Detox Reaction vs. Allergic Reaction or Intolerance – Which one is it?

Understandably, it can be really frustrating to start eating better and still not feel your best. You might feel confused, discouraged or even angry that you are trying so hard and not seeing the results you want.

What happens if you start a new cleanse, supplement or detox product and find yourself feeling worse? Doesn’t feeling bad mean that you are having a detox reaction and you should “suffer through it?” And doesn’t foggy brain, fatigue, sugar cravings and rashes always mean you have candida? Definitely, no, or at the very least, mostly no.

Symptoms of a Detox Reaction vs. Allergic Reaction

Symptoms of a Detox Reaction vs. Allergic Reaction

I’ve been in this field for a long time and I want to share with you one of the biggest mistakes that people are making today in the world of detox and natural health: They are calling everything a detox reaction.

In my opinion, the most “over-diagnosed” and incorrect problem that people get labeled with when they’re eating healthy (especially high raw food or vegan) but still feeling bad is: 1) They have candida or 2) They are still detoxing. I’ll address the candida issue in another post, but I can tell you that in my experience of seeing well over 4,500 clients, 95+% of the time, both of these assessments are false.

Did you ever consider that you might actually just have a food intolerance or sensitivity to a food additive? Believe it or not, this happens much more than you could ever imagine. And, when you take the suspicious food out of your diet, you can feel better in a matter of days. Finally, you can start enjoying some real healthy bliss! Read on to understand the difference between a real detox reaction and a potential allergic reaction or an intolerance to a food or food additive.

What is a Detox Reaction

When your start to do a detox, as old, excess toxins flush out and unwanted bacteria, microbes and viruses die off, you can actually experience a temporary detox or cleansing reaction. Based on the work of Dr. Karl Herxheimer in the late 1800s, this temporary feeling of illness is known as the Herxheimer effect and is actually an intense sign of healing. These reactions can indicate that your body has started to cleanse itself as it quickly tries to catch up on the overload of toxins being released.

Symptoms of a Detox Reaction

  • Mild headaches, nausea, chills, sweating.
  • Fatigue, aching muscles.
  • Mucous, body odor, rashes.
  • Dizziness, weakness or even foggy brain.

Typical Length of a Detox Reaction

A detox reaction will last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. If you are experiencing a real “healing crisis,” normally that will last from 1 to 3 days total. Usually after the detox reaction, you feel amazingly better, and you will not have that symptom again. For example, you could feel chills or nausea or intense exhaustion, then a few hours later (or after an enema), feel totally energized.

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What is an Allergic Reaction or Intolerance

True allergic reactions are much more rare than intolerances but they’re definitely on the rise (thank Monsanto and GMO foods for that). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there’s been a continued rise in allergic diseases in the industrialized world for over 50 years.

An allergic reaction occurs when your body sees a food such as shellfish, peanuts or wheat as a foreign body or allergen, and starts to attack it by creating antibodies and inflammation.

Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction or Intolerance

The symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary from mild to severe. If you are exposed to an allergen for the first time, your symptoms may be mild. These symptoms may get worse if you are repeatedly exposed to the allergen.

According to the Mayo Clinic, The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:

  • Tingling or itching in the mouth.
  • Hives, itching or eczema.
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body.
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing.
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting.

If you have a food additive intolerance, such as an intolerance to Monosodium Glutamate, you can experience:

  • Headaches, chills, fatigue, aching muscles, dizziness.
  • Insomnia, sensitivity to light or sound.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Fatigue (especially the following day).
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.
  • Hives, itching or eczema.
  • Swelling of the lips, eyes, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body.
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion or constricted breathing.

Typical Length of a Food or Food Additive Allergy/Intolerance Reaction:

An intolerance or allergy can last indefinitely, especially if you continue to eat the food or use the product that you are intolerant to. The problem with “intolerances” is that they usually have a delayed reaction time and they don’t give nearly as severe a reaction as an “allergy.” That’s why they can easily go undiagnosed for years. After a reaction, you may feel temporarily better, but if you eat the suspect food again, you will have the exact same symptoms over and over and never find yourself feeling better.

