Monthly Archives: December 2018

NY Resolution to Heal My Gut

Seven years after I got floxed, and 5.5 years since I wrote my recovery story, I am still doing well. I am working at a job that I enjoy, I am in a good relationship, I can hike, bike, swim, and otherwise move my body, I have my reading comprehension and intellect back, my energy level is decent, and my autonomic nervous system generally operates as it’s supposed to. I feel good, and I’m living a good life. As I’ve said many times before, I hope that my recovery gives you hope for your healing.

With it noted that I’m generally healed, and that I feel good in most areas of my life, I’m going to confess that…

My gut is a mess, and I am worried about it.

I have no idea whether my gut issues are from being floxed or not. GI tract problems weren’t part of my initial floxing–I didn’t have any gut issues until recently. But in the last year(ish), my gut has started to have… issues. Unfortunately, there is no way to describe GI issues without describing bowel movements, so here goes – I haven’t had a normal textured poo in ages. It has been at least a year. TMI? Sorry.

Poorly formed stools are definitely a sign of inflammation and other gut issues, and, despite the fact that I feel generally okay, I’m concerned about my gut health.

I want a gut that doesn’t hurt every day, that forms healthy-textured poos, and that I don’t worry about. I don’t want to be concerned that I’m developing IBS, or crohn’s disease, or that I have c-diff, or anything else. I’m guessing that I don’t have any of those things, and that I just have an inflamed gut, but I don’t want that either. I want a healthy, happy, healed gut that feels good and operates entirely normally. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. I also think that my gut is my responsibility, and that no one other than me can do anything about MY gut health.

It’s December 28th as I write this, and the beginning of the new year seems as good a time as any to commit to healing my gut. Here are some of the things I plan to do to heal my gut in 2019 (public accountability is good, right?):

Clean up my diet

When I first got floxed I ate only meat and veggies. I was scared of most foods, and I ended up losing weight and feeling worn-down because I wasn’t ingesting enough calories. After I got over the fear of food, I added fruits and other good things to my diet, and ended up eating as outlined in The Floxie Food Guide. But, after a while of feeling better, I stopped restricting my diet entirely. I didn’t eat much processed food because I’ve never liked processed food, but I ate whatever I wanted. Perhaps my GI issues are the result of my “anything goes” diet (or maybe my GI issues stem from something else like mold in my house or fluoride in my city’s water or a parasite – it’s hard to tell). Anyhow, it’s time to restrict my diet again with the hope of calming the inflammation in my intestines.

Step 1: Give up gluten. My husband has been on a bread-baking kick lately, so this will take some willpower, but it has helped so many people, and it seems like a logical first step, so, I’m going to go gluten-free and see if that helps.

Step 2: Give up legumes. I like beans, but they make me feel like crap.

Step 3: Limit dairy. I love dairy too much to say that I’m going to give it up, but I’m going to try to be cognizant of how much I eat and how it makes me feel and limit it.

I want to be able to sustain these changes, so these are the only things I’m going to do at first. If they don’t work, I’ll move on to a more restricted protocol – probably something close to The Wahls Protocol because it has helped so many fellow “floxies.”

I’ve noticed that oatmeal makes me feel better generally, so I’m going to eat more oatmeal. I’ve also noticed that spicy food tends to make me feel worse, so I’m going to limit them even though many spices are supposed to be anti-inflammatory.

Cut the coffee and alcohol

This is a no-brainer, right? No explanation is necessary as to why these need to go in order for me to heal my gut. It’s hard though, so, here’s my public accountability.

Note that the coffee I drink is decaf. I haven’t been able to tolerate caffeinated coffee post-flox.

I really like both coffee and alcohol, and this is going to be tough. I’m only committing to cutting down on them, not to completely giving up either, but I can commit to cutting the coffee by 50% and the alcohol by 80%.

Eat probiotic foods

Sauerkraut and kimchi, here I come. Luckily, I like both.

