I’m back home after two weeks of visiting the East Coast. As gray as the weather is here, it is more bearable than 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 90% humidity. What made my time away both easier and harder was that I took antibiotics during the trip. I had stopped them and returned to coiling about a month earlier. During that month, the Lyme and other infections were slowly waking up. I could keep the infections under control with coiling, but I knew that two weeks with the stress of travel would have been a journey to a major relapse.
Those two weeks, I thought of all the things I did wrong years ago, when I first took long-term antibiotics for Lyme Disease, what I learned in the meantime, and what made the more recent 17 months on them work out better. So even though this is generally a blog about using a coil machine, here is my Antibiotics Survival Guide.
Follow your doctor’s instructions
First and foremost, listen to your doctor(s). They have plenty of good advice for dealing with side effects, and for when to get help for more dangerous side effects. (Yup, there was more than one trip to the ER for medication allergies this time around.) They will recommend probiotics, antifungals (like nystatin), detoxing activities (like hot baths), and other basics. They might give you food advice (avoid sugar, take pills with meals or away from dairy). Ask questions, and not just the ones you think of when you’ve got brain overload during the office visit. It took me years of going to these expensive LLMDs who don’t take insurance to realize that I can call with my questions the next day as I try to implement the drug protocol, or two weeks into it when a side effect isn’t on the list that came with the drugs.
One addendum: read the warnings and other information that comes with a drug. If a supplement you’re taking conflicts with a drug, call your doctor. I say this after taking co-enzyme Q-10 while also taking $750-a-bottle Mepron, and finding out later that Co-Q-10 inactivates Mepron.
Then there are all the things your doctor doesn’t tell you.
Preventing Fungal Infections is Easier than Curing Them: Food
My doctors in both cases told me to eat a diet with NO SUGAR and low carbohydrates. They didn’t tell me to eat as much fats and oils as I needed to not be hungry, which is what one has to do in order not to starve. So when I was tired of eating an entire head of cauliflower with a little olive oil and salt with a side of tofu, I cheated. Not often. But cheating once or twice is enough to trigger a fungal infection.
My suggestion is to follow a ketogenic diet, modified to your specific food sensitivities and what makes your body work well. Although keto diets are targeted towards blood sugar, the more important issue for those of us on oral antibiotics is to keep down the bacterial- and fungal-friendly carbohydrates in the digestive tract. This translates into eating a lot of (above ground) vegetables, high quality proteins, and high fat foods. The high fat foods include nuts, avocados, full-fat dairy (if you tolerate it), coconut oil, olive oil, etc. A side benefit is that all the extra fats help to heal neurological damage caused by the infections.
When you feel the need to cheat or crave carbohydrates, be smart about it. When desperate, I ate lentils with no ill effects. Fruit, whole grains, beans, etc., were more likely to trigger a fungal explosion in my body. This was hard, but, as I learned the first time around, and again the last few days I traveled, two tablespoons of rice can cause a world of problems.
I ran into the book Always Hungry by David Ludwig, which has as its “Phase 1” meal plan the level of carbohydrates I can tolerate while on antibiotics. I still had to modify it because it was strongly based on meats and nightshade vegetables, both of which give me problems. However, the recipes and guidelines were useful for when I wanted some carbohydrates in my diet.
Preventing Fungal Infections is Easier than Curing Them: Feet
The first time around with antibiotics, my feet were peeling like onions. Then I developed an allergy to every over-the-counter anti-fungal cream. The second time around, I had learned a lot about oils. Starting before I even took the first dose of antibiotics, I began putting shea butter on my feet at night. As long as I did this, no athlete’s foot developed. Shea butter is not the only option: cocoa butter, coconut oil, Egyptian Magic, and olive oil are also good options. The point is to reduce the accumulated moisture on your skin by creating an oil-based barrier. These oils also have mild anti-microbial properties, but for the long haul, I think just putting some kind of oil on my feet at night saved me from a lot of trouble.
I learned this once again for the last few nights of my trip when I forgot to slather my feet before bed. Now that I’m off antibiotics and putting shea butter on at night, (and my diet is back to low carb,) the athlete’s foot is healing.
Note: I use actual shea butter, not a cream with shea butter as one of many ingredients.
Preventing Fungal Infections is Easier than Curing Them: Mouth
For almost 3 years of antibiotics, I got intermittent yeast overgrowth in my mouth. The standard solution was to brush my tongue and the rest of my mouth with nystatin powder. It was beyond bitter and beyond disgusting.
As you might imagine I was pretty motivated to prevent that from happening this second time I took long-term antibiotics. In the intervening years, I discovered and used 3-LAC sachets. While on antibiotics, I poured a sachet into my mouth and swished it around with a small amount of water right after I brushed my teeth at night. This worked well, as long as I took my antibiotics at least an hour before bed. The probiotic bacteria in 3-LAC eat yeast (yay!) and help with the upper digestive tract because they are not contained in a pill.
As you might imagine, I’m continuing to use it for at least a month beyond when I stopped antibiotics.
