Tag Archives: acupuncture

Cellular Stress, Chronic Stress, and Fluoroquinolone Toxicity


My Healing Journey

Acupuncture helped me immensely in my journey through fluoroquinolone toxicity, and I even credit my acupuncturist with saving my life when I felt like a bomb was going off in my body. Several people have asked me what my acupuncturist did that helped me through fluoroquinolone toxicity. The honest answer is—I’m not sure. I don’t know enough about acupuncture or to tell anyone else how they might be able to replicate his methods or my healing. I do know, however, that I was spiraling when I first saw him. I was anxious, scared, and on the verge of panic because something was wrong with my body, and I had no idea what was going on or how to fix it. My acupuncturist was able to stop my cycle of anxiety, fear, and panic. He was able to calm me down. It helped—immensely—and it saved me from getting worse physically and psychologically.

A lot of the things that helped me to heal from my adverse-reaction to Cipro/ciprofloxacin were things that diminished my anxiety, quelled my fears, and calmed me down. I took a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class (through my health insurer—Kaiser Permanente) within weeks of getting floxed, and it helped a lot (I always felt better the day after the classes). I learned to meditate and I started some spiritual practices, and those were helpful as well. I removed stress and fear inducing things from my life (mainly, I got off the internet), and I found that I felt better when I removed those influences from my life.

I’m not saying that fluoroquinolone toxicity reactions are because of stress or anxiety, or that they’re “all in your head.” I am, however, saying that reducing stress helped me to recover, and that things that increased my stress levels made me feel worse. I also think that we shouldn’t have knee-jerk reactions against hypotheses about fluoroquinolone toxicity that look at how we react to stress—after all, stress affects everything (hormones, mental function, cardiovascular system, digestion, etc.). Additionally, there have recently been some interesting studies and hypotheses about how people respond to stress on a cellular metabolic level that are likely applicable to floxies.

Are Some People Genetically Predisposed Toward Shutting Down in Times of Stress?

On Dr. Sharon Meglathery’s web site, http://www.rccxandillness.com/, she hypothesizes that people who have a variety of multi-symptom, chronic illnesses (including ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, POTS, EDS, autoimmune diseases, psychiatric diseases, etc.) have a common set of gene mutations that make them unable to cope with stress on a cellular/chemical level. She notes that:

Let me illustrate how a clinically “healthy” carrier for a non-functioning CYP21A2 mutation (or a person with 2 mutated copies of partially functioning genes) could possibly develop chronic illness: Cortisol is a hormone needed for a normal stress response. Cortisol is made from 17hydroxyprogesterone by the enzyme called 21hydroxylase. 21hydroxylase is coded for by the CYP21A2 gene in the RCCX module. If a carrier for a CYP21A2 mutation which makes no functioning 21hydroxylase or a homozygote for partially functioning 21hydroxylase has chronic stress and needs to make lots of cortisol all of the time, it is possible that there may not be enough 21hydroxylase available to make the amount of cortisol the body needs. In this case, cortisol levels would be abnormally low for the amount of stress, 17hydroxyprogesterone would be abnormally high causing symptoms and some of the 17hydroxyprogesterone would be used by an enzyme coded for by CYP17 to make an abnormally high amount of androgens (male sex hormones) also causing symptoms. As I will show later, the symptoms caused by these hormonal abnormalities are shockingly familiar to those with chronic illness. Further, high cortisol releasing hormone (CRH), released when cortisol is too low can turn on devastating inflammatory cascades, including mast cell activation. (High CRH has recently been found to be associated with FM).”

Could the people who get “floxed” have CYP21A2 mutations that make them unable to cope with stress on a cellular level? Might the multi-symptom, chronic illness and disability that many floxies suffer from start with improper cortisol synthesis? It certainly sounds like a reasonable hypothesis to me.

Of course, the hypothesis that Dr. Meglathery is putting forth needs to be studied in order to be verified, and then further studies would need to be done to see if people suffering from fluoroquinolone toxicity have these genetic mutations, in order to verify that hypothesis. We are in the very early stages of figuring out what is going on in the bodies of everyone suffering from multi-symptom, chronic, illnesses—especially those caused by pharmaceuticals.

