Hi, my name is Dana. I am 29 years old and in December of 2017, I suffered an adverse reaction to the antibiotic Macrobid. I walked into a minute clinic to treat a urinary tract infection (UTI) the night before Christmas Eve and the doctor gave me 100mg of Macrobid twice daily for 7 days. I have suffered from UTI’s quite a few times in my life and have ended up with a severe kidney infection and so I felt taking an antibiotic was my only option. I have taken Cipro 3 or 4 times in my life and never experienced an adverse reaction that I was aware of. However, I did take Levaquin around age 12 and remember having a horrifying reaction to it. I believe now that I may have been floxed at that time but was unaware of it then. All I could tell my parents was that I felt ‘weird’ and didn’t know what was happening to me. I laid on the couch in the basement for weeks remembering having vivid nightmares and an overwhelming sense of fear, heaviness in my arms and legs, and vision problems. I did recover from that, but Levaquin has been on my charts since age 12 as a drug I experienced horrible side effects from.
The Progressive Adverse Reactions to Macrobid
Within two days of starting Macrobid, I noticed some unpleasant side effects such as severe night sweats, constipation, spotty vision, dry mouth. None of it was affecting my everyday life, so I carried on as normal. Two weeks after stopping Macrobid, I began to feel extreme bouts of vertigo and noticed severely spotty vision and bad digestive issues. This was just the beginning of the nightmare that has unfolded in the past over 4 months.
I was driving my car for work in Chicago and started to feel extreme digestive distress. It was so bad that I had to pull over and wait for it to pass. A few days later, I was driving and the same thing happened. My mom rushed to the city to pick me up so we could go to urgent care. I had a complete blood panel done and everything came back normal. In fact, the doctor told me I had “beautiful blood.” When I questioned whether or not the recent antibiotic I took could have anything to do with it, he assured me that Macrobid does not affect the GI tract and sent me on my way with a prescription for antacids, some liquid to take with meals to coat the lining of my stomach. I never filled either prescription.
Weeks passed and my symptoms grew worse and worse. I began to experience severe bone and joint pain. I was running on the treadmill at the gym and after only two minutes I had to stop because the pain in my legs was so intense I couldn’t take it. I went from someone who worked out 4-5 times a week to not even being able to lift a 2 pound weight. I lost all strength in my arms and legs. I couldn’t even hold my arms up to wash my hair in the shower. I developed a severe sensitivity to sunlight, burning in my arms and legs, loss of feeling and tingling in my arms and legs, severe joint pain, severe digestive issues, anxiety to the point of feeling psychotic, shortness of breath, chills, extreme vision issues – seeing black spots, ringing in ears, 20 pound weight loss, overwhelming fear, crying spells, depression, abrupt wake ups in the middle of the night, confusion, hallucinations, loss of time and dates, and the list goes on.
Connecting the Dots: Macrobid Reactions Look Like Fluoroquinolone Reactions
At this point, I knew this drug was responsible for causing all of these symptoms, and I began to research. I came across the Facebook page Floxie Hope. A lot of these people’s stories sounded exactly like what I have been experiencing. Even though Macrobid is not in the fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics, it is fully able to cause the same horrific symptoms because I am living it. While reading their stories of recovery can be terrifying, I also find a lot of them hopeful. I hope to one day recover like a lot of the Floxies have. I hope and pray for these people every day, no one deserves to have this happen to them. Some people completely lose their ability to walk for months, and some people never fully recover. But, these stories are inspiring and recovery is possible.
In these past four months I have had to quit my job, lost my ability to drive, and for about two months, I lost my ability to function at all. I am slowly regaining function again, but the struggle is not over. I still cannot drive or work, but am noticing daily small improvements. A month ago I could not go for a five minute walk, but today I can go for 15 minutes.
My younger sister was married this past weekend. Even though I was able to be at her wedding, I wasn’t able to dance like I would have loved to or partake in most of the activities surrounding the day. I had to sit down a lot because even the smallest amount of physical activity tires me. I wasn’t able to go to her bachelorette weekend getaway, or even help her with simple tasks getting ready for the most important day of her life.
This nightmare is far from over, but with each day I hold onto the hope that I will one day return to my normal self. I love to exercise and I hope to one day be able to run again. I hope to one day be able to eat the foods I love again. I am a musician and I love to perform. Losing the energy to sing has maybe been the hardest part of this all. I hope to one day be able to perform a song again.
