What is die-off?
If you have been diagnosed with a thyroid or autoimmune condition, chances are you also have an overgrowth of certain bad yeasts, bacteria, or parasites that are contributing to your illness. In the holistic health world, we know that infections are causative in most chronic illness because they perpetuate Leaky Gut Syndrome, which is a root cause of immune and hormonal conditions.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition where the cell walls in the intestines become “leaky” or permeable and allow food proteins, yeasts, bacteria, viruses, and other nasty bits into circulation in the blood stream where they do not belong. As a result, you end up inflamed, allergic, and experiencing uncomfortable symptoms. Over time, if left unaddressed, Leaky Gut Syndrome can cause autoimmunity and hormonal conditions, as well as food allergies, nutrient deficiencies and detoxification problems.
In my health coaching practice, I always make a point to address underlying infections with my clients. This means we put them on anti-yeast, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, or anti-viral protocols that include very strategic diet and supplement changes in order to restore their health. In the long run, clients see dramatic improvements in their lab work and symptoms, but in the short term it can sometimes be uncomfortable as these infections start to die. (Note that viruses remain in the body but we use measures to greatly reduce their impact on the immune system or localized tissues).
When bad yeasts, bacteria, or parasites begin to die, people can sometimes experience what is called a “die-off reaction”, though it’s also known as a Herxheimer reaction, or healing crisis. This is when you are on the correct protocol but temporarily feel worse because the pathogens emit toxic byproducts upon their death. Yeasts, for example, emit ethanol and acetaldehyde when they die, which can mimic symptoms of a hangover.
Or, if you are following an anti-bacterial or anti-parasitic protocol, you may experience stomach troubles in addition to other symptoms because your gut flora is adjusting as you kill the pathogens.
Supplements to help stop die-off reactions
Thankfully there are ways to alleviate some of the discomfort caused by die-off reactions. Here are some I suggest to clients undergoing this process:
- Activated charcoal: because this acts as a binder, it can expedite the process and help remove unwanted pathogens or their byproducts. Do not use for a few consecutive days as it can also interfere with nutrient absorption, especially iodine.
- Liver supports: as yeasts die, they emit toxic byproducts which can temporarily affect the liver. Milk thistle, dandelion root, and burdock are my favorites to suggest. If you prefer to not take a supplement, you can also find these in tea form.
- Bentonite clay: Another binder, clay can “mop up” pathogens and their byproducts. Mix a small amount into a large glass of water.
- Herbal teas: Drink these to ease stomach discomfort often associated with die-off. Ginger and peppermint are especially effective because of their astringent properties.
- Digestive enzymes: These can also help with digestive complaints. Take a digestive enzyme that contains amylase, protease, and lipase about 5-10 minutes before meals for best results.
- Electrolyte drinks: Staying hydrated is important when undergoing die-off so drink electrolyte-enhanced water, or use natural electrolyte powders that contain magnesium and potassium especially.