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Detox and Die Off The Herxheimer Reaction

By Dr. Eric Berg

Our Educational Content is Not Meant or Intended for Medical Advice or Treatment

Have you ever started antibiotics, taken an herbal remedy, or begun a probiotic regimen only to find yourself feeling worse than you did, to begin with? You may be experiencing the Herxheimer reaction, a reaction that occurs when we kill off microbes with various therapies and treatments. It can be quite miserable, but there are ways to manage it. Read on to discover how to prevent this kind of detox and die-off reaction.

In this article, I will cover:

What is the Herxheimer reaction?

The Herxheimer reaction (officially called the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction) is sometimes referred to as “detox and die off.”

The Herxheimer reaction involves a reaction in the body that can occur when you are killing off microbes via antibiotics, antimicrobial herbs, or other natural remedies and supplements like probiotics. When undergoing these kinds of treatments or therapies, some people will experience an adverse reaction that involves flu-like symptoms, rashes, and more.

Kill bacteria, red no sign over illustration of cartoon microbes on white background.

When the microbes in your body are killed (as is the goal of treatments like antibiotics), certain things are being broken down and released in that process. These breakdown products are released into the body, where your immune system spots them and reacts to them.

This immune reaction is what ultimately causes the symptoms of the Herxheimer reaction.

Herxheimer reaction symptoms

The immune response of the Herxheimer reaction can cause numerous different symptoms. These include:

  • Feeling like you have the flu
  • Achiness
  • Inflammation (in the joints, for example)
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Lung mucus
  • Coughing
  • Swollen glands
  • Headaches
  • Fever
     
Sick woman on couch with flu-like symptoms like fever, aches, fatigue, cold.

Remember, all of these symptoms occur because your own immune system is creating them.

The microbes in your body are being killed off by your treatment, breakdown products are released, and your immune system reacts to those products and causes an inflammatory reaction.

What can cause the herxheimer reaction?

I, myself, have had the Herxheimer reaction. Over the years, I have experimented with many different natural remedies. Several times, I’ve taken a certain treatment or supplement, and I have ended up in bed for weeks due to unpleasant detox and die-off symptoms.

You may be wondering what kinds of things can cause this detox reaction. Can probiotics cause the Herxheimer reaction? Can herbal remedies?

There are many different treatments, therapies, supplements, herbs, and medications that can cause Herxheimer reaction symptoms. Anything that kills off the bacteria in your body can cause this kind of reaction.

For example, you may get a Herxheimer reaction if you take:

  • Medical antibiotics
  • Natural antibiotics
  • A variety of herbal remedies
  • Probiotics
     
close up image of pills spilling out of bottle, supplements, remedies, medications, treatments.

Many people get the Herxheimer reaction when they are undergoing treatment for candida overgrowth, Lyme disease, or other infections. The treatments for these conditions aim to kill the overgrowth of microbes, and the side effects often include the discomfort of the die-off effect.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to treat the Herxheimer reaction and relieve the symptoms.

Herxheimer reaction treatment: how to avoid the symptoms

You can avoid this reaction as long as you follow a few simple tips and lean on natural supplements that support your body through the detox process.

Here’s what I would do myself to avoid this reaction in the future:

1. Go really slowly and test the waters

Going from zero to 100 with supplements is a big mistake. Whenever you start a new treatment regimen, start very slowly and with a very low dose. Gradual increases allow your body time to adjust without detox reactions.

Even if you are starting to take probiotics, I suggest starting with a very small amount (1/2 teaspoon of my liquid probiotic, for example), and then seeing how you feel. Some people respond just fine to new supplements like probiotics, but others will have a major reaction. See how you do with a small amount, and then increase slowly toward a full dose if your body seems to tolerate it well.

2. Cut back or stop therapy

If you are doing herbal remedies and you notice symptoms of the Herxheimer reaction, cut back your dose or stop therapy altogether for the time being. Go back to just 1 drop or ¼ of a capsule, or if you have to, nothing. Your body may need more time to adjust before working back up to a bigger dose.

Keep in mind that I don’t recommend stopping therapy if you are on antibiotics – in that case, you’ll have to work with your physician to determine the best course of action to relieve your symptoms.

Black activated charcoal powder and capsules supplement on white background.

3. Use activated charcoal or bentonite clay

Activated charcoal and bentonite clay both can help to reduce your reaction. They work on the principle of adsorption – meaning that they start attracting the toxin to them. Once they surround the toxin, they can help you to eliminate it from the body.

4. Try molybdenum

Another good remedy for detox reactions is molybdenum. This is a trace mineral that is very effective for the die-off from candida. Give it a try if you are detoxing from candida overgrowth.

5. Supplement with NAC

NAC is a nutritional supplement and a form of the amino acid cysteine. It helps to increase glutathione, which helps your liver counter the free radicals that can build up due to the detox reaction.

From starting slow to trying things like activated charcoal or NAC, you do not want to use herbal detox remedies without these tips and fixes in mind. The same is true for antibiotics or probiotics. Learn more about the importance of these approaches when detoxing here.

What herbal remedies are good detoxifiers?

There is a long list of effective herbal remedies that can help to kill off microbes in the body, and you may need to turn to these remedies when you run into various health conditions and issues.

These are some of the top options, although there are many more:

Remember, even these natural anti-microbial remedies can cause adverse reactions. This is especially true if you take too much too quickly.

If you keep the 5 tips above in mind when doing detoxification with these herbal remedies, then you will likely be able to stay away from uncomfortable die-off symptoms like inflammation, flu-like symptoms, and headache.

I always recommend easing yourself into any new treatment, therapy, or remedy – even if it is all-natural. If all is well, you can work your way up to the full dose slowly with the help of supplements like activated charcoal and molybdenum.

Word “Detox” written in vintage letters on wood background.

The bottom line

When you treat infections like Lyme or candida, you end up killing the microbes in your body. While this is indeed the goal of many therapies, medications, or remedies, it can land you in bed with adverse detox side effects. That is what is referred to as die off or the Herxheimer reaction.

The immune system responds to byproducts from the die-off process, and that leads to symptoms that mimic the flu or cold-like headaches, fever, sore throat, fatigue, and more.

Fortunately, there are many options for preventing this kind of reaction and reducing its effects.

Make sure to keep these tips in mind if you need to take antibiotics or want to try a new natural, herbal remedy to fight microbes:

  1. Go slow and start small.
  2. Cut back or stop therapy if you get reaction symptoms.
  3. Use activated charcoal and bentonite clay.
  4. Try the trace mineral molybdenum.
  5. Support yourself with a NAC supplement.
     

Have you ever experienced detox and die off? What did you do to manage the Herxheimer reaction? Share your comments below.

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