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A Long-overdue GHN Update

Since my last post here, many months ago, I got short term improvement from B-12 shots, but my serum levels were sky high and my doctor suggested I stop the injections. After an initial bounce I crashed, and began to have widespread inflammatory and neuroinflammatory issues. He theorized this may have been triggered by saturation with B-12. My serum B-6 was also quite high, despite never supplementing it.

A methylmalonic acid test was elevated, so after being off it for a few months, I continued to take 2,500 mcg oral B-12 and requested referral to a specialist who could check for genetic issues with methylation, but as my neck and back became more inflamed, and cognitive problems worsened, I was instead sent to a neurologist, who did a full workup: brain MRI, a soft-tissue MRA, hearing tests due to increasing tinnitus, a carotid artery test, and an EEG.

Other than a few white matter brain lesions (no change since a 2008 MRI) which may be congenital, these new tests were inconclusive. While I do have some degenerative changes to my cervical spine, autonomic dysfunction was the neurologist’s primary diagnosis. At this point, my symptoms were growing – you can read a list of them here.

A few weeks later, I saw a neurosurgeon and explained how pressing in various places on my neck, the base of my skull, and near the mastoid process behind my right ear, could often improve my autonomic issues. He pointed out a Chiari Malformation on my brain MRI but said “we don’t operate to fix dysautonomia”, which was yet another blind alley. I’ve yet to see an autonomic specialist for non-surgical treatment of this.

Flushing, at first just a red glow on my face, then eventually from near head to toe, has also been happening for about 14 months. My doctor tested for Carcinoid, and so far results don’t indicate it, which is a relief. Instead this may be related to a  mast cell disorder. I’ve learned certain kinds of flushing, even the rosacea which I have, can be caused by neurological problems.

What’s the root cause? It’s likely multifactoral, but nerve damage from repeated doses of fluoroquinolone antibiotics over the years, like Cipro and Levaquin, likely plays a huge role.  It was after a final dose of Levaquin in 2008 that I developed symptoms of hyperadrenergic POTS – primarily a vagus nerve malfunction – which triggers heat intolerance, trouble handling physical and emotional stress, and orthostatic intolerance.

However, these antibiotics did more than nerve damage, they wrecked my gut flora, and POTS is now thought to be autoimmune.

The best I’ve felt in recent years was while I hosted hookworm (small therapeutic doses) and did fecal transplants. Both of these protocols may boost vagus nerve tone, by lowering inflammation in the gut and boosting signaling from the enteric nervous system back to the brain, the “rest and digest” parasympathetic, which works opposite of “fight or flight” sympathetic.

My doctor suggested I try probiotics and hookworm again because he noted they seemed to help me, so I’ve been taking VSL#3 daily, plus Miyarisan tablets, which contain c. butyricum, and 15 weeks ago I did a dose of 50 necator americanus. While the initial side effects of helminthic therapy were rough, with spikes noted in blood work for eosinophils, I’m now feeling more benefits than allergic response, including no more asthma, healthier sinuses, and a big improvement of ulcerative colitis.

Concurrent with this, I remembered how good I felt one Summer when sunbathing for 15 minutes a day. I’ve had chronically low vitamin D and low testosterone. Sun exposure boosts both. I started laying out at noon each day a few months ago and it has been a great mood lifter. I also find I have better sleep quality when I get my daily 15 minutes. To discuss light therapy, its effect on mood, hormonal production and balancing sleep/wake cycles, join us here on Facebook.

I wanted to cover all the bases, and since sinusitis has been an ongoing problem for me, too, with green mucus indicative of staph colonization, I’ve begun daily rinses, which you can read about here. Two weeks later the mucus is thinning and has no color. I credit both the hookworm treatment and rinses to this recovery. Reducing sinus inflammation has improved anxiety, and my sleep is deeper. There’s a theory sinus inflammation from gram negative sinus flora can generate lipopolysaccharide (a potent inflammatory molecule) which in turn triggers brain inflammation.

Waking in the night gasping for air has been a problem during these last few months, and while I was scheduled for a sleep study I noticed a sudden improvement after a few days of sunbathing. There’s a vitamin D and sleep apnea correlation, mainly with regard to metabolic activity, so it’s possible Sun is good medicine for it. While I still have some brain fog, my mind feels sharper while sunbathing and I’m no longer waking at night. Since obstruction of upper airways can also contribute to apnea, sinus rinses are likely helping, too.