The Stress and Chronic Illness Cycle

Dr. Meglathery also explains how chronic stress could lead to the following ailments in people who are genetically predisposed to being unable to produce sufficient levels of cortisol:

At this point, if you are aware, you usually see some mild MCAS symptoms (allergy symptoms: hives, migraines, food intolerances, asthma, diarrhea, irritability, brain fog, increased distractibility and escalating sensory issues). CRH, the hormone released by the hypothalamus telling the body (via the pituitary) to make cortisol when cortisol is inappropriately low, is released in a pulsatile fashion. CRH is the most potent activator of mast cells in the body and found to be high in FM (Published by Dr. Theoharides, 1/16). It also decreases stomach acid, possibly contributing to dysbiosis and malabsorption; it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system causing the release of even more adrenaline and nor-adrenaline (norepinephrine) and it directly turns on the immune system. CRH release may be the master switch which propels a person with CYP21A2 mutations into irreversible chronic illness by effecting downstream changes which place an insurmountable and persistent stress load on the body. The demand for 21hydroxylase can now never be sated. I believe that people with CYP21A2 mutations who are exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi, the pathogen in Lyme Disease (which directly activates mast cells) and other strong infectious stressors, like EBV, jump straight to immune system activation, flipping the switch by bypassing CRH initially, but CRH rises later in response to the chronic stress of infection, locking them into chronic illness. Low blood volume/orthostatic challenges worsen (POTS), pain syndromes develop (via low cortisol, increased subluxations/injuries, inflammatory mediators affecting nerves, high 17hydroxyprogesterone), raised intracranial pressure/acquired chiari malformation can occur (via progesterone, low magnesium, brain inflammation from MCAS, etc.) and MCAS is present consistently.

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With the immune system dysregulated, dysbiosis becomes fully established with gut inflammation and malabsorption. The body becomes colonized with new pathogens (through the porous gut and other pathways) and SIBO can occur. Pathogens already present start to cause problems (fungus-athlete’s foot, herpes virus-cold sores, low virulence bacteria and viruses like mycoplasma, etc), the ability to fight serious infection drops and in many, the ability to fight the viruses which cause colds increases. The body is now under tremendous physical stress and the person is under tremendous negative emotional stress, both of which increase the cortisol deficit and sustain the growing list of medical issues. If brain inflammation is part of the picture (likely as part of MCAS), we get psychosis and severe mood disorders plus or minus the physical issues. This is a downward spiral which few escape.”

Many of the symptoms that Dr. Meglathery mentions in the above paragraphs are too familiar to people who are floxed. Mast cell activation (MCAS), and the symptoms that come along with it—hives, migraines, food intolerances, asthma, diarrhea, irritability, brain fog, increased distractibility and escalating sensory issues—are common among those who are floxed. Low stomach acid, dysbiosis and malabsorption are also common among those who are floxed. Many people with fluoroquinolone toxicity also suffer from symptoms of POTS/dysautonomia. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) has occurred in those suffering from fluoroquinolone toxicity as well. Symptoms of brain inflammation, sometimes including psychosis and other severe mood disorders, can also occur in those with fluoroquinolone toxicity.

As you can see from Dr. Meglathery’s connections above, stress, especially chronic stress, can start a cycle of chronic illness in those who are genetically predisposed, and the chronic illness cycle includes many of the symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity.

Cellular Stress and Chronic Illness

The tendency for chronic illness to be self-perpetuating on a cellular level is also demonstrated in Dr. Robert K. Naviaux’s acclaimed 2016 study, “Metabolic Features of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” which finds that, in ME/CFS patients, mitochondria respond to stressors by decreasing oxygen consumption and the transfer of cellular energy production—ATP—from inside the cell (where it belongs), to outside of cells (“Finding ATP outside a cell is a sign that something major has gone wrong.”). People with ME/CFS get “stuck” in a state of “hypometabolic response to environmental stress similar to dauer” – a cellular state that is similar to hibernation. This hypometabolic/dauer state is triggered by mitochondrial stressors (mitochondrial stressors can include emotional and psychological stress, as well as things like viruses, toxins—including many pharmaceuticals, malnutrition, etc.). It is noted in “The Core Problem in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Identified? Naviaux’s Metabolomics Study Breaks Fresh Ground” that:

Naviaux believes the mitochondria are able to sense every kind of danger – from pathogens to pH changes to toxic elements from pesticides, heavy metals, etc. to inflammation. They sense trouble in the form of an infection when they detect a drop in voltage caused by the diversion of electrons (NADH / NADPH) to make viral components or respond to a broad variety of toxins.

In the cell danger response (CDR) the mitochondria respond instantaneously to that loss by decreasing their oxygen consumption – thus thwarting pathogens from using the building blocks of the cell to replicate. Because the oxygen is no longer being used, it builds up in the cells causing a oxidatively charged environment which interrupts viral synthesis. The CDR also stiffens the membrane of the cell to stop pathogens from exiting it, warns other cells of the danger, and emits ATP in order to warn other cells to get their defenses up.”

