Psycho-Babble Medication Thread 114776

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depression and antibiotics

Posted by marushkah on August 1, 2002, at 9:28:26

I just read some postings from April about antibiotics and brain symptoms, and I hope I can get another discussion started on this subject. During 30 years of sometimes crushing depression, I have learned that I ALWAYS improve dramatically when I am prescribed antibiotics for another ailment. The fatigue disappears, the mental confusion clears, the sadness and frustration and anxiety vanish....

I have been told by doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists that there is no connection between antibiotics and relief of depression, but I know this is not true. Standard anti-depressents do little for me; anti-anxiety medications just mask symptoms; antibiotics turn me into a new, healthy, functional person. However, the medical profession chooses to ignore my assertions that my depression is caused by fatigue and mental confusion, not the other way around as the textbooks insist.

Now I hear hints that persistent strep infections (in children) or other bacterial infections may be implicated in depression (I have recurring throat infections). Has anyone else noticed the correlation between antibiotics and imroved mental health? Can anyone supply web sites or other references that deal with this topic?


Re: depression and antibiotics

Posted by katekite on August 1, 2002, at 10:25:47

In reply to depression and antibiotics, posted by marushkah on August 1, 2002, at 9:28:26

Are there particular antibiotics that make you feel better and particular ones that do not? Since they target somewhat different organisms it might be possible through your experiences, to narrow down what type of organism might be a problem.

Do you find any other drugs influence your problems? Antacids or anything like that?

-- kate


Re: depression and antibiotics

Posted by fairnymph on August 1, 2002, at 12:30:25

In reply to Re: depression and antibiotics, posted by katekite on August 1, 2002, at 10:25:47

I have been on various antibiotics for over a month now....while taking wellbutrin for the past 2.5 weeks...and it doesn't seem to help my depression or OCD. :-/

Glad it works for you though!


Re: depression and antibiotics

Posted by marushkah on August 2, 2002, at 8:10:48

In reply to Re: depression and antibiotics, posted by fairnymph on August 1, 2002, at 12:30:25

To katekite: I am not aware that any antibiotics failed to help, though some may have been more effective than others. Your suggestion is definitely worth following. Unfortunately (or fortunately, in terms of physical health), I am only sick enough for antibiotics about once a year! Doctors are somewhat loathe to prescribe them without physical symptoms (with good reason, usually). The ones I remember were usually prescribed for recurring throat infections (cephalexon leaps to mind), which is why hints of a strep/depression connection caught my eye. I can find no further information on that. However, I am currently taking macrobid (nitrofurantoin monohydrate - I never heard of this one before!) for a urinary tract infection, and it is working wonderfully on my depresson. The only other meds that have ever helped are serious pain killers (which would probably help anyone with anything) and benzodiazapines, which relieve enough anxiety to make thought clearer and life much more livable. Pain killes are certainly not a viable solution, and benzos are hard to get these days. Since antibiotics work - and point to a curable physical problem rather than a "manageable" brain disorder - I would definitely like to know if there really is a connection.

To fairnymph: I suspect that people who find depression relief from antibiotics are a small minority of depression sufferers. Since antidepressants do nothing for me (and I have tried many), there must be a completely different process at work. I certainly hope the welbutrin works for you. I know many people who have been greatly helped by it.


Re: depression and antibiotics

Posted by katekite on August 2, 2002, at 12:43:09

In reply to Re: depression and antibiotics, posted by marushkah on August 2, 2002, at 8:10:48

Cephalexin and Macrobid are effective against almost all gram negative and gram positive bacteria. They are pretty wide spectrum. Certainly staph and strep are on the list but there are an awful lot of other bugs too.

Do you have acne at all? A doctor might prescribe tetracycline long term for that. Or if you have recurrent urinary infections a doctor might consider long term lo dose preventative therapy.

In this day and age of antibiotic resistance docs are understandably shy of prescribing based on a subjective sense of improved well being, but I would think it likely you could find a naturopath type doc who would consider it.

There are other things like intestinal bacterial imbalances that could affect how you absorb vitamins and nutrients -- do you have any IBD type symptoms or other non-GI physical symptoms that change when you take the antibiotics?



Re: depression and antibiotics

Posted by marushkah on August 3, 2002, at 12:18:26

In reply to Re: depression and antibiotics, posted by katekite on August 2, 2002, at 12:43:09

Kate: Thank you for following up. I have not noticed any intestinal symptoms that change with antibiotic use, though an increase in B-vitamin supplements a few weeks ago led to a noticeable improvement in mood and energy levels. Also, I do not have acne, per se, although I have long had terrible folliculitis on my upper arms and thighs. This improves slowly with antibiotic use, but I have never been on antibiotics long enough to clear it up completely.

