What are the symptoms of a Herxheimer (Detox) Reaction?
When your start to do a detox, juice fast or cleanse, you might expect to start feeling better right away. However, sometimes the exact opposite happens. As old, excess toxins flush out and unwanted bacteria, microbes and viruses die off, you can actually experience a temporary detox or cleansing reaction. You may suffer from mild headaches, nausea, chills, sweating, fatigue, aching muscles, mucous, body odor, rashes, dizziness, weakness or even foggy brain for a few hours or in some cases, a few days. 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.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only.
It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
In his book The Healing Crisis, Dr. Bruce Fife explains that the removal of disease-causing agents is the catalyst for both cleansing reactions and healing crises. He notes that, “most any harmless method that strengthens the body’s natural healing processes can induce a healing crisis. This could involve switching to better quality foods, taking homeopathic medicines, cleansing the colon, fasting, juicing, using healing herbs, massage therapy, acupuncture, reflexology, vitamin therapy, exercise, etc.”
Dr. Fife states that when you enter a cleansing process, “often chronic conditions from which you are suffering will temporarily get worse. If you suffer from arthritis, joint pain may increase. If you are troubled with chronic migraines, you may have terrible headaches. A psoriasis problem may run wild. Hemorrhoids may flair up. PMS may intensify. Allergies may get worse. Asthmatics may experience breathing difficulties. Blood pressure may increase. Any number of other symptoms may surface during this time that may appear unrelated to existing health conditions. Sometimes these conditions improve after the crisis. Sometimes it takes several crises to cleanse the offending toxins from the body and stimulate healing. At times, health problems can improve immediately after a crisis, and at other times, they improve gradually.”
A cleansing reaction occurs any time your body is releasing toxins faster than it can eliminate them. For example, you may stir up an old piece of undigested food that was stuck in the colon, temporarily releasing bacteria and toxins into the bloodstream as the liver works to filter out the excess build-up. A cleansing reaction is usually a sign that the liver is a bit sluggish and not fully doing its job. This is also a sign that your body most likely needs regular cleansing every year and a long term change of diet to strengthen its immune system.
If you experience a cleansing reaction, you can try to help speed up the elimination of toxins by:
1. Having a colonic to help flush the colon
2. Doing an enema at home using distilled water (or an organic coffee enema)
3. Taking extra minerals – either liquid minerals, green juice, wheatgrass or green smoothie (depending what type of detox you’re doing)
4. Drinking more (distilled) water to help flush the kidneys
5. Practicing dry skin brushing to help the lymphatic system
6. Taking a restorative detox bath
7. Using a steam or far infrared sauna to sweat toxins out directly through the skin
8. Trying the detox onion socks overnight
9. Taking extra Vitamin C for added antioxidants
10. Applying a castor oil pack to the liver for 40-60 minutes
Usually a cleansing reaction will last a few hours at the most. I do not advise anyone to “tough it out” or suffer through the cleansing process. Consulting with a detox expert (like myself!) can help you make the best and safest detox plan so you don’t put added stress on your elimination organs – your liver, skin, kidneys, colon and lungs.
Having an actual healing crisis is more rare than a cleansing reaction. A true healing crisis occurs when the body has been getting stronger and cleaner and is a true sign of progress. A healing crisis may mimic any disease or condition you have had in the past, but it’s abbreviated, typically lasting from a few hours to a few days.
In the book The Healing Crisis, Dr. Fife offers simple suggestions on how to listen to your body during a healing crisis. “The symptoms you develop during a crisis will guide you as to what to do. If you are tired – rest. If you are thirsty – drink. If you have a fever, your body is trying to build up heat; keep yourself warm and let the heat run its course. For aching muscles, a warm bath might help. Pain in the lower back is often caused by the kidneys crying for water, rather than the result of being sore back muscles. Drink more water. If you have diarrhea or are vomiting, the body is trying to empty itself, so don’t try to eat. You will lose fluids, so you should try to drink water to keep from being dehydrated. Drinking a lot of water during a crisis is usually a good practice because water (especially distilled water) will help to dilute the toxins in the bloodstream and aid their removal.”
When you are going through a healing crisis, it definitely helps to have the guidance and support of a detox expert. The key is to remain calm, focus your mind on healing, and support your body back to health, slowly.
Hering’s Law of Cure
When you’re experiencing a healing crisis, remember the homeopathic law of cure, also known as Hering’s Law of Cure:
Healing occurs from:
1. The inside-out (meaning the from the internal organs first, then to the joints and skin),
2. From the head down (the body clear symptoms in the head first, then to the trunk, hips and toes), and
3. In the reverse order as the symptoms have appeared (your most recent ailments are cleared first).
This is the process the body goes through when returning to a healthy state, naturally of course.
For more on how to start a raw food diet, how to do a detox at home or what minerals you may specifically be deficient in, book a private health consult with me via Skype.
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More on Detox Reactions:
Detox Reaction vs. Allergic Reaction or Intolerance – Which one is it?
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