At the same time, I also know that health comes from the inside out and that no matter how much our doctors can help, it is up to each one of us to get well. When asked by friends and clients what I do, I share with them my experiences with Kombucha Tea.
Forward: Sadly, far too many of us find ourselves in a difficult situation where we end up with chronic health problems that traditional medicine cannot help. Often by the time we get into this situation, we are not only in pretty bad shape, but somewhat desperate. Many friends over the years found themselves with serious health problems including incurable cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, fibromyalgia, AIDS, COPD, congestive heart failure, liver failure and kidney failure. In my case I contracted a nasty antibiotic resistant infection from a minor ankle surgery that my doctors at best could only slow down. In fact, they hit me with so many antibiotics that my kidneys went into intermittent failure. Finally, my doctors said there was nothing more they could do, meaning I was not only going to lose my foot, I was also going to lose my life. It is amazing just how motivated that can make us to try and figure out what we need to do to create a much more positive outcome, such as become pain free and live rather than die.
As a university instructor and military reservist, I was one of the early people on the Internet which became one of the best clearing houses for alternative healing and what things people were trying that helped with their otherwise “incurable maladies”. Unlike most I studied as a biomedical engineer and spent much of my life conducting medical testing for physicians. That probably left me a little jaded because I learned that more than two thirds of our getting well comes from our own attitudes, but I personally was far more interested in that other third where when I ran out of traditional medical options, finding alternative options that actually worked. In short, I also was desperate but knew too much to just have enough faith in whatever others recommended for the “faith” aspect to make a huge difference.
Kombucha: I found Colleen Allen on the Internet. She had a similar medical research background and had long struggled with terminal respiratory problems. Colleen outlived her doctors’ most optimistic projections and she attributed most of her success to the use of Kombucha Tea. She was so pleased with the results that she shared on her web pages her research and Kombucha Tea making recipes. She also started a very if not too popular newsletter that buried her in work. She helped me and another friend Bob Williams considerably. After my doctors stopped my antibiotics and essentially said to go find a comfortable place to die, I got very serious about my alternate healing and Kombucha Tea was one of the many things I tried, mostly due to the high success Colleen had. Bob suffered congestive heart failure and was such a mess that his doctors said there was nothing more they could do. He essentially also was sent home to die with an expectation of only living a few more weeks. As a very bright man as well as being a senior manager, engineer and scientist, Bob was also convinced by Colleen’s efforts to try Kombucha Tea. He did and was able to keep going and took over her Kombucha efforts after Colleen passed helping others for at least two more years than projected. Which one or combination of the many things I tried helped I cannot say, but the combination got rid of that infection permitting me to return to my busy world without even a limp unless I overdo too much. Bob's passing left the group and web pages without a sponsor or leader. Marjorie Russin took over the care of this group and changed it over to be part of the Yahoo.com groups at Original_Kombucha. Marjorie continues Colleen’s and Bob’s effort to keep this an informative and focused email discussion group. This list is so active I choose the digest version to keep from getting too many emails. You can subscribe to this group by going to http://groups.Yahoo.com and then searching for original kombucha. If you are not already a Yahoo member you will have to join.
Introduction: In June of 1987 I needed a small bone chip removed from next to my Achilles tendon. As an engineer, medical researcher, university instructor, and scientist, I had a lot of trust and faith in my doctors. I also know there is a big difference between doctors, so did my homework carefully to pick just the right surgeon. My carefully chosen surgeon said he could do this with a local and be done in less than ten minutes including putting in a couple of stitches. My trust got severely bashed when a death in the family forced my surgeon at the last minute to turn over his cases to a substitute surgeon. The substitute claimed to be the medical director of surgery for one of our area's largest hospitals and the fellow who oversaw and trained the surgeon I selected. This substitute said that he would be working around a couple of groups of nerves so wanted to give me general anesthetic instead of a local to get my leg tied down well so I did not move during the surgery. Instead of the planned fifteen-minute surgery, two and a half hours later I awoke to my own screams totally soaked. My leg was locked rigid with such an intense electric crazy bone pain going through my leg it felt my ankle was plugged into a power outlet. My leg from the ankle upward was tightly wrapped with bandages covering a heavy plastic splint that held three sides of my foot and lower leg. My surgeon made light of the pain saying he stretched the nerves to get at the bone chip and all would settle down quickly. He knocked me silly with an injection into my IV leaving me awake but feeling nothing. He sent me home with a brown lunch bag full of strong Vicodin pain killers from his sample medicine cabinet. That intense pain continued and soon even the painkillers did not help. On Sunday, two days after my Friday surgery I called begging for help. My surgeon blew me off saying I was whining about something that would quickly go away. My health insurance required me to get two second opinions before that surgery, so I called one of the other surgeons that I liked. He said what my surgeon told me sounded accurate, but to call him back if I got worse. I got much worse and tried to see my surgeon that following Monday. When he refused to see me, I went to this fellow who gave the second opinion that same morning. That surgeon saw my toes were turning dark. He smelled my foot and immediately called my substitute surgeon informing him that my dressings were so tight I lost blood flow in my foot and had gangrene. My surgeon wanted to take off my foot at my ankle and I said no and got help elsewhere. It took an immediate surgery to remove the gangrene and put in drain tubes. Keeping my foot was touch and go for weeks.
