Herxheimer Reactions: Preventing or Working Through a Cleansing Reaction When Taking Herbs or Medication or Undergoing a Fast or Detoxification

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The symptoms of a Herxheimer reaction can mimic illness or even an allergic reaction to medication or food. The experience can range from mild to quite debilitating, depending on certain factors. Among these are the amount of toxins built up in the body and the extent of the medication usage, herb consumption, or dietary shift. The health of the liver also influences its ability to remove and process released toxins.

Because it can be very unpleasant, experiencing a cleansing reaction can cause people to backtrack on their commitment to getting healthy. But it is possible to prevent or at least reduce the severity of the reaction. Depending on your objective, you can use a variety of methods to minimize the discomfort of a cleansing reaction.

If your goal is to get healthy and remove toxins as fast as possible, even if it means being uncomfortable along the way, you will likely choose to just move forward with your nutrition or supplementation plan, detox or fast. Be sure to consult your natural health practitioner to confirm that any issues you experience are in fact a cleansing reaction and not something else.

If you want to get healthy in the long term but do not have the desire nor the ability to go through a serious cleansing reaction, there are steps you can take to minimize such a reaction. The first method is simply to make changes gradually. Rather than beginning to take a large variety of herbs and supplements and switching to a raw or healthier diet all at once, take gradual steps. Start with small amounts of a few herbs and the removal of certain foods from your diet. Then increase your herb consumption and add a few healthy foods to your routine. By making the transition gradually you are less likely to have the extensive toxin release that can lead to a more severe reaction.

If you do experience symptoms of the Herxheimer reaction, consult your natural health practitioner for guidance. You may be instructed to cut back on the herbs or slow down your detox program. If you choose not to do so, you can still act to make your journey more pleasant. Naturopath Jameth Sheridan recommends consuming raw vegetable juice, purified water, spirulina and wheat grass for individuals who are undergoing a cleansing reaction. He also notes that you can reduce the reaction by eating certain healthy foods including tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds.

Less healthy foods such as processed flour or sugar, meat and dairy can also slow the reaction. But eating such food is essentially counterproductive, as it increases the body’s toxic load and ultimately results in the need for greater cleansing at a later date.

Beyond paying attention to what you take into your body, be sure you can properly eliminate waste and toxins. Support the liver using herbs such as milk thistle and dandelion, and add lemon to water. Drinking green tea, peppermint tea, ginger tea, or distilled water is also helpful. An enema or colonic will help clean out the colon and improve elimination. Also consider therapies such as dry brushing, getting a lymph massage, and spending time in a sauna or steam room to help remove toxins.

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Sources & Resources

Cancer Recovery Guide: 15 Alternative and Complementary Strategies for Restoring Health, Jonathan Chamberlain

The Complete Herbal Guide: A Natural Approach to Healing the Body, Stacey Chillemi, Michael Chillemi

Veterinary Herbal Medicine, Susan G. Wynn & Barbara Fougère