Tag Archives: vagus nerve

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.

*****

 

 

 

 

The Vagus Nerve Guide: Reduce Inflammation and Chronic Illness Through Toning Your Vagus Nerve

I first became interested in the vagus nerve when I read this wonderful and fascinating article about the connections between the vagus nerve and chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases:

Hacking the Nervous System, by Gaia Vince

The article notes that:

“Operating far below the level of our conscious minds, the vagus nerve is vital for keeping our bodies healthy. It is an essential part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming organs after the stressed ‘fight-or-flight’ adrenaline response to danger. Not all vagus nerves are the same, however: some people have stronger vagus activity, which means their bodies can relax faster after a stress.”

The vagus nerve is a critical component of the autonomic nervous system, and it is also responsible for the release of acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter that:

  1. It is a neuromodulator of the central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system.
    1. In the autonomic nervous system, ACh has key roles in both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and affects motility through the digestive tract, sweating, tear production, balance, heart-rate, breathing, etc.
    2. In the central nervous system, ACh plays a role in regulating arousal, attention, sleep, and motivation.
    3.  In the peripheral nervous system, ACh controls muscle activation (both skeletal muscles and smooth muscles–the muscles that involuntarily contract and release).
  2. It affects vascular tone.
  3. A lack of ACh is linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other chronic CNS illnesses.
  4. It suppresses inflammation.
  5. It affects the release of hormones.

The vagus nerve is an essential part of our autonomic nervous system (the parasympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system), it regulates inflammation, and lack of vagal nerve tone/health is related to many chronic illnesses.

Hallmarks of fluoroquinolone toxicity are autonomic nervous system dysfunction, inflammation, and even ACh dysfunction.

I explored the connections between fluoroquinolone toxicity and the vagus nerve in these posts on floxiehope.com:

I don’t know whether or not vagus nerve damage is a root cause of fluoroquinolone toxicity, but I do believe that healing and toning the vagus nerve is helpful for all people suffering from chronic inflammation and disease–including floxies.

The connections between vagus nerve health/tone and fluoroquinolone toxicity, as well as my desire to figure out fluoroquiolone toxicity (an ongoing struggle), led me to study the vagus nerve, and explore ways to strengthen and tone it.

I put my findings/research into a book. It’s called The Vagus Nerve Guide: Reduce Inflammation and Chronic Illness Through Toning Your Vagus Nerve and it’s available via Amazon kindle. You can find it HERE.

I hope that you find it to be interesting and useful.

Thank you to each and every one of you who buys the book, and an especially large thank you to those who leave a review on Amazon. 🙂

Please also “like” the Vagus Nerve Guide on Facebook. The page can be found HERE.

The web site for the book is https://vagusnervehealing.com/.

Researching fluoroquinolone toxicity has led me in all sorts of unexpected and interesting directions. I never would have thought that I would be researching the vagus nerve, much less writing a book about it. Yet, here we are. I hope that the information in The Vagus Nerve Guide: Reduce Inflammation and Chronic Illness Through Toning Your Vagus Nerve is helpful to everyone who reads it.

Here is a sample from the book:

The vagus nerve is one of the longest nerves in the human body. It runs from the hypothalamus area of of the brain, down through the chest and diaphragm, and through the intestines. It wraps around the heart, gut, and most of the other organs in the body.

It is convenient to think of the vagus nerve as a highway between cities. One city, Brainopolis, has many thriving tech businesses. The other city, Gutland, is a manufacturing center. Though the two cities have very different climates and cultures, they are intertwined and dependent upon each other. Without the raw goods from Gutland, Brainopolis wouldn’t be able to create its high-tech products, and without the information and technology from Brainopolis, Gutland would be inefficient and slow. In order to transfer goods, products, and technologies from Brainopolis to Gutland, and from Gutland to Brainopolis, an efficient, well-maintained, highway between the two cities is needed. That highway is the Vagus Nerve Highway.

When the vagus nerve is toned, it is like a well-maintained super-highway with minimal traffic on it–information and nutrients travel from the brain to the gut, and from the gut to the brain, quickly and efficiently, so that both can be optimally maintained. A damaged vagus, that has lost tone, is like a pot-holed and jammed highway. The proper information and nutrients aren’t able to go from the brain to the gut, or from the gut to the brain, because the path between those two vital organs isn’t operating properly. Just like well-maintained highways (and other transportation systems) are necessary for a properly functioning economy, well-maintained nerves that connect organs and systems are necessary for a properly functioning body.