I’ve also been to see an oral surgeon after my dentist thought I could have dental infections contributing to fatigue and cognitive problems, but an oral surgeon did a panoramic x ray and said it looked fine. He noted sinus inflammation and recommended I keep doing my daily rinses.

I feel fortunate testing was able to rule out a lot, but if you see a pattern here, it’s that each protocol has helped a little – yet nothing has totally solved – what first appeared to be symptoms of low B-12. Now, just in the last month, I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out a key factor, and it may be a different deficiency, with very similar presentation.

A Sobering Wake Up Call: B12 Deficiency

Yes, it’s about time for a blog update, but where do I begin? After nearly 20 years of unexplained medical problems, in mid-July I finally crashed.

I’d been getting progressively sicker since a year ago, the summer of 2014. By the new year, 2015, financial problems led to lots of stress, then flares of SIBO. I became bed-bound, with loud tinnitus, insomnia, weight loss, low-grade fevers, and a total lack of appetite. I could no longer work at my job.

I also lost touch with plenty of friends during this time. I can’t say I blame them, as I had become so impaired I didn’t have much to offer. This only compounded the stress.

As you can see from my blog, I’ve tried quite a few treatment protocols over the years, and it seemed everything would work for a while, then I would lose ground and wind up feeling worse than ever. In recent months: iodine, lactoferrin, probiotics – all seemed to hold so much promise, they would initiate healing, then for some unknown reason, those benefits would slip away.

In early July I began waking with hot flashes and flushing, blood pressure spikes, rapid pulse – an intense resurgence of POTS symptoms. However, this time it got worse: my back and neck were both in terrible pain. I had electric zaps in my hands, a metallic taste in my mouth, a sore tongue, and strangely burning, aching feet. Soon after this, frequent spasms began in my lower back, and my groin became numb.

A week or so later, my hair began falling out, my vision became so blurry I could focus on nothing, my nose felt constantly stuffy yet there was no mucus, and I completely lost my sense of smell. My balance was way off, and I found myself stumbling around the house. Next, my skin took on a yellowish hue, and when I went for a dog walk, every step made me feel on the verge of a seizure. Fluorescent lighting had the same effect.

Worst of all, my mind was going. I had huge short term memory lapses, bewildering rages over small annoyances, waves of panic. When spoken to, it took me about 20 seconds to rewind what I’d just heard, otherwise I couldn’t register the meaning of the first few sentences. It was an obvious, accelerating, cognitive decline, and needless to say, pretty terrifying.

I would go visit my doctor, and he was puzzled by everything, but especially confused by the tachycardia. During this time my pulse was usually over 100 at rest. EKG results were normal. Blood work looked generally good.

But it was clear things were getting worse. My eyes looked dull and red, I’m 6 feet tall and now weighed 144 pounds. Yet with no diagnosis, there was no treatment plan, so I really had no idea where things were headed, and my doctor wanted to just continue monitoring my condition while I rested.

One day, due to my increasing back and neck pain, I was doing a search on PubMed for cervical stenosis, for degenerative spinal diseases. In the side bar I saw a study “Dual pathology as a result of spinal stenosis and vitamin B12 deficiency“, and that was it.

The next step was to explore the long list of vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms, realize I had nearly all of them, try taking some B12 (I started with 1 mg a day of this brand),  and for the first few days I felt hugely better.

My vision had been blurry for a few days, and it suddenly sharpened up, colors became richer, and I noticed I could focus both near and far, better than in my teenage years. My breathing was incredibly clear (not a hint of asthma), and my gut motility was perfect. One night I checked my pulse and it was 60.

The pain and numbness in my lower back and groin, plus the pins and needles sensations in hands and feet began improving. My neck felt more stable. Also, the burning hot abdomen and neck I’d been experiencing for years suddenly switched to that cool-to-the-touch (very normal) skin temperature from decades ago, probably because my parasympathetic nervous system was finally working.

My mood continued to get better, including emotions both happy and sad. I’d notice waves of release and relaxation in my body, borne of sentimental thoughts. I began to focus outside myself, to check in on friends again. To be faced with rebuilding all of this is bitter sweet.

And progress is rarely linear. By day 6 I realized that the lozenge form of B12 I started with was probably fine for healthy people but contained mannitol and sorbitol, which created a lot of bloating, so I switched to these capsules without additives. I decided to crush each capsule first, by chewing it, then would park it under my tongue to aid absorption. Chances are my gut isn’t able to pull B12 from my food, although until I get further testing I won’t know for sure the root cause of my deficiency.

