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Healing from Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Takes Time, Perseverance, Strength, and Kindness

Ruth wrote this as an update/guest post. You can read Ruth’s story of fluoroquinolone toxicity in “Ruth’s Story – Cipro Toxicity.” You can also listen to Ruth’s story through her episode of The Floxie Hope Podcast. Ruth has offered her insight and wisdom to thousands of “floxies” over the years. As of the publishing of this post, her story has almost 1,600 comments. If you read through them, you will see how Ruth has generously given her time, insight, wisdom, and advice to those who are struggling. The comments are just a small sampling of what she has given to the fluoroquinolone toxicity community. Ruth has given so much to others while going through the ups and downs of fluoroquinolone toxicity herself. She is a kind, thoughtful, generous, person, and I am honored to call her a friend. As you will see from the post below, she can use a bit of encouragement and appreciation, so I’ll take the time to say thank you to her. THANK YOU, RUTH! 

Floxiehope update 7/19/18

I’m not 100% healed yet. I had another relapse lasting a few months during the second half of this school year. My blood pressure kept going up in response to doing just about anything. I felt overwhelmed just about all the time. Earlier in the school year I would go work out after school and feel marvelous afterward. When the relapse started by the time my teaching day ended my blood pressure would be up way too high for me to exercise. This caused my base line blood pressure to hover around 140/90, which is what happens when I don’t do any cardio. But by the end of a day it would be 170/110 or higher.

Friends kept telling me to go on medication for high blood pressure but I just didn’t feel like my problem was with the cardiovascular system. It seemed like my autonomic nervous system was sending the wrong message and that was what was ramping up my blood pressure and heart rate. If I was about to be eaten by a bear, this would have been an appropriate response. My body was responding to the stimulation of a normal teaching day as if I was in mortal danger. But like most flox symptoms, I knew this could stop happening at any moment, and I really did not want to be on strong antihypertensives when that happened.

Since the school year ended I have been feeling better. Still mildly hypertensive, but better. I need to clean up my diet and exercise more. I’m working on that but I have not been checking my BP right now as if it is a little high that upsets me, which is counterproductive at this point. I don’t get that feeling of increasing anxiety, of things being overwhelming or of my blood pressure sky rocketing. If anything I feel a lot more normal than I have for years.

Not being able to work out definitely hurt me when fireworks season started, so I got really sore. At first my back hurt, then my core and abs hurt and then nothing hurt and I could lift whatever I needed to. It was amazing how fast my body recovered and gained strength. I’ve been more motivated to work out and especially to strengthen my core.

I would say the most troubling aspect of my post flox life right now is new floxies who ask me for advice and then get completely freaked out that I still have relapses and am not symptom free. They accuse me of lying to them. They block me on Facebook. They tell me I have not really healed very much and they need to find someone to talk to who has healed. Once again, I felt the temptation to turn my back on the flox community forever. It seems that since I didn’t heal 100% some floxies feel I have nothing to say. I almost believed them.

But my story is my story. My healing journey is my own and no one else’s. It is my belief that I will see 100% healing but I think it will take between six to seven years total. I think the very stressful job I had prior to this year pushed my nervous system to make more repairs and when it did that I felt it. I think this year I pushed myself way too hard doing administrative tasks for teaching with a nervous system that still does not like too much of that kind of thing. I love my new school and Wisconsin has merit based pay for teachers. I put in a lot of time on grades and lesson plans so that at the end of the year I had the documentation I needed to show I did my job. It pushed my nervous system when I was spending ten hours on my day off doing stuff for school. That’s a long time to sit and enter data into a computer. For anybody.

I think also there is an emotional aspect to dealing with getting floxed and I couldn’t do it right away. I couldn’t even cry without it feeling like someone was squeezing my brain. I didn’t have normal emotions for years. Aspects of my personality were missing that didn’t come back until year three. Suddenly, this school year, I had the emotional capacity to ask, “What just happened to me? How do I feel about this? Am I coping all right with this?”