Meditate, breathing exercises, eat mindfully, and otherwise stimulate the vagus nerve to heal the gut

Our guts are connected to our brains via the vagus nerve, and stimulating and toning the vagus nerve through meditating, breathing exercises, mindfulness, and other activities, can heal both the gut and the brain.

Here is an interesting post about how a guy healed his IBS through stimulating his vagus nerve through gargling: How I Cured My Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

As I was going through the early stages of my fluoroquinolone toxicity journey I was really good about meditating, doing breathing exercises, going to the chiropractor and/or acupuncturist, and doing other things that stimulated my vagus nerve. I think that these things helped me to heal. They were part of my healing journey, and I recommend them to others because they are healing for the body, mind, and spirit, and because they stimulate the vagus nerve and trigger the release of acetylcholine. Like watching my diet, conscientiously doing activities that stimulated my vagus nerve fell to the wayside as I healed. I felt good, so I didn’t need to do breathing exercises to feel better. But, I think that all the vagus nerve healing exercises were helpful for my gut when I was doing them, and that they’ll be helpful for my gut if I do them again.

Shoot, I wrote a book about healing the vagus nerve – I should make the time to practice what I preach.

Step 1: Meditate daily

Step 2: Swim weekly – it forces breathing exercises, and movement is good for the vagus nerve.

Step 3: Eat mindfully

Step 4: Gargle and/or hum daily

 

Those are my resolutions, and I hope that they result in a happier, healthier gut.

I’m open to suggestions for gut healing. Please feel free to comment below to let me know what has helped you to heal your gut. As you may gather from the post above, I am not willing to go on a super-restrictive diet unless/until all else fails, but I am willing to hear suggestions. I’m also open to trying supplements that heal the gut including aloe juice, collagen, bone broth, probiotic supplements, etc. If you have any recommendations based on personal experience with gut-healing supplements, please comment below.

Whenever someone asks in the forums about how to heal from fluoroquinolone toxicity, someone always answers, “heal your gut.” They’re right, of course–but it’s easier said than done. There are people in the “floxie” community who are much more better about having a “clean” diet than I am who still struggle with GI issues and other symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity. I’m hopeful that my modified “clean-ish” diet will help my gut to heal, and that the other things mentioned above help too. I want to acknowledge though, that “healing the gut” is not simple and that there isn’t a single answer for how to do it. I’m hopeful that the steps noted above will help me, and that I’ll have a healthier, happier gut in 2019 than I did in 2018.

*****

 

 

 

 

FDA Warns About Increased Risk of Aortic Aneurysm and Dissection with Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics

On December 20, 2018, the US FDA released a review that “found that fluoroquinolone antibiotics can increase the occurrence of rare but serious events of ruptures or tears in the main artery of the body, called the aorta. These tears, called aortic dissections, or ruptures of an aortic aneurysm can lead to dangerous bleeding or even death. They can occur with fluoroquinolones for systemic use given by mouth or through an injection.” (source)

This acknowledgement from the FDA came three years after two major studies showed a statistically significant increase in risk of aortic dissection and aneurysm with fluoroquinolone use. The studies, “Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone” (JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015), and “Fluoroquinolones and collagen associated severe adverse events: a longitudinal cohort study” (BMJ Open, 2015) both found that fluoroquinolone use is associated with an increased risk of aortic aneurysm and dissection, with “Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone” concluding that:

“Use of fluoroquinolones was associated with an increased risk of aortic aneurysm and dissection. While these were rare events, physicians should be aware of this possible drug safety risk associated with fluoroquinolone therapy.”

Both “Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone” and “Fluoroquinolones and collagen associated severe adverse events: a longitudinal cohort study” are major studies, with “analysis of 1477 case patients and 147 700 matched control cases from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) from among 1 million individuals longitudinally observed from January 2000 through December 2011” for the former, and 1.7 million older adults in Ontario, Canada, for the later. They are robust studies that show a statistically significant association between fluoroquinolone-use and aortic aneurysm and dissection.

