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Are you making the same mistakes?

Why do I feel so ill when eliminating certain foods from my diet?

Oh my.  If i had a penny for each person that goes on a ‘food group elimination diet’ and doesn’t get advised/warned about the ‘kick’ of the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction – I would be that billionaire sailing around the World!  Help me out here… read the small print below and pass the message on.


Adolf Jarisch, an Austrian dermatologist, and Karl Herxheimer, a German dermatologist) observed specific reactions in patients who were being treated for syphilis with Salvarsan, mercury, or antibiotics and termed the reactions as the Jarisch–Herxheimer reaction.  Jarisch thought that the reaction was caused by a toxin released from the dying spirochetes (bacterium).  The symptoms occured within the first couple of hours and included; fever, chills, low blood pressure, headaches, hyperventilation, vasodilation, flushing, stiff joints (rigor), muscle pain (myalgia), panic attacks, skin sores, and tachycardia.  All symptoms observed were believed to be a cause of the increase in inflammation, albeit symptoms that will either resolve on its own or which has no long-term harmful effect on a person’s health.

Herxheimer Reaction

Originally it was suggested is a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction was due to endotoxin-like products released by the death of harmful microorganisms within the body during antibiotic treatment (REF).  However, Young et al., (1982) data suggest that classical endotoxin is not the cause of the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction (REF).  Herxheimer symptoms are varied, may be unexpected, may reactivate previous symptoms, and can also make the person feel like the disease symptoms have suddenly gotten worse.  The onset of symptoms can be as early as 1-2 hrs to 10 days after starting the elimination diet.

The Herxheimer reaction, often called ‘Herxing’, has shown an increase in inflammatory cytokines during the period of exacerbation of which these cytokines can be experienced during withdrawl of a food source.  Herxing is believed to occur when injured or dead bacteria release their endotoxins into the blood and tissues faster than the body can comfortably handle it, often then causing exaggerated inflammation response.  Immunopathology is a term, similar to Herxheimer, used by the scientific community. It describes all the collateral pathological effects on the body (e.g., hormonal, endocrine, cell death and blood count changes) caused by the immune system during normal function (REF).

The Science bit

It’s normal for the body to generate an immune response when challenged by foreign matter such as microbes and allergens. Current research has led to the hypothesis that this reaction in chronically ill patients is triggered by cell wall deficient, polymorphic L-form microbes. It is believed these intracellular bacteria have learned to live inside the macrophages (phagocytes) of the immune system. If they fail to be destroyed by the phagocytes which are supposed to kill them because they have adapted mechanisms to prevent being identified by the immune system.

Protocol reducing Herxheimer Reaction before removing a food source

The following steps can help reduce the intensity of the Herxheimer Reaction whilst supporting your wellbeing throughout the journey.

  1. Start the elimination diet (removing the food source from your diet) when you are not working, have no appointments and are generally able to relax and look after yourself.
  2. Avoid any stressful environments; driving long distance, exams, tests, meetings?
  3. Book yourself in for a Lymphatic Massage with a Massage Therapist.
  4. Keep warm, drink plenty of water (preferably Chlorophyll).
  5. Move, gently throughout the day.  No ‘working out’, swop it for a 30 minute walk for the first week.
  6. Dry skin brushing for 10 minutes before getting in to a shower.  If you can tolerate it, run the shower cold towards the end for 2 minutes.
  7. Epsom salt baths (not if you have high blood pressure) at least three times per week.
  8. Lymphradiral 10 drops before bed

Last note: if you are removing food sources from your diet please ensure you are also healing your gut during and post the elimination phase.  Speak to your clinican for advice on this.

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