Detoxification is the natural process of removing toxins from the body. While detoxification is beneficial to our health, it is not uncommon for someone undergoing the process of detoxification to feel ill or even to develop flu-like symptoms such as sweating, fatigue, headache, nausea, chills body aches, sore throat, joint and muscle pain, or other symptoms. This detoxification reaction is known as the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, or simply the Herx Reaction for short.
What Is a Herx Reaction?
A Herx reaction is a short-term (typically from a few days to a few weeks) detoxification reaction in the body. The reaction was first described in 1895 by Adolf Jarisch, an Austrian dermatologist, and later in 1902 by Karl Herxheimer, a German dermatologist. Both doctors documented a pattern of an increase in symptoms shortly after their syphilis patients started treatment.
This type of detoxification reaction is also sometimes referred to as a die-off reaction, as it commonly occurs when certain toxic organisms are killed during a cleanse, such as parasites, candida, or bad bacteria.
Research on die-off reactions states that “in a die-off reaction, there is a release of toxins, proteins, and oxidizing agents that results in an increase in inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-6, and interleukin-8.”
What Causes a Herx Reaction?
A Herx reaction is the body’s natural response to the process of detoxification. It is especially triggered by intense forms of detoxification, and those who follow more intensive detox cleanses are likely to experience worse symptoms than those who take a gentler approach.
Following cleanses like a parasite detox cleanse, candida cleanse, heavy metal cleanse, colon cleanse, fasting, etc. may trigger the reaction, but it is important to understand that a Herx reaction is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a positive sign that your body is in fact detoxing. Howver, if the detoxification symptoms are too intense or causing severe discomfort, it is advised to slow down the rate of detoxification by cutting back on the cleansing methods that are triggering the reaction.
For example, if one is doing a parasite cleanse, and taking too high of doses of a parasite detox supplement, they may experience more symptoms as a result of their intense detoxification. To reduce the uncomfortable symptoms, one needs to slow the rate of detoxification. This could be accomplished by reducing the dose of the parasite detox supplement, alternating days, or taking a short break to let the body heal and reduce the symptoms naturally before resuming the cleanse.
To understand the Herx reaction, one needs to understand detoxification. As mentioned earlier, detoxification is the natural process of removing toxins from the body. Toxins may enter the body from a number of sources—including the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the utensils we cook and eat with, the personal care products we use, and so on. When toxins accumulate in the body, it creates what is known as a toxic load.
Toxic load refers to the accumulation of toxins and chemicals in our bodies that we ingest from a variety of sources. Each person has a different toxic load based on the amount of toxins accumulated in their body. The goal of detoxification is to eliminate toxins from the body and to reduce our toxic load, improving our health in the process.
The body has innate detoxification organs and systems that are constantly removing toxins in the body. The primary organs and systems of detoxification include the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, and digestive system.
Detoxification is mainly carried out by the liver, as everything that we consume is first filtered through the liver. The liver performs over 500 tasks, with the neutralization and detoxification of toxic substances being one of its primary roles. The liver can, however, be overburdened with toxins and its functioning can become impaired. This can reduce its ability to neutralize toxic substances and can cause toxins to accumulate in the body.
A Herx reaction typically occurs when too many toxic substances are released into the body at once. It is more than just the liver being overwhelmed. It is when the whole detoxification system (lymphatic system, digestive system, liver, kidneys, etc.) is inflamed from these toxic byproducts and is unable to clear them from the system fast enough.
Essentially, a Herx reaction is your body signaling that it is overwhelmed by the amount of toxins in the body. A minor Herx reaction is natural, and the body’s inflammatory response to this reaction will help it heal and resolve the issue in its own time. However, if you experience a Herx reaction, especially an intensely uncomfortable one, it is recommended to slow down your treatment and reduce your dosage of the supplements you are taking.
Supporting the Body’s Natural Detoxification
One of the major ways to detoxify the body is to support the natural detox systems of the body. Enhancing liver and kidney function, supporting lymphatic drainage, and enhancing digestion and elimination are important ways to help the body reduce its toxic load.
The primary methods of detoxing include drinking plenty of water to flush the system, eating nutrient rich foods to support the health and function of the body, avoiding toxic substances and junk foods that hinder the healing process, getting plenty of rest to allow the body to recover, incorporating exercise and physical movement to improve circulation and respiration, and supplementing with herbs and other natural medicines that help the body detox.
