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The Healing Crisis and Cultured Foods


Your own healing is a healthy contribution to the healing of everyone

What is a healing crisis?

A “healing crisis” is something that happens when the body starts a detoxification process which is really a program of natural healing. This is a common occurrence among some individuals who start consuming cultured foods. When you start consuming cultured foods, your body is flooded with good bacteria. Then there is a dying off of certain pathogenic organisms in the body. These organisms can be bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other harmful pathogens. The medical term for a healing crisis is the “Herxheimer Reaction.”  The cells release toxins into circulation and the body is not able to eliminate them quickly enough. Besides containing massive amounts of beneficial bacteria, cultured foods also contain many active enzymes, which act as extremely potent detoxifiers. There are huge amounts of good bacteria in cultured foods and it is like sending an army to clean house inside of you. This is such a good thing, although it can be uncomfortable and a bit scary if you don’t understand what is happening.

You want this healing crisis

You want this healing crisis because it truly is the road to recovery. You will gain a much-needed understanding of how your body works. The vast majority of people experience very mild symptoms, while others experience severe symptoms. Some of these symptoms are temporary and will subside as the body gets healthier and is able to eliminate toxins more effectively. Symptoms usually lessen, or are eliminated, within two to three days; but in some individuals they can last a few weeks or even longer. As bacteria and yeasts overwhelm the body with multiple new strains from the cultured foods, it can cease to function optimally. Inside your gut are 100,000,000,000,000 (that’s 100 trillion!) microbes. There are about 2000 known species, and I suspect there could be more. Most of these are good, there are also smaller amounts of bacteria that are not so helpful; but you need these too, you just want the good guys to keep them under control. Bacteria like numbers; and when a certain strain begins to dominate, they crowd out the weaker ones. It’s crowded in your gut and they fight for occupancy. They shoot at each other with a liquid substance to kill each other – you can liken it to chemical warfare going on in your gut! So when you suddenly flood your body with a bunch of new species in the form of cultured foods, it causes a ruckus depending on how well your gut is established with helpful bacteria.

My own experience

My own experience with a healing crisis happened briefly, in the very beginning of my experience with consuming cultured foods. I experienced a slight fever, which lasted an hour and then left. I also experienced increased urination and fatigue. These symptoms only lasted a few days and then I felt a renewed state of being that I had not known prior.

When you are starting to consume cultured foods, here are some of the things that can occur as they begin to work on making you well:

  • Diarrhea or loose stools
  • Constipation
  • Hot/cold flashes
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Body odor
  • Stools that are discolored
  • Digestive upset
  • Increased urination
  • Sinus stuffiness or drainage
  • Sore throat
  • Gas and bloating

As the body begins to heal itself, two conflicting symptoms can be diarrhea or constipation. Constipation can occur as the liver becomes congested with an overload of toxins. A lot of extra debri can accumulate in the colon as the body tries to shed all the waste of the die off. Diarrhea can be the body’s way of removing built-up toxins. You might experience one of these as your body tries to adjust to the new occupants. If you experience either one of these symptoms, make sure you drink lots of fluids to support your body in this healing crisis.

Two Methods

So, what to do if any of these symptoms occur? The degree of discomfort is all going to depend upon how healthy your gut is when you begin. I often recommend people go slowly.  Healing takes time and goes through processes and if you feeling overwhelmed and not well, then the die off is too much, then you need to stop. Let the die off subside, and then have smaller amounts when you begin again. If you have another die off when you resume, it will be smaller and last for a shorter amount of time until the layer of toxins that you’ve accumulated are eliminated.

I have taken another approach that has worked very well for me. I call this “the nuclear blast off.” I flood my body with all manner of cultured foods and prebiotics (found in fruits, vegetables, and supplements) and allow the good bacteria to take over quickly and dominate. This is not for the faint of heart and can be uncomfortable, but it reestablishes the gut rather well, but only  you will be able to tell if you can handle this. Many of us have accumulated layers and layers of toxicity in our bodies. candida, old viruses that are dormant, pathogens and more and the body will clean them out, and eventually, you will come to health like never before. You really need all types of bacteria, even the ones people think of as harmful. Things like candida actually have their place in smaller amounts in the body. Candida can remove heavy metals, something your regular digestive system can’t handle so they are there for a reason but, you must keep them under control with the stronger good bacteria, since you only want them in small amounts as they serve a purpose in preventing disease as well.

