Updated: Mar 14, 2019
This means.....it’s working!
Patients upon commencing treatment often contact me to say they feel worse and think that means that the treatment isn’t working or that the severity of their condition has increased due to the treatment.
In reality, it’s quite the opposite. This response usually means that the treatment is actually working effectively.
Its called the Herxheimer response or the "die off" phase.
Why do you feel worse before you feel better when commencing your detox or treatment?
It is important for patients to realise that this is a temporary increase in symptom intensity due to a greater release of toxins – the body is actually ridding itself of the toxicity and or an overgrowth of bacteria is being killed thus releasing toxins as a result.
By being patient (pun intended!) these symptoms pass and the condition ultimately improves as the body responds to the treatment.
This is called the Herxheimer response - also referred to as a “healing crisis”.
Common symptoms that develop or worsen include:
· Brain Fog
· Cold Sweats
· Joint Pain
· Muscle Pain
· Skin Irritation
· Sore Throat
How long does it last?
In my clinical experience, the Herxheimer response generally lasts from a couple of day up to 2 weeks. During this time, I encourage my patients to continue their treatment protocol making sure that they are adhering to both the dietary recommendation as well as the prescription they have been given.
How do I reduce the impact of Herxheimer reactions?
1. Drink plenty of fluids – distilled water, filtered water and herbal teas. Maintaining hydration supports both the liver and kidney function so therefore ultimately supports the natural detoxification processes of the body.
2. Limit Exposure to Toxins – your environmental toxin exposure can contribute to the intensity of Herxheimer symptoms. See the quick checklist as a prelude to my Detox Your Life program to get you started. This is the Preparation Phase of the Detox Your Life Program.
3. Sleep – the body’s restorative processes are predominantly accomplished when at rest and/or sleeping so allowing more time for quality sleep can assist the detox processes of your body.
4. Probiotics – ONLY those prescribed by your health care practitioner as this is not a one size fits all. If you have had a stool test and have been identified as having a bacterial overgrowth, taking the wrong strains of probiotics could aggravate and not help your symptoms or your health condition!
5. Breathe – alternate nostril breathing can help your nervous system. With your dominant hand, hover your thumb and ring finger over your nostrils. Close your eyes to eliminate distractions and to draw your attention inward. Take a deep inhale and exhale through both nostrils. Cover your left nostril and take a deep breath in through your right nostril. Cover the right nostril, release your left nostril, and then exhale through the left nostril. Inhale through your left nostril, then cover your left nostril and release your right and exhale through your right nostril. Continue this pattern for about 5–10 minutes.
6. Focus – remember why you’re on this journey and remember that this is part of your healing journey. Write down a message/journal/post-it note to yourself as to how you want to feel. Come back to it every day.
7. Refer back to YOUR dietary protocol – this is the nutrition plan that you have been recommended by your practitioner. Do not adopt a diet that someone in your circle of friends and family have heard bout.
It is not uncommon for some patients to consider pharmaceutical intervention, but I would argue that whilst this may seem to be a quick and reliable solution, their health may suffer more in the long term.
It’s an interesting approach though because as I say to my patents who are feeling so lousy and think their treatment isn’t working, they are likely to feel just as lousy by taking anti-biotics therapy and other pharmaceutical medicine.
Why don't I just take anti-biotics?
Anti-biotics are not always the answer.
It is widely recognised that the over prescribing of antibiotic therapy has resulted in widespread resistance and has a long-term impact on the gut microbiome. Sometimes restoring gut health can take up to 12 months following one course of antibiotics.
I also stress that no course of treatment will produce a guaranteed outcome, but one will have less systemic and ongoing negative consequences than the other. One supports the healing properties of the body and minimises adverse side effects, the other suppresses the system and can result in either new symptoms or repeat episodes of illness. I know which path I would rather take.
Once patients are aware of this phenomenon and stick with their treatment protocol, they notice a swift shift towards feeling so much better within a week or 2. The beauty of natural medicine is that we can also modify, adjust and individualise treatment along the way to help overcome both symptoms whilst addressing the underlying cause.
What do I do if I don't feel better soon?
So, if you have started a detox or treatment plan, and you’re suffering, please go back to your prescribing practitioner.
This is for information purposes and it not intended to be used as medical advice.