During my months of rehabilitation, I discovered lots on other people had been seriously hurt by this same fellow who operated on me. One of those patients was his own prior surgery nurse who ended up losing some of her toes and part of her foot. She said it was pretty clear that this doctor was in deep trouble about to lose his medical insurance from having so many cases open. Moreover, she said he was a drunk who also abused prescription medications. Many of these other patients I spoke with ended up with nasty antibiotic resistant infections after their "minor" surgeries by this same fellow, and at least two of them complained that he had performed much more expensive long procedures instead of the simple things they went in to have him do. I fortunately, did not have one of those infections, but did nearly lose my foot and was left with a foot my doctors said could never be used again for walking without an aid. This combination of horror stories convinced me to hire one of the top medical malpractice attorneys in my area. My attorney’s review of my medical records found even worse news. In spite of what I was told, my substitute surgeon did a completely unnecessary surgery grinding away a major portion of part of one of the large bones in my ankle joint just so he could charge far more money. Moreover, this fellow had become one of the top medical expert witnesses in our area. If he had done nearly as good of a job doctoring me as he did my records there would have never been a problem. Regardless he significantly doctored my records with additional tests and work that he never did. He also put in a huge lie about my working in the garden and getting my wound filthy right after surgery at a time when I could not even stand. He so carefully couched my problems that my attorney said it would be near impossible to prove I was not within what is considered normal standard of care. In short, I ended up with no case and no chance of ever walking again unassisted meaning walker, crutch or cane.
I was pretty upset but refused to accept that prognosis. I worked my tail off paying for more than a year of additional physical therapy first breaking my frozen ankle joint free then learning how to walk again when I had zero feeling below my ankle. My ankle ended up so disfigured I could not wear shoes. Worse, the electric like pain never stopped and worsened any time I moved my ankle. My doctors strongly recommended a very good surgeon who does both neural repairs and plastic surgery. I paid for that additional special surgery to fix the disfigurement and address the nerve problem which turned out to be from a suture having been put right through a nerve bundle. That surgery fixed the disfigurement, but had to cut the nerves as all was just too tied up in scar tissue. Although this left my foot numb from the ankle down, I still had the electric line attached to my ankle and it went off any time the ankle got moved. Rehab was successful and within a year let me toss my cane and crutches and walk well enough that nobody could tell I had a problem. With no feeling in my foot I also had to give up my running shoes, tennis racket, and golf clubs plus still fall down a lot.
Unfortunately, the worst was still to come. Through my long physical therapy, I met more than a half dozen of this fellow's patients. Many lost toes and worse from a nasty hospital bred staph infection known as MRSA. Another of these patients was also a nurse and she said based on the number of infection-based problems she has seen she strongly suspects this surgeon carries this infection. I was very grateful to not have that problem to add to the rest of my mess. Unfortunately, after that initial surgery I just kept feeling more and more run down and achy all over. In December 1999 all came to a head when I woke up with a frozen left shoulder joint. My elbow was effectively super glued to my side. The only way the arm could be lifted was if someone else pulled hard and the resulting pain was terrible. An immediate battery of tests showed I had contracted a MRSA infection and it had already badly eaten away the cartilage in my joints all over. My doctors put me on a ton of antibiotics immediately, and nothing did anything but slow that infection. I slipped into bad pneumonia and my kidneys went into intermittent shut down from all the antibiotics. A new combination of antibiotics and steroids shook off the pneumonia, but I was still going downhill fast with failing kidneys, joints getting worse all over, and that infection still out of control. My doctors effectively sent me home to die.
