Well Not All Well

I’m still basking in the glow of the good news that my gut has healed so much. So golden was the glow I firmly believed I could turn persistent aches and pains into chalk dust and blow it from my fingers.

Alas, of course, mind only gets so far over the matter of pesky respiratory bugs. No matter how much positive thinking I rain upon feelings of infectious illness, the illness persists until I drag myself to the doctor and submit to another course of antibiotics. This applied as recently as Sunday, when I finally stopped telling myself my tonsils didn’t look THAT bad and my face didn’t hurt THAT much and I probably could kick this bad feeling because it, after all, probably just was allergies.

Probably. The probability that I could kick this malaise crouched in the tail end of the distribution at about 10%. I know the signs and the symptoms. I’ve had four to eight sinus infections every year for years.

A decade ago I had sinus surgery to make it easier for the sinuses to drain. The surgeon said this would reduce the frequency of infections. It didn’t.

Then I had surgery six years ago to repair the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which no longer worked so stomach acid was refluxing into my sinuses and lungs when I slept, causing severe infections. The surgery worked really well at stopping the reflux but I still got sinus infections.

This year I had painful oral surgery to clear out a deep infection in my jaw that split a tooth and required said tooth’s extraction. The surgeon felt certain this would resolve my sinus problems. Since the surgery on the last day of April, I’ve had three sinus infections. Rats.

I’ve had three rounds of allergy testing and allergy shots, the first one during my sophomore year in high school. I learned then that anything pine, chocolate, mold, wool, and dust mites caused much of my respiratory misery. I took shots for six years. We ditched the fresh Christmas tree for a boxed one, tossed everything woolly bully, and went hog wild keeping things clean.

Then we moved to Atlanta, Georgia, reputedly one of the most allergy-aggravating places in the continental U.S. My allergies went berserk. Forget what the newscasters say doctors say about people not being allergic to the springtime green snow, aka pine pollen. That’s just what they have to say to keep people from fleeing the state in panicked waves. I want to rip my eyeballs out of their sockets and inhale water from a fire hose to stop the itching and burning.

In the fall, I want to rip  my eyeballs out of their sockets and grow gills so I can breathe underwater because the mold population skyrockets. There’s mold on the back patio because it still rains but the sun no longer directly dries the rain. The dampness persists and begets mold. All those lovely falling leaves? Magic carpet rides for mold spores. Check out any pile of fallen leaves and you’ll see the blackish or brownish mold festering there, especially when the morning dew doesn’t fully dry because the sun no longer shines directly on that patch of garden/lawn.  Enjoy kicking up the leaves when you walk? Me, too! Until I realized that I also was kicking up the mold spores. I might as well burrow into the leaves and inhale deeply….until my throat closes and my lungs seize.

Good times. I last took allergy shots in the early 1990s. I revisited the idea after the sinus surgery but the allergist said shots wouldn’t help. Rats. I enrolled in two different clinical research trials about asthma and discovered what kind of asthma I have and how it’s linked to leukotrienes and allergies. The knowledge and the resulting medication recommendations seemed to help a bit but I wound up taking six different medications every day: Singulair (asthma-pill), Zyrtec (allergy-pill), fluticasone proprionate (allergy-nasal spray), Advair discus (asthma-inhaled powder), albuterol (asthma rescue inhaler), and guaifenisin (mucus thinner-pill).

About a year ago, I decided to cut back on my meds and only take Zyrtec and albuterol. It just seemed like I ingested so many drugs and I wanted to live “cleaner.” I also wanted to see if the drugs were aggravating my gut.

Cleanliness is a relative term. If I’m taking fewer drugs but getting sick more often, how clean is that? If my immune system is being attacked every day, how healthy can I be? Could the absence of my allergy and asthma treatments be why I’ve had so many infections in the last year, even though my house is clean and my gut is healed?

The doctor thinks so. Drat.

I’m reluctantly back to five (no Advair because it uses lactose as the powder carrier for the drug and I am allergic to milk so the iatrogenic effect kept kicking in. In other words, it caused asthma attacks rather than prevented them).  I also use the air purifiers and I still keep the windows and doors closed even when the sun and dry warm breezes tease me into thinking, “Oh, I need to get some fresh air in here!”

Fresh air is a relative term. It may be outside air but if its full of fall pollens, mold spores, the neighbor’s cigar smoke, car exhaust, and the other neighbor’s dog poop, how fresh is it?

Living with a compromised immune system is no picnic, but at least it’s not boring. And all of the medications I take are available in generic form and thus not too expensive.  Zyrtex and guaifenisin are over the counter so that helps, too.  I also use Simply Saline nasal saline mist a few times a day to help clean out irritants. Plus I drink Sleepytime Sinus Soother tea at times like these when I’m sick. And Vitaminwater Zero Squeezed which has B vitamins, C, and zinc.

So maybe my gut is healed and that’s huge, but the rest of me isn’t…yet. And every time I get glutened I weaken my immune system a little. It takes time to restore balance. And as of yet, there’s not cure for allergies but I can be a good girl and at least take the treatments that work for me. In light of the evidence, not to keep taking the medicines would be irresponsible.

If you’ve got tips and tricks that work for you, I’d love to hear them!

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