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Why You Might Feel Worse Before You Feel Better: Understanding the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction

Reviewed by Kristen Reynolds, MD of Forum Health Mequon and Brookfield


When embarking on a treatment plan for chronic infections or undergoing certain therapies, you might come across the term “Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction.” This phenomenon, although unsettling, is a common part of the healing process for many individuals. Here, we’ll explore what the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction is, why it occurs, and how you can manage its symptoms effectively. 

What is the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction?

A Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction is a phenomenon that occurs when dead bacteria or microbes release their endotoxins into the body more quickly than the body can remove these toxins. This provokes an exaggerated inflammatory response that can feel like having the flu. Symptoms may include worsening fatigue, joint and muscle aches, flushing, fever, chills, headache, fast heart rate, a sense of anxiety, and rash. 

Why Does It Happen?

The reaction is typically triggered when treatments like antibiotics, herbal antimicrobials, or energy therapies such as BEMER, ozone sauna, HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy), or far-infrared sauna kill off large quantities of harmful microorganisms. The sudden death of these microbes releases a flood of toxins into the bloodstream, overwhelming the body’s detoxification pathways. 

Managing Die-Off Symptoms

  1. Increase Fluids and Rest: Staying hydrated with water or dandelion tea helps flush out toxins. Ensure you rest as much as possible to give your body the energy it needs to detoxify.

  2. Epsom Salt Baths: Soak in 2 cups of Epsom salts in a hot bath (optional – ½ cup baking soda and 10 drops essential oil of lavender). Soak for 15-20 minutes, once to twice daily. This can help relax muscles and draw out toxins through the skin.

  3. Drink Stars Lemonade: Mix ½ lemon squeezed in warm water with a pinch of cayenne (optional – add a touch of maple syrup) and drink this frequently throughout the day; it helps to alkalinize the body.

  4. Activated Charcoal: Take 2-4 capsules of activated charcoal (Bulletproof Upgraded Coconut Charcoal is a reputable brand) to help bind and remove toxins. Nature’s Answer Activated Coconut Charcoal with DLG Licorice 1-2 caps daily is also effective. Activated charcoal adsorbs chemicals, drugs, and toxins, which are then eliminated in the stool. Be mindful to take it between meals and 2 hours after any supplements or medications to avoid interference.

  5. Bentonite Clay: Similar to charcoal, Bentonite clay can bind toxins and pull them out of the body. “Whole Approach” is one brand that patients have had success with.

  6. Breath Work: Practice slow and deep breathing exercises to help your body relax and manage stress.

  7. Sweat it Out: Engaging in activities that induce sweating, such as using a far-infrared sauna, can help expel toxins through your skin.

  8. Magnesium: This mineral is crucial for detoxification processes in the body. Consider supplementing magnesium if necessary.

  9. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT): This therapy helps turn on detoxification enzymes, supporting the body’s ability to handle the influx of toxins. 

By following these tips, you can support your body through the detoxification process and alleviate some of the discomfort associated with the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction. Remember, it’s always important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or therapy, especially if you are experiencing severe symptoms. 

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