Taking antibiotics for acute Lyme disease (early infection) is a given. But, the water becomes more muddied when it comes to taking antibiotics for late stage Lyme disease, otherwise known as chronic Lyme disease.
Some suggest antibiotics are required in combination and need to be pulsed for long periods of time. Others say there is no scientific literature to support the use of long-term antibiotics and alternative approaches are more beneficial.
Whichever camp you are sitting in, know that I appreciate there is no one path to remission from chronic Lyme disease. Everyone is individual and that path will have unique factors for each person.
As a person with chronic Lyme disease, you need to follow your gut and choose the treatments that feel right to you. That’s all we can do and it’s the approach I personally take.
A relapse in symptoms that led to antibiotics
You may recall that I had a relapse of Lyme disease symptoms back in January. On speaking with my doctor from Breakspear Medical, he decided the best course of action was to prescribe antibiotics. I had never taken antibiotics before and thus far had been using herbal therapies, supplements and artesunate.
I, therefore, wondered if taking a course of antibiotics was something I needed to do to get me over my latest setback. What if they were what I needed to progress forward in my recovery? I was open to the idea and decided it was worth trying.
From my symptoms, my doctor also diagnosed Bartonella. I was therefore put on two different types of antibiotics. One to treat the Lyme spirochetes and another to tackle the cyst form of Lyme and also Bartonella.
I was also given biofilm breakers and supplements for gut, liver and mitochondrial support. I also continued with detox supplements, as well as continuing to use my far infrared sauna on a regular basis.
My experience with antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease
All of this sounded like a decent plan to me and I took these antibiotics for six weeks. I was meant to take them for longer but, following my gut feeling, I decided six weeks was all I wanted to do. You’ll understand why by the time you reach the end of this blog post.
I am going to share my experience with these particular antibiotics. Again, before I begin, I want to stress that this is my personal story. Others may have a completely different experience to me.
I just believe in being honest about my own experiences on my blog and I don’t shy away from talking about things that have been difficult for me.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there is no one way to treat chronic Lyme disease and its associated co-infections. You have to do with is right for you, as I have to do what is right for me.
With that all said, here are a few things I learned about taking antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease:
1. The herxing was much worse than I experienced with herbal therapies
A herx reaction, formally known as a Herxheimer Reaction, is an increase in symptoms caused by the release of toxins as bacteria die. It causes all of your usual symptoms to worsen.
When I started herbal therapies, I herxed. It lasted a short time and then my symptoms resided and I gradually began to feel better overall.
With the antibiotics, the herx I experienced was much worse. For me, it meant feeling even more flu-like, incredibly fatigued, I was in more pain (my neck pain was excruciating at times), and my sleep was awful.
I struggled to fall asleep and it became very, very disruptive. This, of course, would not be helping things.
2. The herxing lasted longer than I expected
To combat the effects of herxing, you need to support your body’s natural detox pathways. If you are adding to the burden, you need to assist your body in getting rid of these extra toxins.
For me, this included: using a far infrared sauna on a near daily basis; Epsom salts baths, drinking more water than usual (often lemon water); supplements such as liposomal glutathione, liposomal vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid, herbs such as Burbur (which is great!).
Despite this, I felt as though I was in a herx the majority of the time. I didn’t want to do too much of a good thing but I felt as though I was doing a good job of supporting my body.
It didn’t seem to be enough though and I suffered each day. It was a much different experience for me compared to herbal therapies.
3. The side-effects can be horrible
If herxing wasn’t bad enough, I also suffered from unpleasant side effects from the antibiotics. I was nauseous 24/7. My appetite completely tanked and I could only stomach certain foods (puffed rice cereal was my saviour). When I did force myself to eat something, it was only small amounts.
The ironic thing was that eating helped to relieve my nausea but I couldn’t stomach eating. It was horrible. I tried many things to help ease it, such as copious amounts of ginger tea, but nothing took it away completely.
I also got banging headaches, though I’m unsure if this was a side effect or a symptom of herxing.
4. I struggled mentally
One of the worst aspects for me was how all of this affected my mental health. I had zero motivation throughout the time I took antibiotics (and I still have low motivation a few weeks later). I didn’t want to blog and I didn’t want to do much of anything.
Each day I felt incredibly fed up with feeling so awful. At times, I just wanted to cry at my own misery. It was so strange to be aware of this and not want to be like that, but have zero control over it.
5. My level of functioning decreased
I have had energy issues for years. It is my biggest problem. No matter how well I feel, I am restricted in how much I can do. When I added antibiotics into the mix, things got even worse. My level of functioning tanked.
I physically did very little during those six weeks. I spent the majority of my time resigned to the sofa. I couldn’t bring myself to go back to bed but I probably should have on some days.
I lived in fear that I was poisoning my mitochondria and, who knows, maybe I was. My energy has only slightly improved since stopping the antibiotics. I still struggle with things that were no longer an issue before, such as climbing the stairs.
6. I am stronger than I know and I never let go of hope
All of the above sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it? And it absolutely was. Regardless, I still took those pills religiously.
The reason was that I never let go of the hope that they were going to help me. It did reach the point where I felt the duration I had taken them was sufficient.
I could only do it to myself for so long and didn’t want to put myself through it anymore. But, I made sure I endured them for long enough so that I could see if they had helped or not.
7. The antibiotics did help
When I stopped taking the antibiotics, I felt better than I did during my relapse back in January. However, the improvement was not significant enough for me to want to continue with them.
My thought was, they had gotten me past my relapse but that I wanted to go back to herbs moving forward.
Luckily, without me even saying, my doctor came up with the same plan. So I am back on a herbal regime, along with artesunate, for the foreseeable future.
My doctor has also done some further testing, which I’ll talk more about in a future post. I have had one result back that I’ll talk about now as I feel it fits in with this topic.
8. Antibiotics can wreak havoc on the gut
I never had many symptoms of gut problems during the time I took antibiotics. I took probiotics, which everyone should take with antibiotics (along with maintaining a sugar-free diet), and I hoped the damage would be minimal. I also took Lauricidin.
However, I had a test recently, which showed I have pretty high levels of candida. I know from previous testing that I had a mild yeast infection before (though nothing of much concern). But now the antibiotics have left me with a real problem with candida.
I know this post hasn’t been particularly positive but I thought it was worth being honest and sharing my experience. I think we all have different tolerances for medications and my body doesn’t seem to like antibiotics.
I believe it was one antibiotic, in particular, that was a big problem for me. I did consider trying a different type but in the end, I am glad that my doctor decided that I should go back to herbal therapies.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Have you taken antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease? Was your experience similar to mine? Or have you had a better time of things?
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