Where am I now? I got the methylmalonic acid test results back from my doctor. The reference range is 87 to 318, and my levels were 334, outside the upper limit of normal, indicating (pretty accurately, from what I’ve read) low B12 levels. MMA is neurotoxic, so I do want to see this number drop, and chances are it will come into balance as I continue supplementing B12.

Incidentally, vegetarians are far more likely to be B12 deficient, and since I am a paleo-dieter, who ought to be getting enough B12 from the animal protein in my diet, my doctor never thought to check. Based on my experience, it can happen to anyone, and especially if you have SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, where upper gut flora – migrate up from the colon – and consume our nutrients before we can.

I’m seeing connections to so many other problems that could be B12 deficiency-related. POTS, for example, this study links to adolescents, but maybe it applies to everyone, old and young. Crohn’s disease is a definite risk factor, but SIBO and ulcerative colitis are also related. Anyone who had anesthesia with nitrous oxide can become depleted of B12, and this describes me, also.

I wonder about B12 deficiency and the phenomenon of being “floxed” by fluoroquinolone antibiotics. Do these drugs deplete B12, and would this explain why some of us get really sick from taking them, and others don’t?

Since taking B12 I’ve noticed I can tolerate a lot more foods that used to provoke what felt like candida yeast overgrowth symptoms, and I do know my white count was mysteriously low in recent years. B12 is a critical component for immunity.

Am I feeling confident about the road ahead, and how best to approach healing? Not at all. I plan to see a neurologist to get a clearer picture of how to proceed, but scheduling this will take time. My primary care doctor has been balking at simple questions, such as “how much B12 should I take”, so I’m thinking it’s best to be conservative, and take no more than 1 mg (1,000 mcg) per day. I also know the MTHFR gene mutation could play a role, and I may need to supplement methylfolate, but when I’ve tried taking just 800 mcg I feel worse, so for now that’s on my avoid list.

The most frustrating thing of all is what’s improved and what’s stayed the same. My back and neck pain are getting better. I am seeing sleep improvements, my mood is generally upbeat, asthma is totally gone, my mind is getting sharper (although my memory is not what it was in June).

Unfortunately, while I did experience a burst of energy around days 4 through 6, I crashed shortly thereafter and am feeling heavy fatigue now. I am back to spending most hours of the day in bed, and my ability to focus is greatly diminished. Is this typical for recovery?

I’ve struggled to find information on how most of us respond to supplementation of B12. Not everyone improves, especially when diagnosed late, but of those who do, they often say “give it 2 or 3 months” and I’m now at three weeks.

If you’re interested in flashing forward a year and a half, to see how I’m progressing, you can read about it here. Did you know B-12 and copper deficiencies have similar symptoms? Neither did I.

Probiotics: Larger Doses Making a Big Difference

Lactoferrin for SIBO? It seems to be helping most by lowering my inflammation, and I’ll continue taking it daily, but I’ve noticed it also tends to constipate me, which is a bit of a paradox because while the lactoferrin should help kill pathogens and destroy biofilm, a constipated gut is at continued risk for SIBO.

In an effort to counteract this, and get my gut moving, I’ve gone back to the most basic approach of all: probiotics, and lots of them. I figure I can combine this with the lactoferrin, taking the two of them offset as many hours as possible. Lactoferrin with food, and probiotics between meals.

Why not more of my kefir and sauerkraut? I’ve found “enough” is helpful, but too much of either can make me back slide, and I’m not sure why. Especially when my GI tract is sluggish, I think kefir may worsen SIBO by building more biofilm. If anyone has ever tried cleaning a used kefir mason jar, with its thick accumulation of flora after just a few batches, you know what I’m talking about.

If I could deposit the healthy kefir biofilms exclusively in my colon, that would be another matter, but I’ve tried this, more than a few times. Unfortunately, retention enemas with kefir have given me relief only in acute situations, and longer term use doesn’t seem to address all my symptoms.

Probiotics, on the other hand, generally don’t have a reputation for colonizing our guts. Many see this as a drawback, but in the case of SIBO, I am hoping it’s an advantage. Perhaps these temporary upper gut residents will outcompete small intestinal pathogens without setting up shop and compounding the problem.