Dealing with Diarrhea: Prevention
Diarrhea happens when treating Lyme. It can come from a Herxheimer Reaction. It can come from the horrible dysbiosis that comes from long-term antibiotic use. I had it for YEARS the first time around. This time, my acupuncturist told me to take colostrum from Sovereign Labs. It changed my life completely. Within a week, my feces were solid. They stayed that way, with the exception of when I changed antibiotics and had a bigger than normal herx. Still, two days of diarrhea is better than months of it.
I’m giving you the brand name because I tried other brands of colostrum in the past and couldn’t tell if they helped at all. This time the results were dramatic. If you take away nothing else from this post, try colostrum and see what a difference it makes.
Dealing with Diarrhea: Probiotic Boost
There are probiotic formulas. Every doctor has their favorite. I think all the pill versions are pretty much the same in terms of their benefits and limitations. I strongly recommend taking probiotic foods as well (cultured sauerkraut, “live” pickles, miso, etc.).
If you live in a state where raw milk is legal and regulated, this is my gold standard for getting a digestive tract back in working order. The colostrum powder helped with getting rid of diarrhea. But I still had trouble digesting food. In the three-years of antibiotics round 1, I took digestive enzymes. They helped some, but not as much as a half-gallon of raw milk consumed over three days. The raw milk reduced my food sensitivities and replenished my intestines with all the beneficial microbes that haven’t been identified yet, in a configuration that varied from week to week.
Eating, as a result of the raw milk, was much easier for the recent 17 months on antibiotics than it was the three years I was previously on them.
Two caveats: Raw milk is contraindicated during pregnancy because of the small, but deadly-to-a-fetus, risk of contamination with Listeria, Campylobacter and other bacteria. The other caveat is that the milk should be fresh from a local farm and in a state where raw milk is both legal and regulated. (I could never convince myself to be one of the secret raw milk groups in NYC.)
Dealing with Diarrhea: Clean-up
Whether the issue is diarrhea, soft stools, or chemically hot (but generally solid) bowel movements, irritated skin in the genital region can result. There are many solutions, including showering frequently and anti-fungal creams and powders.
Neither of these were good solutions for me. Instead I took my inspiration from what parents do for diaper rash in their infants. First, I invested in baby wipes. Second, I experimented with alternatives to diaper rash cream.
Baby wipes are great for a variety of reasons, once you find one that doesn’t increase the irritation to your already sensitive, irritated skin. Eventually I settled on Target unscented baby wipes. These have no perfumes or oils or other strange chemicals added, and the price is right. Wiping the entire genital area every time I sat down on the toilet for any reason helped prevent the build-up of yeast and other opportunistic microbes. As long as I was diligent, I could go several days without showering, a common situation for someone with a PICC line. Even when I switched to oral antibiotics, frequent use of baby wipes prevented skin irritation.
But all this happened AFTER I ran into the problem. In the category of diaper rash cream, I found that diaper rash cream is not really a good fit for adult underwear because it is so thick. (I didn’t actually have to test it, I’ve changed diapers on infants before.) The two alternatives that worked best for me are Egyptian Magic, which actually bills itself as a diaper rash preventative, and coconut oil, which is easy to apply in small quantities. Both of these butter-like substances reduced the skin irritation and prevented it from coming back.
IMPORTANT: Only apply to freshly cleaned skin. Irritation and stinging increases when you trap opportunistic microbes against irritated skin. I’ve made this mistake. You don’t have to.
Note: I use actual coconut oil, not a cream with coconut oil in it. Other ingredients can cause or increase irritation on sensitive skin.
Kidney and Liver Support
Your doctor will probably tell you about detoxing: sweating, drinking lemon water, etc. Some will prescribe cholesterol-binding and bile-binding drugs that help prevent toxins from recirculating in your bile. These are supposed to help reduce the symptoms of herxes.
I think about detoxing a little differently. The drugs themselves can tax your liver and kidneys, then the herx makes things worse. To help support liver, I like n-acetyl cysteine and milk thistle. To help support kidneys, I like chanca piedra. All of these are over-the-counter supplements, but they may conflict with the metabolism of some drugs. So please check with your doctor before you add any of them.
For the herxes themselves, I recommend eating plenty of fiber in your diet, such as above-ground vegetables (cruciferous veggies and leafy greens), and if you need more, organic psyllium husks dissolved in water can help. These accomplish the same thing as the bile-binding drugs, by absorbing bile and taking it out through the intestines, but without side effects. This is a good way to support your liver.
Showering with a PICC
If you have a PICC, you know you can’t get it wet. I tried several different ways, both homemade and commercial to keep it dry while showering. The contraption I like best is the LimbO. I was between sizes and the website recommended I order the smaller size which worked great.
Before that, I tried a DryPro. The company has great customer service, but the product only worked the first two times I used it. After that it leaked every time.
Long-term antibiotics can be tough on a person, but for many of us, they produce life-saving and disability reversing results. The keys to using them safely is to communicate with your doctor, prevent fungal overgrowth, and support your body the best you can.
If you take nothing else away from this blog post, remember Sovereign Labs colostrum to prevent and reverse diarrhea.
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