NOT a substitute for getting urgent care for something like that, and is NOT a home remedy once something has moved into the lungs, among other problems. See your doctor immediately if there is any question of there being pneumonia or infection in the lungs. (My readers know how cautious I am about medical treatment — even I recommend everyone getting flu shots.)

So, with that in mind ….

Not all of these steps are always necessary — the essential ones are starred *** — but the order of all the steps is important, regardless.  With very young children, check with doctor before doing any of these steps:

Whenever a sore throat, congestion, or cough starts (a cough that isn’t yet in the lungs but comes from higher up):

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1.  Brush teeth — use a new brush or disinfect toothbrush first with peroxide if possible, use toothpaste from a new tube, don’t contact the bristles to the tube.

Brushing can be skipped in a pinch, but it’s a good idea to start by brushing.  The microorganisms don’t just inhabit the back of the throat, and brushing reduces the bacterial soup swimming around the mouth.

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2.  Drink a large glass of warm water — it’s so important for the immune system and also because you don’t want to drink right after the next steps.  Many people come from cultural traditions that view warm water (room temperature or slightly warmer rather than cold water) as important for health — there is research support for this notion now, and from my own empirical observation, I am in agreement with this view.

Simply Saline Allergy and Sinus
Simply Saline Nasal Rinse

Simply Saline Allergy and Sinus ****

***3.  Rinse sinuses with Simply Saline sterile nasal spray from each side per instructions (regular or Allergy and Sinus formula, they are both non-detergent and JUST saline) and blow nose.

Simply Saline is my favorite product for this purpose, it works well and the mist delivers the product into the sinuses in a very gentle way, especially for children, though you may still have to talk them through it.  You can also use other products, or a Neti Pot but not if you are EVER tempted to use it without sterile water!!!  (I can’t stress that enough, never put unsterilized tap water in your sinuses!!!!!)

Step #3 is important EVEN IF YOU ONLY HAVE A SORE THROAT AND DON’T YET HAVE CONGESTION.

For very bad congestion, after rinsing well with regular Simply Saline, rinse again with the Allergy and Sinus Simply Saline.  That works the vast majority of the time, but if things come back and repeating the steps using those isn’t enough, you can rinse with Simply Saline then follow with Nutribiotic Nasal Spray, per instructions, probably one or two sprays per nostril.  (I am concerned about how well the valve works so I always spray it into a clean tissue once or twice after every use, keep the nozzle wiped clean, and throw it away when I no longer need it for that illness.)

***4.  Gargle several times with a glass of warm salt water (just use ordinary table salt, maybe a spoon in a glass, it doesn’t have to be ocean-salty).  Swish some of the salt water around in your mouth, between the teeth, and spit out.  (If you have high blood pressure and need to watch salt intake, discuss with doctor beforehand.)

Step #4 is important EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE A SORE THROAT BUT ONLY HAVE CONGESTION AND/OR COUGHING FROM POST-NASAL DRIP.

***5.  Dissolve a dose of probiotic in a small amount of warm water, like only just a teaspoon or two of water, then swallow so it coats the back of the throat and tongue.

My favorite probiotics for this (including for myself) are Jarrow Baby’s Jarro-dophilus. It comes in powder form and can be measured out by the teaspoon or fractions of.  It tends to clump, so make sure it is well dissolved.  Primadophilus Intensive is also good.  It comes in a powder, in separate packets.

I find in a pinch, just taking the concentrated probiotic can help combat a sore throat.  LINK

If you don’t have those brands, you can use what you have, split open a capsule and dissolve it in the glass.  Be sure it’s a refrigerated acidophilus with live bacteria.  Dead shelf-stable ones are better than nothing, but you may not get the same results.  Use a probiotic with as many strains as possible.  If you only have one, that’s better than nothing, but 6-12 strains is best in my experience.  (There is at least evidence that 2 strains is better than one when it comes to cold and flue prevention.)

You may have to try more than one probiotic product to hit the right one to beat back whatever is causing the problem sometimes — it’s always more effective to do this at the very start of the sore throat than after it gets entrenched.  How do you know if it’s a good probiotic?  It should begin working right away.  If it makes no discernible difference, you need a different probiotic.  The difference is usually pretty obvious.

Repeat whenever the pain returns.  But try to do after eating rather than before.

This seems to work really well to ward off sore throats and congestion when they happen and keep them from turning into something else, and also, it has been very useful to stop the coughing at night when lying down, whether there is a sore throat or not.  Even if you don’t seem to be congested, the stuff that comes down postnasal can be very irritating and be the reason for the cough.  This really seems effective at getting all that stuff out of the way, if you do it right before going to bed, so you can sleep and the immune system can do its job better.