Recently I came across an interesting evaluation of some common probiotics on PubMed’s site. Note the section on VSL#3, which is a mixture of gram positive bacteria (which do not contain highly inflammatory lipopolysaccharide). Like many probiotics, VSL#3 is a mixture of flora originally harvested from a healthy human donor.

Take note of what it says about VSL#3 helping to heal the gut barrier function. “Leaky gut” is another term for this, and I’ve no doubt that’s one of my biggest problems.

Barrier function was also assessed using mannitol flux assays and after 4 weeks of VSL#3 treatment, barrier function normalized in these mice. Using the T84 human intestinal epithelial cell line it was further shown that VSL#3 and products secreted by these bacteria enhanced intestinal epithelial barrier function in vitro, and pre-exposure of T84 monolayers to VSL#3 provided a dose-dependent decrease in cellular invasion by the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella enterica serovar Dublin. A subsequent study corroborated these findings and further found that VSL#3 upregulated the expression of several mucins which are postulated to play an important cytoprotective role in host defense against pathogens [21].

The expense is a factor, and the primary reason I’ve never stuck with VSL#3 for very long, but could it be a “poor man’s fecal transplant”? With FMT being very costly in a clinic setting, and since I don’t currently have access to a donor for DIY at home, I’m going to give this a shot. The only difference being I’ll take this probiotic orally in addition to retention enemas.

Speaking of upper gut colonization, would the fact that VSL#3 is human-sourced mean its flora will attach permanently to the wall of the small intestine? Likely, the answer is no. This has something to do with how probiotics are manufactured. For some reason, the adherence of probiotic strains on the gut wall is usually not that good, no matter how the flora was originally harvested.

I began with a retention enema using 8 pills of VSL#3 in about 4 ounces of distilled water, using an empty and rinsed Fleet enema bottle. About 5 minutes later I felt my long-gone sense of smell returning. I noticed a basket of essential oils that had been on my dresser for months. Hard to imagine my nose had been so impaired this wasn’t fragrant to me until now, but that’s indeed the case.

About 20 minutes later, I noticed my tinnitus getting quieter, and my whole body relaxing. My mood improved. Joint pain was lessened, also.

Oral administration of VSL#3 was my next step. I took 8 capsules, 2 doses of 4 each, that first day.

I’ve been taking 4 capsules, 3 times per day, between meals, ever since, and drinking 2 pints of distilled water with each dose. I add trace minerals to my water. I only did the retention enema on day 1, and am hoping I can stop it altogether or reduce to once per week.

Now, three days in to the 12 capsules per day oral protocol, here’s a an intriguing list of symptoms where I’m definitely seeing improvements. It’s worth noting a great many of these issues came about after taking fluoroquinolone antibiotics. How much of being “floxed” is due to altered flora?

I should underscore that probiotics are nothing new for me, and VSL#3 is one I’ve used in the past to stop ulcerative colitis flares, but I’ve never taken it in this quantity, nor have I done it with the same frequency, plus I’m also combining the doses with enough water that my stomach acid is probably being diluted, which means more flora survives to reach the colon.

I also think, subjectively, my symptoms were never this bad in previous years, so I never had this far to “bounce back”.

So many symptoms are linked. Overall, I sense a restoration of my vagal nerve function. Huge relief from a constant stuffy nose (neurological, not from typical blockage), my pulse and BP are nice and low, and my sleep patterns and mood are evening out. No more blazing hot colon, lower back and neck, either.

The one thing that hasn’t changed yet, and this is fairly upsetting, is fatigue.

At first I felt strength returning to my legs, and I’d hoped this effect would snowball, but it’s less noticeable now than it was when I first started. Maybe I need to maintain the retention enemas. Another possible explanation for this is lipopolysaccharide being released, as gram positive flora is duking it out with the gram negative ones. If it’s happening in my small intestine, this means more LPS in the bloodstream. Perhaps sorting it all out is just a function of time.

Fatigue is the core of my illness, and Cipro and Levaquin were the triggers for it. I hope as I continue my therapy this will resolve, and it’s clear 3 days of anything gut-related is not enough time to know the longer term potential for healing.

I do hold out lots of hope I can eventually get my energy back, given all the other smaller improvements I’ve seen in the early going. I actually had my housemate take a “before” picture last night, because I’m so shrunken from the SIBO: 6 feet tall and 145 lbs. Underweight is nothing to mess around with, and I know it can significantly impair immunity. I had to do something, and i think i’m finally on the right track.

