Herxheimer Reaction: Herxing as a severe detox reaction

Date: 09/29/2003    Written by: Jon Barron

The Healing Crisis

On occasion when detoxing, particularly during your first few detoxes, you may experience some symptoms, often referred to as a healing crisis (Herxheimer reaction). It is characterized by a temporary increase in symptoms during the cleansing or detoxification process. Reactions, when they occur, are almost always mild, but on rare occasions can be severe.

There are three primary triggers for a detox reaction.

  1. Any large-scale die-off of bacteria can release a significant amount of toxins present within the actual bacteria. The stronger those toxins are and the more bacteria present to release them, the stronger the cleansing reaction. Colon cleansing, the use of probiotics, digestive enzymes, immune enhancers, and pathogen destroyers can all trigger bacterial die-off.
  2. Any detox that causes the organs of the body (particularly the liver, which is a storehouse of drug and poison residues) to purge their stored poisons and toxins, can trigger a cleansing reaction, as can the use of an herbal blood cleanser.
  3. Any program, such as fasting or the use of weight-loss herbs, that causes a rapid breakdown of fat cells (which are a storehouse for toxins) can be accompanied by a detox reaction.

The bottom line is that the body must go through an elimination process to achieve good health. There will be ups and downs. Symptoms, if they appear, are usually mild, but in some cases can be severe. Understand, the symptoms you experience are indicative of the cleansing, purifying process that is underway. Go as slowly as your body needs to so that your elimination is gradual and comfortable. Also, keep in mind that this is not an endurance contest. If symptoms become too severe, stop the detox and regroup. You can always restart the detox again at a later date.

Easing Your Way through the Healing Crisis

  • Drink plenty of fresh water, juices, and herbal teas to flush the body of toxins.
  • Use a colon stimulation formula to make sure that you are eliminating waste promptly. Symptoms frequently disappear immediately after a good bowel movement.
  • Use psyllium seed husks, ground flaxseed, or oat bran daily to absorb toxins and to help speed their transit through the system.
  • On occasion, a good enema or colon irrigation can provide relief.
  • Sometimes, rest is the best therapy.
  • And, on rare occasions, a reduction of the dosage or temporary cessation may be required.

The follow story comes from an actual letter I received from a competitive cyclist who went through a healing crisis while detoxing. His reactions were on the severe side to be sure, but it's instructive to see how the crisis ended.

The 30 day colon cleanse went without a hitch. I lost 10-15 lbs, maybe more. This is excellent news for a competitive cyclist because weight loss without losing muscle mass is a win-win situation.  

After I was done with the colon cleanse I began the liver/gallbladder detox. The first day I had some cravings for food and that night I dreamed I was at a banquet stuffing my face.  I thought, “Oh no I'm supposed to be fasting,” and then woke up and realized I hadn't broken my fast. I had interesting dreams almost every night of the five days.

The second day I had a headache in the morning and, when I got home around 4PM, the headache still persisted. I tried to make the potassium broth but the smallest tasks seemed monumental, and I lay down in bed and started to burp a little.  I couldn't sleep, the headache got worse and I began to feel as if I was going to be ill.  Eventually, I ran to the toilet and had my first bout of vomiting and “dry heaves.”

The only way I can describe the next hour or so is that it was like how “going cold turkey” from heroin is portrayed in the movies. I had several sessions on my knees, hot and cold sweats, one of the worst headaches of my life and actually had to time my breaths between “puking my guts out.”

The first session was the carrot juice I had consumed or so it looked like. The second time around was what, in retrospect, may have been ancient maraschino cherries or tape worms (?) -- chunks of red, but not blood.

Round three brought up some mucous like substance and some yellowish, bile like fluid.  At this point the “heaves” were so bad that I was getting scared and thinking I might have to stop the detox. The final bout was the worst and brought up yellow bile (?) with red “blood” specks in it, seemingly from the deepest recesses possible (or that I had ever experienced).

Exhausted and not wanting to be too far from the toilet, I sat back in a reclining chair and fell asleep. I woke up in an hour and immediately noticed that my sinuses were clearer than I can ever remember. My headache was gone, and I felt like a million bucks. I called my chiropractor friend and he confirmed that it was probably the effects of toxins being released by my liver into my system and that I may have gotten rid of some bad stuff when I became ill.

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Comments

  •  
    Submitted by Guest on
    April 8, 2012 - 6:06pm

    Why in the world would anyone be rushing to do a liver detox after reading this? I've certainly changed my mind.