If you want to be really hard core — it does seem to help — eat healthy and don’t eat sugary and starchy foods while sick, the bad microbes seem to love those foods as much as we do.  If taking an antibiotic, take probiotics during treatment (not just after) per medical advice — take oral enteric coated probiotics in addition to the dissolved per #5 above.

Lastly, if you spend time at school or the doctor’s office during cold and flu season, when you get home, wash hands (of course) and change into clean clothes (bag the dirty ones and put them by the laundry, don’t leave them in your room even in the hamper).  I don’t know if the question of how much doctors’ coats and ties are spreading disease has been settled LINK , but taking this step has definitely worked for me from personal experience.

So the steps are again:

1. Brush teeth with a clean brush and paste.
2. Drink a large glass of warm water.
3. Rinse sinuses with sterile saline nasal rinse (whether you are congested or not), immediately followed by:
4. Gargle with warm salt water (whether you have a sore throat or not).
5. Dissolve a dose of probiotic in a small amount of water, just a teaspoon or two, and drink.
6. Repeat the whole process as soon as symptoms return. Use Allergy & Sinus Simply Saline in all subsequent repeats if the regular wasn’t enough to make things go away completely the first time.


Remember to rinse and sterilize the sink when you are done, as necessary.

Do not get “lazy” and let things go just because the steps make things feel instantly better when you do them.  They work best if you go do them right when the symptoms start and repeat them right away if symptoms come back.  Doing this, I have been able to reliably get rid of even aggressive sore throats and congestion and keep them from turning into a something worse for around 20 years now.  If symptoms get entrenched, it’s not too late—following the steps seems to help reduce the severity and duration of any illness that gets a foothold.

Be Well!  I hope this helps!

AJ

*My opinion!  Believe it or not, I think chicken soup can actually claim published support for its healing properties!

**As everyone who reads my site knows, I am a mom, not a doctor.  I have given this advice to my own doctor!

****I have mostly suspended affiliate marketing, because it’s a lot of work, and people get the wrong impression.  I do earn a very small percentage if people buy using the links, but with personal care products, it earns very little, it’s just a convenience.  Sadly, my favorite site for personal care products was bought up and closed down.  As of this writing, Simply Saline products are available at Costco, Amazon, and many drugstores.

When they say soap is the best way to clean and disinfect with coronavirus SARS-Cov-2, do they mean “soap”? Plus, how to disinfect the CDC-recommended way.

If you have used SolveEczema.org’s environmental strategies to address eczema, you may be wondering: is there a difference between soaps and detergents—in the way SolveEczema.org defines them—for washing hands and surfaces to protect against the new coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 that causes Covid-19?

First, the CDC cleaning guidance for the public to prevent the spread of Covid-19 recommends a two-step process:

1 – clean surfaces first
2 – then disinfect

Why a two-step process?

According to a publication of the US Environmental Protection Agency, cleaning and disinfecting together in one step is less effective:
“Dirt and organic material make some disinfectants less effective, so cleaning is necessary before disinfecting in most cases.”

The EPA publication and CDC guide repeatedly recommend a two-step process for cleaning and disinfecting.

–The CDC guide says “[Disinfection] does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, [disinfection] can further lower the risk of spreading infection.”
–“If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.”
The EPA publication says “Sanitizing does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. Most sanitizers, as well as disinfectants, require a clean surface in order to be effective at killing germs. “ And,
–“Incorrectly using a disinfectant may kill the weaker germs, but the more resistant germs survive. Incorrect use includes “disinfecting a dirty surface” …[and] “using a combination disinfectant/cleaner without first removing visible dirt from the surface.”

Many disinfection products contain both surfactants (invariably, detergents) and disinfectants because companies believe the public will not follow a two-step process because it’s too much trouble. In ordinary times, they are probably right. Today, the public is going to great lengths to follow CDC recommendations. Plus, many articles suggest that washing hands properly with soap may be more effective than using sanitizer against the new coronavirus.

As for disinfecting surfaces, again, the CDC recommends cleaning first, then disinfection (if necessary).

The EPA has provided a list of products it expects will kill the novel coronavirus.

Note the first product on the disinfectant list is a Cleanwell product, which disinfects with thymol. Disinfection products containing hydrogen peroxide or ethanol or citric acid or iodine or bleach are also recommended, it is not necessary to choose a detergent-containing product.