I was so busy though, working so hard at my teaching job and I did a lot of arranging music for my choir this year also. They do better with three part music than four part, so I arranged public domain hymns into three part choir anthems. Between the two jobs every spare minute was spent concentrating, bent over a computer screen. But my brain didn’t want to concentrate on all that stuff or on teaching my classes, it wanted to process what had happened to me when the flox bomb went off in my body and brain four years ago. Some of what I was experiencing toward the end of this school year may actually have been PTSD.

So as fireworks season winds down and I have more time I am working at healing not just my nervous system but my spirit. I’m giving my brain time to just do nothing, think of nothing. I’m giving my body time in nature to just experience things like swimming and hiking. I have had to let go of the dream of a perfectly clean house before school starts. I have had to allow myself time to heal. Not physically. I am pretty much physically healed. Time to heal mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

I probably am still lacking a few receptors for gamma amino butryic acid compared to if I had not been floxed. I do believe that those will be replaced eventually because I believe in neural plasticity.

I am still a bit low on magnesium, but now it takes working hours in 95 degree heat and humidity for me to notice it. My teeth started to feel loose while I was drenched in sweat working to set up fireworks shows, but as soon as I took some magnesium they tightened up and the anxiety I had felt building went away. I used to notice symptoms of magnesium deficiency like that if I didn’t take some every two hours just sitting around indoors.

I used to have to eat breakfast and take a magnesium pill the moment I woke up. Now I walk two miles or more before breakfast and I don’t always remember to take magnesium before I do it. I have noticed that my legs don’t hurt no matter how much I walk or stand. It takes a lot for me to get physically tired. So I am making progress, and I definitely think my cells will once again be healthy and filled with magnesium and I won’t have to take as much as many magnesium pills as I do now to keep them that way.

I think what really remains for me to reach 100% healing is for me to completely come to terms with what happened to me, to recover from the PTSD the experience seems to have caused. I was in a situation in which my body was failing me, I didn’t know how bad it was going to get or even if I would die. The flox bomb going off can cause some shell shock. Only if you have experienced it can you understand that, and realize I am not meaning to diminish the PTSD experienced by our soldiers. But like them, keeping busy can only delay the PTSD symptoms. Eventually, our mind says, “Hey, this thing happened, and it was really bad, and I really need some help to cope with it, because I really couldn’t cope at the time and I’m not sure I can now.” We can get physical symptoms that are a manifestation of our inability to cope– like my blood pressure and heart rate constantly becoming elevated. I wasn’t overwhelmed with my teaching duties, per se, although I may have pushed a little nervous system healing by doing so much computer work. What really caused my last relapse was my absolute need to stop, to pause, to reflect, to heal from that flox bomb. Not physically. That part of my healing is very nearly complete. I need to heal mentally.

I need to stop and rest so that my mind can process what happened and be ok with it and pause and see that I really am ok now.

I think what I have to say has value even though I am not 100% recovered yet. It would be nice if there were some magic pill, a miracle cure that could make flox damage go away instantly. There’s not. And even after the physical damage heals, there is the emotional aftermath. Personally, I think someone who has coped with the flox bomb for four and half years may just be able to give better advice about coping with getting floxed than the person who managed to heal in a few weeks. Even if a floxie does everything the quick healer did it does mean he or she will heal as quickly. We are all different. There are no guarantees. There is no protocol for treating FQAD. It’s great when someone can share a supplement they took and someone else feels a bit better from it, but none of us are sharing overnight cures, because there are none.

Getting floxed does a tremendous amount of damage to the human body. That the body can heal it is amazing. That it can take a significant amount of time to do so is frustrating. That it sometimes cannot heal all the damage is a real possibility. Talking to people who healed slowly, who faced the fact that they were damaged badly enough that they may not heal all the way, is going to provide wisdom that is way more important than what supplement or treatment you could try.

I have always believed that improving parasympathetic nervous system function was at the core of healing floxies. Learning coping skills is all about choosing “rest and digest” over “fight or flight” no matter what is happening to you. Not saying it’s easy. But it’s a choice of learning to live life despite your circumstances, or deciding your life is over because your circumstances aren’t good. I have learned to make a great life for myself even when my circumstances were pretty crummy.

