I wanted to share my experience going through thiamine paradox so that others may find hope as they navigate the process. In November of 2019, my life was completely flipped upside down. My full story is here, but briefly, I had taken an antibiotic called Tinidazole, the less popular but almost identical sister drug to Metronidazole. Within days of taking the antibiotic I began to experience frightening symptoms like loss of mobility in my hands, heart palpitations and intense feelings of depression and doom. Less than two weeks later, I went into surgery to get my wisdom teeth removed and was put on a course of penicillin for two weeks.
Within weeks, my health was in a total spiral. I began to experience constant bouts of tachycardia and panic, low blood sugar, dizziness, blurry vision and the inability to sleep. I went from somebody who sleeps 8 hours a night to sleeping for less than an hour on various nights. When sleep did come, I was jolted awake in a panic attack. At times, I was feeling symptoms that mimicked asthma…it was like I couldn’t breathe.
I had no idea what was going on. Multiple trips to the ER did nothing. I continued to get worse. It wasn’t until I traced back what drugs I had taken that I made my way to a Facebook group called “Metronidazole Toxicity Support Group.” It was in that group that I discovered that thousands of others were dealing with the same set of symptoms caused by this horrendously neurotoxic antibiotic. I had known for years that one should avoid fluoroquinolone antibiotics, but research has shown that metronidazole and others in its class present some of the same catastrophic side effects.
Through her own research and contact with Dr. Lonsdale and Dr. Marrs, the founder of the group discovered that metronidazole and other drugs in its class block thiamine in the body. The symptoms of the toxicity mimic those of Wernicke’s encephalopathy.
The solution? Take thiamine.
I thought it was going to be an easy fix. It wasn’t.
Like many posts on Hormones Matter, the topic of paradox frequently comes up, and I am the perfect case study.
In retrospect, I had longstanding symptoms of mild beriberi for a lot of my life. I was constantly dealing with low blood pressure and strange heart symptoms that date back to my teenage years. I grew up eating a typical American diet and started drinking large amounts of coffee in my teens. I loved sugar.
With longstanding thiamine deficiency, the human body changes its chemistry to adapt and survive. When thiamine is reintroduced and things get turned back, your body goes haywire until the chemistry can normalize.
For me, it took three attempts. Every time I would start even the tiniest dose of thiamine HCL, I would erupt in panic, tachycardia, feelings of “seizures” and doom and gloom, chest tightness and head pressure. It was akin to the feeling when somebody knows that they ingested way more marijuana than they should have. Sheer terror. When I took too much one time, I almost landed in the ER because I thought for sure that I was going into cardiac arrest.
My first attempt was in January 2020. I failed miserably and stopped because of the side effects. But I wasn’t getting better and my health continued to spiral. I tried again in March 2020 and made it for 2 weeks before dropping out again. I would crumble pills to get just a little thiamine HCL in my system and I would still feel like a total wreck.
Finally, on my third attempt in May 2020, I made it.
The solution is to start LOW and SLOW. I found a company in the UK that has a liquid form of thiamine HCL that allowed me to do this. I started with 10 mg per day and gradually increased by 10-20 mg over the course of many weeks. I also spread my dose out throughout the day. Dr. Lonsdale predicted the paradox will lift within a month, but for me, it took a bit longer. Within 8 weeks I began to notice that I could safely take a 100mg thiamine HCL pill without experiencing too many symptoms. It continued to get better with time.
Now, almost a year later, I’m taking 300-400mg of thiamine HCL a day and mixing in benfotiamine and allithiamine. In the last 6 months, my health has slowly started to trend upward. I’ve added in a B complex at times and I’m also working on my B12. The heart palpitations are significantly better, I’m less prone to panic attacks than I have been in years, and my brain fog has lifted. What I’m left with is some slight dizziness (though it is significantly better), blurry vision that waxes and wanes, and my blood sugar is still presenting some issues. Still, I feel like I’m trending in the right direction and that things continue to slowly improve.
My advice for those of you encountering paradox symptoms is this: BE PATIENT. It sucks. But the rewards on the other end are so worth it. I would also advise you to dramatically increase your potassium through food. This didn’t eliminate the paradox feelings entirely but it did help reduce them.
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