If you want pure bleach without detergents, I recommend “Germicidal” Clorox because the Clorox quality is very consistent, and if you are trying to avoid surfactants, look for the “Germicidal” line only, as of the last time I looked, it was the only one of their consumer bleach products that did not also contain detergents. Note that they do not make it for or recommend it for the laundry— I do a short wash first with soap and only then using the bleach when disinfection is necessary, but you need to know that the company only recommends products that contain detergents for laundry at this point. With bleach being necessary for medical environments, it may not be possible to buy a bleach product at all right now anyway. If your child cannot tolerate the detergents, I just wanted to point out that the CDC says you can use other disinfectant products.

Next question: does it matter whether the cleaning is done by what SolveEczema defines as natural soap or detergents?

Short answer: No. According to everything I have read, all “soaps” should be effective. SolveEczema.org users should be able to use true soap and non-detergent disinfectants and comply with CDC recommendations for cleaning during this pandemic, without compromising their environmental strategies for eczema. Many soap producers are small businesses and have soap available for purchase.

Here’s a great article from a health center in Colorado that explains why soap is better than sanitizer, and they clearly reference true soap as defined on SolveEczema.org:

Big caveat: remember that soap (and detergents) don’t lather well in hard water. So it’s tempting to use a great deal too much product yet think it rinses away quickly, when that’s not actually what’s happening. With hard water, surfactants aren’t rinsing away quickly, the hard water is just destroying the suds. Keep washing and rinsing for the recommended time.

Expanding SolveEczema’s blog during the Covid-19 pandemic

I have decided to expand the scope of my posts during the pandemic, to include a backlog of SolveEczema-related updates, but also education—my son is now going off to college—environmental health, and other problems that need attention since national news is so focused, necessarily, on the pandemic. Some things need to be said, that aren’t being said.

It may seem as if my blog hasn’t been active, and but I have had to focus on behind-the-scenes stuff like moving my website to a new host and all the nail-biting and nested-tech-tasks-of-indeterminate-time-sinks that entailed. I’m very thankful the new host seems to be so much better.

My son ended up homeschooling for high school, to start in large part because our local school didn’t handle either the environmental health issues or his education very well. I have a lot to share about how families can hopefully be more successful than we were at improving their schools’ environmental health.

It’s become more imperative because environmental health research shows that when schools are closed up for any period of time, as schools all over the world are now because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the sudden worsening of indoor air quality from everything being stirred up when schools are reopened makes for a spike in colds, flus, and upper respiratory infections among students and staff. After everything everyone is doing to end this pandemic, the environmental health evidence-base points to the need to head off that surge by understanding effective indoor air quality management to avoid another round of lockdowns and a surge in the Covid-19 cases when schools and colleges start up again.

So, for the next few months, my posts won’t necessarily be on topic. I will try to make posts that are helpful my site users, since I want everyone to be able to safely employ preventive environmental strategies for eczema and asthma while also following CDC and other official guidelines and recommendations to stay safe.

Blessings and good health, everyone!

–AJ

How to Find the Detergents, Allergens, and Other Inert Ingredients in Medications

Most medications are made up of the active ingredient — the medicine — and inert ingredients, such as dyes to help identify the medication.

Assorted Medications

Photo by NIAID – Assorted Medications, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62117217

Medications can contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and other detergents. They can also contain other substances people are frequently allergic to, like dyes. Talc is another frequent ingredient, despite credible concerns and ongoing questions about its possible link to certain cancers. Yet other ingredients can have side effects, for example, sugar alcohols (sugar substitutes) like sorbitol can cause dizziness if taken regularly.

As this news story from CBS New York about inert ingredients and medications reports: “Millions of people think they’re allergic to life-saving medications like penicillin, but a recent study found that 90 percent of those folks … may be reacting [instead] to some of the inactive ingredients in the pills.”

The story points out the difficulties of finding the inert ingredients list because there are no labeling laws like there are for foods. It is currently far easier to find the list of ingredients in a box of breakfast cereal than it is for medications people take daily.

I recently needed to find a generic version of a medication I was using, and was frustrated by how difficult it was to find the inert ingredients. I eventually found a resource online through the NIH that seems to be about the best resource for identifying inert ingredients, Daily Med. The website contains over 100,000 drug listings.

You can search through its database of medications, and the site will display a list that includes the name of the drug, the manufacturer or packager, and the NDC code for the drug. The links go to pages that include a wealth of information: contraindications, indications of use, drug interactions, and much more, including — always at the very bottom — a link to the Ingredients and Appearance, and often a link to an image of the medication’s label.