When I look back over the past four and half years, most of my memories are good. There are some pretty horrible ones in there too, but once I got past about month four or five, I could live even with the symptoms I had. When I look back on those times I remember the things I did, my accomplishments, and the people I spent time with. I really don’t remember the symptoms I was having, or if I do it is in passing and they certainly don’t dominate my memories.

Here’s something else to consider. How many people do you know with perfect health? Everybody has some issue(s) they are dealing with. Some of the middle aged women who work at my school have told me of their struggles with menopause and I have to say, other than that rough stretch toward the end of the school year, I generally feel a lot better than they do. I’m floxed, yes, but I can think of a lot of people who aren’t floxies who aren’t as healthy or as active as I am.

I’m four and a half years out and I still have some healing to do. But when I look at where I started compared to how I feel today, I know I am blessed. I’m incredibly saddened when floxies decide I have nothing to say to them because I didn’t heal 100% yet.

I think we need to treat one another better in the flox community. I actually know of some people who healed 100% who no longer are willing to support other floxies. Perhaps the behavior of floxies seeking help actually drove them away from the flox community. When seeking out advice of another floxed person, it is important not to forget that this person probably went through hell and may still be struggling with issues, struggling to cope with what happened to them, just as you are. Most are happy to share advice and emotional support, but few of us are medical professionals and we aren’t getting paid to help other floxies. We do that out of the goodness of our hearts. If advice we give isn’t helpful, then say thank you and move on. But don’t expect any floxie to have the magic bullet. There isn’t one. It is going to take time for you to heal.

Our society does not like to admit that some things that are painful are going to be that way for awhile. When I was widowed back in 1993 I had friends tell me that if I was still feeling sad in a month or two there is probably something wrong and I would need to get some professional help. I know a floxie who was prescribed Benzodiazepines because she lost a loved one. When she took Cipro it threw her into Benzo withdrawal, but she would never have been in that situation but for this idea that any suffering is intolerable and must be medicated away. This may be why our medical system does such a terrible job of treating chronic illness. It is quicker to prescribe a pain pill to get rid of the symptoms than to really dig into the cause of the illness.

Anyone who has dealt with grief knows the time line my friends suggested when my husband died was way out of whack. The floxie time line is more similar to the grief time line than anything else I can think of. And like grief, it may never totally go away. It will never be as if you had not loved and lost. You are forever changed. It will never be as if you were never floxed. I am forever changed because I got floxed even if I have more healthy mitochondria then when I started, if every cell of my body is brimming with magnesium and all my antioxidants are functioning beautifully and if I have more GABA receptors than I started with, I still experienced the flox bomb go off in my body and it was beyond horrible. That experience will always be with me as much as the moment I heard that my husband had been killed.

A few Sundays ago I played a hymn in church that had comforted me after Danny died, and suddenly I was crying so hard that I couldn’t sing and it was like I was 25 years old again and going through all that grief the first time. Some wounds don’t ever really go away, but you can live with them. You can survive and thrive and sometimes, even grief feels good. I can cry again without it feeling like someone is squeezing my brain. How I cherish that blessed release tears can bring!Now I can cry about the flox bomb too, and probably, if I live to be 80, there will be a day that a certain memory hits me and I cry about getting floxed all over again.

I am just asking floxies who seek advice from other floxies to keep in mind that what we are all dealing with is a chronic illness. It lasts a long time for just about everyone. Some people are able to heal from it, which is amazing and wonderful. But even those who don’t heal, but learn to cope, have done a tremendous thing and overcome a lot. They should be celebrated and listened to, because learning to cope is over half the battle, and some scars are simply going to be there forever. It is way past time for the medical community to stop doing this to people. But at least we can treat each other well.

