Mary Beth Writes

Who doesn't take selfies in an ER?  This was back in August.


Like said before, I spent too much of my summer feeling less than tiptop. In July I took an antibiotic to treat an infection and then got c diff that wouldn’t go away so I was prescribed more antibiotics. I’ve no doubt those doctors and medicines saved my health and possibly my life. At the same time, it took me 10 weeks to recover.

I’m better. I've felt good for almost a month.

Here are things I wish I’d known before this started. 

1. When they give you a new Rx, don’t just read the info sheet that comes with the medicine. That info is mostly there to protect the pharma guys from lawsuits, not to explain things that COULD and often do happen. They list about 30 basic yucky and/or deadly possibilities, too many to really log into any of them.

If the Rx is new to you, Google it. Put in your sex, age, and the name of the drug. See what pops up. Go ahead, tell your doctor ahead of time you are going to do this, they might discuss common issues so you have a better idea of what to look for. My antibiotic in July is famously associated with c diff in older people. The blood thinner prescribed by Len’s cardiologist is even more famously associated with the permanent eye damage he now has. 

2. If you take an antibiotic, also take probiotics (Culturelle was mentioned by two medical people). Take them hours away from the antibiotic because antibiotics kill the good stuff in probiotics and yogurt and all the other things we think will protect our innards. When I shifted to taking the probiotic when I awoke in the night, that helped. Who knew?

3. If your digestive system has gone to hell in a handbasket after antibiotics or other new Rx's and no medical professional can pinpoint what’s going on - consider your diet. You don’t have the same digestive system you did before these follies started so don’t assume nothing has changed in what you can and can’t eat.

After months of craziness, plus a helpful and reassuring appointment with a doctor who ordered tests to make sure all my numbers were regular (they were), I came home and googled “digestive upset after antibiotics.” Whoa! Many folks described new and surprising gluten sensitivity. What’s so obvious now is that the sicker and more tired I felt, the more I was eating cereal, toast, and baked treats. When I cut wheat products, especially wheat flour baked with sugar – within 24 hours I was better. Becoming gluten sensitive or developing other new food issues, is not illogical after multiple rounds of antibiotics. I didn't heal overnight, but it made a difference and over time, I'm almost back to normal. 

Obviously, I was going to doctors (mine plus I saw others when she wasn’t available). I wasn’t self-diagnosing. There’s a line to walk here. Medical caregivers are professionals but our American medical system is aimed towards profit. Medical people know and recommend accepted protocols; but they aren’t going to sit with you in the middle of the night, scared about what's going on. 

I recomment Fiber Fueled, by gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz. (Thanks Pat, for the suggestion from your daughter.)  He’s not telling you to cut stuff from your diet (unless one has diagnosed allergies, obviously) but to add lots of foods with fiber into what one eats through a day. Eat all the colors, all the grains and beans, all sprinkled with nuts and seeds. Channel your inner baboon. I’m still eating meat, dairy, and some sweets so this is not about what I’m not eating - but that I’m eating twice as many fruits, vegetables, and not-wheat grains as I used to consume.

I’ve not felt this good in a long time. This makes me laugh but it’s true. I just turned 70 ... but, hey, I don’t feel a day over 65.

Next post? We’ve been hiking!


I am so glad that you are feeling better. The Mayo clinic has excellent information on drugs, herbs, supplements --Google is fine but do consider the sources of the information you read online. WebMD is another good source. Align probiotic was recommended by one of my doctors and I have been taking it for several years - it's quite expensive, but good ones mostly are. It does seem that once your gut gets out of whack, it's a real challenge to get it settled back into a healthy place. You may also wish to do some research on candida -- mainstream medicine still refuses to recognize it, but what you said about carbs and sweets is a reason to suspect that it is worth considering. Hope your health continues to improve.
Mary Beth's picture

You are right that those reputable sites have good info about supplements etc. The part for me was realizing that my symptoms after the first round of antibiotics matched c diff. I'd talked via her nurse to my dr about my symptoms but no one suggested c diff - until I googled it myself one awful night and then I went to the ER where they confirmed. Then, after two rounds of the antibiotic for the c diff, no one suggested my ongoing symptoms could be related to dietary changes. After i had an idea of what might be going wrong, those sites were good at describing symptoms and treatments - it was diagnosing that was chasing a goose in a snowstorm.

I am so glad to hear you are feeling better, and for all the information. I have developed a strange, very bitter reaction to coffee myself in the last six months and can no longer drink it. This is an important reminder to both talk to doctors AND do our own research. P.S. just want you to know I am reading your blogs, and recommend Matrix by Lauren Groff if you have not read it yet.
Mary Beth's picture

Ooh, the book sounds great. I will check it out (as soon as I finish the six library book on my bedside table). Losing coffee would make me weep! Thanks for writing and Congrats on your unique way to get Kathleen to California. That wedding ruse ...

There is so much good information and cautionary advice you put down here. I'm so glad things are improving for you, through your own due diligence and investigation.
Mary Beth's picture

You, of all people, would know how complicated and wearying this was!

Hey me too! Lots to tell when I get back. Love
Mary Beth's picture

One of our hike was 5.5 miles and I'm still basking in the glow of my own accomplishment. Ten miles a day? Will you still have knees?

There are doctors out there care very much and that will listen and will go the extra mile to help their patients. Probably lots of them out there, I know some personally. It is good to be aware of your own body, do research and communicate for sure. Glad you are feeling good, hope Len is too.
Mary Beth's picture

Absolutely! I switched doctors after the first ER visit because I liked the fast, kind responsiveness of the young doctor I met there. What's so frustrating is that one can't just call their doctor here. One calls. Leaves a message, A clinic nurse (always a nice person) returns the call, takes a message, relays that info on to the doctor who probably reads the message that evening or the next day. Then she or he likely recommends virtual visit or for one to come in - but it will be with a different wonderful human being. There is so much distance between feeling awful and bring able to talk with a consistent medical care provider. Medicare provides good coverage of this. Pre-Medicare insurance would have charged a large co-pay for each of these appointments. I can't fathom how people with complicated or intertwined illnesses and non-Medicare insurance can get better.

I’m so glad you are feeling better!
Mary Beth's picture

Me, too!

M.B. Like the rest of those who love you, and as part of the 210 year Birthday Trio, all I can say about your return to better health is mazel tov!! I'm not a big fan of doctors, but I have a wonderful one who actually will listen to me... I go in to see him since it would be insane not to... But then again as a 70yr old man who lived without health insurance for nearly all my working adult life until I was 65 and fought to get Medicare (Long Story), I've always been good at making sure my body is well taken care of and maintained... When I go to see him I always make sure to ask questions if I have them... I've had certain conditions that I've been told I could take medications for that would help to alleviate the symptoms... I have lived with both for a long time (Just minor things) and know what I'm dealing with... When I ask about the medications and find out about the side effects, I choose not to take them and continue to use the natural remedies that would do basically the same thing without altering my body's natural state of being... As my body age's I have developed allergic reactions to certain foods/drinks I've always loved... Milk (The Lactose), Wine (Who knows?), Sugar, and now Prime-Rib (Too rich) not that I eat it a lot, but I have indulged at times... I've had to learn the hard way to not put those things into my body, and I've managed to survive without them, there are alternatives to some of them... I know that by doing so I'm listening to what my body needs or wants from me for it to be healthy... I listen and at 70 I'm not on any kind of medication... That according to my doctor is practically unheard of for those of us at this stage of life... continued good health to you both my friends...

I did not know that you were going through this Mary Beth, so glad that you are feeling better. My soon to be daughter-in-law is gluten intolerant and only recently I'm finding out how very serious that condition is. I'm sharing your article with her. Thank-you much, and continue to feel better, my dear friend.
Mary Beth's picture

In my case, the gluten sensitivity is getting better - as long as I mostly eat vegetables and fruits and non-gluten grains etc. But it has been surprising what a difference this change to my diet made as I tried to get through this. As they say, Who knew??

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About My Memorial Day Story


Today my story ‘Memorial Day’ is posted at Substack. Read it here. 

Courage, Big & Little



I’m writing fiction this week. I started a story in December that, along the way, turned into a Memorial Day story. It will be my Substack story this Saturday.

This morning I looked for an old newspaper column to rerun and found this one about a time when one of our kids needed to have four teeth pulled.

Cholesterol Numbers & Squirrels


Years ago I was out to dinner with friends. We were all just entering our 40’s and thus were all beginning to get the fun medical tests about this and that and cholesterol. I said, to a friend next to me, that I’d started eating oatmeal everyday for breakfast and my cholesterol had dropped …..

The room went silent.

Everyone heard “cholesterol dropped” and stopped speaking. Everyone wanted to hear how much it had dropped – which was about 8 points. In our twenties the conversation stopper was gossip about sex. Now the secret sauce was HDL and LDL

Hum & Read


First of all, the Cute and Curious. Apparently we humans can’t worry while we hum - because humming requires too much bandwidth. When we hum, we don’t have enough power left in our head engines to think about other stuff. I don’t know if I believe this is always true but I’m sharing it in case it is.

I read a lot this week. It’s what I do when there is way to much to think about and I don’t know where to start. Read or eat. I haven’t gained any weight so you know it was a heavy reading week.

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Mahsood 

Three Things


Three Things except it’s really more than that.

1. Earlier this year I read these two books by Palestinian writers and I recommend both. If you’ve read good books by Palestinian writers, maybe tell us about them in the comments?

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