Many drugs have different inert ingredients from one generic to the next, and from one dosage from the same manufacturer to the next, so to look up the exact drug to find its inert ingredients, scroll through the dosages on the Ingredients page to find the exact one you are using.

For SolveEczema.org users, being able to ensure medications taken daily are detergent-free can be a real challenge. I think it’s very important that site users prioritize the medications they need and that their doctors recommend, and NOT stop anything just because it has detergents in it, rather, discuss the situation with your MD before making changes. Having information means it might be possible to find non-detergent alternatives through the Daily Med site, and your doctor or pharmacy may be able to specify the one with the most tolerable inert ingredients or even prescribe a compounded version.

The CBS New York story suggests people may need to use a compounding pharmacy if they need medications without some of the inert ingredients. Which is, of course, it’s own endeavor, to find an affordable compounding pharmacy with a good track record for safety. Compounded medications tend to be very costly, and insurance may balk at paying.

There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of awareness about the issue of allergy and sensitivity to the inert ingredients in medications yet. At least the NIH Daily Med site has been very helpful to determine which versions of medications don’t contain SLS.

SolveEczema News and Publication

One of the goals when I started to write a book about SolveEczema.org (still in the works!) was to find a way to bring the ideas into a mainstream medical and scientific forum for discussion and validation, including also writing a scientific paper. After years considering how to publish something so different, I published in a new open source platform called The Winnower, which offers post-publication peer review.

You can view the paper at: https://thewinnower.com/papers/3412-abnormal-ampli-fication-observations-from-applying-the-engineering-method-to-solving-eczema-and-atopic-disease

I know this probably sounds very dry to site users, but for anyone who has asked the question “Why didn’t my doctor give me this information?!” (too many to count have emailed me the same question), you may be interested in the scientific validation of this work, because it will mean other children will be spared the same suffering.  Although many doctors have used and referred SolveEczema.org to patients over the years, it will be tough to reach everyone or work on solving related health conditions without the validation of peer review.

I’m having some computer problems lately, so rather than trying to compose a post to explain, here are some edited excerpts from recent letters I wrote:
SolveEczema.org represents the novel application of modern technical problem solving, in particular, the engineering method, to solving a medical condition, eczema and related allergy. The engineering method has been described as “The use of heuristics to cause the best change in a poorly understood situation within the available resources.” (BV Koen, The Bent of Tau Beta Pi, 1985)

When an environmental cause underlies a medical condition, complex environmental and exposure differences can translate to seemingly intractable person-to-person variability. This work involves the unraveling of this seeming complexity by using heuristics that allow individuals to focus on controlling what’s important to problem solve in their own circumstances. The paper presents a number of insights that came about as part of the problem solving process and subsequent research, such as why a key aspect of the solution has been overlooked to date and why a new approach is needed for the validation of heuristic solutions.

A letter to a doctor who expressed an interest in a collaboration:
The article mentions how this perspective could reconcile seemingly contradictory hygiene hypothesis research. For example, for awhile, researchers said owning dogs and cats was protective, then they said it was just dogs, etc. The issue the research didn’t take into account was developments in cleaning equipment (e.g. better, filtered vacs, and more frequent cleaning of pet hair), and the fact that cats use cat litter which is just loaded with detergents that they track through homes. Birth order – anyone with a first child with allergies is going to make changes in the home environment and products, which are bound to be preventive for the later children, also never taken into account. Breastfeeding and allergies, too – the studies used to show a protective effect, then later studies said no.  I think both are probably right (the later studies looked at older children, where detergents were by then probably a more significant influence).

And (same person):

You are spot on about related health issues. I think ultimately this issue is as major an environmental problem as smoking was, in some ways worse because other creatures in the environment are affected. (I think it’s highly likely that frogs, bats, and honeybees, possibly even otters, may be experiencing serious unrecognized harm, but that’s another discussion.) Asthma, allergies, dry skin, and even wrinkles are major related issues. I have been surprised at how much the changes markedly decreased the propensity for sunburn (which could have a major impact downstream on skin cancer). Over the years, I have been thanked on several occasions by doctors specifically over the issue of having good skin despite constant handwashing – perhaps that’s something we could collaborate over. The physician handwashing issue touches on many health problems: hospital-borne infection, possible improving willingness to wash hands over using sanitizers (which is probably healthier for providers who don’t absorb so much through their skin, and reducing infections since washing is better than sanitizers), maintaining a better barrier on providers’ hands to reduce the harboring of microbes, possibly reducing the general need for antimicrobial chemicals in handwashes in some settings if mechanical means are less damaging (reducing development of resistant strains), etc.