Slow and Easy Method

If you’re uncomfortable, I would consume cultured foods more slowly or even have them every other day.

For instance: only consume one cultured food a day.  If the symptoms are uncomfortable, consume them every other day. Here is the dosage I would recommend of each. Remember to pick only one cultured food, and as you get better you can consume more.

1/4 to 1/2 cup of kefir  daily.

2-4 ounces of kombucha daily.

1 tablespoons of cultured vegetables daily.

Blast Off Method!

I did the blast off method and consumed all three kefir, kombucha and cultured veggies everyday in these amounts.

1 – 2 cups of kefir daily

16 ounces of kombucha daily

1/2 to 1 cup of cultured veggies daily

Eat lots of prebiotic foods that will make the good bacteria grow, such as garlic, leeks, berries, onions, jicama, broccoli, asparagus, apples, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and carrots. You can also use prebiotic supplements like Prebio Plus. No junk food!

Many people do not have symptoms and do just fine. Do not be discouraged or think that this healing crisis is permanent. It is a small journey where you should begin to listen to your body as it talks to you through symptoms. Then the healing can begin. You will learn so much, and before you know it, your body will teach you all kinds of things: What it needs, wants to be fed, and how you can shine from the inside out. I know this because it happened to me.

” I know you’re tired but come. This is the way.”Rumi

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66 Responses to "The Healing Crisis and Cultured Foods"
  1. Can I freeze some kefir grains? I will be away for 2 and 1/2 months with no one to look after them for me. Do I still put them in the milk?

    • I don’t think that you can freeze them for this long period of time and have them remain viable. It’s best to find someone to care and feed them while you re gone.

  2. This was a good article. The “die off” can be quite uncomfortable for sensitive people like me! This makes it feel like I am not alone in the process.

  3. I’m also battling Candida Albicans.. :((
    I worked SO hard ..so Intensely on it ..I was at WAR with my own body..
    eating NOTHING to feed the candida.. and sticking to a SAVERE green veggies and of course my GOLD LIQUID Kefir… ( from day one i’m drinking 4 cups and sometime more a day)… took vitamins,probiotic, good teas, lots of natural fungus food ( garlic, brussels sprotes, eggplants and a few more) . Yes i got VERY SICK coughing blood!!! and huge Mucus …i couldn’t believe this could be the rest of my life..
    …..THANK GOD!!!…8 to 9 months latter i’m slowing returning to better help …and now slowly re-introducing food back into my life.. Its been the HARDEST thing i have ever add to deal with . .. But i conquered…
    thank you Miss DONNA.
    i wish you all good recovery ” stick to it and you will win the fight)

  4. Hi, I have been doing the keifer grains for the past 2 months, my husband loves it, however I have not taken it, as I have always thought I’m lactose intolerant, but recently I had a muscle test, and cam up that I can’t digest protein. So I have been taking pepsin, amazing amount of difference!! So I really want to start taking the kefir, but a bit scared as I have avoided dairy for so long. I guess coconut milk could be an option. I remember reading about yourself not being able to take dairy but the Kefir was good for you. What’s your advise. Thanks

    • I stopped doing dairy in the mid 80s after a strongly positive allergy test. Last November, I tried commercial cow kefir as an experiment and tolerated it beautifully. My personal theory (backed up by nothing but my “gut” feeling … pun intended ::grin::) is that my intolerance is to lactose, which kefir eats up. I had a similar experience with wheat. After avoiding it for years, I tried GF and can eat bread again. It is my understanding that gluten and lactose are large, difficult to digest molecules. It seems reasonable to me that they are the likely culprits in wheat and dairy sensitivities. All that being said, if you do not tolerate cow kefir, give goat kefir a try. My husband was cow sensitive as a child, but tolerated goat milk well; the same happened with our children.