I do understand why doctors are hesitant to prescribe antibiotics in large doses, and essentially I agree with that approach, both because of the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and because of the effects the medication can have on the patient's own physiology. It just happens to be a frustrating road block in my case. I am also aware that antibiotics can have a stimulant effect, and that that might lead a lethargic depressive to believe the depression was alleviated. However, the improved mental clarity and overall mood shift are so marked in my case that I still suspect an underlying physical problem that responds to antibiotics. Over the past 20 years I have learned that anti-depressants don't help, but the herbal supplement SAM-e works wonders; that B-vitamins help; but that regardless of significant mood improvement, the all-pervasive fatigue and mental confusion - along with the attendant frustration and immobilization - are only alleviated by antibiotics.

Coincidentally, yesterday I mentioned all this to the doctor treating the urinary infecton (I never had one till about 10 years ago and now get them every year or so). He works at the local walk-in clinic, so he is not someone with whom I previously discussed depression. He turned out to be the FIRST doctor who heard the word "depression" and didn't immediately assume it was all in my head. He has suggested blood tests, although I have had many in the past because I have a hypothyroid condition that is monitored by my regular physician (yes, thyroid treatment was the first improvement in my crushing depression, but it did not "cure" it, just elevated me from the 12th circle of hell to the 10th. All tests of thyroid function now fall well within normal range). If the blood work shows nothing, he suggests x-rays to look for specific infection sites, such as the synuses. I do not know how revealing this would be, but it certainly sounds worth a try.

In the meantime, I am still looking for the information on strep and depression, or anything else that might imply a connection between antibiotics and improved mental function.


Re: depression and antibiotics

Posted by missliz on August 4, 2002, at 1:21:18

In reply to Re: depression and antibiotics, posted by marushkah on August 3, 2002, at 12:18:26

I get the same thing, as does my grandmother. I'll throw you some crumbs, the only ones I have.
Long term anti biotic use without an actual infection will kill you.
The good news- Nardil (an MAOI) is manufactured from antibiotics. It completely changed my life. Loved it. Look into it.
There is new hard research by the medicine guys that connects anxiety and immune system response. They isolated the chemistry involved, and connected anx/depression to cardiac disease and asthma as well as chronic infection like sinusitus. Wait- that may be another article. My medicine doctor is interested in this stuff and confirms what I've read- apparently this isn't really a somitazation thing as a larger understanding of how stress affects health and there's no stress like anxiety disorder. Go to and look around in the archives. You'll have to register, but it's a cool psych web zine to bookmark.
Lastly- I switched pdocs from one who wouldn't treat my anxiety properly (a hack) to a big shot med school psych dept chairman. The new guy is cheaper which I find kind of hilarious, and his attitude is,"Well, what kind of benzos do you like?" I'm actually sick a lot less often now and function so much better with good anxiety control. We got intothe mood stabilizers, too, and that helps the anxiety sick all the time thing.Benzos aren't hard to get, just hard to get from some psychiatrists.
I doubt your missing link is streph throat. Even low grade infections of that nature show intermitent symptoms It's a more complex bit of metabolic chemistry related to the nature of anxiety disorder. When on a macrolide I always felt augmented, or propped up. Considering that we know anx/dep trashes the immune system I bet a lot of people will recognize what you've described.
If you've read any Deepak Chopra (an MD into other forms of medicine as well) he mentions that the same stuff as makes up our brains is spread throughtout our bodies, undermining the old Aristotlean idea that mind and body are completely separate. The two are totally integrated. Add in that what we're told are depressive symptoms are often actually anxiety disorder (many psydocs can't differentiate the two, it's slippery) and you have a nice pile of puzzle peices to mull over.
Hope I helped more than confused

Miss Liz


Re: depression and antibiotics

Posted by marushkah on August 4, 2002, at 8:29:30

In reply to Re: depression and antibiotics, posted by missliz on August 4, 2002, at 1:21:18

Very useful website. Thanks. The problem is so complex, and the interaction between psychology and physiology so little understood. At least now they rocognize a connection and are tracing some of the interactions! One of the keys is a doctor who takes your word for how you feel and what helps. They can be hard to locate, but are worth the effort.

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