I have been thinking a lot lately about whether it would be possible to design a case-control study. Unfortunately, the barrier is that the engineering method relies on heuristics – when an environmental cause underlies a disease, unless it is very simple to remove the cause, there is no way to apply a completely controlled treatment or course of anything. To solve the problem in every individual case, it’s necessary for people to use a heuristic tool to apply the solution in the best way for their individual environmental exposures, health status, genetic profile, etc. Then the concern is how well each person uses the heuristic tool versus how well the tool works for them. Additionally, with the engineering method, it wouldn’t make sense to apply the tool exactly the same for everyone, then judge what percentage were helped – the whole point of it is that if one case isn’t solved 100%, the unresolved case doesn’t become data, it becomes a resource to revise the heuristic tool to encompass new information to achieve the same standard of outcome or solution for that person and everyone.

That isn’t a problem-solving approach currently in use in medicine, and it clashes with normal epidemiological methods. The method itself would have to be the subject of peer review, in the context of a solution like this being peer reviewed. Just yesterday I heard an oncologist (The Death of Cancer) speak on the radio about how “regulations” were keeping him from solving problems for individual cancer patients. The ideal he described, what he really wanted to do, was really the engineering method. I think some doctors are using heuristics in other areas of medicine because they get better outcomes for their patients, and the lack of overt discussion of heuristics is, IMO, causing some of the bigger medical controversies of our time. Finding a way to ethically, with all the right safeguards, incorporate the engineering method into medicine, I believe could result in many currently unsolved disease problems being solved. No new scientific or medical breakthroughs are needed, just problem solving we already know how to do in other technical arenas.

Validating the site work – peer review is a start – would prove eczema and atopy are solvable problems, on an individual and general disease problem level.  That sounds simple, yet it’s an earth-shattering idea.  Believe it or not, the biggest challenge here is overcoming the idea, the really hard-ingrained prejudice, that a major, complex, seemingly intractable medical problem could even possibly be solved.

So, yes, finding a route to peer-review and publication has been challenging (ironically more challenging than solving my child’s severe eczema and helping thousands around the world do the same over the past >10 years).  You can view the paper at: https://thewinnower.com/papers/3412-abnormal-ampli-fication-observations-from-applying-the-engineering-method-to-solving-eczema-and-atopic-disease

 

 

Happy Birthday, Dr. Bronner’s New Non-Detergent Toothpaste

drb_toothpaste-tube-peppermint

drb_toothpaste-tube-cinnamon

I’m very happy to report that Dr. Bronner’s released a new non-detergent toothpaste almost a year ago today.  I’m also happy to report that the toothpaste has been a hit in our home.  It’s made of 70% organic ingredients yet fairly economical compared to the other non-detergent toothpastes we use.  The news release contains a list of all the ingredients in the three flavors of Peppermint, Cinnamon, and Anise:

Dr. Bronner’s Releases New Toothpaste

I’m always happy to see good non-detergent options in categories like toothpaste, shampoo, and dishwasher powder, where the commercial choices (or really good, competitive products) are fairly limited.toothpaste-box_anise_front

Sharing

I haven’t had much time to post, but this doesn’t require many words. I’ve been following the progress of a mom, Kathie, from Ireland who used my SolveEczema site and itchybaby.co.uk to alleviate her son’s eczema.   You can read more about her journey on her blog http://therealityofaperfectlife.blogspot.com

I think she’s planning a site just for eczema, with additional information about supportive herbal and dietary steps she took or learned about on her journey.  These before and after photos of her journey say more than I ever could in words (used with permission). It’s staggering to think how many millions of families all over the world are going through this now:

 

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Off Topic: Salman Khan – Khan Academy: Education Reimagined


Salman Khan – Khan Academy: Education Reimagined

I haven’t forgotten loose ends I haven’t had time to tie:  inserting the citations into Letter to a Medical Student [part 1][part 2][part 3][part4], and posting the last installment of How to Get Rid of Ants for Good [part 1][part 2].  The information in the first two parts is no longer enough for people to solve the problem without the 3rd installment.  I’ve drafted it, I just haven’t been able to finish!

