As Both Patient and Scientist, I’m Putting Nature’s Medicine to the Test

By Ella Balasa

I peered into one of the incubators that stored my petri dishes for 24 hours, anxious to see whether I would discover discoloration and unevenness on the surface, which would have indicated that my experiment produced favorable results. I wanted to see a visual representation of whether manuka honey kills the stubborn Pseudomonas bacterium, which dwells in nearly half of the lungs affected by CF.

I’m a microbiology lab scientist, plus an inquisitive writer. I also consider myself an informed, self-advocating realist. Life experiences have taught me that I am solely responsible for my health. I strive to keep my health stable through prescribed medications, healthy diet, and some natural supplements.

During my college years, I focused on the environment, especially the living parts that we can’t see but that are essential to the cycle of life — bacteria. It just so happens that certain ones are, understatedly, little pests for people with CF. The lung bacteria of people with CF birth many symptoms and infections.

I continually fight Pseudomonas aeruginosa, my nemesis bacterium that spikes fevers within days of overwhelming my immune system and that has caused countless infections, leaving my lungs with pockets of dead tissue. I take antibiotics frequently, but I also believe that naturally derived compounds can have positive effects. So, despite my disdain and nausea, I sometimes supplement garlic, which contains the antibacterial compound ajoene. I’ve also consumed manuka honey; this I’ve done more religiously, as it tastes more like candy than any “medication.” Manuka honey contains the natural antibiotic methylglyoxal, a compound that fights relentless Pseudomonas by causing its cells to burst and die. I took a spoonful a day for a few years until recently. Maybe I stuck to this exorbitantly priced, palatable remedy merely because of its taste and the flawed logic that expensiveness is indicative of effectivity.

I had the idea to test the effectiveness of the honey on my sputum. My mucus grows many species of bacteria, but Pseudomonas is a primary component, so it’s easy to propagate in the lab setting.

Yes, I took a sputum cup of mucus into work. When inoculating the vials with the bacteria, I was slightly anxious that my lab mates might freak out at the sight of the hazardous and vile-looking green blobs. Then again, they work with wastewater from treatment plants, so it really shouldn’t phase them.

I tested a concentration of 15 percent weight per volume of manuka honey, a choice informed by published studies. I tested half of the petri dishes with honey mixed into the nutrients for the bacteria and the other half without the honey. The dishes with the honey should have less bacterial growth if the treatment works. (If you want more detail on the process, drop a comment below this column.)

The yellow dish has the honey added and the white dish doesn’t. (Photo by Ella Balasa)

After the 24-hour incubation period, I was excited to see the results of science that we as patients typically do not participate in. We provide our sputum samples during doctor’s appointments, then labs perform antibiotic resistance tests, and results are returned as values on a piece of paper indicating resistance or susceptibility. We don’t see the process. I was doing this same research on my own, and in a sense, taking the utmost control of my health.

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Announcing BreatheCon, a space by and for CF adults

For the first time, over 50 percent of those of us living with CF are over the age of 18. Our community has a wealth of knowledge and a great desire to connect, but little ability to interact face-to-face.
Continue reading Announcing BreatheCon, a space by and for CF adults

Medical marijuana group delivers signatures to get measure on the November ballot

http://www.kfyrtv.com/content/news/Medical-marijuana-group-delivers-signatures-to-get-measure-on-the-November-ballot-386363081.html

Medical marijuana in some form is legal in more than half of the country, but not in North Dakota.

That could be changing.

For many, prescription drugs on the market for many illnesses either don’t work Continue reading Medical marijuana group delivers signatures to get measure on the November ballot

Online: Beginning March 31, 2016 Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Class for Those Diagnosed with CF

Register for CFRI’s 8-week Online Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Class Open to Individuals Nationwide Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis!
Beginning March 31, 2016
Led by Dr. Julie Desch

  • MBSR combines body awareness, mindfulness meditation and hatha yoga to help those living with CF to address anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and stress.

Continue reading Online: Beginning March 31, 2016 Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Class for Those Diagnosed with CF

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Class for the CF Community

CFRI’s Partners in Living Initiative – A Holistic Approach to Life with Cystic Fibrosis

A 9-week online class led by Dr. Julie Desch, which combines body awareness, mindfulness meditation and hatha yoga to help those touched by cystic fibrosis to address anxiety, depression, Continue reading Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Class for the CF Community

Acupuncture and the Treatment of Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a condition that is comprehensively managed by Western medicine, yet many people still complain of symptoms that are not resolved with the traditional regimes of antibiotics, physiotherapy and respiratory medications. Acupuncture is an alternative form of treatment that Continue reading Acupuncture and the Treatment of Cystic Fibrosis

Garlic counteracts virulent bacteria

Aggressive multi-resistant infections constitute an increasing health problem all over the world. Bacteria are developing resistance at an alarming pace, so new pharmaceuticals that can combat this threat are in great demand. Continue reading Garlic counteracts virulent bacteria

Using Reiki with CF and Lung Transplant

I have always complemented my doctors’ prescribed therapies with alternative or complementary care therapies like acupuncture, cranio-sacral therapy, and now reiki. I had received reiki from Michael, at my acupuncturist’s office. Continue reading Using Reiki with CF and Lung Transplant