The Healing Crisis

Our bodies store fat, and the chemistry of that fat reflects the internal body conditions at the time the fat was stored.   Each time you get sick, residue from virus or bacteria actually deposit into these fat cells.   Toxins also can leave their mark.  Perhaps it is remnants of too much drinking in college, or trace amounts of medications like birth control or antibiotics, or growth hormones and pesiticides from our diet.

Picture then, how much of this garbage gets released when you start to cleanse or detoxify your system.    As these particles are released, you may start to experience symptoms that you initially felt when you were first sick, or when you were exposed to toxic substances, albeit in a milder form.


This is what is called a healing crisis.   It is also called a “Herxhiemer Reaction”.   It is the reaction that occurs when the body tries to eliminate toxins at a faster rate than would happen without additional coaxing.   Consequently, the more toxic one’s system is, the more severe are the symptoms.


A common belief held by many patients is that a healing crisis indicates that the treatment is not working.   Actually, this is quite far from the truth.   These reactions are instead signs that the treatment is working remarkably well, and that the body is effectively purging itself itself of impurities, toxins and imbalances.


These symptoms are typically transient, lasting only 1-3 days, but on rare occasions can last several weeks.   If you are suffering from a major illness, the symptoms you experience during the healing crisis may be identical to the disease itself.   This may explain why there may be a brief flare-up in one’s condition.


When any treatment program involves a large-scale die-off of bacteria or yeast, a significant amount of endotoxins (toxins from the organisms themselves) are released into the body.  A great amount of dysbiois results in a larger amount of endotoxin release, and therefore a more potent healing crisis.    Any program that involves fasting can cause a rapid breakdown of fat cells, storehouses for toxins.  This may also create a healing crisis as toxins trapped in these cells are released into the blood stream.


Symptoms of a healing crisis may include:  Increased joint or muscle pain, diarrhea, fatigue or restlessness, cramps, headaches, insomnia, nausea, indigestion, sinus congestion, low-grade fever, frequent urination, and/or skin eruptions.


There are some things you can do at home to get yourself through a healing crisis.  First, drink plenty of fresh water and herbal teas to flush the body of toxins.   Drink at least 2-3 liters daily.    If you are feeling fatigued, then take the time to rest.  Take time off work if needed.   Be kind to your body, and listen to what it needs.   Meditation, acupuncture and massage therapy can help to reduce the intensity and duration of a healing crisis.


In all cases, if you are unsure if your symptoms are worrisome, contact your health care provider for guidance.  Perhaps a reduction in dosage or temporary cessation of treatment is necessary.


Dr. Tara O’Brien