** The story above is truthful, accurate and told to the best of the ability of the writer. It is not intended as medical advice. No person who submits his or her story, nor the people associated with Floxie Hope, diagnoses or treats any illness. The story above should not be substituted for professionally provided medical advice. Please consult your doctor before trying anything that has been mentioned in this story, or in any other story on this site. Please also note that people have varying responses to the treatments mentioned in each story. What helps one person may not help, and may even hurt, another person. It is important that you understand that supplements, IVs, essential oils, and all other treatments, effect people differently depending on the millions of variables that make each of us unique. Please use appropriate caution and prudence, and get professional medical advice.

 

Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction from Cipro, Levaquin, and other Fluoroquinolones

Many symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity involve autonomic nervous system dysfunction.

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates bodily functions such as the heart rate, digestion, sweating, salivating, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, sexual arousal, and certain reflex actions such as coughing, sneezing, swallowing and vomiting. The ANS also controls the balance between the parasympathetic (the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” system) and the sympathetic (fight or flight system) nervous systems.

Many fluoroquinolone toxicity victims/”floxies” (those who have been poisoned by Cipro/ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/levofloxacin, Avelox/moxifloxacin, Floxin/ofloxacin or other fluoroquinolone antibiotics) struggle with:

  • Digestive dysmotility
  • Either sweating too much or too little
  • Increased heart rate / racing heart
  • Breathing difficulty / air hunger
  • Increased frequency, urgency, and pain with urination
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Loss of libido
  • Dry mouth and dental problems
  • Dry eyes and vision problems
  • Adrenal dysfunction and fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of balance
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty regulating blood-sugar levels

ANS dysfunction is also common among those with POTS/Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (“The hallmark sign of POTS is a measured increase in heart rate by at least 30 beats per minute within 10 minutes of assuming an upright position”), EDS/Ehlers–Danlos syndrome (a grouping of genetic connective tissue disorders), and MCAS/Mast cell activation syndrome or MCAD/mast cell activation disorder (an inflammatory immune system disorder that leads to many multi-symptom, chronic illness). ANS dysfunction is also a symptom of each of these illnesses.

Fluoroquinolone toxicity symptoms mimic and overlap with those of POTS, EDS, and MCAS/MCAD. All these disorders are multi-symptom, chronic illnesses for which there is no cure. In addition to causing ANS dysfunction, fluoroquinolone toxicity, like EDS, causes connective tissue damage, and like MCAS/MCAD, fluoroquinolone toxicity involves immune system dysfunction. There is significant overlap in symptoms, and maybe pathology, between fluoroquinolone toxicity, POTS, EDS, and MCAS/MCAD.

You can find many examples of ANS dysfunction (and other symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity that overlap with symptoms of POTS, EDS, and MCAS/MCAD) in the stories of fluoroquinolone toxicity on https://fqwallofpain.com/, http://www.fluoroquinolonestories.com/, https://www.facebook.com/groups/floxies/ and here on https://floxiehope.com/. Personally, I experienced several ANS dysfunction symptoms, including digestive dysmotility, increased heart rate, dry eyes, loss of balance, anxiety, adrenal fatigue, difficulty regulating blood-sugar levels, and I didn’t sweat for years after I was hurt by ciprofloxacin.

Most of my ANS dysfunction symptoms, along with all my other fluoroquinolone toxicity symptoms, have improved.

The thing that helped to improve my digestive motility most was supplementing hydrochloric acid (HCL). I think that probiotic supplements and foods, meditation, and time also helped to heal my digestive tract.

A Chinese herbal supplement called suxiao jiuxin wan helped to calm my racing heart. I think that acupuncture, stress reduction, and time also helped.

I can’t pinpoint anything specific that cured my dry eyes, inability to sweat, or loss of balance, but those symptoms have all subsided with time.

Anxiety is common among “floxies,” and it can be severe. The post, Treating Fluoroquinolone Anxiety, goes over some suggestions as to how to deal with it. Magnesium and uridine supplements helped me to get through fluoroquinolone-induced anxiety, and those supplements have helped others too. In addition to reading Treating Fluoroquinolone Anxiety, I also suggest reading some of the recovery stories from people who have recovered from fluoroquinolone toxicity anxiety, especially Marcela’s Story, Ruth’s Story, and Nick’s Story.