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    April 11, 2012 - 3:40pm

    At the Baseline of Health Foundation, we want to give as much information as possible so that you can make “informed” decisions. Some people have no reactions at all.  Others, if they have any toxic build-up in the body, will have more of a reaction such as mild headaches and fatigue. And a few have stronger reactions. Simply put, the more toxins you have, the higher chance of a "healing crisis" reaction.  That does not mean you should not try a detox.  Would you rather keep the toxins inside, slowly poisoning you years after year? Quite simply, people put up with the side-effects that may or may not occur when detoxing because of the end-result benefits. Keep in mind the cyclist’s description of where he ended up after the detox. “I woke up in an hour and immediately noticed that my sinuses were clearer than I can ever remember. My headache was gone, and I felt like a million bucks.” As a result, he became a regular, and dedicated detoxer – and never again experienced a similar reaction.

  •  
    Submitted by Guest on
    May 6, 2012 - 6:25am

    You and me both!! I was considering it until I read this. No thank you!

  •  
    Submitted by Sam on
    May 7, 2012 - 4:33pm

    To the two people who wrote about not wanting to try the detox, what a mistake! There is NO ESCAPE from bad health. You are either going to suffer from the side effects of your bad diet now when you detox, or later from either cancer, heart disease, MS, and on and on. What is worse: years of suffering from chemotherapy or a bad week with a headache on a detox? Don't you people get it? I have a family member going through chemotherapy. He refused to do a detox, now he suffers ENDLESSLY with cancer and other health issues. If only he would have listened. Sure, he tried to eat healthy, but with the toxins today, that was not enough! I tried to warm him. What is nice about this site is they tell you the truth. If a detox was easy, then it means it is not DOING ANYTHING. Also, if you are healthy, you shouldn't have these side effects. My first detox was hard, now it is nothing.

  •  
    Submitted by Guest Judy on
    May 27, 2012 - 9:58pm

    In reading the above comments from those that decidec not to do a detox, is there any way you can detox in increments that would make
    it easier were it to become a rough detox? A little at a time? And by the way, my email IS valid.

  •  
    Submitted by Guest Mom of 3 on
    June 3, 2012 - 7:54pm

    Currently I am on a metal detox, as I am having amalgams removed. I have done several colon and metal detoxes in the past and it is possible to go slower - currently I take 2 capsules instead of 6 for the metal cleanse, more the day and a few after I get fillings changed out. I feel better going slower with it.

    My colon initially was a mess as was I, I fought parasites almost 2 years, but havent seen any for over a year and none out of the last colon cleanse. For years I was Ill and did not know I was gluten intolerant, another reason I was in poor health, dx lyme, chronic epstein, then erlichia, myoclonins (tics) memory problems, anxiety and depression.

    My health has improved greatly besides finding the right medicine, from cleansing and the right supplements. 15 years of medicine alone was not enough, in fact last year I had to stop medicines due to low white blood counts. My memeory is now better and tics have all disappeared with supplementing more vitamins for kryptopyrolouria B 6 B 12 Biotin Niacin Zinc and others. I also supplement some grapefruit seed extract for candida control with probiotics and with juicing, miracle reds and macro greens.

  •  
    Submitted by victoria kula on
    January 24, 2013 - 11:08am

    It might sound strange but I am looking forward to the liver flush. I'm currently almost finished the 30 colon cleanse/metal detox. Once in awhile I will get a detox symptom, but for the most part it has been pretty uneventful. There are plenty of things keeping me from feeling like a million bucks...I hope I can say I get that back!

  •  
    Submitted by nate on
    March 10, 2013 - 10:19am

    I must be crazy, but reading about this person's experience makes me want to do a liver detox!!!

  •  
    Submitted by R M Coles on
    April 7, 2013 - 8:52pm

    Do you recommend cleansing for me? I'm 69 years old, 100 lbs. overweight, diabetic, have hypertension, chemically-induced asthma, have NASH/cirrhosis, scarcoidosis, type 2 diabetes, low thyroid. On meds for diabetes, low thyroid, hypertension. I need your help; what do you recommend?
    Thanks for your help!

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    April 9, 2013 - 1:08pm

    For obvious legal reasons, we cannot diagnose or prescribe for specific medical conditions—merely provide information. With that in mind, many senior citizens with severe medical problems have used the Baseline of Health program to significantly improve their health and dramatically or even completely eliminate their prescription medicines. Check with your doctor to see if he/she will work with you to incorporate elements of the Baseline program into your own life.