I posted that ant series with an agenda:  I have been following the work of microbiologist Bonnie Bassler on bacterial communications, and wonder if there may be an equivalent biological means of thwarting bacteria by manipulating their communications. (Manipulating rather than trying to kill them, which may not even be in our best interests as collateral damage to good bacteria causes other problems.)

I didn’t want to post anything new until I got around to finishing at least those two things, but I couldn’t help posting this amazing talk by Salman Khan of Khan Academy.

Wow.  Anyone who homeschools should see this.  Anyone who schools should see this.  I love his analogy of education being like building a house.  What’s the purpose of having some kids finish 60% of the foundation and 50% of the framing, and then moving on to something else just because everyone else does?  I went to a public school in a small town in South Dakota when I was a girl and it was a work-at-your-own-pace place, with so much enrichment.  I have since met SO many creative and accomplished people who came out of that one small program.

For SolveEczema.org users in particular:   After the talk, my son and I lined up with everyone else to shake Khan’s hand, say Thank You, and to take photos.  In the first part of his lecture, he was so candid about his journey in a way I wish I could be.  What he said rang so, so many bells.  When we got through the line, I said, “If you ever want to mentor someone, I think I’m you, only with medicine, and 7 years ago — at least I hope so.”  (10 years ago?)  I gave him my card, and he said, “That’s interesting, because I have eczema.”

I keep hoping he’ll try the site strategies, because I’m beginning to think this has to be experienced, even by those who don’t have eczema (especially by those who don’t have eczema) for anyone else to understand the broader medical and environmental implications.  To get researchers to understand why there’s almost no way the underlying environmental issues involved as described on SolveEczema aren’t a factor in bat white nose syndrome/bat fungal susceptibility — they almost have to experience the process and transformation themselves, again, even if they don’t have eczema.

Great talk for anyone who cares about education.
Salman Khan – Khan Academy: Education Reimagined

 

Letter to a Medical Student — What % of Cases are From Detergent? — Part 3

I’m afraid I don’t keep track of citations electronically; I will add in citations after the last post.  There will be at least 4 parts.
AJ

[Part 1]  [Part 2]  [Part 4]
Part 3:

So when I say 25-60% of eczema cases result from detergents, I’m really considering the commonality of circumstances under which detergents would likely be the overwhelming factor in the outbreaks. These circumstances vary.

Because adults often have more complicated health pictures, and because they have naturally less permeable membranes, I would expect detergent as the overwhelming influence in a smaller percentage of cases than for infants or children. For infants, with their far more permeable skin and their still-training immune systems, the percentage is far higher.

Although, as I said, sometimes people can resolve the outbreaks by addressing one modulator or another, or all of them at once if relevant — the primary ones being detergents, environmental (or internal) mold/fungal/yeasts (or, for the internal, let us say, significantly imbalanced microbiome and consequences), or (typically certain protein) foods, or even in some cases the state of the immune system or membranes (skin, lung, and/or gut) health, because it’s all related — I think generally it’s possible to estimate how often the different major modulators dominate.

As you know, a number of studies have shown that pregnant women given beneficial bacteria (probiotics) during pregnancy reduced the rate of eczema in their infants by roughly 20%. [1]   It is my belief that these cases are the ones in which an imbalanced microbiome /fungal modulator would dominate had the eczema developed. Probiotics do more than just compete with fungal organisms, Lactibacillus has also been shown to repair the gut barrier. [2] (Also an important tangent I won’t go into, but this relates to the role of bio-surfactants and how environmental syndets interact.) Not that removing external detergents wouldn’t help those who would have developed eczema absent the probiotics— and there is overlap in the environmental strategies, relating to gut/membrane health as well — but for this segment of infants, about 20-30%, I feel the evidence suggests the fungal modulator dominates.

My observation from experience is that those for whom food is the overwhelmingly dominant factor is about 10% of cases. This is not a hard and fast number, it’s just based on experience, and could change based on conditions. As you know, even the rates of eczema around the world continue to change rapidly.

Other studies tangentially suggest roughly the same proportions: “…two-thirds of patients with atopic dermatitis have no measurable allergen-specific IgE. Are we not just measuring the right IgE? Perhaps, but not likely, considering patients with X-linked agammoglobulinemia (a disease in which patients have almost no IgE) commonly develop atopic dermatitis.” [3] (Note: IVIG, at least at the time of this paper, is normally processed with detergents and patients with X-linked agammaglobulinemia, I believe, need regular infusions. Again, not to go into a long discussion, but write back if you don’t see the applicability here.)