  5. Hello, when I started drinking milk kefir about 9 months ago, I had a rash around my mouth, then eyes, then on the tops of my hands. Each of these disappeared after 2-4 weeks. Since Christmas, when I spent a couple of weeks with family, eating more grains and sugars then usual (but still having kefir), I again have a rash on the tops of my hands. It is still here 4 weeks later. (The rashes are red bumps that itch.)

    Also I have recently got my sister on board with kefir. On my advice, she started consuming it about a month ago. Since then she developed a rash around her mouth, and it is still there 10 days after stopping drinking kefir.

    I’ve always thought my rashes were the die off reaction, but I’d like to hear from an outside expert that in fact they are. Also, most importantly, I want to make sure I didn’t steer my sister wrong. Should she continue drinking kefir in spite of the rash? Thank you!

  6. Donna,

    I’ve been drinking kombucha (GT’s in a variety of flavors) for about three weeks now and have begun to notice some affects that I’m assuming are the symptoms of a healing crisis–generalized fatigue, cold chills throughout the day, cold hands, slight nasal congestion, and constant low dull headache from the time I wake up. Also, I just feel pretty bad when I wake up, even after getting 8-9+ hours of sleep. Do you think these are direct results of drinking kombucha? Thanks for all of your great information.

  7. Good day I am Elza from South Africa using milk kefir now for almost two weeks, I am having a major sinus drainage and after reading your blog I understand that that must be a cleaning reaction. I would like to find out I have started my Kefir with normal milk but would love to change to goats milk. can i use the same kefir culture and just add goats milk…i got my kefir culture from a friend who shared with me.

  8. Donna, could mouth/canker sores be a form of die-off or detoxing? I’ve been faithfully drinking my kefir, kombucha, and eating my fermented veggies for a total of about 3 weeks now. I started with cultured veggies, added kefir (making my own with grains), and then added kombucha (GT’s and also kombucha made by a local organic brewery that they sell on tap). I just told my Mom yesterday that I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms so far and boom. Toda my mouth is so sore! I have a spot at the back of my mouth on my tongue and one under my tongue. Should I keep moving ahead, or should I cut something back? Thanks so much. I’m enjoying the videos and your book and have been trying many of the techniques and recipes and having great success.

    • Yes it could be and if you have been eating a lot of tomatoes or acidic fruit it kind of speeds up the process of detox. coconut oil works great on canker sores if you just rub some on it.

    • I’ve found placing a clay patch 1/8″ thick, sometimes held in place by a band-aid, outside the area where the canker sore is, will heal it in 1-2 days. Also I understand that such sores are sometimes signs of B vitamin deficiency & a response to stress. Blessings!

  9. Hi to all from New Zealand, and Donna, thankyou for the work you do 🙂 I have just started making water kefir, and I thought I had killed it as it was slimy ish, skinny and kinda lifeless when I bought the grains. After adding molasses to mthe sugar water it revived and perked up considerably. The grains are plump and juicy looking now ( after about 3 cycles) and have even started bubbling 🙂 assuming thats a good thing? I have tried a few herbal infusions with sugar in the second ferment and will try fruit and juices when I get some next .
    I didnt know about the healing response and have been drinking the stuff like its water! I must have some toxins in me cause my whole body aches in the muscles and some of the joints… will this clear out some of the junk that if sits in my cells could manifest into permanent illness? Im guessing id better drink more water to help flush? Assuming ill come right in a few days… I really love the stuff and dont want to cut down, but I think id better lol

  10. Hi, after suspecting that I may have candida overgrowth, I started taking 2 probiotic capsules daily. from day 2, I’ve been badly constipated, I thought it’s a normal reaction and it will go away but it didn’t. so I stopped taking probiotics for about a week and bowel movement started to get better. I recently made some kefir at home and after drinking a cup, I had sudden diarrhea. I’m a sufferer of chronic halitosis, joint pain, tonsil stone and sinus problem/infection. any advice?

