“Sickness comes on horseback but departs on foot.”
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I teach. It’s what I do. I’m a teacher. The information below is for educational purposes only. I’m simply sharing what worked for me, having no intention of diagnosing or treating any disease or condition.
This is my story … but maybe it will help you next time you’re prescribed an antibiotic.
My story begins with a nasty intestinal infection.
Four years ago, I did a science experiment. I placed a wet swimming suit in a sealed plastic zip lock. Then I tossed the bag in the backseat of our car for two days to bake in the July heat.
On the third day, I slipped into the suit and took a dip with my family.
My plan worked! This was, in fact, a recipe for a bacteria feeding frenzy.
Kidding … it wasn’t a science experiment. I was sleep deprived. The girls were five months and three years old and we were finishing Week 9 of living in a hotel due to a flood at our house. I was flipping exhausted.
And disease took that moment to stop by for a stay.
A mere two hours after our family swim – pow, bam, see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya! – red, raised pimples broke out all over my core. We were en route to Wisconsin Dells and every 10 minutes, more and more dots appeared.
When we reached the Dells, I was freaking and covered.
I went to walk-in clinic straightaway and was told I had a Staph infection. The doctor prescribed me the powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic, Clindamycin, for 10 days.
I was nervous to take Clinda. Antibiotic treatment disturbs the intestinal bacteria and harmful bacteria can have a field day. I knew that Clinda could unleash Clostridium Difficile (or C. diff).
I knew this because my niece had the infection at 15 months old, and had been gravely ill. She is thriving now, but it was ugly for a while.
I weighed the cost/benefits – I was generally healthy and young. I figured my daily dose of Stoneyfield yogurt would balance my gut flora and from what I read, C. diff usually follows a hospital stay. I had a Staph infection that needed immediate treatment, so I proceeded to take the antibiotic.
What I had forgotten was I had given birth to Stella five month prior – in a hospital.
Two weeks later, the superbug wracked havoc on my intestines.
It was no discotheque.
First, my internist prescribed Flagyl (metronidazole) for 10 days. The metallic taste and walking-zombie feelings were horrid. I felt like vomiting if I so much as drank water. I continued to eat Stonyfield yogurt daily.
A week off the meds, C. diff came back.
Another course of Flagyl was prescribed. I started lurking on the chat boards for C. diff gathering information: On par with MRSA. Difficult to treat. Can be deadly.
Deadly? I panicked that I would live with this infection for years or worse. I logged onto the site eight times a day, knowing it was obsessive, unhealthy, and growing my no-longer dormant hypochondria.
Thanks to the C. diff chat board, I added Kefir and Florastor to my probiotic cocktail. Per the site’s instructions, I was careful to space out the probiotics and the antibiotics by a couple hours.
Yet, same story retold. C. diff knocked me down again.
Next up: Vanc (vancomycin). Without insurance, the Vanc capsules cost about $1,800 for a 14-day treatment. Thankfully, I had insurance.
I continued the Kefir and upped the Florastor to two pills, twice a day.
The Vanc appeared to work. I was two weeks free of C. diff symptoms when I had a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy was to check to see if I had an underlying condition, thus making me more susceptible to C. diff. (No condition was found; no evidence of C. diff either).
Two weeks after the colonoscopy, dun dun dun – C. diff.
I was beside myself. I started to feel depressed: Am I going to have to live with this forever? Am I going to die? Will I need a fecal transplant?
I was desperate to restore balance and kick C. diff out of my gut.
In my digging, I read an article about an elderly woman, on the verge of dying from C. diff.
That’s how I found him – Dr. Stuart Johnson, infectious disease physician extraordinaire. I immediately set up an appointment with said doctor at Loyola University Medical Center.
He took one look at me and said, “You’re young to have C. diff.” (I was 34 at the time).
Under his supervision, he put me on a pulse-tapering regimen of Vanc for several months. He recommended the probiotic Bio K Plus daily for the duration of the antibiotic treatment. Bio K Plus drastically cut down the occurrence of C. diff in a hospital in Canada. At $5 a container, it was a hefty price tag, but I was ready at any price.
It worked in Canada. And it worked for me.
Antibiotics aren’t always the answer, but sometimes they are they only one.
When they are, I recommend:
- Probiotics: I started with Kefir, but thanks to Dr. Johnson, I started on Bio K Plus. I swear by this probiotic.
It contains 50 billion active bacteria per bottle. Having enough good bacteria in the gut deters the overpopulation of problematic bacteria. I still take Bio K Plus weekly – I buy one container a week and take half on say, Tuesday and the other half on Saturday. You can get it online or at most Whole Foods.
- Florastor: This probiotic contains Saccharomyces boulardii. It’s the same friendly yeast that’s in the popular drink Kombucha. I took four a day when I was battling and recovering from C. diff. To this day, I take one tablet every few days.
Florastor is a yeast probiotic, so it fights the bacteria differently. Think of a playground – full and lively. When you take an antibiotic, bam! most of the good stuff gets killed off.
This leaves your gut depleted – an empty playground.
Or worse, one with a few superbugs. The superbugs are the bacteria resistant to the antibiotics. Since Florastor is a yeast, it will not be killed off by the antibiotics and will help keep your flora intact. If the good stuff is not wiped out, you will not have an empty playground. Your gut will not be a friendly place for C. diff to overpopulate. You can get it at Walgreens or it’s cheaper at Drugstore.com.
For months I worried that someone in my family would need to take antibiotics and we’d be back to square 1, combating C. diff.
A school is like a Petri dish – Staph, Strep, pink eye, lice, you name it, so it wasn’t long before I got to test my preventative tactics.
Six months after I recovered, I got Strep and had to take an antibiotic – a Z-Pack. I took Bio K Plus daily and two Florastor a day for the duration of the treatment. Then tapered off for a week or so after I finished the antibiotics. No C. diff – Phew!
Since then, Stella’s taken Clindamycin and Veronica’s had Strep five times without getting C. diff. I gave them a small dose of Bio K Plus and Florastor Kids.
I swear by Bio K Plus and Florastor anytime one needs antibiotics.
What do you take to keep your gut healthy when you’re on antibiotics? Have you had C. diff? I’d love to hear in the comments.