Have you tried a similar approach, taking large, longer term doses of probiotics? Which type works best for you? And if anyone has figured out a way to “brew” them to reduce the cost, let us know in the comments section below. Thanks.

 

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Conquering Advanced SIBO – Lactoferrin to the Rescue

I’ve probably had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth since childhood, and I’m now in middle age. This is a difficult-to-treat condition where colonic bacteria drifts up, beyond the gateway between the colon and small intestine, known as the ileocecal valve. This happens because the valve is stuck in the “open” position, either due to neurological impairment or constipation, which backs up the entire GI tract and keeps the valve propped open with the fecal stream.

In the early stages people might notice they’re developing rosacea. Most western medical doctors claim there’s no known cause for this skin condition, but in recent years practitioners with a more holistic approach, like Chris Kresser, and others, identified a study from decades ago where common probiotics were proven to be an effective treatment for it. Look for more on this in future GHN blog articles.

Besides rosacea and acne, other early stage SIBO symptoms might include low-grade fatigue, mild mood disturbances and cognitive impairment, minor food intolerances, aches and pains, low-grade, intermittent tinnitus (usually after meals), urinary and sinus infections, ear aches, gingivitis, halitosis, trouble staying warm, mild insomnia, IBS, trouble gaining weight.

Unenlightened doctors were treating my SIBO symptoms, such as sinus infections and prostate problems, with more antibiotics, which was unfortunate considering these drugs (Cipro, for example) likely caused SIBO in the first place. Fluoroquinolones contain fluoride, which binds iodine receptors and (among other things) impairs thyroid function.

SIBO

About six years ago I began to feel my whole gut, from the front around to my lower back, becoming burning hot. I could feel that same heat in my neck. Along with this came increasing brain fog and tinnitus. What’s happening with SIBO is simply upper gut fermentation – a low grade infection of the abdomen. With every single meal consumed, bacteria is fed first, then we get the scraps.

In healthy people the small intestine does have some protective bacteria in low concentrations, but in SIBO the ranks and type of flora resemble the lower gut populations, and these misplaced microbes can cause a lot of damage, by inflaming the small intestinal wall, and running amok systemically, with both toxic byproducts of fermentation and the bacteria themselves in the bloodstream.

This is made even worse when gram-negative bacteria are involved because they boost levels of lipopolysaccharide, a part of their cell membranes, and LPS is one of the most potent triggers of inflammation in our bodies.

Diet plays a role, with the distinct possibility that higher fat consumption fuels the growth of gram-negative bacteria. Paradoxically, this suggests those of us who switched to a higher-fat Paleo approach might be inadvertently increasing inflammation from gram-negative flora and LPS. It’s a  controversial theory, with a lot of strong opinions on all sides, so count on reading more of this in future GHN articles, too.

As SIBO becomes more advanced, think of those 14 feet or so of narrow tubing, the small intestine, where scopes and medicines have trouble penetrating, and how hard it might be to remove these uninvited guests. Bacteria and yeasts, such as candida, build biofilms that act as hardened bunkers against the gut wall. Think of tartar on your teeth, which is also biofilm, and it becomes clear how impossible it might be to cure.

Sadly, SIBO can become “self-worsening” because toxins further impair nerve function, which means the “migrating motor complex“, or MMC – which are peristaltic cleansing waves that normally clear colonic bacteria from the upper gut – this safety mechanism gets even weaker, resulting in more accumulation of bacteria and yeasts, then further inflammation develops.

Another paradox is mounting mineral deficiencies, from malabsorption, yet being unable to take vitamin and mineral supplements without fueling the problem. I am finding magnesium is especially difficult to take when upper gut fermentation is happening.

Later stage SIBO symptoms include crushing fatigue (which I’ve had since my last dose of Levaquin in 2009) to the point where it’s tough to get out of bed. Most people also have wide-ranging food intolerances, loud and constant tinnitus, major brain fog, personality changes (depression/anxiety, cognitive decline), tremors, hormonal problems, cardiovascular issues (tachycardia, hypertension) severe weight loss, and chronic, widespread joint pain.

A link is being established now, in recent studies, between rising fasting glucose levels, which I have, systemic inflammation, and metabolic disorders. Is SIBO a common denominator? I wouldn’t be surprised, and indeed, this isn’t a trivial condition that should be left alone.

