Power through the darkest hours to get to the dawn of good health
Have you ever started, taking a supplement – or even an antibiotic – and had a bad reaction? That is, in the first few days of taking it, you just felt ‘off’… almost flu-like… with headaches, fever, and body aches?
Maybe you even thought you might be allergic to it! Well, this type of reaction is commonplace with the use of certain supplements and medications – and, believe it or not, although you may feel even worse than you did before, it could actually be a good thing.
Because usually, that kind of reaction means that your body is going through some form of cleansing or detoxification.
This is a classic example of having to feel worse before you feel better – because, as the proverb says, ‘The darkest hour is just before the dawn’. But while you might be tempted to quit the natural therapy or the treatment protocol immediately… thinking that something has gone terribly wrong… often, you just have to give it time.
You have to let the bad out to make room for the good. And all that ‘bad’ stuff coming up to the surface doesn’t always feel so good. Don’t let sleeping dogs lie You see, when this happens, supplements are killing infections that are lurking in the human body… and these bugs (and the human body) are not ‘happy’ when we try to escort them off of the premises.
These unpleasant reactions occur when the body releases chemicals (called cytokines) in response to internal toxins (endotoxins) that have been released into the bloodstream, liver, and lymphatic system.
Basically, some supplements and medications awaken a ‘sleeping dog’ inside the body and the body gets ‘irritated’ when these by-products are released. And the more by-products that need to be released, the worse you’ll feel.
This detoxification reaction may be a necessary evil in the quest for wellness, but it’s tricky to figure out whether you’re experiencing:
1. a real allergic reaction
2. a classic detoxification reaction, or
3. an intensified version of what is called a ‘Herxheimer reaction.’ (see sidebar)
In the case of the Herxheimer reaction (or ‘Herx’ for short), someone might feel quite poorly after starting a round of antibiotics because of the amount and type of infection that’s being killed off.
In those cases, it could be that the antibiotic was just what their body needed – and if they could just keep taking it and ‘get over the hump’, then they could say goodbye to their health woes.
However, the reaction may instead show us that the meds are too strong for this particular patient. Their lymphatic system and/or liver may be too sluggish for this level of treatment. And the same goes for supplements.
The more your body fights detox, the more you need it!
The amazing part of my job is seeing every day how certain very common supplements act as natural ‘bug-killers’ – or, ‘natural antibiotics’, if you will – that they will create this detoxification reaction.
If you ask me, these nutraceuticals should really be called natural ‘germicides’ – because they’re killing not just bacteria, but also certain parasites, yeast, or even viruses. This can happen with an array of different supplements, including chlorella and coriander (which are often paired together for a detox regimen).
Some of the other common herbs and over-the-counter supplements that could provoke these responses include garlic, oil of oregano, olive leaf extract, berberine, grapefruit seed extract, and cat’s claw. I’ve even seen it occur from herbs – like milk thistle – that work directly on the liver.
But I’ve seen it occur most consistently with curcumin, an amazing herb with a dizzying array of benefits for the human body. One of the reasons that it works so well for such a myriad of health issues is that it so thoroughly detoxifies the human body… which then provokes a detoxification reaction. With curcumin, the symptoms can include those aforementioned flu-like symptoms,
as well as headaches and even rashes – all of which that seem so similar to an allergic reaction.
But in reality, if your body is responding in such a way to curcumin, it desperately needs to figure out how to tolerate this treatment – because it could be a big boon for your overall health.
If the detoxification reactions are too intense for a patient at my clinic, sometimes we’ll abandon the treatment protocol and go ‘back to the drawing board’. Then, we’ll use protocols to support and cleanse the liver and the lymphatic system. And then we start anew, with a stronger system that’s hopefully able to handle the disease-fighting treatment.
Things may get worse before they get better
This apparent ‘worsening’ of a condition is such a common occurrence in the integrative medical world that sometimes I forget that the general public and mainstream doctors don’t understand what’s happening – or even believe in this phenomenon. But I’m certain that this is occurring many times every day… around the world… to a host of unsuspecting people.
Don’t be one of them. If it happens to you, there are ways of dealing with the detoxification reaction that can come in handy and help you power through the tough times.
First of all, a safe move would be to stop the treatment for a day or two… restart at half the dosem that provoked the response… and then see how you do. But there are a couple of other natural, drug-free ‘tricks’ you can try to get through the ‘dark’ period when your symptoms are getting worse before they get better.
One of the most helpful ones out there is good old-fashioned baking soda. Some doctors recommend the easy-to-use, plop-plop-fizz-fizz remedy Alka-Seltzer – but, specifically, the ‘Gold’ version, which is aspirin-free and basically just baking soda. It can balance out the acidity of your body, helping your system detoxify more quickly.
And finally, even though it’s nothing fancy, drinking a lot of water is a tried-and-true way of flushing the toxins out of your body. You can drink it from a bottle or from the tap – just make sure it’s been filtered and isn’t one of those fashionable ‘waters’ that have added sugar and other flavourings.
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 10, Issue 9 • September 2016
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.