The FDA took too long to warn the public about the dangers of aortic aneurysm and dissection post exposure to fluoroquinolones, but, better late than never. Here is the full text of the FDA announcement that was published on Thursday December 20, 2018:

[12-20-2018] A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review found that fluoroquinolone antibiotics can increase the occurrence of rare but serious events of ruptures or tears in the main artery of the body, called the aorta.  These tears, called aortic dissections, or ruptures of an aortic aneurysm can lead to dangerous bleeding or even death.  They can occur with fluoroquinolones for systemic use given by mouth or through an injection.

Fluoroquinolones should not be used in patients at increased risk unless there are no other treatment options available.  People at increased risk include those with a history of blockages or aneurysms (abnormal bulges) of the aorta or other blood vessels, high blood pressure, certain genetic disorders that involve blood vessel changes, and the elderly.  We are requiring that a new warning about this risk be added to the prescribing information and patient Medication Guide for all fluoroquinolones.

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics are approved to treat certain bacterial infections and have been used for more than 30 years.  They work by killing or stopping the growth of bacteria that can cause illness.  Without treatment, some infections can spread and lead to serious health problems (see List of Currently Available FDA-Approved Systemic Fluoroquinolones).

Health care professionals should avoid prescribing fluoroquinolone antibiotics to patients who have an aortic aneurysm or are at risk for an aortic aneurysm, such as patients with peripheral atherosclerotic vascular diseases, hypertension, certain genetic conditions such as Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and elderly patients.  Prescribe fluoroquinolones to these patients only when no other treatment options are available.  Advise all patients to seek immediate medical treatment for any symptoms associated with aortic aneurysm.  Stop fluoroquinolone treatment immediately if a patient reports side effects suggestive of aortic aneurysm or dissection.

Patients should seek medical attention immediately by going to an emergency room or calling 911 if you experience sudden, severe, and constant pain in the stomach, chest or back.  Be aware that symptoms of an aortic aneurysm often do not show up until the aneurysm becomes large or bursts, so report any unusual side effects from taking fluoroquinolones to your health care professional immediately.  Before starting an antibiotic prescription, inform your health care professional if you have a history of aneurysms, blockages or hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, or genetic conditions such as Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.  If you have been prescribed a fluoroquinolone to treat an infection, do not stop the antibiotic without first talking to your health care professional.

We reviewed cases reported to FDA* and four published observational studies1,2,3,4 that showed an increased risk of aortic aneurysm or dissection associated with fluoroquinolone use (see Data Summary).  How some of the studies were designed or carried out, and the ways the data were analyzed could affect the study findings; however, taken together, the results of all four studies provide consistent evidence of an association between fluoroquinolone use and aortic aneurysm or dissection.  The underlying mechanism for this risk cannot be determined from these studies, and the background risk of aortic aneurysm can vary depending on the population.  The background risk has been estimated from nine aortic aneurysm events per 100,000 people per year in the general population to 300 aortic aneurysm events per 100,000 people per year in individuals at highest risk.  Because multiple studies showed higher rates of about twice the risk of aortic aneurysm rupture and dissection in those taking fluoroquinolones, FDA determined the warnings were warranted to alert health care professionals and patients.

We communicated safety information associated with fluoroquinolones in July 2018 (significant decreases in blood sugar and certain mental health side effects), July 2016 (disabling side effects of the tendons, muscles, joints, nerves, and central nervous system), May 2016 (restricting use for certain uncomplicated infections), August 2013 (peripheral neuropathy), and July 2008 (tendinitis and tendon rupture).

To help FDA track safety issues with medicines, we urge patients and health care professionals to report side effects involving fluoroquinolones or other medicines to the FDA MedWatch program, using the information in the “Contact FDA” box at the bottom of the page.