Another hard part has been trying to explain this to people that do not understand. A lot of people are unaware as to how often these adverse reactions to antibiotics and other meds have been happening. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had undermining me or doubting my condition. I have had a handful of people telling me to get other opinions. People don’t want to believe this happens and won’t believe it unless it happens to them. I am making this my life goal to spread awareness to others of these dangerous drugs.
Recovery and Learning
I began working with a functional medicine doctor a month and a half ago, and I do believe it is helping speed up the process of recovery. Macrobid destroyed my gut, and I am on a strict diet and supplement protocol to try and repair my gut health. I had several labs done and stool test analysis of my gut flora. The test results showed I have severely elevated cortisol/DHEA levels, putting my body into an acute stress response. My hormones were also completely out of balance, with elevated levels of testosterone and progesterone. I am currently taking natural supplements to balance back out and take the stress off my adrenals working overtime. I also have gut dysbiosis, which is when the bad bacteria overrides the good bacteria and causes a plethora of health issues (chronic pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, anxiety, depression, etc.). A lot of people end up with the deadly C-diff parasite after antibiotic use because it completely kills all of your guts healthy bacteria. So what do doctor’s offices and hospitals do? Give people MORE antibiotics!
Working with a doctor in functional medicine has, however, opened up a whole new door to cracking the code to my own previous issues prior to taking Macrobid. So maybe through all of this suffering, there is light on the other side. While I have been suffering immensely for over four months now, I have also been doing a ton of research on gut function and overall health.
For most of my 29 years, I have suffered from anxiety and digestive issues. I began taking prescription drugs at age 14 after suffering a panic attack in an 8th grade class, and that marked the beginning of living a life with anxiety.
From ages 15-25 I was seeing countless therapists and psychologists to try and correct my anxiety issues. I also was on a plethora of prescription drugs (Xanax, Busbar, Lexapro, Zoloft) but nothing seemed to help and I was a zombie. I also have suffered from acid reflux for most of my life, to where I would pop Zantac to relieve issues. My whole life I have been told that my anxiety was caused by an imbalance of serotonin and that it was ‘all in my head.’
Making the decision to see a functional doctor after my body started falling apart from Macrobid these past months has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Within 15 minutes of meeting this doctor, he asked me if I was born via C-section. I was confused, but replied “yes” and that my mom had quite the traumatic delivery with me. I got home and what I started researching was mind-blowing to me. When we are born, our initial inoculation of healthy gut flora comes from our mothers birth canal. When babies are stripped of that and born via C-section, we aren’t properly inoculated with the healthy gut flora we need for a healthy functioning body, and the bad gut bacteria overrides the good. Not only has my life long struggle of panic attacks been real, but the shakiness, palm sweating, heart palpitations I have experienced are a result of having reactive hypoglycemic episodes due to low blood sugar caused by a poor functioning gut.
I have also learned that through being born by traumatic delivery, I have a poor functioning vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the main nerve stemming from the brain that is responsible for many things, main one being control of your parasympathetic nervous system or ‘rest and digest system.’ People that have a poor functioning vagus nerve may deal with symptoms such as anxiety and poor digestion. There are a lot of new articles coming out about how to strengthen your vagus nerve and doing some of these exercises has helped a lot of the Floxies. My doctor has me stimulating my gag reflex before meals, gargling water several times a day, and humming or singing if I’m able to.
This information may not be as shocking to some people as it was to me. But the most shocking part of it all is that no doctor or psychologist EVER told me this information. Not because they are negligent, but because most of them do not even know. Who would consider that my poor gut function since birth and being born via C-section could be the cause of my lifelong struggle with panic attacks and anxiety? Look to your gut and you may find the root of all disease.
I urge people that struggle from digestive disorder, autoimmune disease, hormone imbalance, endometriosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, etc., to visit a doctor in functional medicine and get a complete panel done of your gut microbiome. As we age, our gut flora becomes compromised. Things like stress, standard American diet, and antibiotic use completely alters our gut flora causing premature aging and a whole list of health problems. For some of us, we’ve been compromised since birth. Life doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to live a life of pain and prescription drugs.
Had I had known this information sooner, my life would’ve been a lot different. I am now receiving natural treatment to restore my gut health, and hopefully, be able to live a normal life at some point. I also do daily exercises to stimulate my vagus nerve to improve digestion. I may have fallen apart from Macrobid, but I am seeing the light and hope in this nightmare I’ve been living the last 4 months. I only hope that full recovery is possible and that I will one day feel like myself again, maybe even better than I ever have before. I hope and pray for all these sick people and people who have been negatively affected by an antibiotic. All of your stories are inspiring and give me hope that recovery from this is possible.
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This article was originally published on May 15, 2018.