Everyone who gets into natural medicine will eventually hear the term “healing crisis.” Sometimes we refer to “detox symptoms” and “Herxheimer reactions” instead to mean the same thing. What are these things?
Essentially, all three are the same thing. Whenever deep healing of a chronic problem is happening, a person will have to go through a set of symptoms and effects similar to those the problem is causing. That’s natural healing 101.
For example, with a bad intestinal infection, when you apply medicinal herbs to kill off the bad guys and help the good ones, the bad ones will die off and leave behind endotoxins, which were once part of their living cells. Our bodies react to these toxins much like when we’re sick with a cold or flu.
That’s called a Herxheimer reaction, and it’s a common cause of daily sluggishness and ill feeling as our bodies struggle to keep things under control. (Sugar and excess calories and proteins in our diet makes this difficult… bacteria love that stuff!)
Detox reactions are similar, but usually involve more basic toxins like heavy metal compounds (think methyl mercury in fish, or lead from lead paint), formaldehyde, and byproducts of bacteria feasting or viruses replicating.
Detox reactions can involve pretty much any type of toxin. When we remove deposits of these things from the body, it’s very often that they cause symptoms.
When you cleanse, toxins are moved into the blood and other sensitive places, because those are the highways to get things moving through the body to be excreted in urine, stool, and sweat.
As you can imagine, taking a hazardous chemical or metal out of the fat, bones, etc and putting it into the blood will cause the immune system to react, which is most of the reason for a “detox reaction.” During this reaction, you’ll probably feel uneasy or a little sick – but it has to be done.
“Healing crisis” is a general term for any set of bad feelings or sickness that accompany healing. It can be a detox reaction, Herxheimer effect, or even just exhaustion from all the hard work your body is doing!
When you heal from a major illness, you experience symptoms in reverse order.
An example would be depression that’s caused by toxicity. By releasing the toxins during a cleanse, you go through a sort of crisis that appears to be a worsening of your problem. You might experience more depression than usual for several weeks or even months, but it’s the only way to correct the problem for good.
I hope this has been a good intro to “going back through” symptoms during healing. It’s perfectly normal and happens to everyone, even if they don’t notice it (usually the case).
The best way to respond to this is faith – have faith that your treatment is going to work, and talk to others who have gone through the same thing. If at all possible, stay positive and keep moving towards true health!