  •  
    Submitted by Keri on
    June 2, 2013 - 6:32am

    I went through the colon first and lost a lot of old fecal matter(wow)! To think this cramp is in our body for years. No wonder most people walk around so grumpy:)! I did not have any side effects.
    Than I did the liver gallbladder cleanse. This one wasn't as a walk n the park. I had headaches, sweats, and on my last day I broke out in rashes and felt very faint. All apart of the cleanse.. I recommend doing a few cleanses on the bowel first so that at least your clean there and maybe the process won't be as toxic. So I'm on day 2 of my second bowel cleanse :) best of health to everyone!

  •  
    Submitted by Rose on
    July 17, 2013 - 10:32pm

    Do you have to do the full body cleanse or can you just do one certain cleanse you wish
    .

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    July 18, 2013 - 9:44am

    It depends on what cleanse you are going to do.  You should always do the colon cleanse before the liver detox.  However, the heavy metal detox can be done by itself or as part of the full body cleanse.  Same with the kidney detox.  Make sure to read the section in Jon's book about detoxing.  Just click on "Free Book" above.

  •  
    Submitted by neigh on
    September 11, 2013 - 7:12pm

    i can hardly wait to try..i did do a liver cleanse years ago..w yes..a headache to die for..but when i woke up the next morning i felt soo much better..i cant wait to precleanse w the colon one first..then i will do the other two..i have never cleansed the kidneys..wondering if that will help w lower back "stiffness." cant wait..but i will take it slow and do it right!

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    September 11, 2013 - 8:18pm

    That is the best attitude to have!   As for relieving low back stiffness, it all depends on why you are having low back pain in the first place, but it is possible.

  •  
    Submitted by Keith on
    September 9, 2014 - 8:47am

    I did the three-stage detox about 4 years ago. I've been wanting to do it again, and convinced my wife to do it for the first time. We are in the first 10 days of the colon cleanse and are also doing the blood chelation with metal magic. I personally had some light headedness the first time I did it, but nothing except generally foggy (it just went away yesterday). But my wife had a severe reaction. The night before, she woke up at 3AM and her arm, hand, part of her leg, and lower jaw were numb. She got very nervous thinking it could be a heart attack or stroke. She went to the emergency room. Did an ECG, which was clear. Blood work, fine. They said she was dehydrated, gave her an IV. Wanted to do a cat scan, she refused. Still had the numbness, but thought the fluids would clear it up. She came home, slept for a while, woke up, still numb. She got nervous, went back to the Emergency room. They did an MRI, all clear. Got home, slept the whole night and she feels fine this morning. She's going to give it a day or two, but wants to go back on the detox. By the way, she noticed on the discharge paper work they gave her that it said paresthesia, which one cause is heavy metal poisoning. Very interesting, given that is one of the main uses of the detox is to rid the body of heavy metals.

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    September 9, 2014 - 2:25pm

    Hi Keith,

    We’ve never head of this particular situation before, but it’s not surprising. As Jon makes clear when talking about detoxing, strong reactions may not be common, but they do happen for some people. The scenario, as presented, is quite plausible. If your wife’s body was indeed packed with an abundance of heavy metals, then doing the heavy metal detox would stir them up, and it’s quite possible they could produce some side effects on their way out.

    With that in mind, you might want to have your wife separate the intestinal detox and the heavy metal cleanse. Do the intestinal detox first so that she will know whether or not that contributed to her numbness. If that proves clear, then she can start the metal cleanse again, but this time start slowly and build gradually to allow the heavy metals to clear at a slower pace to minimize the chances of a detox reaction. For example, start with one dropper, three times a day, for a week. Then double it to two droppers, three times a day for the next week. Then three. Then four droppers, three times a day from week three on.

    The good news is that once she gets through the detox with no significant side effects at the end, it means that she has cleared enough so that it is unlikely she will ever have that problem again. Also, if her body was carrying that much heavy metal, then it’s likely her health has been compromised for some time—just at a low enough level that she had come to accept it as normal. Once she clears those metals, she is likely to feel a whole lot better and realize what normal truly is.

  •  
    Submitted by pat kane on
    January 15, 2015 - 6:27pm
    Belast, N.Ireland ,

    No, I am glad you have come clean about the healing crisis, and all the potential reactions. I would respect you more if you give me all the facts, and let me decide for myself. Especially if you have a line of products to sell.

    At least this way, I know you are putting your clients/friends/followers first and profit last, this makes me perceive you as a genuine person, and I thank you for that.