More information about the link between fluoroquinolones and aortic aneurysm and dissection can be found in these studies or articles:

  1. JAMA Internal Medicine, “Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone
  2. BMJ Open, “Fluoroquinolones and collagen associated severe adverse events: a longitudinal cohort study
  3. BMJ, “Fluoroquinolone use and risk of aortic aneurysm and dissection: nationwide cohort study
  4. Baylor College of Medicine, “Ciprofloxacin increases risk of tears, rupture in mouse aortas

Additionally, here are some news articles about the FDA acknowledgement of the link between fluoroquinolones and aortic aneurysm and dissection:

  1. CNN, “Certain antibiotics may cause aortic aneurysm, FDA warns
  2. NBC News, “FDA warns some antibiotics can cause fatal heart damage: Drugs commonly used to treat upper respiratory infection, urinary tract infections should not be prescribed to patients already at risk
  3. Medscape, “More Fluoroquinolone Safety Concerns
  4. WRIC ABC 8 Richmond, “Commonly prescribed antibiotics can cause potentially deadly ruptures, FDA warns

Are Fluoroquinolones Causing Connective Tissue Disorders that are Leading to ME/CFS?

The symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity often mimic those of ME/CFS (Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome). Many people suffering from fluoroquinolone toxicity experience debilitating fatigue, and some are bed-bound and permanently disabled from this symptom, along with all the others that come along with fluoroquinolone toxicity. Both fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS are multi-symptom, chronic syndromes that are poorly understood and often disregarded by those in the medical community. Research into the mechanisms behind both fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS show that mitochondria (the energy centers of our cells) are likely related to both diseases, and so is autonomic nervous system dysfunction, mast cell activation, metabolomics, epigenetics, immune system dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, and other areas of human biology. Both fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS also have significant overlap with other diseases such as Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS), Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and fibromyalgia.

The similarities between fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS may mean that they have a similar root mechanism…. or they may not. The root cause of fluoroquinolone toxicity is, of course, fluoroquinolones. (The mechanism behind fluoroquinolone toxicity is much more complex and the answer to the question of HOW fluoroquinolones hurt people is still being uncovered.) Most people who have ME/CFS don’t report that their symptoms started with fluoroquinolone exposure (though there is almost certainly some overlap, and there are likely some people who have been diagnosed with ME/CFS whose disease started with a fluoroquinolone prescription). There seem to be a variety of triggers that set off ME/CFS in previously healthy individuals, including, but not limited to, mold exposure and sensitivity, and exposure to a viral infection that the body never fully recovers from.

While it is possible that there are many cases of ME/CFS that were brought on by fluoroquinolones, and thus are “actually” fluoroquinolone toxicity (labels, shmables), it is also possible that both diseases/syndromes have a similar underlying mechanism despite different causes, and it is also possible that though the symptoms and features of both diseases are similar, they are actually different on a mechanistic and/or cellular level.

Though the possibilities for differences between fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS are potentially significant, the similarities are obvious, and it is likely that research that helps ME/CFS sufferers will help fluoroquinolone toxicity sufferers.

There is a theory about the mechanism behind ME/CFS that has recently come to my attention that could, potentially, tie it more directly to fluoroquinolone toxicity. The theory, in a nutshell, is this:

Some people with ME/CFS have an underlying predisposition for EDS, and thus collagen synthesis is disordered and connective tissues are weakened. The ligaments of the craniocervical junction (where your skull meets your first vertebra) become weak and this leads to craniocervical instability (CCI) and atlantoaxial instability (AAI) (together, CCI/AAI). When people suffer from CCI/AAI their neck ligaments don’t sufficiently hold up their head and their brain stems are compressed into their spines. This causes many symptoms of ME/CFS. (I’m not sure exactly how – ask someone who has done far more research into ME/CFS and/or CCI/AAI than me.)