As you can see from looking at the above lists, it can be easy for a novice to label a food allergy or intolerance incorrectly and call it a detox reaction – the symptoms are almost exactly the same! In rare cases when someone is taking too many detox supplements or doing too many detox protocols at once (far infrared sauna, colonics, zapper, parasite cleanse, heavy metal detox etc.), I will recommend to slow down the detox itself and determine the best order and pace of detox for the individual.

In the old days of detox, almost 20 years ago, no one was doing this stuff and the people who were really knew what they were doing. In the world of detox today, there is a TON of misinformation out there. Someone who made 1 green juice or fasted for 3 days is suddenly on every forum as the guru of detox. As with everything, this is a blessing and a curse at the same time. It’s a blessing because more people are getting out there and trying a fast or cleanse for the first time and that is simply awesome. And I no longer get booed out of a room for talking about coffee enemas, lol! But it’s a curse because people are being misled down the wrongs roads.

What kind of foods can you be intolerant to?

You can react to certain fillers in supplements (like malodextrin); chlorella in your green powder blend, Miso soup, seaweed snacks, vegan butters, vegan mayonnaise, and pesticides. I’ve even had clients react to whole foods like tomato paste, sesame seeds or celery. Once we get that food out of the diet, the reaction goes away and then we know for sure that we’re dealing with a classic food intolerance and not a detox reaction. How does it work? I can usually identify which foods you need to remove after 25-30 minutes of Q&A about your symptoms, current diet or recent detox.

For more on how to do a detox at home or how to navigate through your detox symptoms and start feeling great, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!

More on Detox:

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Jennifer Thompson has been working with raw food, juices, smoothies and detox for over two decades to help people heal. Today, she shares her expertise worldwide, offering lectures, workshops, training and one-on-one consultations at various health and detox retreat centers. She provides Iridology Readings & Health Coaching via Skype and Phone to clients and continues to educate, motivate and inspire others on their journey of healing. When she’s not working, you’ll find her hiking in the mountains, power-walking along the sea or globe-trotting to a new and exotic health destination.
20 replies
  1. saj
    saj says:

    Thank you for good information.
    I was raw vegan for 2 months to improve my ecizema and constipation.
    But during this diet my skin problems got worse. Now im suffering ulcers too.
    Also my constipation got worse. Now i have abdominal pain and dairy sensitivity and body tingling.
    Im really confused with my condition.
    Before raw vegan i was a little normal. But now im sick.
    Please help me.

    • Jennifer Thompson
      Jennifer Thompson says:

      Dear Saj,

      Can you please give me some insight into what you were eating during your raw vegan period when your conditions worsened? Thing thing about it is – I can’t know anything or help you in any way if you don’t tell me what you are eating. Give me 3 days of meals that you are eating, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, and any supplements, superfoods or protein powders. Thank you!

      To your health,


  2. Robin
    Robin says:

    My family are on day three of a parasite cleanse. This is the first time any of us have done this (or any type of cleanse). We vary in age, 21-47, and in health issues, Hashimoto’s, RA, heart issues, etc.
    Everything has been going well (a few headaches and some slight dizziness), until today. Again this is day 3 of the cleanse.
    My husband woke up with one side of his face swollen. It’s from his ear to his jaw line…and only the one side. He has no pain.
    He has not changed any food. He is taking the cleanse supplements, a probiotic, multi vitamin, and enzymes.

    Is this “die off”??

    Thank you so much!


    • Audra
      Audra says:

      I woke up with the same condition as your husband one side same area no pain don’t know what it is glad I’m not alone

  3. Yasmine
    Yasmine says:

    Hi I started doing a detox program due to severe anxiety type symptoms. High cortisol, low zinc, iron ect under the guidance of a Naturapath however I started getting strange hypersensetive skin in aeras almost like cold burning. This is still going even though I stopped the detox and was wondering if its a supplement im taking now or its from the detox stirring things up and or possible allergy. I also have gone gluten free.

  4. Kelly Berry
    Kelly Berry says:

    Hi Jennifer! I am hoping you can help answer my allergy vs intolerance dilemma.
    I started taking a 2 step detox from Cleanse Smart.
    The very first day I took one pill of the day time cleanse and by 6pm I had the worst, and first migraine of my life. It made me nauseous and lasted around 4-5 hours.
    I thought nothing of it and continued the detox – but the migraines became constant (3-5 nights a week) and 2 hours into the migraine I was throwing up. I finally stopped taking the detox pills and the migraines continued 3-5x a week for a total of 14 weeks. Today is week 15 and they are starting to become less frequent.
    I am still trying to figure out what is causing them, but more importantly what caused that first one. I seemed to have done something to anger my body and I am beginning to believe it was those detox pills.
    Any thoughts, advice, personal opinions would be much appreciated!

