The Healing Crisis: Detox Symptoms

Herxheimer Reaction / Healing Crisis: Potentially Severe Detox Symptoms

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.

Intestinal Cleansing Pack

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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    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.

    Submitted by David on
    August 26, 2016 - 10:00am

    After about 3 days into my transition to a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet (WFPBD), my asthma symptoms increased. I was afraid that I was reacting to something in the new diet. Anyone heard of this happening before? FYI, I also cut out salt, sugar, oil, and all grains (for the gluten).

    Submitted by Jose Sepulveda on
    September 26, 2016 - 5:58pm
    Fort Worth,Texas

    Well, I got liver cirrosis, do I have to do the colon detox too, please let me know, thanks

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    September 28, 2016 - 5:16pm

    If you want to do a liver detox, then you should do a colon detox in advance -- or you will be trying to dump toxins out of your body into a clogged pipe (your colon) and cause the toxins to reabsorb back into the body....not good.

    Submitted by S.Simons on
    April 24, 2017 - 8:13am

    Excellent rebut!!!

    Submitted by vortem on
    November 27, 2018 - 4:28pm

    Over a year ago, I did Medical Medium's 28-Day Cleanse. I only got half way thru when I got really sick. My symptoms became worse (I think I over-did the Chaga tea), and have continued that way ever since (some days worse than others). For a long time, I thought this must be the Herxheimer Reaction. But now, after a year, I'm beginning to wonder what the hell is really going on. I seem to have become extremely sensitive to just about everything-even slightly bad air quality, paint fumes, slight physical stress, slight emotional stress-all of which cause tingling, dizziness, pain, seizure like feelings throughout the body. I went thru larger than normal doses radiation and chemo over nine years ago, and I know I'm experiencing long-term side effects from that... Still, I feel I should be healing as I eat an extremely healthy, 95% plant-based, fat free diet, and have been for quite some time. At the moment I'm completely fat free because any amount of fat causes a flare-up of symptoms. Is it possible the chemo/radiation side effects are still getting worse? After all, they didn't arise until 8 years after treatment. I've researched extensively, and cannot find any sound explanations for what's wrong with me. I'm not interested in going to any medical professionals, because what can they suggest besides what I'm already doing? After the cancer treatment, I'm done with getting poked by needles, not to mention MRIs, xrays, etc. Nor do I take any prescription medications because they all have toxic effects on me. Any suggestions would be most appreciated. Thanks!

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    November 28, 2018 - 3:09pm

    Thanks for writing in.  Of course, for obvious legal reasons, we can not diagnose or prescribe.  It looks like you found us in our Detox Program.  Have you read through our full body detox?  Each one describes how they work, with articles and videos.  See top left-hand corner links.

    Submitted by Josie on
    January 13, 2019 - 10:18pm

    Hi, I did a detox fast for 7 days. My intention was to get rid of allergies since it seemed to become just more and more on what I am reacting. It was my first detox fast and I got the most information through websites. I drank lots of water tea and every evening I had a broth. After the first day it did not feel like everything is out of the bowel so I drank warm lemon water, which helped but I still wasn't sure if everything is out. But I simply went on because it was over the Christmas holiday and I had to work from 7.1.again. Nearly every day I had an enema.
    On my last evening I probably ate broth which wasn't good anymore. The next day I felt awful, everything was cringing in me and I didn't know how to move. I started eating again with honeymelon(no apple because I always had allergic reactions in my mouth) which helped so over the day I really felt better. I ate the other quarter of the melon as lunch and as dinner a selfmade tomato soup. The next day I ate the same amount and then slowly ate more the following days. I didn't feel super strong, but alright. On the fifth day after the fast I started working. Everything seemed okay and I was going on with eating slowly and drinking heaps. Because of the allergies I wanted to do a Search Diet and just ate fruits, vegetables, rice, potatoes and I added peanuts out of energy reasons and linseeds for the bowel movement. And then there was a birthday cake piece just meant for me and just this one moment I wasn't strong and not thinking too much. I ate the whole piece which was delicious but by eating it got conscious to me that it'll include flour which I would have started 4 days later with as well as milk products which should be the last to try. Since then I felt very weak and all those symptoms chills, fever, low blood pressure, headache, and muscle pain appeared the next day and it is lasting now for 3 days and it seems not to get better. Is it a healing crisis at all?
    Because I actually already have stopped the detox. How long this could last?
    Since yesterday I eat eggs again to get some iron and I don't really care about the allergies anymore now because I would like to become just healthy again. I am thankful for any thoughts.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    January 15, 2019 - 8:24pm

    Our liver detox, the only one with any form of fasting, follows a very strict protocol. We are not sure what detox you did, but sounds like you didn't have the proper herbal support to help your body heal while detoxing.  Check out our protocol for more information (see top navigation links on the left-hand side).

    Submitted by Blanca on
    January 31, 2019 - 7:20pm

    I came here because I started taking CBD oil for my anxiety and depression a month ago. Little did I know it has anti-toxic properties. The first week of taking CBD oil I felt great! I had energy, no panick attacks my neck and shoulder pain was gone. The second week I was feeling really depressed. Going into the third week is when I was feeling all the symptoms of my depression, fatigue, I was lathargic, my neck and shoulder tension came back, headache, as well I felt horrible. The worst was the sudden hits of vertigo to the point of vomiting. I learned to take less drops while I going through this faze, but going into the fourth week, I'm back in action!


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