In August, there was a bug bite. It was the bug bite to end all bug bites, as it doubled in size within hours, then doubled again and again, until it was exponentially increasing in size and 30 hours later, I was crying from the pain. A visit to my integrative physician landed me on an antihistamine and an antibiotic AGAIN. It felt necessary because the poultices and oils I was using wasn't stopping it's increase in size. Also, I was leaving on a plane for Texas with my children; my husband and I were both nervous about what could happen if I didn't get it resolved.
As the days passed on my vacation in Texas, I begged my husband to talk to the doctor, to let me get off the antibiotic because I had constant butterflies in my stomach and I didn't know if I could get on a plane again (this from a girl who LOVES to fly!). The doctor didn't think the anxiety and antibiotic were related, but I knew better. I took several probiotics a day, thanks to my friend's stash, and I quit the antibiotic just a few days in. The butterflies diminished, but never really left.
In fact, as time went on, I would continue to have random, devastating, debilitating panic attacks. There was no trigger. I knew it wasn't psychological. Something was terribly wrong. And just because it needs to be said, I don't say "panic attack" lightly. Many people will say they have panic attacks and perhaps, that is true. But I'm talking about being pulled over on the side of the road, sweating while shivering, hand over my mouth, waiting to vomit (which never actually happens), vertigo spinning me around in the car, and terrified that I won't be able to get my children home safely. I'm talking about not being able to drive my daughter to preschool because everything is so tense inside of my body that I know I can't get behind the wheel or it will happen again. I'm talking about leaving one of my best friend's houses trembling, trying to get home before anyone sees this happening. My panic attacks as a child and teen were horrible and usually, I would pass out. Panic attacks as a mother though? They are a million times worse.
Despite the doctor's opinion on antibiotics and anxiety, I have discovered something: they are definitely linked. It's not just one antibiotic that can cause anxiety, it's any of them.
You see, the health of your gut is responsible for the health of your mind. An antibiotic can disrupt your gut's health and therefore your mind's. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), "Although relatively infrequent, psychiatric symptoms have been reported as a side effect of most antibiotics." See where it says "most antibiotics"? So it's not like one antibiotic is better or worse than another. They all have the capability of causing psychiatric symptoms, including anxiety. ABC news reported on a 2010 study by McMaster University in Canada in which "scientists found a link between intestinal microbiota and anxiety-like behavior". The report goes on to explain that probiotics may help some people but are not a "magic bullet" to prevent damage from occurring in the gut while taking antibiotics.
When I went to my amazing chiropractor (who is so much more than a chiropractor), Dr. Andrew Dodge D.C., D.A.C.N.B. at Valley Family Wellness, he listened to my complaints and definitely agreed. As we went through the history of antibiotic use and the symptoms I had been experiencing, he was 100% it was my gut causing the problems. On one hand, I was relieved that this wasn't in my head and I wouldn't become an agoraphobic. On the other hand, I was disappointed that my healthy lifestyle and nutrition hadn't saved me from the ill effects of antibiotic use.
I will begin to share what I've done and this will be an ongoing discussion here, because not everything works all the time for every person. Not everything worked for me at any given time. But I can tell you what did. And what didn't. Let's start with two things that I highly recommend for every household and every person.
A probiotic is probably the most important. It definitely helped me in Texas when I couldn't get the nervousness out of my body. Probiotics with large numbers are your main priority when purchasing one. This is a great one by Designs for Health; a practitioner can order them for you (including me, so contact me if you're interested). It's called Probiotic Synergy and it is designed to survive manufacturing, shelf life and stomach acid in order to get where it's needed: the colon. The affiliate link to purchase it on Amazon is below.
The next item I recommend is activated charcoal. This should be in every household. Whether you ate something that made you feel sick or you're fighting a stomach bug, activated charcoal grabs hold of toxins, gases, heavy metals and liquid wastes and soaks them up like a sponge. They exit your body never to be heard from again. I recommend Integrative Therapeutics Activated Charcoal Tablets (affiliate link below). Take these on an empty stomach in order to avoid the charcoal from grabbing any beneficial nutrients from food or supplements. I take it either in the middle of the night of mid-afternoon when I'm unlikely to be eating.
Let me know if you have any experiences or questions! I'd love to hear from you!