Saturday, July 30, 2005

You're going to want to file this under "More than I wanted to know"

So, some more news on the health front. I have just been diagnosed with "Leaky gut syndrome," and if that diagnosis holds water (no pun intended), it certainly explains a lot.

"Leaky gut" refers to a hypothesis that the lining of one's digestive system sometimes becomes permeable to proteins that are not sufficiently broken-down and digested. The purpose of the digestive system of course is to break foods down into simple proteins (or amino acids?) that can be absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body. The theory about leaky gut is that some abnormality in the gut lining is permitting larger, more complex protein molecules to be passed through. Then, the theory goes, these proteins invoke an immune response, since the body sees them as foreign matter instead of just nutrients. This puts a constant strain on the immune system and can cause inflammatory responses. According to some of what I have read, this can even lead to nutritional deficiencies, since some minerals and so forth can't be properly used by the body if the proteins they are "carried" on aren't the right shape.

The whole "multiple environmental sensitivies" thing is being blamed on leaky gut, now (you develop antibodies to things in your environment because your gut is allowing more things from your environment to enter the bloodstream), and some think it could be an explanarion for things like "chronic fatigue" and "fibromyalgia."

Of course "Leaky gut" is one of those "altie" things: i.e., not quite "mainstream" medicine. I know this partly because the lab they sent my blood for this test to is something of an "altie" lab (they also test for things like candida, another "altie" thing: though I tested completely negative for candida and in fact most of my tests even from these "altie" labs have come back normal: if they were complete quacks, I think that everybody would test "positive"), and because the test results came with a disclaimer like "this is just for informational purposes" because clearly the FDA hasn't approved the test yet. (Certainly, many of the websites I've come across that mention it do seem a bit nutty.) Anyway, at the beginning of this test I had to drink some "stuff" in the test kit, and then they tested my urine. They found molecules that were abnormally large and complex that shouldn't have been there, that had clearly passed through from my gut into my bloodstream from that stuff I drank. If the test is valid in the first place, then it does seem conclusive.

I am not an "altie" by nature. Before my experience with Cipro and Levaquin, I certainly didn't believe in things like candidiasis (I'm still not sure I do) and I was even skeptical about fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. After two years of chronic pain and fatigue and a host of other symptoms and no answers from even the doctors willing to believe me, I'm willing to look a little further afield for help. Even if perhaps I can't reverse every symptom (I suspect, for instance, that the constant, high-pitch tinnitus I've suffered in both ears for two years now is permanent), I'm willing to try things - so long as they are non-invasive and don't involve the ingestion of more substances that might not be adequately tested.

One of those things has been an "elimination" diet to see if there are any foods that make me feel bad: the idea is to take most things out of the diet, see if you feel better, and then reintroduce things one by one to see if they make you feel worse. So far the only type of foods I might have a problem with are the (so-called) "nightshades", which unfortunately include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers (along with chili peppers). I can live without the eggplant. In fact I demand to live without eggplant: UGH! But I will miss the others, if it really turns out that I can't tolerate them. I was already on the elimination diet when I spent the week going to the delightful concerts of the Boston Early Music Festival, and halfway through that week I was in major agony: hurting all over every square inch of my body as if I'd been run over and beaten with pipes. Then we discovered that even though we thought we had eliminated nightshades, we hadn't because we were only eliminating tomatoes and potatoes and were in fact eating even more bell peppers than usual! Pretty much all you can eat on the elimination diet is meat, brown rice and a few other whole grains like millet and quinoa, and some vegetables: you don't eat eggs, dairy, any white or processed carbs, any sugars or sweeteners, any alcohol or tea or coffee, any wheat or oats or foods with gluten, any corn, or any soy. But you can have guacamole and hummus, and those make good dips, so we were having a lot of veggies, including bell pepper, chopped up with dips. Coincidentally or not, ever since I stopped the bell peppers, I've been in less pain.