    What scares me more than a healing crisis, is letting all the toxins/parasites/bacteria stay where they are and continue attacking my body on a cellular level. Kind regards...pat

  •  
    Submitted by Yvette on
    February 22, 2015 - 11:36am

    Hi,
    I appreciate the info on this website and will definitely use some of it as I do my own detox. But I have to disagree quite strongly with your take on the healing crisis. I know it's the norm to embrace the healing crisis as a reasonable part of detox, but in my opinion and that of many other healers, a so-called healing crisis is actually a very clear sign from your body that you are detoxing too fast. Sure, you may feel better after you purge, but to get this sick in the first place is more than a normal symptom of die-off - it's a sign that you've released toxins into your body faster than your body can eliminate them. While you may vomit some of them out, your body will also re-absorb some of them, perhaps in ways that make you worse off in the long term. These toxins are stored as safely as our bodies can manage. When we detox, the toxins are circulating again. The goal is to release them gradually so that they eliminate, rather than being reabsorbed. Vomiting and diarrhea is a sign that normal elimination systems are overloaded - it is not a guarantee that the toxins are all being released. I suggest that before embracing any one "program", people do lots of research and study their options. Lower supplement dosages, keep up a balanced diet and even take some days of the week or month off. Please reconsider the healing crisis paradigm, and take it slow.

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    February 24, 2015 - 2:26pm

    Hi Yvette,  I think we are in 100% agreement.  The point of this article is to let people know what can happen--not that it will. Most websites push detox programs and never warn of the reactions that may occur during a detox. We decided to take a more cautious approach and share all the possibilities up front. The article above discusses the most severe reactions, and we find this to be very rare.  But note what Jon says, "Understand, the symptoms you experience are indicative of the cleansing, purifying process that is underway. Go as slowly as your body needs to so that your elimination is gradual and comfortable. Also, keep in mind that this is not an endurance contest. If symptoms become too severe, stop the detox and regroup. You can always restart the detox again at a later date."  We find the most people can make it through Jon's detox program, but some that are very toxic have to take it much slower. It depends on the individual. However, to tell everyone they have to "take it slow" would be wrong too.  Everyone in our office detoxes regularly and we are all at the point where we show no symptoms at all.  Clearly our staff does not need to take it slow (me included!)  When I detox, I want the most intense program available.  Sandy

  •  
    Submitted by Diane on
    March 8, 2015 - 2:18pm
    Dallas , Texas

    I recently went through my first detox and I experienced exactly what the cyclist experienced. What started out as a minor case of bronchitis (there is no minor case of bronchitis), ended up being the worst toxin experience of my life. Whatever that antibiotic was set off a chain reaction I would not wish on my worst enemy. Long story short, I was nauseous for more than two weeks, until my body started talking to me. I began the detox and on day 1, I thought I was going to die...headache, vomiting, no strength at all. But, by the second day, I was feeling much better. I never realized how toxic my body was until I started eating right. Another symptom I had that I don't hear much about is the "shakes." That's the poison talking to you. Start out slow and best wishes!

  •  
    Submitted by handmaid on
    May 23, 2015 - 8:37pm
    Jesup , Georgia

    I already take digestive enzymes 2-3 times a day with main meals, two probiotic pills a day (I purchased mine from the website here), and I eat a smoothie daily that contains 3 T of mixed flax/chia seed, an apple or pear, avacodo, and about 1 cup of mixed pureed veggies (broccoli, power greens by Taylor Farms, butternut squash/carrots) with various fruits also and am regular with 2-3 BMs daily. I have already done a total body cleanse (first cleanse) by Renew Life. So I was wondering wouldn't the colon detoxifier be enough for me or would someone like me still need the colon corrective?

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    May 25, 2015 - 6:34pm

    As Jon Barron, frequently points out, the more you do right, the fewer supplements you need to use. It sounds like the only time you would need to use a colon corrective formula is when you are doing a colon detox and using a detoxifying powder with clay and charcoal, as they tend to be binding.

  •  
    Submitted by Lea on
    February 15, 2016 - 11:33pm
    Bayonne , New Jersey

    I recently began a candida cleanse and just days after I began I developed bronchitis like symptoms. A violent cough and coughing up yellow aND white phlegm. This has now been going on for over two weeks. Should I be concerned? I am contemplating getting a chest x-ray just to make sure that pnuemonia isn't present, however I am not interested in antibiotics as they are the reason I am candida cleansing in the first place! In the beginning I a had a very low-grade fever. Now there is no fever but the cough is very persistent and I am constantly hacking. Any thoughts? Is this common of candida expelling itself from the lungs. Do the die off symptoms last for weeks? Thanks for your input!