Noted Harvard pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, whose writings in his book Touchpoints [4] gave me the spark that led to my own solution, observed in his book that he could prevent most cases of childhood eczema by identifying atopic parents and having them implement general allergy-healthy-home practices and avoid using detergents with their infants. I asked him just as you have asked me, on what research he based his recommendations, but he said it was just based on decades of medical practice and observation.

In his day, of course, there were fewer sources of syndets in home environments, and they tended to be less powerful. Given the instructions he gave, he would have been addressing the two most significant modulators. Given that this eliminated most cases of eczema — and considering the environmental differences between then and now — I feel his experience further corroborates my observation that the cases in which a food (usually a protein food from a short list) is the primary modulator and removing it completely resolves full-body eczema as well as fluctuations from various triggers, represents the smallest percentage of cases from these main modulators. (Let me repeat that none of these factors occurs in isolation, the food modulation relates to the state of the gut barrier, which can also relate to detergent ingestion and unhealthy balance of microflora.)

Although my perspective and problem-solving heuristic are novel, there are researchers who have been publishing along similar lines and whose work supports these contentions. The most notable is probably respected dermatologist Dr. Michael Cork in the UK, who has for many years had success when his patients remove all surfactants entirely. He does not make the distinction between soaps and detergents as I do — he writes about not using “soap” because of presumed consequences to the skin, but then goes on to underscore it by saying many “soaps” have detergents in them anyway. [5] I wasn’t aware of his work while we were problem-solving, but I think he has been publishing along the lines of surfactants playing a role in the eczema epidemic for years prior.

So our views are very similar. The main difference and a significant limitation of the no-surfactant approach is that it’s not really very acceptable to most people to refrain from getting clean — Dr. Cork’s assistant said this to me, the trouble is getting people to do it — and in my experience as well as my understanding of the problem, it’s not really necessary to refrain from washing. In fact, many of my site users (including doctors using the site) have commented on how healthy their skin remains even when they engage in frequent hand washing.

The main difference stems from perspectives on how skin is affected by washing. From empirical observation, I have come to see dryness and other impacts from washing as resulting from the residues of highly hydrophilic compounds ON the skin, because of the molecular properties of those residues and how ubiquitous those exposures are in modern environments, rather than the stripping of lipids from the skin by washing, which is the traditional view.

In fact, avoiding the use of traditional soaps with molecular properties that do not cause the kind of increased permeability that most modern syndets do, actually makes it more difficult to get results in typical modern environments. Where most people with uncomplicated histories can see results in as little as a few days to a week with my site strategies, and those with more complicated histories on the order of a few weeks to a few months, these no-surfactant-at-all approaches seem to take on the order of 6 months to 2 years, and the outcomes seem less satisfactory.

In relation to the abnormal influence of modern syndets, in my observation, everyone experiences a change in circumstances because of this environmental influence — degraded skin quality, often dryness that most people believe is inherent, otherwise increased susceptibility to allergic symptoms or amplified symptoms where an allergy already exists, exacerbated asthma — even though not everyone experiences eczema. Anyone under the age of 5 and over the age of 50 especially benefits from minimizing this influence just in skin quality. I believe virtually anyone has the capacity to express eczema under the right conditions, though. Certainly, worldwide eczema and atopy rates continue to rise, seemingly without bound. And in Sweden, which has some of the highest rates, researchers have noted the environmental factor seems related to something in the indoor environment. [6]

In any given situation, removing detergents, or changing another threshold factor (mainly environmental mold or certain protein foods, including via gut barrier health), or both, might bring a given person’s circumstances below the threshold of any potential for triggering the reaction.  If a person’s outbreaks could have resulted because of more than one factor, but that person removed only one of them and stopped reacting because of bringing a threshold up, that person would blame the eczema on that one thing, when they might as easily have achieved the same result, at least in the short-term, by removing the other factor.

I have had the experience with the site that some people will work very hard in their daily lives to remove triggers that cause outbreaks with each exposure — a pet, for example — only to find that when they follow the site strategies and go detergent-free, they can bring the pet back without the same breakouts or other allergic symptoms. (This is simpler with a dog; many cat litters have significant amounts of detergent in them or are otherwise highly hydrophilic compounds, but with the right awareness and choices, that influence too can be avoided.)

 

To be Continued in Part 4:

“To the question of estimating what percentage of the eczema/atopy problem relates to detergents … implies a broad understanding of the problem across the population …”

 

[1] Pelucchi, Claudio, Liliane Chatenoud, Federica Turati, Carlotta Galeone, Lorenzo Moja, Jean-François Bach, and Carlo La Vecchia. “Probiotics Supplementation During Pregnancy or Infancy for the Prevention of Atopic Dermatitis.” Epidemiology 23.3 (2012): 402-14.