    • You are majorly detoxing and you might need to take breaks from probiotics to let the body adjust and rid itself of pathogens. All the symptoms are signs of detox and candida die off. Take a week off and a few days on with kefir and see how you do.

  11. Hi Donna
    I have candida and have been suffering with it my whole like. I do drink the kefir made from whole cow’s milk that I make. I did make it with coconut milk, but it separated in the jar. Is that normal? There are so many different companies that make coconut milk.Which one do I use. The one I used was the SO-DELICIOUS. Thanks

    • Yes the brands from the store to tend to separate more easily. It is normal but canned coconut milk does not separate as easy as store bought. It’s ok if it does separate.

  12. Hi Donna.
    I have been very unwell for a couple of weeks. I’m beginning to think maybe I’m overdoing it on the cultures. I have about a cup of Kombucha daily, a cup of kefir and I eat yoghurt. I’ve been having it for at least a year but only recently started Kombucha again. I am very sick with unsettled stomach, digestive complaints, gall pain, nausea, sweating and now I’m having skin issues! It’s not funny but I feel like laughing at the irony. I am sugar/wheat/grain free. So my diet is pretty well impeccable but I’m not well at all. Should I back off the cultures for a bit do you think?
    Thanks for your site!

    • Yes, I would and take a week or two break and let your body eliminate things and adjust. Sounds like your liver is detoxing from the things you described.

  13. I just stumbled upon your site. It’s so informative. Do I need to always boil the milk before making yogurt? The starters call for 180 degrees and then let the milk cool to around 70 degrees. The problem is that in raw milk I am killing the enzymes.

    Today I decided to just use room temp raw milk and add probiotics with some yogurt and let the jars heat on a warmer for a couple of days. Do you think this would be OK? I love making yogurt, but I don’t like killing the much needed enzymes in milk.

    • Yes, I think it will be ok but your yogurt won’t be as thick but it will still taste good. Raw milk has good bacteria too that competes with the yogurt cultures and so this makes a thinner problem. I make yogurt with raw milk all the time and it tastes great.

  14. Dear Donna,

    My friend ordered two books.One was for me. I’ve been reading through it and now think I have an understanding of how to make Kefir. My friend has been sharing her Kefir with me and it is doing wonderful and amazing things for my health. I am going through a Herx reaction now but at least I know what to think and do about it. Thank you for sharing all of your information with us and I especially thank my friend for finding your web site. It’s been the one thing that has given me hope for better health.
    Just wanted you to know,Cynthia E

  15. HI DONNA,

    • It is very powerful and it will subside and digestive enzymes can help too. Its a good sign but doesn’t seem like it. Gotta clean out the bad to make room for the good.

  16. Hello Donna! I bought your book and love it! I have a question though….I have Crohn’s Disease and I know I have Candida in my body. Probably a lot…ok more than a lot! ha;) I have got some kefir (dairy) grains from a friend last month. My husband and I have been drinking about a cup daily of second fermented kefir with frozen berries. We love it. I didn’t know about the die off at first because I didn’t have your book yet. I was very itchy so I drank 2 cups a day. I love it! But…I noticed that I have dry red rash on my legs and shoulders and arms! I guess I overdid? I’ve cut back to 1 cup a day. Will this go away soon? We’ve been drinking it for a couple of weeks now.

    Also…my husband takes a blood pressure pill in the morning. The kefir shouldn’t cancel out the med if he drinks it at the same time will it?


  17. I am based in the UK in Scotland. I know this is what my body requires to heal. I wonder if you know of anyone in UK who may help this beginner/starter of cultured foods to progress faster? Is there information what I require to begin? I have purchased your latest book on Amazon UK. It is out of stock at the moment. What would it take for this to be faster?