    • Jennifer Thompson
      Jennifer Thompson says:

      Dear Kelly,

      Did you start any other supplements, powders, or add any other new foods to your diet at the start of the detox?
      How many weeks did you do the cleanse and how many weeks after the cleanse did you continue to have migraines?

      My best,


  5. Manuela
    Manuela says:

    Hi Mrs Jennifer.
    I like you block and get straight to the point.For 8 months now I have daily/nightly hives which come and go.There itch,spread and drive me nuts.My Dr.doesnt know what to do and says its lifelong,and I should take everyday a pill :(
    I had pills.I exercise,eat healthy(veggies,fruit,bullets,superfoods,you name it.Tea,water,essential oils…I do it all.
    I drink red vine other then that,I am extremely healthy.
    May question is,could I get these Hives from the healthy foods I eat/drink?Could it be a from premenopause/Hormones?
    Any thought any help?
    Thank you for you time.

    • Jennifer Thompson
      Jennifer Thompson says:

      Dear Manuela,

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve been suffering with a rash. There is no doubt that an itchy rash can make you go crazy. I know because I’ve been there! It’s an awful feeling that takes over your entire train of thought. Having your mind back to not thinking about scratching yourself is even more important than the discomfort of the rash!! It’s even more frustrating when the doctors can’t give you an answer.

      I know you mentioned that you eat healthy food, and that’s great…but unfortunately it doesn’t really tell me very much. If you want my advice or help, we have to get into the ingredients in your food. The reality is that there are a lot of unhealthy food additives in so-called healthy foods, and yep…some of the additives are known to cause itchy rashes.

      Every person I work with is unique in what they are reacting to as there also may be some intolerance present too. You need an experienced person working successfully to heal rashes and not someone who is going to put you on a general diet for the masses. Taking out certain types of food is not enough. That said, you can probably still eat a lot of things that you like, including some occasional wine.

      I really need more detail from you in order to give you specifics on what to do, and more importantly…I need to know that you are serious in wanting to fix this and ready to make some changes. If not, we’re just not the right match to work together. In your case, I recommend the 4-session (2 month health coaching package). Can you see yourself being free from this rash forever in just 2 months? I can!

      To learn more about how I work with clients via Skype and email, please read more info here. I’d be honored to work with you.

      Thank you!

      My best,


    • Carol
      Carol says:

      Dear Manuela,
      Sorry you are suffering from this. I am not an expert but wanted to share what my husband had that sounds similar to your situation. He would get welts first on his upper back and then always behind the knees. They came and went for about 6
      months. I have severe gluten intolerance and so I said try going off gluten. He did and doesn’t have them anymore except when he gets gluten accidentally.

      • Jen Z
        Jen Z says:

        Carol I also get hives (red swollen areas) on my wrist and heat behind my knees etc. Sometimes my ears turn bright red and itch. I am allergic to wheat/gluten as well as Dairy sensitive (at times, not always and depends on what kind) Corn soy Pork. Manuela it is probably definitely in something you are taking or eating. I was a very clean eater when this diagnosis. came up. I still have sprouted grains such as ezekial occasionally and they don’t seem to cause the same reaction as gluten or wheat. I found this sight because I am doing a 3 week reset program and noticed hives right away after taking the supplements. Monday I thought it was soy related with a soup I made to attempt vegan (since it was healthier soy products sometimes I tolerate those) but now it’s wed and my wrist broke out in hives and my head itches after the vitamin. I notice there is maltodetexterin in it. I really can only use things that say free of….. so many things and Non GMO or I tend to react.