The Vagus Nerve Highway doesn’t just connect Brainopolis and Gutland though, it also connects Brainopolis to Kidneydale, Spleenland, Lungora, etc. For those who aren’t following the analogy, I’m trying to say that the vagus nerve not only connects the brain and the gut, it also connects the brain to most the other vital organs throughout the body. A well-functioning, and well-toned, vagus nerve is necessary for communication between your brain and many of your vital organs–including the gut. Without a clear and toned vagus nerve, organs cannot get what they need from the brain, and the brain cannot get what it needs from the organs. Metaphorical traffic jams ensue, and result in real health problems.

A malfunctioning vagus nerve is related to many of the chronic diseases of modernity, including autoimmune diseases, fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, POTS, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, digestive disorders like SIBO and IBS, autism, diabetes, heart-disease, and even obesity. When the vagus nerve is not toned, and information is not traveling smoothly between the brain and the organs, neither the brain nor the organs function optimally.

Most diseases (especially the chronic diseases of modernity) are related to inflammation. When you stub your toe and it immediately throbs and swells, that swelling is a helpful inflammatory response in which your body is sending nutrient-rich blood to the site of the injury. Though that inflammation is healthy, much of the inflammation that people currently experience isn’t healthy or helpful. A constant barrage of toxin exposures (pesticides, GMOs, pollution, pharmaceuticals, etc.), the Standard American Diet (SAD) that is full of processed ingredients and toxins, stress, heavy metal exposures, etc. lead to chronic inflammation, and that chronic inflammation can lead to cancer, autoimmune diseases, “mysterious” diseases like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and other psychiatric illnesses, diabetes, obesity, as well as ageing and age-related illnesses. A toned vagus nerve reduces inflammation by producing calming neurotransmitters like Acetylcholine (ACh), GABA, oxytocin, and other neurotransmitters that reduce inflammation.

On the Vagus Nerve Highway, when there is inflammation–the body’s version of a house fire–fire-trucks and other emergency responder vehicles are dependent on a clear and open path in order to reach their destination in time to eliminate the fire. The path that ACh, GABA, and other neurotransmitters that quell inflammation, must travel along is the vagus nerve. A toned vagus nerve will make that process more smooth and efficient, whereas a damaged vagus nerve will stop the signals from reaching their destinations, and will allow inflammation to wreak havok.

Having a vagus nerve that is toned, and a Vagus Nerve Highway that is operating optimally, is one of the best ways to suppress inflammation, reduce the symptoms of many chronic illnesses, and improve your health overall.

In this book, we will explore how to fix your Vagus Nerve Highway (I’ll move away from the highway analogy, and refer to it as “toning the vagus nerve” from here on out), and use exercises and practices that tone your vagus nerve to quell inflammation and improve overall health. The vagus nerve is too often neglected, but it is a vital part of being a physically, emotionally, and socially healthy person.

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.

 

 

Fluoroquinolone Toxicity and Acetylcholine (ACh) Damage

I suspect that fluoroquinolone antibiotics deplete, inhibit, or otherwise adversely affect acetylcholine (ACh). ACh is a neurotransmitter that has the following functions:

  1. It is a neuromodulator of the central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system.
    1. In the autonomic nervous system, ACh has key roles in both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and affects motility through the digestive tract, sweating, tear production, balance, heart-rate, breathing, etc.
    2. In the central nervous system, ACh plays a role in regulating arousal, attention, sleep, and motivation.
    3.  In the peripheral nervous system, ACh controls muscle activation (both skeletal muscles and smooth muscles–the muscles that involuntarily contract and release).
  2. It affects vascular tone.
  3. A lack of ACh is linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other chronic CNS illnesses.
  4. It suppresses inflammation.
  5. It affects the release of hormones.

Fluoroquinolones damage connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, cartilage, fascia, etc.) throughout the body, as well as the nervous systems (central, peripheral, and autonomic). After getting “floxed” people often suffer from autonomic nervous system dysfunction (including dysautonomia, loss of digestive motility, problems sweating, balancing, etc.), central nervous system dysfunction (including psychosis, insomnia, changes in personality, etc.), and peripheral nervous system dysfunction (including peripheral neuropathy). Fluoroquinolone toxicity often resembles autoimmune diseases in its symptoms, and, like many people with autoimmune diseases, inflammation is often rampant in those who are floxed. Many “floxies” have reported hormonal problems, including thyroid hormone abnormalities, as well as undesirable levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

There is significant match-up between the list of documented effects of ACh depletion/damage (summaries of ACH effects can be found HERE and HERE) and the documented effects of fluoroquinolones (the warning labels go over most of the symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity, but the personal stories on this site, as well as the stories on www.fqwallofpain.com, facebook, and other places on the internet better exemplify the actual effects of these drugs).

