I spent the entire day at the hospital yesterday.
It all started on Friday night, when our family had a homemade patio dinner on a beautiful summer evening. I felt a little “funny” afterwards, but attributed it to hard trip to the gym just before we had dinner.
And then, all hell broke loose.
At 5am, I woke with dagger sharp pins and needles in my skull and the worst headache I've ever experienced. After lying motionless in bed until 9am, unable to move a muscle without intense grimacing, I finally attempted to get out of bed, and realized that not just my head was messed up, but my entire body felt as though it had been hit by a truck.
I hit myself with Phenocane, tylenol and diphenhydramine (quite the cocktail, I must admit), and sucked down about 30 ounces of coconut water, then stumbled back into bed. I didn't wake until 10pm that evening, just long enough to open my eyes, look at the clock and pass back out.
At 10am the next morning, I woke to an intense throbbing in my arm, and red, extremely painful rash on my elbow. After one hour, the rash had spread a couple inches up towards the armpit, and I couldn't move my arm without intense, searing pain. I snapped a picture of the red streak in it's early stages (see photo).
So now I was scared, because I had no clue what the red streak was, but it appeared to be heading for my heart. I called one of my buddies, who threw me in his car and hauled me to the emergency room.
At the ER, they took blood samples and found me to have a fever, a high white blood cell count, and classic flu symptoms. But the docs were baffled as to what the red streak was.
After ruling out a blood clot with an ultrasound, or some kind of nasty spider bite, they finally settled on a diagnosis of lymphadenopathy, which is basically swollen lymph nodes. In my case, the entire lymph vessel from the elbow to the armpit was swollen, red, inflammed, and incredibly sore to the touch, so I was lucky enough to get a second diagnosis of lymphangitis, or an infection of the lymph vessel. A few days later, they “rediagnosed” it as cellulitis, that also spread to the lymph vessels.
And so, I have a hefty dose of amoxicillin antibiotic that I'll be taking for the next 10 days, along with codeine to manage the burn-like pain on my arm.
But I'm not a huge fan of antiobiotics. They don't discriminate between good and bad bacteria, so they can really do a number on your gastrointestinal tract health, and this can also lead to yeast overgrowth. Not to mention, they tend to make you nauseous and have crappy workouts.
Furthermore, if you're on a fluoroquinolone antibiotic like Cipro, you can significantly increase your risk of rupturing a tendon during physical activity.
So what am I going to do about these antibiotic side effects, to limit the damage from antibiotics?
1. Take Probiotics. Since antibiotics kill off the good bacteria in your GI tract, you can limit this damage by keeping the probiotics coming in strong while you're on your antibiotic, and preferably trying to take them at least 2-3 hours separately from the antibiotic. Not only will I be drinking my fair share of our homemade kefir and homemade Kombucha (both excellent probiotic containing beverages), I'll also be popping 9 Caprobiotics per day. I'll also be teaming up my probiotics with 5 drops of anti-yeast and anti-bacterial oil of oregano three times per day.
Probiotics are still going to take a pretty big hit if you're on one of the more gut villainous antibiotics like Clindamycin. Saccharomyces Boulardii is one probiotic strain to look for that can stand up to the battle just a little bit better, but you'll want to get on it before you start the antibiotic. This is not pleasant to discuss, but your GI tract is mostly going to be empty wasteland by the time the antibiotic has run it's course. The time that the probiotics are going to do the most benefit is immediately after you get off the antibiotics, and for the next 2-4 weeks after.
Fermented foods naturally contain a high amount of probiotics, so in addition to kombucha and kefir, include things like sauerkraut, pickles, pickled beets, pickled turnips and carrots, and Kim Chi. There are many others. To destroy bacteria and enhance food safety most grocery store brands have been pasteurized, and this will kill most of the beneficial bacteria – so it will be most beneficial to find home brews, make your own fermented foods, or look for non-pasteurized brands.
2. Protect Your Organs. Milk thistle capsules, which are a plant extract, may protect the liver from becoming damaged as it breaks down medications. This is true not just for antibiotics, but also alcohol, Tylenol and other drugs.
In addition to milk thistle extra, drinking aloe vera or using an aloe vera capsule can assist with stomach protection and detoxification. Similar to probiotics, try to time the aloe vera consumption at a separate time than the antibiotics.
3. Ginger. To settle the stomach and limit the nausea from antibiotics, I'll be chewing on boiled ginger root and drinking homemade ginger tea (which is a lot more potent than the stuff you get from teabags at the grocery store). Just peel the ginger, slice it into small slices, boil it, and then lit it simmer for 15-20 minutes.
4. High fiber supplements. The good bacteria in your stomach feed on fiber, so taking a psyllium supplement, or a high fiber greens powder like Enerprime is necessary to keep them growing. As much as can be tolerated by your stomach, which will likely be sensitive, try to also include vegetables for added fiber, although you may need to boil or steam them, and possibly blend them into smoothies, to allow them to go down easier. Chia seeds and flax seeds are also good sources of added fiber, and you can grind them, then mix them in a 1:9 ratio of seeds to water to make a drinkable “sludge”.
5. Glutamine. Glutamine plays a variety of roles in the gastrointestinal tract, including repair of the intestinal lining and elimination of yeast infections, and also supports the body's metabolic processes of fighting off infection. Taking an amino acids supplements or another isolated source of the free amino acid glutamine should also be added to your protocol.
To be honest, I'm just a handful of hours out from the hospital and still pretty sick.
I'm typing this while lying in bed, I can still barely move my right arm, the red streak now covers the entire arm, and my splitting headache hasn't gone away yet. Since I get sick about once every 5 years, I find this to be terribly inconvenient – but wanted to give you the heads up should you ever find yourself prescribed antibiotics and want to limit the damage.
Thanks for reading, feel free to ask your questions about the art of taking antibiotics in the comments section below, and I promise to get better soon!