That was an unacceptable outcome and instead I became an outpatient at an experimental clinic that only treated terminally ill patients. I was the only one there who did not have AIDS or cancer. That clinic put me on a detox program, special diet, and tried all kinds of traditional and non-traditional treatments. My kidneys responded and I slowly felt a little better. I should have been grateful to them for saving my life, but my life was utterly miserable. The infection had gotten into my bones and joints leaving me with severe degenerative arthritis. My doctors said that I should count my blessings, as I was very lucky to even be alive. Although I agreed, that did not make me happy, as my pain was so bad, I could not sleep, could hardly bend any of my joints, and had almost no quality of life at all. I really missed being an avid runner, captain of my men’s tennis team, and very active person. My life had been reduced to pretty much going from bed to work and right back to bed. I lived in constant intense pain and was so weak and exhausted by the time I showered, dressed, and made it to my chair where I then struggled to work from home.
Worse I then developed a bad allergic reaction to wood dust and kept getting one bout of pneumonia after another. This rapidly reduced my lung capacity to under fifty percent. I lived with an emergency electronic monitor, as my heart was not getting enough oxygen. To just survive every day, I stayed on full time supplemental oxygen, took a long-term antibiotic, six different inhalants and three different pills to help with my respiratory problems, four medicines for my arthritis, and two more medications to help with all the stomach and digestive problems caused by all those other drugs. Although the techniques I learned in my martial arts training helped me manage my pain when awake, as soon as I began to drift off to sleep, all that I was suppressing dominated to the point I would awaken. My health soon ran down so much I had to take pain and sleeping pills to get any rest.
As someone blessed or perhaps afflicted, plus having been trained in American Indian and oriental healing, I had both a high respect for traditional medicine and also know that there is still much to be learned. I felt there was much I could personally do to help myself recover. I did a ton of research using my PC, academic credentials, and contacts. I added Reiki healing arts to my treatment regime and made a lot of positive strides. Even with the Reiki, I still was not well and continued to live in far too much pain, plus was forcing myself daily well beyond my capacity. When I got Internet access at home, my ability to do research exploded. I found all kinds of things many utterly so far out that I wanted no part of even thinking about them. During my search early on I discovered Kombucha, was intrigued and began doing a lot of reading, but frankly felt it was just too far out for me. I traded a few emails with Bob Williams, a fellow engineer and slowly over more than a year continued to get ever more interested until I finally joined the Kombucha Mailing List (see above). Finally, I broke down and asked a list member who was also a professor to send me a starter culture.
I read that Kombucha tea (KT) has been used for thousands of years and that many believe it is a natural way to bolster the immune system and to help our bodies detoxify. In spite of good support from Bob Williams and other Kombucha Mailing List members, plus a ton of testimonials, I was far more than a little skeptical about trying this fermented tea stuff. Still, I was desperate, and it did not look like it could make anything worse and it was by far the least expensive option available, so I gave it a try. Here are the instructions I was given with my tea and that I picked up from study on the Internet, along with my experiences.
Startup: I was told to start very slowly with only once ounce a day and also drink a lot of water to go with this tea. It was explained that the KT will help your body detoxify and needs the water to carry off the toxins. The rule of thumb is to take your weight in pounds and divide by two to give you the number of ounces of water you need to drink a day. For example, if you weighed 110 pounds then you need to drink at least 55 ounces of water during a day. You do not get to count coffee, tea, or sodas (diet or regular) as part of the water ounces because these items add things such as sugars, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners that can take even more water to clean out.
Increase: After three days with no symptoms increase your daily KT intake by one ounce. You will repeat this every three days until you have some symptoms. Most have a light case of diarrhea. A few might show stronger symptoms such as headaches or skin rashes. At that point go back to your prior amount until you do not have any symptoms. Most stabilize at between 4 and 8 ounces a day. Some of my friends on the Internet say they drink this stuff by the jug. I was told it normally takes about two to three weeks before your system settles into a good routine. Generally, after about a month people begin to see results with reduced symptoms of whatever problems brought them to begin Kombucha. Many have all their symptoms totally clear up in three to five months.
Diet: During the detoxification period there are a few things you should do to help with the detoxification process. First is stop your sugar intake, meaning no candy, no sweetened sodas, etc. Second, you should minimize your meat and dairy intake. Both generate a lot of extra work for your body during their digestion that reduces the ability to quickly detoxify. I would recommend that you make up and keep adding to a simmering a big pot of vegetable stew and just keep eating it for a few weeks. You should take a good quality vitamin and chelated mineral supplement, extra vitamin E, and a chewable vitamin C. I was told to chew the C and at a different time suck on the E. Swallowing both just makes them mostly go away as soon as they get to your tummy, but by taking them into the mouth, far more gets into your system. Personally, I am not a strong advocate of mega doses of vitamins, particularly the B vitamins, as I think that after a short high of a few days, these deplete our bodies. I found that Trader Joe’s has good quality products for a reasonable price.