        • Jennifer Thompson
          Jennifer Thompson says:

          Dear Jen,

          It’s fairly common to have a skin reaction (rash, hives, itching) to soup if there is “yeast extract” or “flavorings” in the soup stock. Even 100% certified organic and vegan. It’s always best to make your own soup stock from scratch using real onion, real garlic, real celery and real leeks plus himalayan salt. Malodextrin is a high glutamate ingredient and will also cause a reaction in people who are sensitive. This is one of the reasons why I go over supplements with my clients as they can often have low quality fillers or other stuff in them that also mess things up. I often find that it’s these things that are the heart of the problem and not wheat, at least organic non-GMO wheat. You can also be reacting to dairy products that are fed GMO feed (such as GMO corn) and reacting less to dairy where the animals are fed non-GMO foods. I’ve seen that a lot. Sorry you are going through this but it sounds like you are learning fast and on the right track!

          My best,

          To your health,


  6. sarah
    sarah says:

    I was wondering how you helped Brenda with her blistering rash/boils. I had a similar reaction after eating too much cilantro blended into green smoothies. I guess the cilantro did pull heavy metals out of my tissues, but it pulled out so much my body wasn’t able to wash it all out. Two years later I am still dealing with the boils/blisters, whatever they are. Do you think taking charcoal powder in the mornings would help??

    • Jennifer Thompson
      Jennifer Thompson says:

      Dear Sarah,

      Having blisters or boils for TWO YEARS is not happening from too many cilantro smoothies. Certainly t’s possible (although not likely) that excess cilantro could have triggered some stress to your body in terms of pushing out toxins BUT there is more to this story than that. Taking charcoal powder at this point is only a bandaid. It will not fix this.

      After 2 years of suffering I am sure you are ready and committed to get to the bottom of this!

      I work with MANY people exactly like you who have detoxed themselves into a corner and don’t know how to get out! It’s ok! I can help. But you need to be ready to do this. A quick comment Q&A is not the way to solve this. We need to crack into this in a serious way in order to fix you and get you back to an excellent state of health. AND we have to talk about what you EAT…since that is the key.

      Contact me directly by email and let’s book you for an Iridology consultation by Skype.

      Don’t waste more time. 2 years is long enough to suffer and I’m sure you want your life back!!

      My best,


  7. Louise
    Louise says:

    Hi Jennifer thanks for your information on detoxing and allergies, I found it helpful. I started taking chlorella, initially fine and 2 weeks later had severe vomiting, like nothing I had experienced before. I stopped the chlorella and was fine. Then I tried again 2 weeks later and vomited badly again. So I will not take chlorella again. Thank you Louise S.

    • Jennifer Thompson
      Jennifer Thompson says:

      Hi Louise,

      I’m really glad you decided to stop taking the chlorella and not push yourself through a “so-called” detox reaction. Clearly your body just doesn’t tolerate chlorella, and that’s ok!!

      Keep up the good work and wishing you the best in health,


  8. Ognjen
    Ognjen says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for the work you do.I myself have made it my mission to make all the Sheeple out there aware of the dangers of toxic food. I was sick fat and dying before I stated to educate myself on how to be well. I am happy to say that my family & myself are doing great now. Human Beings living life; instead of Sheeple letting life live us. Health, Happiness & Much Love

  9. Brenda
    Brenda says:


    I can’t tell if I’m having a severe healing crisis/detox or if it’s an allergic reaction to something. I do not have any real food allergies that I know of.

    My symptoms: I got the flu like symptoms, etc which I just got over – they did last about 3 days or so… I felt genuinely sick except there was no fever. I also developed a rash right before I got “sick” and it has now blistered (pretty unsightly). I also have swollen groin lymph nodes. The rash is in several places on my right thigh and buttock. The blisters tingle from time to time.

    I had not intended to actually detox. I started taking msm at 1 x 1000mg pill per day for hair nails skin etc. I also started a new daily multi vitamin that day which it turns out had msm in it as well. Also I started doing wheatgrass the next day and eating lots of cilantro (because I heard cilantro was good at pulling metals).
    Well, about two weeks after this I started doing 1 x 1000mg two times a day for a few days until I started getting symptoms.

    Anyhow, when I was younger I did unfortunately fall into the wrong crowd and so I have done several street drugs and a lot of alcohol. I also just quit coffee of which I was not a heavy user.

    I have stopped everything except I still take the daily multi vitamin with the 150mg of msm in it. When I realized Msm does a detox I increased my water intake.

    Please – any kind of info or insight would be helpful. These blisters are super annoying and at times painful not to mention unsightly.


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