Fluoroquinolones can cause mitochondrial damage, and may trigger the CDR, by depleting mitochondrial DNA. Fluoroquinolones have been shown to “cause mitochondrial dysfunction and ROS overproduction in mammalian cells.” For many people, the cycle of stress, chronic illness, hypometabolism, and dauer, starts with an assault on mitochondria from fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

Concluding Thoughts on Stress and Fluoroquinolone Toxicity

Again, I want to emphasize that these connections are hypotheses, not proven facts. However, as the fields of metabolomics and genetics progress, I suspect that we will find answers to fluoroquinolone toxicity, and all other multi-symptom, chronic illnesses.

You may be wondering, how does one get out of the stress/chronic illness cycle? As anyone who has researched or experienced a chronic illness knows, that question is much easier asked than answered. The fluoroquinolone toxicity recovery stories on this site give some valuable suggestions for those dealing with fluoroquinolone toxicity, as does the post “I’m Floxed, Now What?” Before getting too overwhelmed with advice though, a first-step in the right direction may be to reduce stress. We all have stress in our lives—but if there are things that you can do to avoid it (staying away from people and information that give you anxiety, and also avoiding mitochondrial toxins), or that help you to cope with it (meditation, mindfulness, etc.), those things may be helpful in starting your fluoroquinolone toxicity (or other chronic illness) recovery journey. It is difficult to reverse the cellular cycles of chronic illness, and reducing stress is not a quick-fix or easy answer, it is more like a starting point.

I know that it sounds simplistic and dismissive to tell you to “reduce stress,” but hopefully the information above demonstrates that stress is related to every bodily function, and it is intimately connected to chronic illness. Neither chronic illness nor stress, nor their connections, are trivial or to be dismissed in any way. If Dr. Meglathery is right, and there are some people who are genetically predisposed toward an inability to handle stress on a cellular level, avoiding stress (including toxins, viruses, etc.) may be key for avoiding chronic illness for those people. I suspect that everyone who is “floxed” falls into the category of “those people” who are more succeptible to harm from stressors than others. It isn’t easy to avoid stress (or stressors like toxins and viruses), but doing so may be necessary for your health, and it also may be a key to your healing. Most stress-reduction exercises and tools are inexpensive and easy to access, so they’re almost certainly worth a try.

 

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Lisa’s Update

One Year Update Pic

I wrote my recovery story about a year ago. A lot changes in a year, so I thought I’d write an update.

I was pretty well recovered when I wrote my story. In most areas, I was about 95% of my pre-flox capacity. I could do most of the physical and mental things that I needed and wanted to do to with relative ease. I could walk, hike, do pilates, swim, dance, work, have good conversations with my friends, maintain relationships, etc. I was healthy enough and life was good. I would have felt fine about staying in the condition that I was a year ago indefinitely.

It has been a nice surprise that I have continued to get better. Little things have improved/gone back to how they were pre-flox.

I started sweating again. I was kind of enjoying not sweating, but it’s good to have that part of my autonomic nervous system working normally again.

I stopped being cold all the time. I had a hard time feeling warm for a long time after taking cipro. Sometime in the last year my body has gone back to its normal – being “hot blooded” (I’m Swedish).

I feel like I felt pre-flox when drinking coffee and alcohol. It’s difficult for me to describe how I felt different after having caffeine or alcohol while I was sick – but it just felt different – and now it feels normal again.

I went through a period of nausea in the last year. For a couple of months, I couldn’t eat without feeling nauseous. I’m not sure if the nausea was because of a break-up that I went through right before it started (lots of people don’t eat for a while after a break-up), if it was a floxing symptom, or if it was a combination – my digestive tract shuts down now when I go through a period of stress. Whatever the source, it went away when I started supplementing hydrochloric acid (HCL – stomach acid).

I also had some issues with feeling a tightness in my chest that went away when I started supplementing HCL.

My mental capacity is as good as it was before I got floxed. It may even be better than it was pre-flox. I had no interest in biochem before I started researching how fluoroquinolones work – now I read biochem articles for fun, and they’re making me smarter. Also, my writing has gotten better – which is nice.

My energy, endurance, flexibility and strength have continued to improve. It’s difficult to tell if I am capable of as much physical activity now as I was before I got floxed for a couple of reasons. First, I am a bit out of shape. I have an office job so I sit for 8 hours a day. That’s not good for anyone’s physical fitness. Getting floxed certainly didn’t help, as it left me completely sedentary for a while and semi-sedentary for a while after that. Second, I was in really excellent physical condition before I got floxed. I’m not sure how fair it is to compare myself to how I was 2.5-3.5 years ago because I was really fit at that point in my life. Anyhow, those are details. My point is that I’m doing well physically. I can keep up with my boyfriend (who has never touched a fluoroquinolone) while hiking, swimming, etc.