Exercise: No matter how much it hurts I was told I had to make a concentrated effort to put in at least twenty minutes a day of real aerobic exercise. Many of us do not realize that in addition to the circulatory system for our blood, we also have a lymphatic circulatory system. This system carries off a lot of the by-products from using our muscles. If those byproducts are not carried off, they tend to accumulate in our tissues as toxins and leave us feeling terrible. Instead of being powered by our hearts the lymphatic system is powered by our muscles. This system is a long tree of tubes and valves where the muscles squeezing and valves force the fluids to move to the lymph nodes where the toxins can be carried out of our system. If we are sedentary for too long, say from illness, as I had been, we build up way too many toxins. Apparently the Kombucha performs miracles in terms of releasing these toxins, but we still need to help with some exercise to move them up and out of our bodies.
My Experiences: After making and fermenting my KT far more carefully than I used to make beer, I started drinking it. I started very carefully with just two ounces of Kombucha tea a day in a huge glass of water. I did not like the taste and within an hour or so felt nauseous. I expected a little discomfort from all the reading I had done, so kept up my consumption. One of my biggest problems was the required exercise as I had been sedentary for too many years from being so ill and having joints that hurt with any kind of use. I had an old exercise-cycle and just sat on it with my oxygen tube. It took me a while and it hurt like crazy, but over about three weeks, I was able to get myself up to being able to handle two ten minute a day sessions. By my fourth day I had a terrible headache, was covered in little white-headed pimple like boils, was achy all over, had bad joint pains, and my digestive system was in full revolt. I had done everything right, had long been on a very careful diet, doing my exercise, and was getting even more water than was recommended. Yuck, as daughter would say when she was young! I was ready to quit. Fortunately, Bob Williams and that Kombucha list proved a very good support structure and with a lot of encouragement, I continued to brave it out.
I reduced my intake to just once ounce a day with my skin eruptions, headaches and digestive symptoms vanishing in just a couple of days. I continued at that level for just over a week until my nausea vanished. I then jumped my intake to two ounces a day, one ounce in the early morning and the other in the evening. Although I again felt a little nauseous, I did not get any other symptoms. As advised by Bob and my many other supporters, I continued at that level of intake for roughly a week more before my symptoms went away and I increased my intake to three ounces. I began to realize that this Kombucha is not an exact science and that each of us has to adjust in accord with our what feedback we get from our own bodies. By the end of a month I was up to a full four ounces a day.
Amazingly, somewhere around a month after starting, I began to realize that my joint pain had lessened. It was subtle. There was no magic day when all was better like turning on a light switch. At the same time, I also felt a similarly subtle change in my energy where I went from having to force myself to actually again looking forward to doing things. Within three months my arthritis had so improved I wanted to stop my very strong anti-inflammatory medications. My very traditional rheumatologist (arthritic and joint specialist) was very skeptical and would not give me his blessing other than to say I could stop the medications because they were so badly upsetting my digestive system. With his help we had already tried all of the major brands of medications to help with my joint swelling and pain, but never did find one that I could take without badly upsetting my stomach. Surprisingly, I did not experience my normal symptoms when off my joint medication. My joints continued to hurt and moving was still difficult, but for the first time in over eight years they did not badly swell and cause me intense pain. I had minimal swelling and pain. Even better yet, once I quit that arthritic medication, I was able to severely cut back on the different digestive aids I had to take. Within two months I was able to totally stop taking all my digestive aids. After about four months I was able to stop using the eight different lung sprays that I took twice a day and my six nebulizer treatments a day. I went down to two lung medications taken in the morning plus emergency inhaler only needed when it is really smoggy or smoky. After six months I went off my long-term antibiotics and for the first time in eight years did not have an immediate resurgence of my joint problems.
Although, I am far from being able to run or play a set of tennis, I slowly worked my way back to being able to do most of what I would like to do in life reasonably pain free. Moreover, unlike my status just a couple of years ago where I showed a painful limp, few now would ever know I had a problem from just watching me. Now, my most difficult challenge is pacing myself, as I do tend to way overdo. Slowly, I am learning to accept a different quality of life, but it is again a life with some quality. I believe Kombucha, my doctors, my own healing training, Reiki, a careful diet and exercise regimen, and a lot of hard work have helped me considerably. Without making any promises, I have shared my experiences with many as well as Kombucha starter. Some of the reports back are every bit as impressive as my own. I suggest that if you are having more than your share of health challenges, this might be something to consider adding to your regular course of medical treatment.