fluoroquinolone-lawsuit-banner-trulaw

In addition to the obvious links and overlaps noted above, the links between fluoroquinolones/fluoroquinolone toxicity and ACh damage are more thoroughly explored in the post, “Acetylcholine (ACh) – Related Damage” on www.fluoroquinolonethyroid.com. In it, JMR describes the connections between fluoroquinolones (and fluoroquinolone toxicity) and acetylcholine:

“Still, there were many reasons I felt that many of my problems could be ACh related, and here are some of them.  As I’ve already stated, I felt that many of my symptoms and acute flox reaction could be described as “cholinergic/anti-cholinergic” in nature, and/or MG (myasthenia gravis) related.   Drug label warnings specifically state the Fluoroquinolones have neuromuscular blocking activity, so pharma is giving us a big clue here.  ACh modulates a host of physiological processes in the central and peripheral nervous systems.  Centrally, ACh regulates motor function, sensory perception, cognitive processing, arousal, sleep/wake cycles, and nociception, while in the periphery it controls heart rate, gastrointestinal tract motility, and smooth muscle activity.   Non-neuronal ACh and AChE are distributed throughout the body, making ACh transmission and metabolism important for all cells in the body, not simply neurogenic cells.  Additionally, Non-neuronal ACh and AChE are found in tendons, and increased expression of both occurs in pathological tendinosis, and is thought to contribute to tendon pathology. (Forsgren/Danielson lab studying role of non-neuronal ACh in chronic tendinosis and tendon pathology  – search “non-neuronal ACh Tendons”).  In relationship to the thyroid, cholinergic interaction with the thyoid gland is extensive, and common epitopes may exist relating thyroid autoimmunity and ACh/muscarinic receptor autoimmunity.  ACh appears to be necessary for iodine organification (so this might be one underlying mechanism of action to explore for Hashi’s).  MuSK form of MG (myasthenia gravis) may be a separate condition from MG and there is a known association between “MuSK MG” and Graves disease.  Magnesium prevents or controls convulsions by blocking neuromuscular transmission and decreasing the release of acetylcholine at the nicotinic ACh motor nerve terminals (the analgesic properties of Mg are due to NMDA receptor blocking action). In (my) Year 5 post, as my symptoms progressed, it became apparent that Magnesium was actually exacerbating my muscle weakness, presumably by blocking neuromuscular transmission, and magnesium is something that is known to exacerbate MG symptoms (so for any flox victims for whom magnesium makes your symptoms worse, especially muscle weakness, this is something to consider).   ACh is an underlying common denominator anytime we eat; distention in the stomach or innervation by the vagus nerve activates the Enteric Nervous System, in turn leading to the release of ACh.  Once present, ACh activates G cells (produces gastrin) and parietal cells necessary for digestion.   From an FQ-Induced collagen/connective tissue damage point of view, appropriate collagen formation is also very necessary for AChE function and ACh transmission, and lack of it can result in Myasthenia Gravis like symptoms, as these COL Q studies confirm: 1, 2, 3, 4,  (and suppression of collagen prolylhydroxylation as in this FQ study here can affect COL Q; also scroll to “collagenous domains as substrates”, AChE, in this “Prolyl 4-hydroxylase” paper here).    Because of the necessary symbiotic relationship of mitochondria with their host cells (as I described here), anything that affects the host cell will often affect mitochondria as well, and this most certainly will include ACh-related problems.   However, never to be left out of an opportunity for direct damage, it turns out mitochondria also express a number of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors too (1,2).  I won’t be surprised if muscarinic receptors will also be found in mitochondria some day as well.”

I highly recommend reading the entire post to understand the arguments as to why and how fluoroquinolones may be connected to ACh disorders.

Can fluoroquinolones trigger anti-ACh antibodies? Can fluoroquinolones trigger a form of myasthenia gravis? How are autoimmune diseases connected to ACh depletion? We know that inflammation is a feature of autoimmune diseases, and that ACh modulates inflammation. We also know that lack of vagal nerve tone is related to both inflammation and autoimmune diseases, and that ACh is produced by a healthy and toned vagal nerve. We know that many of the symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity resemble symptoms of various autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Lupus, M.S., etc. How are autoimmune diseases, vagal nerve tone, ACh production and/or depletion, and fluoroquinolones related?