I still struggle a bit with my motivation. I felt like cipro stole my “give a damn.” I’m very passionate about exposing the dangers of fluoroquinolones, and about helping people through fluoroquinolone toxicity, but I still struggle to “give a damn” about other areas of my life. It’s getting better though.

My level of fearfulness has subsided over the last year. (It had actually improved tremendously a year ago when I wrote my story – it was horrible when I first got floxed – I was terrified.) It has taken a long time for me to convince myself that this isn’t going to kill me. I can’t say that the fear about the consequences of the cellular damage done is completely gone. But I can say that I feel good right now. It’s not going to kill me today. Today, I’m doing well.

Diet – I am not on any specific diet. I avoid junk food but other than that, I eat whatever. Food does affect how I feel, but I don’t think that it affects how I feel any more than it did before I got floxed.

Supplements – I’ve switched out my supplements a bit. I still take iron (Pur Absorb 5 mg/day) and I still think that it helps me a lot. I also think that magnesium (250 mgs. Chelated mag/day) helps me. Lecithin helped to clear my brain fog. Hydrochloric acid (HCL) helped to get rid of my nausea and heartburn. I also take a fish-oil supplement, chlorella, glucosamine, vitamin D3, vitamin K2, coenzyme Q10 and a probiotic.

Food Supplements – These supplements are actually food, so I’m putting them into a different category from the supplements. I think that all of them have helped me a lot. Brewer’s yeast – it’s full of B vitamins, amino acids, trace minerals and has things like uridine and iodine in it that are helpful. I think that brewer’s yeast has helped me a lot. Cod liver oil – full of good fats. Raw crushed garlic – for the thiamine and other nutrients. Beets – they make me feel better (nitric oxide??) – do NOT get scared when you pee/poo purple after eating beets.

Exercise – I still find pilates, swimming and walking to be very therapeutic. I haven’t been as diligent in sticking with them this year as I was the year before.

Meditation – I still think that meditation is a wonderful thing for everyone to do. I have gotten horribly lazy about doing it myself.

Acupuncture – I go to my acupuncturist about once a quarter now. I was going at least once a month previously.

Staying off the internet – I’ll give myself a big fat F- on this one. Being involved in floxie stuff over the internet doesn’t induce anxiety for me any more though – so I don’t think that it’s unhealthy for me that I concentrate on it too much.

Having a positive attitude – I think that I’m still doing pretty well with this one. It has been wonderful and touching to have a group of positive people commenting on this site – letting their fellow floxies know what they know – and everyone encouraging each other and having faith in the notion that this too shall pass. I thank everyone who has supported a floxie through their time of need with a positive attitude and/or words of wisdom.

As I have gotten healthier and healthier, I have become less diligent about doing the things that helped me to get to a place of health. It would probably be better for my continued health if I was more diligent about sticking with them. Oh well. I think that it’s relatively normal to get lazy about doing the things that you did to get healthy once you have reached a point where you feel healthy enough.

I consider myself to be 99-100% recovered.

I am very, very, very lucky.

I wish luck, healing and recovery for all of you! I know that a complete recovery is not possible for everyone, and, well, read this about partial recoveries – https://floxiehope.com/2014/03/05/redefining-recovery/. I like the quote at the end of it, “Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.” If a full recovery isn’t possible, I wish you a recovery in which the damage no longer controls your life.

I am incredibly grateful for everything that I have gained in the last year. This site has reached more people, and touched more lives, than I could have possibly imagined a year ago. More people have read, and cared about, my healing story than I ever could have imagined. I hope that it has helped you. I hope that this follow-up, letting you know that the improvements have continued for me, give you even more hope for your own healing.

Xoxo

-Lisa

 

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Saving the Life of a Floxie

I think that it’s really important to have someone who saves your life early in your Floxing.

Everyone’s Floxing/Fluoroquinolone Toxicity is different.  Some people start having aches and pains after taking a fluoroquinolone and those aches and pains gradually build over time as their tendons get weaker and weaker, their cartilage thins and their nerves get more exposed.  The people with gradual onsets of fluoroquinolone toxicity problems are probably unlikely to realize that the causes of their issues are the antibiotics that they took at some point in the past.  They are more likely to attribute their pain to aging, Fibromyalgia, arthritis, etc.  Other people’s fluoroquinolone toxicity comes on suddenly.  They go from being healthy and active, to being suddenly unable to walk, sleep, think or do any of the activities that they enjoyed just weeks earlier.  Those people tend to freak out – as is a reasonable thing to do when, without warning, everything in your body is going hay-wire.  All Floxies deserve help as they go down the path of being poisoned, and recovering.  Those with a sudden onset of physical and mental health issues very much need help as they go, suddenly, from being healthy and active to barely able to move.