In fact, I spent the past two weeks in classes (work-related training: in my line of work there are always new technologies that one needs to learn). This was grueling: 4 days last week, and 4 days the week before. The first week up in Westford, which is a 45-to-50-minute drive for me, and this last week in downtown Boston, which is a 20-40=minute subway ride. I had to be there by 9am every morning, which is very early for me, and I had to sit all day in a chair. After my experience with the BEMF, I was afraid I would be a wreck. Certainly by yesterday, I was: I really could hardly move and I felt so faint and light-headed I could hardly think straight. But actually I really held up way better than I had expected to: in fact it really wasn't until almost the end of the two weeks that it really started catching up with me in a big way. So maybe going off the bell peppers helped. Of course, I was way too tired every night after class to write in the blog. In fact I was going to bed by about 7:30-8 every night. So that's why I was incommunicado for the last several days. But again, I was really holding up better than I had expected.

So that's sad, since I realllly love tomatoes and I like potatoes a lot, too. Of course I won't know for sure until I re-introduce them. But nightshades are - according to the websites out there - notorious for worsening joint pain in people with arthritis and the like (not just for people who had a bad reaction to quinolones). It sure does look like a smoking gun ...

The only other "intolerance" I know of that I acquired since the Cipro and Levaquin is an intolerance to B-vitamins, specifically B6. One of the problems I've had over the past two years is (relatively mild) peripheral neuropathies: numbness, tingling, pins and needles, burning sensations, etc. And one of the best ways to bring them on is to take a multivitamin or a B-complex pill. And - as with all my post-quinolone sypmtoms - these are typical, if not universal, symptoms experienced by others who have had bad reactions to fluoroquinolones.

Of course, if leaky gut is real, then leaky gut could certainly be the cause of that food intolerance. If I can get rid of the leaky gut problem, then maybe my intolerances to nightshades will go away. Maybe the B6 problem too. Plus, many of my symptoms are consistent with nutritional deficiencies, especially magnesium. And although my blood tested normal for magnesium, if the leaky gut theory is valid, then my body may not be using it properly even if it's there.

Can this explain the whole quinolone thing? It is a mystery why two drugs I took two years ago could still be bothering me long after they must be out of my system. One possibility that the drugs triggered some kind of auto-immune disorder. But the leaky-gut idea sounds pretty good actually: by simply continuing to eat food, I've been pummeling my immune system and putting toxins into my bloodstream. Now the question is how to get over the leaky gut. Apparently one possibility is to go for a while without eating at all -- a 3-4-day fast. Another possibility is to substitute an "amino acid drink" - essentially pre-digested food - for real food. The idea is to simply give one's body a rest. I suspect in my case that it will take more than 3-4 days to fix whatever is ailing me, but again, I don't think there is anything terribly invasive or dangerous about a fast (although a fast that long is pretty unimaginable) or even a protein drink for a while. Anything, if it actually helps.

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At Mon Nov 07, 03:42:00 AM EST, Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

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At Thu Jan 12, 05:43:00 PM EST, Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

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At Wed Nov 05, 01:32:00 PM EST, Anonymous Levaquin Prescription Information said...

My name is Chris Brown and i would like to show you my personal experience with Levaquin.

I am 50 years old. Have been on Levaquin for 5 days now. I think this is a very strong and dangerous drug. While some people may take it with no problems, many people are having severe and debilitating problems which seem to last and last. I do not think this drug should be prescribed for simple infections. There are other safer drugs to try first.

I have experienced some of these side effects-
After 3rd dose, experienced vision distortions - seeing shapes going up the wall, colored spots floating in front of my eyes, spent a night of total sleeplessness. On day 4 noticed a little tightness in my calves. I attributed it to the gardening I was doing. On day 5 woke up with very tight calves. It was painful to walk and very painful to go down stairs. When I got to work I googled side effect of Levaquin and saw all the problems people have had with taking it. I have been off of the medication for three days and still have a great deal of pain in my calves. I have difficulty walking and have had to discontinue any strenuous activity. I have never had a bad reaction to any other antibiotic. I hope these symptons go away soon. My doctor just said he would note "muscle aches" on my chart and said "all antibiotics have some side effects.

I hope this information will be useful to others,
Chris Brown


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