I did seek conventional medical treatment a few years ago for SIBO. My gastroenterologist wanted me to avoid a “breath test” (patients breathe into a tube and gases are analyzed) because the sugar solution taken prior to the test could have flared my ulcerative colitis. Her caution was sensible. Instead, we just treated for it.

I took a 10 day course of Rifaximin antibiotic, which stays in the gut rather than acting systemically. It worked for the first two days, which my doctor thought was confirmation enough of SIBO. I had a big surge of energy, clarity. It was fantastic. Then on day three the drug had no effect. This is not uncommon, and makes sense considering I’ve got a gut full of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Historically, herbals and fermented foods plus diet and fasting have been more beneficial.

SIBO is insidious – if you didn’t know what was wrong, you might think you were just aging badly, since most people tend to do better when younger. As time goes by, you lose the ability to fight it because your mind is too scattered to do focused self-treatment. Even cooking meals becomes difficult, especially because SIBO can lead to a loss of appetite. Starving it becomes the easy way out – symptoms are reduced when fasting – but any further loss of nutrition compromises an already weak immune system.

So despite my years of struggle with SIBO, including most all the symptoms listed above, I was confused when it flared the last time. This is because it came on strong with pain in my joints. I would wake in the late morning, feeling as if I’d never slept, and my whole body was throbbing. I figured this couldn’t be SIBO, it must have been something entirely different like arthritis. Instead, it was just the worst flare I’d ever experienced.

I started doing a lot of the old fixes, which are quite good: intermittent fasting (I cut out all food after 4pm) to starve the bacteria daily. I took peppermint oil with meals – a surprisingly good antifungal and antibacterial. I boosted my water consumption to about a gallon of distilled water daily, with trace minerals added. I went to 1 cup of coffee in the AM, cut out fibrous vegetables, I added Interfase Plus, to dissolve biofilms.

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The whole time I kept reading, and came across references to bovine-sourced lactoferrin, which is a substitute for the human lactoferrin babies get in breast milk. We adults also have it in our tears, and it can be found throughout the body. Lactoferrin is a bone-builder, a binder of iron (which pulls that fuel away from pathogenic bacteria), it’s also antiviral, used by some people to treat hepatitis C, and a potent antifungal. Throughout the literature, I read of its ability to harm pathogens while protecting, or even nurturing, healthy flora.

This makes lactoferrin a perfect choice for me, because as effective as peppermint oil, olive leaf, or berberine might be, these herbals also kill a lot of good bacteria. I am an avid sauerkraut and kefir-consumer, so I’m putting some flora back, but I don’t want to lose important lower gut microbes that fermented foods cannot replace.

Here’s perhaps the most exciting thing of all: lactoferrin’s interaction with lipopolysaccharide. Very encouraging, to say the least.

My results: it’s been a very exciting few days. The fatigue is still pretty bad, but it’s getting better. I’m finding my mind is clearer, my mood is brighter, and I can at least go for a walk and feel a bit stronger. A few days ago if I ventured out at all, I could hardly get down the block and back.

This makes me wonder how many of us with CFS/ME actually just have advanced SIBO. New science is beginning to understand the “gut-brain axis”, how the brain is linked to a “gut-brain”, our enteric nervous system, and CFS is a condition where that connection is obvious. In this thread “Lisa” did incredibly well with lactoferrin, for a time. For her, it seemed to provide energy as well as clearing the fog.

So far, I’ve had some toxic die-off symptoms (LPS!), but not as much as in the past when using antibiotics (such as the Rifaximin) for SIBO. My joint pain is not entirely gone, but it’s a lot better, same with my sleep patterns.

One very notable fact is I tend to feel more energetic while in motion than I do when I am laying down or sitting. I’ve heard this is a classic hypothyroid symptom, although not often documented, and back to the subject of LPS, I may have found a source of thyroid inflammation. Look for a lot more on this topic in future articles.

My plan from here forward is to reduce the broad spectrum herbal antimicrobials, be more strict about intermittent fasting, eat a lower fat diet with a few more simple carbs to reduce LPS (this is complex – kudos to Paul Jaminet), and continue on taking the lactoferrin. The brands I’m trying are Life Extension and Jarrow. The dose has varied. I started slowly, just two pills a day of Jarrow, but have since gone to 4 of each kind as of today.