This last method—supplementing with anthelmintic herbs and anti-fungal herbs —is the most likely method that will lead to a Herx reaction. A Herx reaction can occur simply through making a radical change in diet and lifestyle, but herbs and medicinal substances contain active compounds that can more likely trigger rapid detoxification and lead to a Herx reaction.
With most forms of detoxification, it is recommended to support the body by detoxing gently, rather than forcing the body to detox too much at once, as this can be harmful. This is accomplished by following cleansing protocols as advised, never exceeding the recommended doses of herbs or supplements, and reducing the quantity of herbs or supplements if you begin to experience too intense of a detox reaction.
Again, it is important to keep in mind that experiencing minor reactions is normal and nothing to worry about. A Herx reaction is a sign of healing, but if the reaction becomes too intense or uncomfortable, it is a good sign to slow down on your detox cleanse.
What Foods Help the Body Detox?
The body is always seeking to maintain homeostasis, and so it is constantly regenerating and healing. The best thing we can do to support the body’s detoxification is to first and foremost stop consuming toxic substances through food, beverage, personal care items, environment and any other means. When we take a break from consuming toxic substances, the body has a chance to process its current toxic load and to heal itself. This natural detoxification process can be supported further with a nutritious diet, and with certain foods and supplements.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in our gut, and they are quite effective at killing off harmful microogranisms such as Clostridioides difficile (commonly known as C. diff), Eschericia coli (aka E. coli), Candida albicans (typically referred to as Candida). Supplementing with probiotics may greatly support the body’s natural detoxification.
One of the major types of toxins that affect the body are heavy metals. Fulvic acid is a natural supplement extracted from composted organic matter, and it is great at helping the body get rid of heavy metals as it has powerful chelating properties, which means that it can actually bind to the heavy metals and then eliminate them from the body.
Like fulvic acid, cilantro is also a powerful chelator that can help the body detoxify heavy metals.
Apples support detoxification in numerous ways. Apples carry pectin and malic acid that help remove toxins and carcinogens. The polyphenols present in apples keep serum and lipid levels of the under control. Apples also have anti-inflammatory properties that protect you against fatty liver.
The liver has different phases of detoxification commonly referred to as Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification. Beets contain a group of phytonutrients called betalains that support detoxification through an important phase 2 detox step in the liver. When your liver is able to detoxify chemicals and toxins more effectively, then your body is better able to balance hormones, cholesterol and energy levels
Eating more fiber will help to remove toxins from the body rather than keeping toxins stuck in the digestive tract. Most forms of detoxification cleanses encourage consuming a high fiber diet to support elimination.
Of course, there are many other foods that support detoxification. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and healthy fats will supply the body with the nutrition that it needs, and will offer great benefit to the detox process.
How to Help a Herx Reaction
If you are undergoing a detox cleanse and are experiencing a Herx reaction, there are several things that can help to reduce the symptoms of the reaction. The first one is, of course, to cut back on the substance or method that is causing the rapid detoxification and to be a bit gentler in your approach. That being said, some other ways you can help a Herx reaction include:
- Drinking a lot of water
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Taking Epsom salt baths
- Consume Prebiotic Foods
- Ozone therapy
- Supplement with a Liver Detox tonic to support liver function
- Supplementing with Liposomal Vitamin C
- Supplementing with colloidal silver
- Eating a nutrient-dense diet
A Herx reaction is a short-term reaction in the body that happens as a response to detoxification. People experiencing this type of detox reaction may experience symptoms like sweating, fatigue, headache, nausea, chills body aches, sore throat, joint and muscle pain, or other symptoms. Though these may typically be thought of as negative things associated with illness, in the case of detoxification, these symptoms are actually positive signs of healing.
The Herx reaction was first described in 1895 by Adolf Jarisch, an Austrian dermatologist, and later in 1902 by Karl Herxheimer, a German dermatologist. This type of detoxification reaction is sometimes referred to as a die-off reaction, as it commonly occurs when certain toxic organisms are killed during a cleanse, such as parasites, candida, or bad bacteria.
A Herx reaction is the body’s natural response to the process of detoxification, and it is especially triggered by intense forms of detoxification, and those who follow more intensive detox cleanses are likely to experience worse symptoms than those who take a gentler approach.
You can reduce the symptoms of a Herx reaction by reducing the substance or method that is causing the detoxification and to be a bit gentler in your approach, as well as by following certain tips such as drinking a lot of water, consuming prebiotic foods, getting plenty of sleep, taking an Epsom salt bath, doing Ozone therapy, supplementing with Liposomal Vitamin C or colloidal silver, and eating a nutrient-dense diet.