Is it a Herx???
Sometimes the treatment can be worse than the actual disease. Sadly, many adapt to their chronic illness and learn to live with fatigue, aches, brain fog and other symptoms . When they do decide to seek treatment, many times the side effects of the treatment can worsen their condition making living with the actual disease more desirable. Adaptability is a fascinating phenomenon. Most patients will get better but it certainly is a long, arduous struggle.
Those of you afflicted with Lyme and co-infections or have a loved one suffering are aware of the herxing episodes. Despite knowing about it in theory, when experiencing it first hand for some can be difficult to determine if they are herxing or having an allergic reaction. I’m asked this daily. Many patients with immune dysfunction, chronic or resistant infections begin hefty regimens to combat those illnesses and reboot the immune system experience herxing for the first time.
Treatment although helpful and even life saving for some doesn’t come without risk!
So what is a Herx Reaction?
Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction named after the providers who discovered this phenomenon, is the body’s reaction to a massive release of endotoxins. These endotoxins are present inside of bacteria and released when the cell dies during treatment with antimicrobials albeit herbals, medications or homeopathy.
This rapid “die-off” releases more toxins than the body can clear naturally through the liver and kidneys. The increased endotoxins circulating within the body stimulate the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukins 6 and 8 as well as tumor necrosis factor.
Many factors determine the intensity of the reaction for some and determine how a treatment regimen will be tolerated. Underlying inflammation or autoimmune processes, genetics, mitochondrial function and bacterial load all play a role.
How do I know if I’m having a Herx reaction vs. a good ol’ allergic reaction?
Sometimes it’s difficult to determine. Clearly if you develop hives, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, a spasm-like cough or copious clear nasal drainage, you may be having an allergic reaction and should stop treatment, contact your provider and/or seek out the nearest Urgent Care facility.
Herx reactions can feel like the flu. Typically, increased muscle and joint pains, headaches, nausea, fatigue, low-grade fevers and brain fog are common. Usually following a detox protocol and slowing the progression of treatment will help to quell the symptoms.
There are strategies that can reduce a Herx reaction understanding the detox protocol is just as important as the antimicrobial treatment! Focus upon supporting detox pathways with glutathione, N-acetylcysteine and/or Alpha Lipoic Acid if tolerated. Some with certain genetic SNPS will prevent the usage of these wonderful detoxers. If sensitive, I typically will use molecular hydrogen, sodium-potassium bicarbonate, lemon water, Epsom salt baths and charcoal. Also consider reducing inflammation by revving up antioxidants and supporting mitochondria function with B vitamins, Coq 10 and tocotrienols. If Herx reactions are severe, IV fluids and nutrients may be needed.
Herx reactions are relatively short lived for most. I find within the first two weeks of treatment patients will experience varying degrees of “herxing” before symptoms begin to lessen. If experiencing Herx reactions, it’s best to continue with treatment and employ heftier detox measures and always reach out to your provider.