  •  
    Submitted by Meree Scholtz on
    May 31, 2016 - 4:03am
    Pretoria ,

    I have started they call the 28 day eating plan. I am on day 2 now and I woke up with the worst headache I have ever experienced and I literally got sick about 3 times during the morning already. I have now noticed that the headache is starting to lighten up and I am starting to feel a bit better. After reading this, I now realize that I obviously had some of the worst detox experiences and although it is really very bad, I must admit that I am glad I am getting rid of all these toxins in my body. I did not realize I had this much toxins taking into consideration how ill I am in the detox process. They say I will still feel some illness and headaches in the next two days, but the worst should be over by end of today. I am more motivated to see the 28 days through and even perhaps go for round 2 & 3 as loosing weight is an obvious bonus to the plan.

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    May 31, 2016 - 2:48pm

    The healing crisis we reference above is when performing Jon Barron's Liver Detox.  We have integrated specials herbs and minerals to make sure you are getting enough potassium and other necessary minerals in your diet.  So, your headache could be due to much more than a healing crisis mentioned.  Just be careful.

  •  
    Submitted by Dawn on
    June 23, 2016 - 7:52pm
    Auburn Hills , Michigan

    I was curious as to your recommendation for thyroid issues. I know I was severely overexposed to fluoride as a child and growing up, which I'm pretty sure is a major factor in my hypothyroidism. How would I go about doing a detox for this kind of issue?

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    June 24, 2016 - 1:34pm

    Most fluoride passes in your urine, but some remains—and yes, especially in the thyroid. That said, nutrients and protocols used to detox fluoride include:

    • Selenium
    • Iodine
    • Boron
    • Tamarind tea
    • Sweating—as in a sauna or from heavy exercise
    • And a good liver detox (see How To Detox) button at top of site
  •  
    Submitted by Runa on
    July 27, 2016 - 1:04pm

    Health is not something you rush unless you are in an extreme state of I'll health! Then all you need to do is make an extreme lifestyle change! Detox programs like this are all crap! The body heals and restores itself naturally given the right conditions!

    1. Eat properly for your body! Healthy Organic Chemical Free foods!

    2. If you're going to be a Vegan you better learn about Complete Sources of Protein!

    3. Always drink plenty of good quality clean water throughout the day!

    4. Get good sleep daily!

    If you make a severe lifestyle change your body will naturally detox in time the way it's meant to be done!

    Detoxification taking all this crap companies try to sell you is only if you have a very serious health problem like cancer as example!

    Remember if you're not dying you don't need this crap, what you need is a lifestyle change!

    The body does heal and detoxify itself but you can't rush the bodies own natural healing if you want true health!

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    July 28, 2016 - 3:03pm

    Although we would absolutely agree with your recommendation to live a healthy lifestyle, we would have to challenge pretty much everything else.

    • If you think that simply eating properly protects you from toxins, then you haven’t read the Toxic Nation report from Canada. As it turns out, it doesn’t matter how organic one’s diet is or how far you live from centers of pollution, if you are alive today, your body is packed with toxins.
    • If you think your body naturally rids itself of all toxins, you might want to let everyone in Flint know that they have nothing to worry about. Wth a good diet, some sleep, and clean water of course, the lead will naturally be cleansed from their bodies…or not. In fact, there is a reason doctors use chelation to remove heavy metals from the body: they form an electrical bond with your tissues and don’t clear out on their own. As for the tens of thousands of non-heavy-metal, organic toxins released into the environment by industry, they embed themselves inside fat cells and likewise do not clear the body without intervention.
    • If you think that detoxification protocols don’t work, then you are unaware of the recent studies which have confirmed the validity of intelligent autolysis.
    • And if you’re worried about the costs of detoxing, most legitimate detox programs are not that expensive as anything you buy is primarily designed to support detox protocols such as fasting and the consumption of specific detox foods such as the olive oil/citrus drink for cleaning out the liver and gallbladder. And fasting and olive oil are not very expensive.

    Look, does detoxing cure every disease? Of course not. Are all detox programs legitimate? Again, of course not. 

    But is detoxing “crap”? Well, you might want to ask the millions of people (yes, we’re talking millions of people worldwide and over the years) who have followed real detox programs to rid themselves of long-term illness that no medical procedure or dietary change had been able to help with. They would emphatically disagree with you. And if you’re looking for concrete, empirical, visible proof that at least some detox protocols work, you might want to talk to Chuck F. in Wisconsin who wrote to tell us that he went on the kidney flush protocol immediately after having been diagnosed with a large kidney stone—visibly verified in a scan. It took him one week to finish the detox, which he did just before going in for his scheduled lithotripsy. Upon arriving for his surgery, however, the medical team ran another scan to pinpoint the location of the stone—only to have it now show up as a dissolved smear. The procedure was cancelled. Just a guess, but we would tend to think that Chuck would disagree with you.

    Again, you are correct: diet, sleep, and clean water are essential to good health. But your assertion that detoxing is “crap” (all puns aside), doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

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