The Jarisch Herxheimer Reaction: What it is and how to deal with it
Are you in the process of trying a sugar-free diet and experiencing headaches, nausea, fatigue, skin rashes, and joint ache in the process? Before you start to worry, we’re here to tell you this: the symptoms which you probably thought were signs of something more serious actually indicate that you’re doing the right thing for your body. These symptoms are part of the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, also known as Candida die-off. This refers to the negative reaction to the rapid removal of Candida from the body.
A quick explanation of Candida overgrowth
Candida is a type of yeast that is present in our bodies and is harmless when it isn’t overpopulating the gut. Overgrowth of Candida, also known as Candidiasis, occurs when there is dysbiosis in the gut and causes symptoms like brain fog, low mood, bloating, or irregular bowel movements. Getting rid of Candida overgrowth involves making some dietary and lifestyle changes to reset the gut, but early on in this process, the body might suffer from something called the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction.
Why does the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction happen?
Essentially, the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction is the result of yeast cells being destroyed. Yeast cell membranes degrade and break down, releasing endotoxins in the process. Endotoxins are toxic substances that are present in the cell walls of bacteria. Your liver processes all those toxins to get rid of them safely. It normally handles that detox job pretty well, but when a large amount of bacteria dies off rapidly, your liver can become overburdened and cause inflammatory symptoms of fever, headaches, and joint pain.
How long does the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction last?
Usually, this reaction only lasts a few days. However, This is dependent on how big a change you’ve had to make to your diet. If you were highly dependent on sugar and refined carbs earlier, you will likely experience the symptoms for a longer period. But it still shouldn’t be longer than a week. If you’re feeling unwell after seven days, do get in touch with your healthcare provider for further advice.
What you can do to feel better in the meantime
Essentially, it’s all about supporting your body’s detoxification pathways. A few ways to start doing this are:
Drink lots of water
We saw above that your liver has the unenviable job of processing toxins from your Candida die-off. But it’s not alone. Its two trusty sidekicks, your kidneys, filter out toxins and prevent waste from building up inside cells. But they need adequate hydration levels to do it. The trick is to drink optimal amounts of water (filtered is best).
Get your bowels moving
Your bowels safely remove waste and toxins from your body, which should happen about once a day. Sluggish bowels mean a risk of reabsorbing toxins, which get transported back to the liver to be processed again. When detoxing from yeast, the last thing you want is extra pressure on the liver- it’s already working hard enough!
Eating lots of fibre is a great way to get your bowels moving. This is because fibre feeds your friendly gut bacteria. The byproducts of that good bacteria form your stool, and fibre adds more bulk, making it easier for your system to eliminate it. Sources of fibre include vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts and whole-grain carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread and oats.
Move your body
Exercise mobilizes the lymphatic system, a network that’s like your body’s very own sewage system. Similar to the pipes of an underground sewer, the lymphatic vessels are webbed throughout your body and drain excess fluid and waste. That waste is eventually cleaned in your lymph nodes (junctions where your lymphatic vessels connect) and recirculated around the body.
Eat bitter foods
Eating bitter-tasting foods like chicory, arugula, radicchio, dandelion greens, burdock root, and watercress, can help your liver process toxins. These foods have cholagogue and choleretic effects (they stimulate bile flow and bile production). Bile is the yellowish liquid produced by the liver to release fat-soluble toxins and to digest fats in your food.
Take an Epsom salt bath
When you sit in an Epsom salt bath, your skin absorbs its main ingredient, magnesium sulphate, which helps produce glutathione, an important antioxidant that supports the liver in removing toxins from your body. When soaking in your bath, go low and slow. Remember, this is stimulating your liver to detox and you don’t want to overdo it too quickly. Start off with just a cup of Epsom salts in a bath of hot water and gradually increase to 3 cups over a period of a few weeks.
Aim to have 2-3 baths a week. Maybe play some music and light some scented candles. You deserve a break!
After every storm, there’s a rainbow
If you’re suffering from the symptoms of the Jarisch Herxheimer reaction, hang in there. While these symptoms are certainly unpleasant, remember it’s part of the process of getting worse before getting better. Persevere and you’ll be able to live yeast-free in no time.