Fluoroquinolone Toxicity is frightening to experience.  To go from being able to easily run 5 miles to barely being able to walk, is scary.  To have pain that travels throughout your body, for no apparent reason, is scary.  To lose your memory, your ability to connect with other people, your ability to read, your ability to sleep, your sanity, etc. is scary.  All of those things happening at once, is TERRIFYING.  Add the fact that excessive fearfulness is a CNS related symptom of fluoroquinolone toxicity, and you get some people who really, really, desperately need help to make it through.

We need people to save our lives.  Perhaps that sounds dramatic.  Perhaps it is.  But it certainly doesn’t feel overly dramatic when you are going through having a bomb go off in your body.

Most people go to their doctor first.  I’m sure that there are plenty of Floxies who have been helped, and saved, by their doctors.  But generally, there is not a lot that Western Medicine can do to help people going through Fluoroquinolone Toxicity, so MDs are left to either turn away patients with FQ toxicity, or misdiagnose them.  The rejection that Floxies face from their doctors, the people that they go to first to help them, to fix them, is painful.  Not only is everything going wrong in their body and mind, but there is no solution that can be offered by the people who gave them the poison that hurt them.  (The promise of every pharmaceutical ad ever seen on TV of, “see your doctor immediately if ____ occurs,” is broken.)  It’s heartbreaking.  Sometimes the heartbreak of the disappointment is compounded by doctors being hostile or disrespectful to the Floxie, accusing him or her of having mental problems or of being a conspiracy theorist.  I won’t forgive those doctors who make sick people feel worse by blaming them for their illness.  However, I actually feel sorry for many doctors in the situation of not knowing how to heal or fix a Floxie.  They have no tools with which they can fix the mess that their drugs made.  They have little knowledge of the effects of these drugs, much less the mechanism by which they operate – they only know that they kill bacteria and that they typically don’t immediately kill people.  They have little time and a lot of pressure.  The Western Medical System is not set up for doctors to save lives (with the exception of emergency medicine), or to heal people.  It is set up for doctors to “fix” ailments by throwing drugs at people, and both patients and doctors suffer as a result.

When doctors aren’t able to provide help, help is sought elsewhere.  And when it is found, it is a God-send.  We truly NEED our lives to be saved.  We need someone to prop us up, to let us know that we will be okay, that we can make it, that life isn’t over – in a way that we can hear, in a way that we can know and truly believe.

My Acupuncturist saved my life.  The needles that he put in me didn’t save my life, though I think they helped.  The herbs that he gave me didn’t save my life, though I felt better because of them.  HE saved my life.  He treated me when others weren’t able to.  He gave me a diagnosis.  He treated every new symptom that popped up, they popped up daily for a while, and he saw me as often as necessary.  He stopped the downward spiral that my body was intent on for a while.  He stabilized my physical, mental and emotional health.  He made me realize that healing was possible.  He never downplayed a symptom and he always believed me, but he would still tell me when I was being silly, wrongheaded or self-destructive.  When I lost my memory and reading comprehension and asked him, “What if I’m stupid now?” he responded, “But you’re not,” and it meant the world to me.  Because I trusted him.  He knew how to treat my body, mind and spirit.  He knew what to say and he knew what to do.  He is a healer and he was able to help me to heal.  I am eternally grateful to him.

Other people are saved by their Chiropractor or Naturopath or other Alternative Medicine provider.  Fortunately, Alternative Medicine is more set up for healing, and listening to patients, than Western Medicine, and help with healing can be found within those systems.

Other people have their life saved by a family member who recognizes the crisis that his/her loved one is in, and drops everything to help them.

Other people have had their lives saved by strangers.  They reach out, in a crisis, to people over the internet, and sometimes a guardian angel comes through and helps them, saying whatever needs to be said to let the panicked Floxie know that she/he will be okay, that she/he will make it, that the crisis will pass.

Life-saving help can come from anywhere.  It can come from a person who you know well or it can come from a person who you’ve never said a word to.  It can come from a doctor’s office or a church or a Facebook group.  It’s there though.  You might have to look for it.  You might have to ask for it, but it is there – and most people are happy to help if they can.

Those people who help Floxies through the toughest times, are so, so, so important, and I am grateful for every single person who has understood, who has helped, who has guided and who, somehow, maybe even without them realizing it, has saved a life.

Thank you.

 

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