mental healthOver the past few weeks I’ve run into a few tangles.  First, I got really sick.  Then I took antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection which wasn’t responding to herbs. I’m not exactly anti- antibiotics, but I also don’t want to take them unless I have no other options.  Last winter, I likely had a strep infection twice, though I never had a test to confirm it. After consulting with my very forward thinking, holistically-minded doctor, I opted out of taking antibiotics for what was assumed to be strep.  I based this decision on scientific research which concludes that  treating strep with antibiotics is unnecessary and that the risks actually outweighed the benefits of mental health.   

Most recently, I was diagnosed with bronchitis.  I tried to ride it out and used as much natural medicines as I could, but ultimately I caved and took antibiotics. After 4 days, I just wasn’t getting any better, in fact I was getting worse.

Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Needless to say, antibiotics proved tremendously effective at treating bronchitis, but the major downside, unfortunately, was a downward spiral into a state of depression.

What I learned from the antibiotic experience was incredibly illuminating.

First, I am pretty sure I have never suffered depression because how I felt was totally foreign and unfamiliar.

For the first time in my life it felt like I was cut off from the essence of me.  It was as though I was a holographic version of myself.

I’m not sure if this makes any sense, but I felt incapable of feeling; whether it was a positive emotion like joy or a  negative emotion like anger, I just couldn’t access it. It was from this unfeeling place that I heard the echoes of patients from the past who described the experience of taking anti-depressants as emotionally numbing.

This situation really messed with my head. Honestly, I don’t know how people who suffer with depression cope with such a challenging state of being.

In case that’s you, please remember that acupuncture is a powerful therapy for addressing mental health and there is something you can do to feel better. Without question, acupuncture was a critical factor in helping elevate my mood during this episode.

Second, I thought it was important to share with you the dangers of wiping out the gut biome with antibiotics.

We all know this is a problem, but I cannot understate the consequences.  You would think someone like myself who keeps informed about the risks of medication and advocates for holistic healing would know that antibiotics can cause depression, but it never entered my conscious awareness.

This is my public service announcement: if you have to take antibiotics, take preventative measures to minimize the damage to your micro-biome by eating lots of pro-biotic rich foods.

Also, find whatever practical solution you can to stay connected to your SELF.  

I was caught off guard by the effect of the antibiotics and curious to know if this is a common problem.  I started to talk about my experience and asked others whether they had ever noticed antibiotics triggered changes in mood.  

Unfortunately the timing of my inquiry revealed that my dear friend and patient lost her father a year ago to the day because of antibiotics…they actually caused his death.  

Another of my patients, whom I knew was taking amoxicillin at the time, reported this: “oh yea, antibiotics make me nearly suicidal. Which, now that you mention it, it explains why I contemplated walking into traffic today!”  

While I know he was being slightly dramatic and isn’t actually suicidal, his sincerity in feeling like a shell of himself was real.

While antibiotics may be life saving, they can also wreak havoc on your immune system and do pose serious health risks.

Anyone who has taken antibiotics for a period of time may experience systemic imbalances like skin irritations/rashes/eczema, flare-ups of auto-immune conditions, digestive imbalances like diarrhea or constipation, changes in energy levels and lowered immuno-resistance.  

These imbalances can linger for weeks and even months after the medication is finished

Here are the steps I took to offset the adverse affects of antibiotic use:

  1. Take pro-biotic supplements.  I tripled my dose from the usual one pill per day to three per day with meals.
  2. Eat foods high in probiotics.  I make my own lacto-fermented kraut so I always have that on hand but you can easily buy lacto-fermented foods from the health food store.  I also increased my consumption of high quality, organic yogurt (I prefer the brand Seven Stars Farms because it is high quality).
  3. Get plenty of sleep.  By going to bed earlier and sleeping later, my body was able to rest, repair and regenerate.  Sleep deprivation is for dummies.
  4. Eat whole foods.  Nutrition is the basis for all cellular and metabolic activities, proper nutrition is essential.
  5. Be active.  In spite of feeling like doing anything but exercise, I resisted the temptation because of the vast amounts of research proving the benefits of exercise on health and metabolism.
  6. Spend time in nature.  I realize this may be difficult if you live in a city, but the research proves time spent in nature benefits the immune system.
  7. Get acupuncture.  Yes, I am biased, but it is one of the most effective therapies for harmonizing disharmony in the body.

Having gone through this experience was quite eye-opening for me.  My goal in sharing this with you is that you will have a greater awareness about the downside to antibiotics and it’s role in mental health.

Secondly, I want to empower you to address the systemic side effects of antibiotic use.

Regardless of whether or not they mess with your mood and mind, antibiotics will negatively impact your immune system and disrupt the delicate balance of your intestines.

Don’t underestimate the power of these drugs.