What is ‘Die Off’, A Healing Crisis or Herxheimer Reaction?

Have you ever started a new treatment plan for your health, only to find that you begin to feel worse? You could be experiencing a Healing Crisis. 

This is a common occurrence and it is not the time to throw in the towel and stop what you are doing but it is the time to get on the phone and call your naturopath or health practitioner and get some reassurance about your symptoms.

As a naturopath, I quietly rub my hands together with glee when my clients contact me with symptoms of ‘die off’ as it usually means we have hit the bulls eye and are on the right track back to health, albeit with what feels like a temporary detour.

This doesn’t happen to everyone but many clients I have worked with over the years on gut healing protocols have experienced some uncomfortable symptoms in the beginning of treatment so it is important to be prepared.

Common Symptoms of die-off include

  • Headaches
  • Rashes
  • Gastrointestinal distress such as nausea, wind, bloating, diarrhea or constipation.
  • Flu like symptoms like low grade fever, headache and muscle pain
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Unusual cravings
  • Joint stiffness
  • Hyperactivity, tantrums and difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability, brain fog and low mood

‘Die off’ is an indication that bacteria are dying in large numbers, and also an indicator of the body’s toxic overload.

Strategies to minimize discomfort & shorten duration of die-off reactions

There are a number of actions you can take to get through this tricky period of treatment and speed things up so your body can get to the healing stage.

  • Consume activated charcoal (away from all other medications and supplements) to help absorb the ‘die off’ gases and create some ease in the digestive tract. Charcoal also neutralizes toxins.
  • Use pancreatic enzymes with meals to improve the digestion and absorption of foods and limit putrefactive short chain fatty acids.
  • Drink plenty of water, being properly hydrated helps absolutely everything.
  • Get your sleep. You will be amazed how much energy it takes to rectify the balance of gut bacteria. Feeling extra tired at this time is an indication to take more sleep.
  • Alkalinise (see this blog for further information). Taking agents that help to restore the pH balance when you are experiencing ‘die off’ symptoms will help to buffer the toxins. Apple cider vinegar in water or a small dose (1/4 tsp) bi carb soda in water but make sure its aluminium free.
  • Provide extra antioxidants to quench the damaging oxidative reactions created by the toxins. Reach for a rainbow of coloured vegetables and fruits.
  • Sauna & baths to enhance detoxification. If you have access to far infa red sauna, begin slowly (15 minutes per session) scrub all skin surfaces with a natural bristle brush and shower immediately afterwards. Another helpful detox regimen is an Epsom salt bath. Use 3-4 cups in a hot bath and soak for 20min.

Most importantly do not allow yourself to become stressed about these new symptoms as they will pass. Take it as a positive sign that things are moving, your body is responding and fighting the toxins. If you are unsure if you’re experiencing new symptoms or a healing crisis please get in touch so that your mind can be put at ease or the treatment adjusted as necessary.