When you eliminate inflammatory, processed foods, sugars and chemicals from your diet, your body goes through withdrawal - just like with drugs or alcohol. When you eliminate these addictive, toxic foods and drinks, you may initially have uncomfortable reactions, known as the Herxheimer reaction. Have a read of this handout to understand how to support your body with this process and limit the symptoms you may feel.
The Herxheimer reaction
The Herxheimer Reaction is a short-term (from days to a few weeks) detoxification reaction in the body. As the body detoxifies, it is not uncommon to experience flu-like symptoms including headache, irritability, joint and muscle pain, body aches, sore throat, general malaise, sweating, chills, nausea, brain fog, constipation, hunger, insomnia, itchy skin, fatigue or other symptoms.
This is a normal reaction that indicates that parasites, fungus, viruses, bacteria, or other pathogens are being effectively killed off. The biggest problem with the Herxheimer reaction is that people stop taking the supplement or medication that is causing the reaction, and then discontinue the very treatment that is helping to make them better. Although the experience may not make you feel particularly good, the Herxheimer Reaction is actually a sign that healing is taking place. The average time that a detox crisis takes place for is around 48 hours, but it can take longer.
What is the Herxheimer reaction?
The Herxheimer Reaction is an immune system reaction to the toxins (endotoxins) that are released when large amounts of pathogens are being killed off, and the body does not eliminate the toxins quickly enough. It is a reaction that occurs when the body is detoxifying and the released toxins either exacerbate the symptoms being treated or create their own symptoms. The important thing to note is that worsening symptoms do not indicate failure of the treatment in question; in fact, usually just the opposite. The good news is that after the symptoms pass, most people feel enlivened, energetic and overall much better.
What can you do to support the detoxification process?
If at all possible, start your programme at a weekend, or when you have some time off and no commitments.
Allow yourself a transition time to prepare. Take up to a week from receiving your programme to research dishes and menus and plan your shopping for what you need.
The best and most important thing that you can do to aid the process of detoxification and to lessen then effects of any reaction is to drink plenty of water. Drink between 1.5 - 2 litres of pure water each day. You can add some freshly squeezed lemon juice to help your liver`s detoxification pathways.
Eat plenty of healthy fats to avoid cravings, like nuts and seeds, avocados, coconut oil and oily fish
Eat protein rich meals and snacks at least every 3 - 4 hours to balance blood sugar.
Stretch your body gently with light yoga or warm up routines.
If possible schedule a massage
Get plenty of fresh air and sunlight (weather permitting)
Minimise exercise for the detox period
Keep the organs of elimination functioning properly (bowels, lungs, skin, kidneys, lymph) It`s important to get the bowel moving to get the toxins out so drink plenty of water and try adding extra fibre to smoothies to get the bowel moving. Flax seeds are great to add.
Keep the diet relatively pure during the detox period
Get plenty of sleep. Rest is essential to detox. The liver is most active at night so make sure you are in bed before 11pm.
Take sea salt/ epsom salt/ himalayan salt baths - always drink water whilst bathing in salts. (don`t do this if you have a heart condition)
Use saunas and steam rooms where possible
Dry skin brushing - use a soft bristled brush to sweep the limbs in an upwards motion towards the heart. Do this before you take a shower.
Thrive Clinical Nutrition and Naturopathic Health Eve Morley N.T AMNNA FNTP NFPTA