I am also still a believer in supplemental iodine, but my dose is lower now, about 2.5mg a day, which is one drop of Lugol’s 2%, and I always take 200mcg a day of selenium to protect my thyroid. I have reduced iodine because if LPS is a factor in my hypothyroidism, I want to heal my SIBO first.

Lactoferrin to the rescue. Let’s see how this goes.

To be continued.

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Is it Your Thyroid, the Fluoride… or the Mercury?

How many of us have been exposed to high amounts of fluoride, a non-essential mineral that compromises thyroid activity, and is a known mutagen, from sources we never thought possible?

If you’ve ever taken antacids, or antidepressants, including Paxil and Prozac, plus countless other medications, including fluoroquinolone antibiotics like Cipro and Levaquin, or if you’ve had steroids in the hospital, or drank from a municipal water supply, or used toothpaste, you’ve been exposed to it. Fluoride is even in our air from coal combustion and steel production.

Just as mercury bioaccumulates from smaller to larger fish, and then into humans, fluoride does the same. For most of us, it’s in the pesticides on the vegetables and grains that most of us consume, then it appears in even higher concentrations in the animals we eat, who feed on these crops, and feedstocks like bonemeal.

So it’s clear there’s a problem. How big is it?

One interesting metric are the rates of thyroid cancers but we can also look at the increase in dental fluorosis, which is far more than a cosmetic issue if it’s “a developmental disturbance of dental enamel caused by excessive exposure to high concentrations of fluoride during tooth development.”

fluorosis

Okay… onward!

Recently I started an iodine protocol, which you can read about HERE, largely because I had many symptoms of hypothyroidism, which developed after taking multiple doses of antibiotics like Cipro and Levaquin. Also, like many of us, I grew up chewing (and swallowing!) fluoride tablets to make my teeth stronger.

Iodine receptors get bound by fluoride, and iodine can remove it, thereby correcting a functional deficiency of iodine. It can also, quite often, give a big boost to thyroid function.

In my case, iodine unleashed a torrent of detoxing, mostly via the GI tract. Then, suddenly, I began to feel more energetic (although my fatigue is not gone yet), I had better sleep patterns, an increased libido, 75% less tinnitus, and (unexpectedly) relief from chronic fungal overgrowth – likely because my immune system could function again. It’s been quite a ride.

My only questions now are:

1. how long have I been hypothyroid, and

2. given how well I’ve responded to iodine supplementation… what can this protocol do for me in the long run?

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This is a serious question, indeed.

Where does one go from here?

If you listen to the naturopathic community, and a few doctors, Iodine chelates mercury, as well as fluoride, but conventional medicine is strangely mute on the subject. In basic chemical reactions, it seems to be the case, so why not in the body?

Perhaps I have two reasons to supplement with Lugol’s 2%, since mercury appears to cause its own thyroid issues. Hashimoto’s anyone? Who knew?

I’m a former 5-day-a-week consumer of seafood, so when I got my mercury levels checked they were “off the charts” as my doctor put it. I asked her how we could fix that and got a blank stare in return. My doctor paused for a moment, and then explained there was no diagnostic code for mercury toxicity, and therefore she had no way to treat it – at least within my health plan.

Sure, everyone has some burden of ingested toxins, it would be naive to assume otherwise, but I’ve got a body full of mercury and very likely fluoride, too. Readers here are familiar with my health problems, and how they came about. The tipping point was fluoroquinolones, but I’m sure mercury plays a role, too. The perfect storm of toxicity, and I’m very lucky to not have amalgam fillings, unlike so many others.

So what to do about this?

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That’s a question many of us are asking lately. We’re left alone to wonder: boron, Borax®, diatomaceous earth, bentonite clay, Zeolite, activated charcoal, grapefruit pectin, Modifilan (seaweed), psyllium husk, cilantro. How about the minerals, like magnesium?

The list of potential detoxifiers are endless, but what do we know about how they behave in the body? I’ve no doubt some can remove good metals and nutrients along with the bad, plus too much fluoride or mercury, unleashed too quickly, can burden the liver, kidneys, brain – everything.

So we need to be careful. We need to figure out what works for our given set of toxicities, and how to best approach it.

And that’s what I’ll be focusing on in an upcoming installment. Stay tuned.

 

IBD and Vagus Nerve Issues: the Gut/Neck Axis?

Is it possible some of us with IBD also have an underlying neck injury, which drives gut inflammation?

