Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Probiotics cured my sore throat...possibly

As an immune compromised person, I get frequent sore throats.  In fact, the frequency of my sore throats were one of the first signs that my immune system functioned differently than others'.  Certain sources of waterfor instance, a water cooler at workalways gave me a sore throat when my co-workers were unaffected.  About 1 out of every 10 times I drink a beverage with ice from a restaurant, it leaves me with a raging sore throat, even when others were fine.  (In researching it just now, I found that restaurant ice machines have been found to be dirtier than toilet water).  Because of the origin of my sore throats (water and ice), it is usually clear they are from bacteria, not inflammation from a viral infection.  I can also tell the difference between a bacterial and viral sore throat by feel; bacterial is more painful.

It happened again last week: ice from a restaurant left me with a raging sore throat.  I can usually predict within the first 24 hours if the sore throat will resolve itself, or if I will eventually 'cry uncle' and see my doctor.

For years, I felt frustrated that such a seemingly simple problem had no true remedy other than antibiotics.  I tried all of the "natural" remedies like salt water gargle, cayenne pepper gargle, honey, etc.  Nothing seemed to work.

(Recently I gave salt water another try and have had some moderate success with it.  I realized that I hadn't been using nearly enough salt in prior solutions.  It does seem to work if I use 4 or 5 heaping teaspoons of salt per cup of water.  The water has to be unbearably salty, to the point where I can barely gargle it without choking.)    

But in this particular instance (last week) not even the salt water was killing the sore throat.  I felt a little desperate.  I began to think about how, in the gut, probiotics can help turn the balance of bacteria from bad to good.  I had also heard of people using probiotic nasal spray to cure chronic sinusitis.  I had heard of others using probiotic toothpaste to address oral thrush.  So why couldn't probiotics be applied to the throat?

One of the brands of oral probiotics I'm currently using comes in capsule form, where the capsule can be taken apart and the probiotic powder inside can be accessed.   I laid back on the couch and opened my mouth.  I instructed my wife to pour the content of one Culturelle probiotic capsule onto my throat, tonsils, uvula (also known as "the hangy ball thing"), and generally all over the back of my mouth.  I tried to swallow some of the powder so that it would cover more of my throat.  

I waited.

I saw no real improvement during the following 3 hours until bedtime, but when I woke the next morning, the sore throat was gone.  This was very unusual for me.  Nearly always, the sore throat is at its worst in the morning, and improves somewhat throughout the day, only to worsen again at night.  I can't think of another time where I woke with my throat feeling better than at bedtime the previous night.

Granted, this is a "study" with a sample size of 1.  It's possible there's another explanation for the unusual recovery, but it's something for me to watch in the future.  I'll certainly experiment with it again the next time I have a bacterial sore throat.

Please understand that I'm NOT recommending that anybody else try this off-label use of probiotics. I took a risk and it worked for me this one time, but it's possible it could be dangerous for someone else.  


  1. Thanks for sharing. Sore throats have long been a hallmark of this illness for me as well. I went from only getting sore throats once a year or so before getting sick to now getting them every month on average. It just feels like it's always on the ledge and can be pushed over to being sore with any nudge. In my case that nudge is sugar. Like clockwork I can count on getting sore throats if I have ice cream or anything with much sugar.

    Salt water with a pinch of baking soda seems to work best for me. But yes, in general I hate sore throats especially when mixed with the constant post nasal drip that most of us with CFS have; it's just yet another thing that adds to the misery.

    1. I hear you - it is SO frustrating. When my sore throats get really bad, I rate it as my worst symptom. Many find that hard to believe but I can only tell them that they must not get sore throats as badly as I do. It gets to the point where it's very difficult to concentrate on other things, the pain is so intense.

      Thanks for the tip about adding baking soda into the salt water