I’m not sure of the answers to those questions (I’m not sure that anyone knows the correct answers to them), but I do think that both vagal nerve tone and ACh production and/or depletion is related to fluoroquinolone toxicity (more on that assertion can be found in this post – https://floxiehope.com/2015/06/13/hacking-fluoroquinolone-toxicity-via-the-nervous-system/).

How can floxies increase their ACh? One way to increase ACh is to eat foods that are rich in choline, a precursor to acetylcholine. Choline-rich foods include:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Liver
  • Nuts

Some herbs and supplements that can increase ACh are listed HERE and HERE. Interestingly, caffeine, which many floxies respond negatively to, is on the list of things that increase ACh, and the supplements noted that decrease ACh have reportedly helped some floxies. As with everything, caution is warranted, and it’s best to consult with a trusted medical professional before starting any supplement protocol.

Exercises and practices that stimulate the vagus nerve can also stimulate the production and movement of ACh. Some things that stimulate the vagus nerve include:

  • Meditation
  • Breathing deeply and slowly
  • Singing
  • Playing a wind instrument
  • Submerging your face in cold water
  • Gargling
  • Chanting “OM”
  • Laughter
  • Exercise
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Positive social interactions

More information about the benefits of stimulating the vagus nerve can be found HERE and HERE.

Many of the vagal nerve stimulating exercises and practices listed above helped me in my recovery from fluoroquinolone toxicity. Meditation and mindfulness were key elements to my recovery. Acupuncture, massage, breathing exercises, and support from loved ones (positive social interaction), were key as well. Even though none of these exercises are “quick fixes” or “big guns,” they are healing practices, and the ACh and vagus nerve connection may be how they help to repair the body and mind.

I hope that some research is done into the connections between fluoroquinolones/fluoroquinolone toxicity and ACh. It’s reasonable to think that there are connections–they just need to be proven.

Until then…. meditate, breathe, laugh, and eat liver. They really do help.

 

flu tox get help you need banner click lisa

Meditation Retreat

I spent last weekend at the Shambhala Mountain Center doing a meditation retreat. It was a lovely get-away and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in that sort of thing.

As those who have read my story know, meditation was a key part of my healing process. Meditation helped me to heal from both the mental and physical aspects of fluoroquinolone toxicity. It helped to relieve my anxiety, and stopping the cycle of anxiety was necessary for me to heal. When I meditate my digestion is better, and I can even feel my GI tract operate more efficiently. (Maybe that’s just a feeling and not objective reality, but it is possible that meditation is helping to tone my vagus nerve and support my autonomic nervous system, and thus actually improving my digestion.) I sleep better when I meditate. My concentration and creativity improve when I meditate. Meditation also helped me to emotionally and spiritually come to terms with getting sick. It helped me recognize my strength and resilience so that I could get through the fluoroquinolone toxicity journey.

Meditation is simultaneously simple and difficult. On the surface, it’s just sitting and being. But when you do it, it’s actually quite difficult. It’s difficult to just BE, without the distractions that are constantly bombarding us.

The retreat that I just returned from focused on loving kindness. We all need loving kindness in our lives. Floxies are especially in need of loving kindness as many things that they value–health, relationships, a pain-free life, sleep, money, etc.–are stolen from them by fluoroquinolone toxicity. When those things disappear (or seem to disappear), it is easy to let shame, fear, anger and meanness build up. Meditation helps to dissipate shame, fear, anger and meanness–and focuses energy back on patience, love, kindness, forgiveness, etc.

My favorite advice from the retreat included:

  • If gentleness and loving kindness don’t work, try more gentleness and loving kindness.
  • Try not to be too focused on / attached to outcomes.
  • There is grace in every moment–even the horrible ones.

They’re important, and valuable, things to remember.

For those who aren’t able to do a retreat away from home, The Urban Monk is offering a free 7-day Reboot Program.

UrbanMonk7DayReboot

According to The Urban Monk, Pedram Shojai,

Over the next 7 days you will:

  • Get more energy from your food and burn fat all day…
  • Generate 10X more power in your body…
  • Create a ‘force field’ shielding you from stress…
  • Learn to stop time and drink from infinity…
  • Detox your body and soothe away anxiety with high quality sleep…
  • Tap into an unlimited source of hidden energy available to each one of us…
  • Gain extra clarity, focus and powerful intention…

Hopefully it can help you to heal physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually from aspects of fluoroquinolone toxicity too.

I recommend meditation to all my Floxie friends. If you can go on a retreat, please do. If you can do the 7-day Reboot, it’s a great place to start too.

I can’t guarantee healing from meditation, but it’s certainly a good thing to try.

 

flu tox get help you need banner click lisa

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.

 

flu tox get help you need banner click lisa