I still struggle with adrenal fatigue and difficulty regulating my blood-sugar. I tend to feel better when I reduce my stress levels, avoid caffeine, avoid alcohol, and cut out sugar. I’m imperfect about those things though.

ANS dysfunction, and the diseases associated with it (fluoroquinolone toxicity, as well as POTS, EDS, MCAS/MCAD, etc.) are serious, and often the symptoms of these diseases are severe and life-altering. They are not trivial, and there is no easy or simple “cure” for ANS dysfunction or any related diseases.

With the severity of ANS dysfunction and related diseases noted, I’m going to make a suggestion that I hope doesn’t seem too trite:

Love, connection, community, laughter, and peace can all help to heal the autonomic nervous system. Meditation and breathing exercises are helpful too. Anything that you can do to bring love, connection, community, laughter, and peace into your life will be helpful in healing your autonomic nervous system.

Before you accuse me of being too hippy-dippy, hear me out on the logic behind suggesting that love and peace are healing. When you are stressed, or when you feel unsafe or threatened, your sympathetic nervous system–the fight-or-flight system–is activated, and subsequently, your digestive system shuts down, you either sweat profusely or stop sweating, your heart races, your breathing becomes shallow, etc. You have an acute moment of ANS dysfunction. For most people, this situation resolves itself as soon as the stressful moment passes, and the parasympathetic nervous system is re-activated. However, people with ANS dysfunction (whether it is caused by fluoroquinolone toxicity, POTS, EDS, MCAS/MCAD, or something else), get “stuck” in a state of sympathetic nervous system activation and parasympathetic nervous system disengagement. Love, connection, safety, community, laughter, peace, meditation, and more, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and shut off the sympathetic nervous system that is shutting down your ability to digest food, have sex, see clearly, etc. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system helps to relieve symptoms of sympathetic nervous system overdrive, and helps to relieve symptoms of ANS dysfunction.

Exercises and practices that activate and heal the vagus nerve–the long nerve that connects your brain to your digestive tract and various organs, and controls your autonomic nervous system–can also help to heal your ANS, and relieve symptoms of ANS dysfunction. The post, Hacking Fluoroquinolone Toxicity via the Nervous System, goes over the connections between the vagus nerve and fluoroquinolone toxicity, and the post, 32 Ways to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve (and Symptoms of Vagal Dysfunction), goes over some ways that you can stimulate your vagus nerve, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and reduces symptoms of ANS dysfunction. Love, laughter, connection, breathing exercises, acupuncture, etc. help to activate and stimulate the vagus nerve.

ANS dysfunction is complex, and it is not an easy thing to fix or “cure,” and I hope that my suggestion of love and stress-reduction as helpful in symptom alleviation isn’t seen as trite or dismissive.

I wish that ANS dysfunction, and the symptoms associated with it, were more acknowledged as symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity. They are serious, severe, and cause significant pain and suffering. Even though I am suggesting that peace, love, and meditation are helpful (they are), they are not simple cures that can be implemented in a short period of time. They are processes and practices, and despite doing their best to meditate regularly, love heartily, etc. many people are still very ill with fluoroquinolone toxicity, and other ANS dysfunction diseases. Neither peace nor love are cures for multi-symptom, chronic, illnesses like fluoroquinolone toxicity. Of course love and stress-reduction are helpful, but they’re not cures. We need more cures… and love… and acknowledgement.

 

 

Hacking Fluoroquinolone Toxicity via the Nervous System

I recently read Hacking the Nervous System, about how vagus nerve tone is connected to chronic illness.

The vagus nerve is a huge nerve that connects the brain to the various organs throughout the body. Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) is controlled via the vagus nerve. It connects the digestive tract to the brain and when you feel butterflies in your stomach, that feeling is traveling from your stomach to your brain via your vagus nerve. Breathing and heart rate, as well as other ANS functions, are controlled through the vagus nerve.