[2] Rao, R. K., and G. Samak. “Protection and Restitution of Gut Barrier by Probiotics: Nutritional and Clinical Implications.” Current nutrition and food science 9.2 (2013): 99–107. Print.

[3] Anderson, P. Chris, and James G. Dinulos. “Atopic Dermatitis and Alternative Management Strategies.” Current Opinion in Pediatrics 21.1 (2009): 131-38. Web.

[4]  Brazelton, T. Berry, and Joshua D. Sparrow. Touchpoints: Birth to 3. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2006. Print.

[5] still ISO this paper, I have the print somewhere… It’s an older paper than I am finding easily on Pubmed

[6] Aberg, N., B. Hesselmar, B. Aberg, and B. Eriksson. “Increase of Asthma, Allergic Rhinitis and Eczema in Swedish Schoolchildren between 1979 and 1991.” Clinical Experimental Allergy 25.9 (1995): 815-19. Print.

 

 

This work by A.J. Lumsdaine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License(0)

Letter to a Medical Student — What % of Cases Are From Detergent? — Part 1

I appreciate hearing from someone in medical school.  When I first wrote the website, I was doing citizen science before there was a term for it, so I had no framework to do anything but share through our own journey, in order to help as many people as possible until I could write something more traditionally scientific.  I thought the site would appeal mostly to natural practitioners but be ignored by allopathic practitioners until I could do a study and publish in more traditional outlets.

I found almost the opposite.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard my share of positive feedback from naturally-oriented practitioners who found the site useful.  But I’ve actually gotten the most ready acceptance from allopathic practitioners who read the site.  If they just glance at it or page through it and think they know what it says, they may be dismissive, but if they actually read it, they are invariably positive, even enthusiastic.  I’ve heard from many doctors over the years who not only have used the site for their families, but refer patients to it.  I’ve been thanked by many parents who had my site information because a doctor gave it to them.  I’ve heard from doctors who just appreciate being able to wash their hands frequently and still have healthy skin.  My own doctor once told me that she had just commented to a colleague that, “She really has solved eczema!”

I think the reason my site has been surprisingly well-received by allopathic practitioners is that my perspective pulls together so many loose threads from available research, and views the whole through a new lens that is consistent with what is already known.  I’m putting empirical problem-solving into the context of the available research, with which it is absolutely consistent.  Too often people make good empirical observations and then overlay a vague and unscientific framework to explain it (which may or may not be accurate or generalizable, often not).  It’s not surprising then that allopathic physicians don’t accept the empirical observations, no matter how sound.

And, there is a difference between understanding something scientifically and getting people to implement a problem-solving heuristic in order to address an environmental problem affecting their health — my site is mainly a problem-solving heuristic, although I do have to explain enough that people understand why because my perspective is so different.  People still need their doctors in implementing such a heuristic for safety’s sake, for anything medical really, but the site is not a medical treatment per se, so doctors who understand what it’s trying to achieve typically appreciate having that resource available.

The one specialty exception has been dermatologists!  Which is understandable, because what I am saying does in some ways fundamentally conflict with what they learn about the skin.  For example, one of the key stumbling blocks is the accepted traditional idea that skin becomes dry from washing because of lipids stripped from the skin.  I take a different view, that skin becomes dry because of water loss resulting mainly from the molecular properties of residues ON the skin, residues left from washing or absorbed from contact with dust or surfaces.  (See previous blog posts for more — scroll down to links for “Posts on understanding and solving dry skin”.)

My view is really radically different, but if you think about it, the idea that skin is dry because of stripped oils or lipids from washing is more an educated assumption not incontrovertibly proven by thorough scientific study, the way it was assumed in the early days of AIDS that the virus was dormant rather than locked in a fierce battle with the immune system which the immune system eventually loses, as was eventually found.  My view that the water loss results mainly from the interaction of (primarily syndet) residues of certain molecular properties with the skin isn’t yet proven, either, but it’s at least consistent with very basic biological science that every medical student learns.  Most importantly, my view pans out in solving the problems of dry skin from washing and very often, eczema.

So…

You asked how I came up with the statement that detergent-reactive eczema “likely accounts for 25-60% of eczema, depending on the age group and locality, higher if other allergies and an inherited predisposition are factors.”

(I’ll answer that in my next post.)

Best regards,

AJ Lumsdaine