The average human’s head is about the weight of a bowling ball, so it’s not surprising the neck can experience trauma due to an acute injury, or chronic misalignment through smart phone use (text-neck!) , poor posture on the job, inactivity, etc.

For me, inflammatory conditions began with antibiotic use, but they got MUCH WORSE after a neck injury, sustained in a traffic accident, several years ago. Initial symptoms were a stuffy, blocked nose without congestion, then asthma, GERD, sinusitis, tinnitus, TMJ, constipation, IBS, and a few years later ulcerative colitis.

UC lead to inactivity, more time spent in front of a computer, degenerative changes in my neck, throw in a dose of Levaquin for food poisoning, then SIBO, food intolerances, hyperadrenergic POTS, heart palpitations, even worse GERD, panic attacks/anxiety, and finally fibromyalgia-like pain and chronic fatigue.

I’ve had quite a few breakthroughs with health in the last few years, but the most profound occurred about a week ago when I realized many of these symptoms I’ve had for years (while directly linked to antibiotics use) are also mediated by my posture, specifically, if my neck is in an unhealthy kyphotic curvature (the reverse of a normal alignment, called lordosis) .

What’s the inflammation connection? The vagus (also called ‘vagal’) nerve runs throughout the body, getting its name “the wanderer” from the widespread path it travels, but it threads its way through a narrow channel in the cervical spine, such that compression of soft tissues between the upper cervical vertebrae can impair a lot of vagal function. This is my layperson’s view. Let’s see if our experience bears this out.

Given that the “fight or flight” response includes a clenching of neck muscles, in preparation for fleeing, is it possible this reduction of parasympathetic response (relaxation) is partially a built-in biomechanical feature of our bodies? If so, chronic stress, with its attendant tightening of that upper cervical spine, may be a vicious cycle — one that we can fairly easily monitor and turn around!

In a previous post I mentioned the posture pump I’ve been using. It’s fairly inexpensive, and definitely effective, but also impractical for anyone out and about in the world. For a cheaper, more portable option, try a NeckBone Pillow.

But what if we could do something similar with no equipment at all? Enter the “Alexander Technique“.

I’m warning you: this practice is so simple, you may wonder if you’re doing much at all, but when performed properly, you’ll notice a big difference. For some, this perfecting of posture and movement may be all you’ll need.

I have developed the habit, in just a few short days, of “sitting tall” in my car, as I’m driving. I tilt my head back ever so slightly, so that my chin is jutting forward. Lordosis! I can feel my nasal passages opening, my sinuses draining. I also notice my blood pressure dropping, as pressure (I assume) is taken off my vagus nerve.

Furthermore, when I adopt this posture throughout the day, I notice the “heat” that fills my entire lower abdomen, and gives rise to gut inflammation, mucus in stools, dull pain — this totally goes away. Hmmm…

I know I’m not the only person who experienced the sudden onset of hyperadrenergic POTS after a neck injury. A cardiologist I consulted a few years ago about my POTS symptoms mentioned one hyperadrenergic patient of his who was a perfectly healthy woman until she got whiplash in a car crash. I’m in touch with someone else on Facebook who had a skiing accident. She hurt her upper cervical spine, and has had POTS (the low blood pressure type) ever since.

This is certainly sad, especially given how little the allopathic doctors understand about hyperadrenergic POTS, UC or other forms of IBD — typically they are good at treating acute symptoms — but if permanent neck trauma is indeed part of a range of inflammatory triggers, we can at least try to heal vagal nerve function from the gut side of the equation.

Our enteric nervous system is a feedback loop, so the Gut/Brain/(Neck?) Axis works in reverse, and if we have mechanical impairment “upstairs”, boosting gut flora signaling via the vagal nerve, from gut to brain, may compensate for the neurological impairment in some people. I’ve been tinkering a lot with gut flora (in yogurt, sauerkraut, my own homemade kefir and probiotics) that may promote parasympathetic (relax and digest) activity. More on that in a future post.

Does anyone else have a history of neck injury or strain that could explain more global issues? If so, I’d appreciate hearing from you in the comments section.

EDIT: since writing this article not long ago, I’ve spoken to huge numbers of IBD sufferers who had a neck injury immediately preceding the onset of their illness. I’d appreciate your feedback. If you’ve had a similar experience and would like me to include your story in a future post, send me an email via the contact form. Thanks!