The brain coordinates ANS functions using the vagus nerve, and how smoothly those functions are being coordinated is referred to as the “tone” of the vagus nerve.

Hacking the Nervous System goes over the hypothesis that inflammation is related to vagal nerve tone, and that vagal nerve tone has a lot to do with chronic, multi-symptom illnesses, like autoimmune diseases. I wonder if vagal nerve damage has something to do with fluoroquinolone toxicity, and I wonder if things that improve vagal tone can help floxies to heal. I suspect so on both counts.

Vagal nerve tone is important, and “Research shows that a high vagal tone makes your body better at regulating blood glucose levels, reducing the likelihood of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Low vagal tone, however, has been associated with chronic inflammation.”

Little is known about how vagal tone relates to health. One of the scientists interviewed for Hacking the Nervous System stated, “We don’t even know yet what a healthy vagal tone looks like.” They are looking into it though, and vagal nerve stimulating implants are being used in clinical trials. (Read Hacking the Nervous System for more information about the implants.)

Improving Vagal Tone

Things that are less drastic and invasive than a vagal nerve stimulating implant can improve vagal tone. For example, meditation can improve vagal tone. “Those who meditated showed a significant rise in vagal tone, which was associated with reported increases in positive emotions. ‘That was the first experimental evidence that if you increased positive emotions and that led to increased social closeness, then vagal tone changed,’ Kok says.”

To drastically oversimplify a complex process, things that make you feel good, socially connected, happy, relaxed, etc. improve vagal tone. Conversely, stress and trauma decrease vagal tone. Many things that helped me through my fluoroquinolone toxicity journey were things that are purported to improve vagal tone – meditation, healing arts (e.g. dancing and music), mindfulness, acupuncture, chiropractic, and eliminating stressful stimuli from my life (e.g. getting off the internet). An article in Psychology Today, “How Does the Vagus Nerve Convey Gut Instincts to the Brain?” notes that, “Using positive self-talk and taking deep breaths is a quick and easy way to engage the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system to calm yourself from both the top-down and from the bottom-up.”

Additionally, exercise also improves vagal tone. Playful exercise is best, but regardless, movement is good for vagal tone.

Vagal Tone and GABA Neurotransmitters

A decrease in vagal tone may be connected to damage to GABA neurotransmitters. The article in Psychology Today, “How Does the Vagus Nerve Convey Gut Instincts to the Brain?” notes that, “The most exciting discovery of this study is that under closer scrutiny of the rats’ brains, the researchers found that the loss of signals coming up from the abdomen via the vagus nerve altered the production of both adrenaline and GABA in the brain.” The article Selective antagonism of the GABAA receptor by ciprofloxacin and biphenylacetic acid published in the British Journal of Pharmacology noted that, “Ciprofloxacin (10–3000 μm) inhibited GABAA-mediated responses in the vagus nerve with an IC50 (and 95% CI) of 202 μm (148–275). BPAA (1–1000 μm) had little or no effect on the GABAA-mediated response but concentration-dependently potentiated the effects of ciprofloxacin by up to 33,000 times.” Let me highlight and reiterate: BPAA, which is a derivative or an NSAID, potentiated the harmful effects of ciprofloxacin on GABA receptors by up to 33,000 times. (WHOA!).

The ANS dysfunction that many floxies experience is likely connected to vagal nerve health, as the ANS is controlled via the vagus nerve.

girl ocean UNLOCK THE POWER OF YOUR VAGUS NERVE (4) (1)

A Hypothesis for Fluoroquinolone Toxicity

A possible hypothesis for fluoroquinolone toxicity is that people who get floxed have an underlying, dormant hiatal hernia (they’re pretty common) that is exacerbated by the FQ and the massive amount of oxidative stress induced in the gut by the FQ. The hiatal hernia irritates the vagus nerve and triggers ANS dysfunction that is self-perpetuating. The damage to the vagus nerve also alters the production of neurotransmitters, especially GABA, and hormones.

It’s possible, and I believe that the vagus nerve is a big part of the FQ toxicity puzzle. However, please know that I have not found much scientific research to support this hypothesis. Also, other possible causes for fluoroquinolone toxicity mentioned in the post, What is Fluoroquinolone Toxicity? have more supporting evidence supporting. However, all of these causes are not mutually exclusive, and may all play a role.

Measuring Vagal Tone

In Hacking the Nervous System it is noted that:

The strength of your vagus response is known as your vagal tone and it can be determined by using an electrocardiogram to measure heart rate. Every time you breathe in, your heart beats faster in order to speed the flow of oxygenated blood around your body. Breathe out and your heart rate slows. This variability is one of many things regulated by the vagus nerve, which is active when you breathe out but suppressed when you breathe in, so the bigger your difference in heart rate when breathing in and out, the higher your vagal tone.”

Another term for the relationship between breath and heart rate is respiratory sinus arrhythmia breathing (RSA breathing). I found the following passage from A Headache in the Pelvis to be interesting:

RSA breathing is a description of the relationship between heart rate and breathing and refers to the heart rate varying in response to respiration. RSA is a phenomenon that occurs in all vertebrates. You can experience the phenomenon of RSA by taking your pulse and noting that when you breathe in, the heart rate increases slightly and when you breathe out the heart rate decreases slightly. There is considerable research that indicates that when there is balance and health, the heart rate and the breath move robustly together as inhalation occurs, heart rate increases as exhalation occurs, heart rate drops.

Under circumstances of mental or physical disease the relationship between breathing and heart rate is disturbed. When individuals suffer panic attacks for instance, RSA is lower and disturbed. When they recover from panic disorders their RSA breathing becomes stronger, more balanced, and robust. The higher and stronger the heart rate variability is in relationship to appropriate respiration, the higher is the general level of health and well being. For example healthy children generally have very robust RSA breathing in which the heart rate can sometimes vary 40 beats or more between inhalation and exhalation.

Reduced RSA is thought to be an indicator of an adverse prognosis for people with heart disease. Generally disturbed RSA is indicative of early problems in the healthy functioning of the autonomic nervous system as it relates to a number of diseases. It has been suggested that one measure of the therapeutic effect or safety of a drug is whether it positively or negatively affects RSA.” (emphasis added).

Vagal tone and RSA breathing are either one and the same, or, at the very least, highly related. As doctors Wise and Anderson note in A Headache in the Pelvis, the effects of pharmaceuticals on RSA (or vagal tone) should be measured and noted, and those drugs that have deleterious effects on RSA should only be taken in extreme circumstances. The effects of fluoroquinolones on RSA breathing and vagal tone are unknown.

Coordinating Breathing with Heart Rate

I’m a huge fan of breathing exercises for health. The post Breathing Exercises for Health goes over some thoughts on breathing exercises for floxies. The easiest breathing exercise that I use is just saying, “OM” – take a deep breath in and let it out slowly while singing/chanting/groaning “OM.”

To get my heart and breath regulated, I took a Chinese herb called Suxiao Jiuxin Wan. It’s supposed to improve heart qi. (Heart qi? What? I’m not sure of this, but I suspect that “heart qi” is related to vagal nerve tone, but people who know more about this can either prove or disprove this notion.) Suxiao Jiuxin Wan has been shown to help people with angina and it calmed my racing heart dramatically. I’m not a doctor or Chinese herb specialist, so please do your own research, but it helped me immensely.

Conclusion

Fluoroquinolone toxicity is an incredibly complex disease with many facets. Is the nervous system involved? Absolutely. Is the vagus nerve involved? Almost certainly. But, unfortunately, not much research has been done on how fluoroquinolones relate to either the vagus nerve specifically or the nervous system generally.

Improving vagal tone has multiple health benefits for floxies and non-floxies alike. Most of the things that can be done to improve vagal tone are pretty simple and inexpensive. Meditate – be socially connected – exercise – do breathing exercises – minimize stress – think positively. None of those are magic bullets, they’re all processes and practices. They’re all good for you, free, and certainly worth a try.

 

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