The notion that herbal, vitamin or mineral supplements always make you feel better is quickly disproven when you become very ill from supplementation. I had this happen several times, and didn’t know what the problem was until Herxheimer reaction was explained to me in full. Now I know what to be prepared for.
What is the Herxheimer Reaction?
Have you ever heard the old adage, “You have to get worse before you get better,” or “the cure is worse than the cause,” in relation to taking medicines for an illness? This is because of the Herxheimer Reaction, or more accurately, the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction. Experiencing the symptoms of this reaction is called “herxing.” You may know it as a healing crisis, die-off syndrome or detox reaction.
As pathogens die, they release toxic chemicals called endotoxins. This triggers a healing response in your body, which causes symptoms not unlike having the flu. Herxheimer Reaction isn’t restricted to natural treatments, but is also well accepted by traditional practitioners.
Which Supplements Cause Herxing?
The supplements most likely to cause herxing kill pathogens. Garlic, for example, is a strong antibiotic and antifungal, so using garlic produces the same reactions as pharmaceuticals. Anti-parasite cleanses commonly cause die-off reactions. Some intestinal worms, split open when they die, releasing guts, eggs and waste products into your body in a last-ditch effort to propagate before they die.
What Does Herxing Feel Like?
My worst experience with herxing was during a 30-day parasite cleanse. I experienced fever, achy joints, sinus problems, severe headaches and upset stomach. In short, I had the detox flu. Other less severe detox reactions I’ve had involved extreme fatigue, brain fog, acne and skin lesions.
I recently started supplementing with iodine and experienced what is called bromine detox. Bromine is a toxic additive found in processed foods, especially baked goods, breads and anything made with white flour. Bromine detox causes bromide acne, an unsightly form of skin eruptions on your face, neck and scalp. They erupt overnight as crusty sores that leave long, trenchlike scars. Inside these scars are several “holes,” or enlarged pores where the bromine left the body.
Other iodine supplementation herx symptoms are migraine type headaches, extreme joint pains and fever.
Supplements Prone to Cause Herxheimer Reaction
I also found several other supplements that cause sometimes serious herxing.
- MSM is a form of sulfur used by your body to heal and construct skin tissues. Sulfur, however, is a strong anti-parasitic, so be prepared for die-off symptoms. I experienced brain fog, liver pain and sinus pain.
- Dopa Mucuna is made from the beans of the Mucuna pruriens plant. It is used for increased energy, brain clarity and to help male libido. It is also an antiparasitic, so you may get die-off symptoms. Instead of the benefits, I got brain fog and fatigue.
- Vitamin C, taken in large doses, kills a variety of pathogens, including intestinal bacteria. It also kills good bacteria, so large doses can lead to diarrhea and other unpleasant side effects.
- Borax/Boron is a strong antifungal excellent for treating recurring yeast infections. I found yeast die-off to be worse than most other herxing. Extreme fatigue, body aches, fever and headaches are a few die-off effects from killing large quantities of yeast.
How to Treat Herxheimer Reaction from Supplements
There is no treatment, but helping your body speed release of toxins brings some relief. Drink plenty of pure, distilled water with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
Use enemas and laxatives to move food and toxins out faster. Take soaking baths with Epsom salts in water as hot as you can stand it. Try to stay in for 30 minutes. The Epsom salt helps with muscle and joint pain, and draws toxins out through your skin. Sweating, such as in a sauna, moves toxins out through the skin.
For detox acne, Noxzema and Bentonite clay masks help dry up and heal the lesions quickly.
Whatever you call it, the Herxheimer reaction is not something to take lightly. In some very rare cases, such as in the treatment of Hydatid tapeworm disease, it is potentially lethal. If too many toxins are released into your body at one time, your body may go into shock. Supplementation does not usually cause such severe reactions, because they are not strong enough to kill off that many pathogens at once, but you can still feel very ill.