You can read about how CCI/AAI relates to ME/CFS in these two links:

  1. MEchanical Basis
  2. A new diagnosis to add to the list: I have craniocervical and atlantoaxial instability

How does this relate to fluoroquinlones?

It is well known that fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro/ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/levofloxacin, Avelox/moxifloxacin, Floxin/ofloxacin, and a few others) damage connective tissues–including musculoskeletal connective tissues like tendons, cartilage, bone, and muscle, as well as other connective tissues such as ocular tissue (including the retina)eardrums, and cardiac/heart tissue. Multiple studies have found that fluoroquinolones are toxic and damaging to connective tissues. Given the wide differences in tissues that fluoroquinolones have been shown to deleteriously affect–from cartilage to cardiac tissue–it is reasonable to assert that they damage all connective tissues throughout the body. (Read any of the articles in the citations listed below for information about how fluoroquinolones damage connective tissues.)

Given that fluoroquinolones damage connective tissues (probably all connective tissues – see links below), it is possible that they weaken the tendons of the neck and thus lead to CCI/AAI. CCI/AAI then leads to multi-symptom chronic illness including all the symptoms of ME/CFS (which are too numerous to count).

This weakening of tendons and subsequent CCI/AAI likely occurs more often in people with underlying connective tissue disorders like EDS. I suspect (though I have no proof of this) that there are many kinds of EDS that have not yet been identified, and that more people have the genes for a variation of EDS than those who can currently be diagnosed with the disease. It’s also possible that a genetic predisposition toward EDS is not necessary for fluoroquinolones to cause extensive connective tissue damage, and that they do so in everyone who is exposed to them (at varying levels, of course). Fluoroquinolones have been shown to damage dog and rat connective tissues, especially tendons, and human connective tissues exposed to fluoroquinolones have also shown extensive damage both in-vitro and through analysis of people exposed to fluoroquinolones. I have a hard time believing that all the rats, puppies, and people whose tissues were sampled all had underlying EDS prior to their tissues being destroyed by fluoroquinolones. However, it’s possible that underlying genetic predispositions, including those for EDS, determine how severely people are affected by fluoroquinolones. More research is, of course, needed.

Are fluoroquinolones causing CCI/AAI? And is CCI/AAI leading to ME/CFS? Given the large number of studies showing that fluoroquinolones destroy connective tissues and interfere with collagen synthesis, it’s quite plausible (even likely) that they cause CCI/AAI. How, and if, CCI/AAI is connected with ME/CFS is another question. But given the experiences of the authors of MEchanical Basis and A new diagnosis to add to the list: I have craniocervical and atlantoaxial instability, it’s a possibility that is certainly worth exploring.

 

Sources for the assertion that fluoroquinolones cause connective tissue destruction and disordered collagen synthesis:

Musculoskeletal Complications of Fluoroquinolones: Guidelines and Precautions for Usage in the Athletic Population. Hall, Mederic M. et al. PM&R , Volume 3 , Issue 2 , 132 – 142

Etminan M, Forooghian F, Brophy JM, Bird ST, Maberley D. Oral Fluoroquinolones and the Risk of Retinal Detachment. JAMA. 2012;307(13):1414-1419. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.383

Tsai WC, Hsu CC, Chen CP, et al. Ciprofloxacin up-regulates tendon cells to express matrix metalloproteinase-2 with degradation of type I collagen. J Orthop Res. 2011;29(1):67-73

Lee C, Lee MG, Chen Y, Lee S, Chen Y, Chen S, Chang S. Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(11):1839-1847. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.5389

Kaleagasioglu F, Olcay E. Fluoroquinolone-induced tendinopathy: etiology and preventive measures. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2012;226(4):251-258.

Adel Alrwisan, Patrick J. Antonelli, Almut G. Winterstein; Quinolone Ear Drops After Tympanostomy Tubes and the Risk of Eardrum Perforation: A Retrospective Cohort Study. Clin Infect Dis 2017; 64 (8): 1052-1058. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix032