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Several months ago I overdosed on Pepto Bismol. I was taking almost 8 ounces per day for a little over a week. I had been taking it for a few weeks before that, but not as much; it gradually became more. The more I took, the more I felt like I needed. I lost a lot of weight without realizing it. I was hospitalized and they gave me an IV drip, but I never mentioned taking the Pepto Bismol; I wasn't aware of the heavy metals the drug contains. When they took me in I was spaced out and very suspicious, I was taking a lot of naps during the day, and occasionally--about once per day, just before I was hospitalized--I would experience several muscle jerks. (I experienced a lot of muscle spasms at the time, due to scoliosis, and this is what I thought they were. The fatigue may have been due to weight loss. I did not experience vomiting or dizziness, however.) The muscle jerks came back every few days, and stopped completely after about two to three weeks. (They only came when I was laying down for sleep, just like my muscle spasms always had.) When I got out I eventually started taking it again, though not too much, and after a little over a week started feeling a little funny. This is when I researched it on the Internet, and found out other people had had similar symptoms from taking Pepto Bismol or aspirin (which also contains sodium salicylate). I know now I was showing the symptoms of bismuth toxicity and myoclonic encephalopathy.
I have not had any Pepto Bismol for at least 8 months. I have learned my lesson about about over-the-counter drugs, and about heavy metals. Since reading up on the subject, I have become interested in the presence of heavy metals in things we ingest.
The only steps I have taken so far have been drinking a lot of water, and drinking a mixture of lemon juice and cayenne each morning.
My questions are: Should I immediately get a physician to test me for heavy metals in my system? Should I get a 7-day detoxification kit and use it? Am I likely to have long-term effects on the organs, especially the brain and nervous system? Or can I count myself lucky? And what are the best things I can do now?
I am interested in herbs and reiki and so on, and I am especially interested in kundalini yoga for detoxification. If there are any certain kundalini yoga practices, particularly if recommended by Yogi Bhajan, I would appreciate hearing of them.
I suggest that you send a letter to both the maker of Pepto Bismol and to the FDA, relating your experience. This letter should contain information about your previous dosing experience with Pepto Bismol (PB) as well as age, and other medical conditions that may make you particularly sensitive. Expect that one or both groups to contact you for additional details. It is VERY important that both the manufacterer and the FDA are aware of your experience. Some times medications are presumed safe because the connection between dosing and adverse effects are not made. Your case exemplifies this problem, as the treating physicians were unaware of your PB exposure.
As you are now aware, bismuth-containing medications were responsible for more than 1,000 cases of neurotoxicity in France. While some believe that this neurotoxicity resulted from chronic intake, the signs of bismuth neurotoxicity are quite similar to acute inorganic metal toxicity produced by mercury or silver. Specifically, these signs include acute onset of confusion with "upper motor neuron" signs (e.g., myoconic jerking). Bismuth neurotoxicity is considered to be "reversible", but the long term sequelae have not really been studied systematically.
The scientific literature suggests that you now have bismuth in many neurons in your brain, and that this bismuth will depart VERY slowly. Moreover, the bismuth is more or less in the same brain regions that accumulate other heavy metals such as mercury, silver and gold. If I were you, I would certainly not take PB again, and I would be careful about ingesting other sources of heavy metals, such as certain fish. The impact, if any, of these heavy metal accumulations is largely unknown.
Ross, J. F., Switzer , R. C. III, Poston, M. R. and Lawhorn, G. T. Distribution of bismuth in the brain after intraperitoneal dosing of bismuth subnitrate in mice: Implications for routes of entry of xenobiotic metals into the brain. Brain Res. 725: 137-154, 1996.
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