    Much gratitude

  18. Hi Donna I have just ordered some milk grains . Been using powdered . But think I can do live grains now . Got your book and made some veg cultures . I live in England just using super market organic milk . Is that ok . You are a miracle of this food . Thanks

  19. Hi Donna,
    Angela from all the way in Australia!
    I’ve been making my own kefir from grains now for about 8 weeks and was consuming about 1/2 cup kefir every second day. I made a fantastic thick creamy batch this week and it’s so delicious I’ve been using it in smoothies, sneaking a couple of spoonfuls and in cooking EVERYDAY. I noticed I was extremely fatigued a couple of days ago and then today I have vomited early this morning after feeling perfectly well all day. I feel fine now and there is a noticeable “heat” running through my body. I’m hoping this is the kefir doing its stuff and eliminating all the bad stuff! I am so excited I’ve discovered kefir and through stumbling on your fb page I discovered cultured vegetables and have just made my first 1/2 kilo batches with Caldwells today. I also have a dehydrated scoby to start making kombucha over next week or so! I have my partner hooked on kefir too and am watching to see if there are improvements in his health as he suffers from a few possibly immune and digestive related issues. I’m about to purchase your book and am so excited to be on this health journey. Thank you for your stories and sharing your passion…it’s definitely contagious! 🙂

    • Interesting reading this, I cannot wait to start making Kefir Water, and I LOVE Kefir…..
      I have heat problems in my body and lately oh my God itchy as HELL, so this will help.

  20. I started drinking water kefir and drank 2 to 3 oz before each meal for a few days. I ended up nauseated, fatigued, and had severe diarrhea. Could this be from the water kefir or did I have the flu? Before starting the water kefir I had been consuming kombucha for a few weeks, a few ounces a day.

    My 10 month old nursing baby also had diarrehea.

  21. Thank you for this information. I noticed a very small nasal drainage on one side, something I never have. It is gone now.

    I am fascinated with the information you share., Donna. I watched your video, “My Story” and have shared it with many friends.

    In the past several months, I have learned how to make yogurt and water kefir. Dairy kefir is next, then on to cultured veggies and sprouted grains. The funny thing is, I don’t like to cook but I LOVE culturing…maybe that is because I’m a gardener and like growing things.

    Blessings on you and your business!

  22. Would love to become a member but it won’t allow my card w/o going through pay pal and my pay pal which I haven’t used in years is screwed up.

  23. I do fine on Kombucha I’ve drank 3 bottles in one day and I felt amazing the next day! and have had some sauerkraut with tortilla chips , but Sourdough gives me gas, since I havn’t had any bread in about a year due to going gluten free, however, I have been eating it more frequently, I’ll eat a bread bowl size loaf for breakfast. I look forward to the reaction lessening.

  24. I wanted to start making my Kefir soon as I ajust to the cultured vegies(a little gassie) but raw milk is illegal here in Oregon.Can I use the Kefir starter with reg milk? or/and Can I order K-grains and use with reg milk? Not sure how to do this if I can’t get raw milk? Thanky for your help!

    • Absolutely you can use pasteurized milk. This is what I did in the beginning and it trans forms the milk into something healthy even if its pasteurized milk.

    • Hello… I live in Oregon, as well, and find raw goat’s milk at our local co-op grocer; you might try looking for same in a health food store in your town…or ask any of your friends, with goats, if they would sell you some milk; just a thought…and good luck finding it…

  25. I have kefir grains that have been in raw milk for about three weeks making wonderful kefir. The problem is I don’t always have access to raw milk. Can I regularly exchange them in pasturized milk or should I split them and keep some for raw milk and some for pasturized keeping the raw grins in the fridge until I can get more raw milk?

    • You can put them in pasteurized milk when ever you need to and they will be fine. I have done this many times. You can split them up if you’d like.

  26. A couple of questions:
    1) I am just looking into starting my family on Kefir. I have a friend who has a kefir starter he is willing to share with me but it isn’t from raw milk. Is that ok to start my kefir from that and then continue using our raw cow’s milk?
    2) My kids are age 5 and 8. I see above that you suggest starting with 1/4 to 1/2 cup kefir a day. How does this translate to kids and is there a weight chart that would be helpful to use.
    Thanks for all you do! I’m looking forward to helping our family get healthier and feel better!

  27. My husband loves drinking the kombucha every day. This is a huge step for him since healthy eating is not his favorite. But he swears the kombucha is what calms his stomach before he goes to bed and has a better sleep!!

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