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. This process is really a program of natural healing. A healing crisis 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, or 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 many 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 2,000 known species, and I suspect there could be more. Most of these are good, and there are also smaller amounts of bacteria that are not so helpful. 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.
Candida is particularly difficult when it starts to die off. It can give off more than 80 different toxins and this can create quite a ruckus. You don't want to completely eliminate candida since it serves a purpose in digesting things that your regular digestive system can't handle. But when you have taken antibiotics and killed off a lot of your good bacteria, candida spreads because it has room to grow and then you can have an overgrowth that it is difficult to eliminate and unpleasant when it dies off.
Every system in your body works together to eliminate waste products and help regenerate new tissues. Disease can occur when the body is not healthy enough, or does not have the vitamins and minerals and proper amount of good bacteria, to make it through its natural healing crises for one reason or another. The body's system gets overloaded with toxins and struggles to keep you healthy without proper support. Symptoms of the healing crisis may at first be identical to the disease it is trying to heal. I have seen this with a yeast infection. You think you're getting worse, but actually the elimination of old cells is mimicking the disease and making you feel worse when in truth you're getting better.
Detoxification reactions are generally an indication that detoxification pathways in the body are working again and the cells suddenly have an opportunity to release an even greater than normal quantity of stored toxins, metabolic wastes, pathogens, and unwanted material. An initial healing crisis usually lasts around three days, but if you have low energy and a lot of toxins it may last a week or more.
Something I have seen quite commonly is when one feels at their very best and most energized, the body feels it's healthy enough to heal and sets the stage for elimination. The whole body gets into action. Most people feel an energy boost at the beginning until the toxins start dumping into the bloodstream for elimination.
My own experience with a healing crisis happened briefly at 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 to this experience.
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
- Hot/cold flashes
- Joint pain
- Body odor
- Stools that are discolored
- Digestive upset
- Increased urination
- Sinus stuffiness or drainage
- Sore throat
- Gas and bloating
- Emotional distress
Diarrhea or Constipation
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 debris can accumulate in the colon as the body tries to shed all the waste from 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 (especially water) to help carry off the toxins. Another helpful food item is psyllium husk. This fiber is able to pass through your digestive system without being completely broken down or absorbed. It absorbs water and becomes a viscous compound that benefits constipation, diarrhea, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight loss. It's a great tool for when you're healing and also can be included in your everyday diet. It will thicken your kefir naturally just by stirring in a spoonful. Psyllium husk aids your body in many ways and especially when you're having a healing crisis.
A mineral that really helps if you're constipated is magnesium asporotate. This supplement helps with elimination, sleep, aches, pains, and stress. Take about 400 mg a day - more if you are constipated. If you experience loose stools, then you know you can back off and take less. That's one of the ways you can best tell how much magnesium you need. Mineral baths are really helpful too. Adding mineral-rich bath salts will allow your body to take in as much magnesium as you need and no more. I love to do this often and find it helps with a myriad of things.
You might feel more emotional at this time as well. Our body holds our emotions, and a healing crisis can bring up past conditions and personal issues. According to neuropharmacologist Candace Pert, the "body is your subconscious mind. Our physical body can be changed by the emotions we experience.” Her research reveals the integrated physiology behind emotion-body connection: “A feeling sparked in our mind - or body - will translate as a peptide being released somewhere. [Organs, tissues, skin, muscle and endocrine glands] all have peptide receptors on them and can access and store emotional information. This means the emotional memory is stored in many places in the body; not just, or even primarily, in the brain. You can access emotional memory anywhere in the peptide/receptor network, in any number of ways. I think unexpressed emotions are literally lodged in the body. The real, true emotions that need to be expressed are in the body, trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated, made whole, and healed.”
I know this happened to me. I felt more emotional as my body was releasing these stored emotions, chemicals, and toxins that I had created through my life experience. I think more and more we're starting to understand how intricately connected the body, mind, and the gut actually are. Be good to yourself during this time and remember that your body knows how to heal you. It's been doing it for years - you just never paid attention until you had a health crisis, which is a very good thing!
A detoxification reaction is more likely to occur when you begin consuming larger amounts of cultured foods, such as a cup of kefir or 1/2 cup of cultured veggies or 16 ounces of kombucha. If you know that your gut is out of whack and you have candida overgrowth or you have an autoimmune condition, you may wish to start slowly when adding these foods to your diet. See below for more info on this.
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 phases. If you are feeling overwhelmed and not well, and the die-off is too much, then you need to stop consuming the cultured foods. 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 layers 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 re-establishes 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 - including candida, old dormant viruses, and pathogens. The body will clean them out and soon you will experience 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. You must keep these harmful bacteria under control with the stronger good bacteria. 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 example, only consume one cultured food a day. If the symptoms are uncomfortable, consume them every other day. Remember to pick only one cultured food. As you get better, you can consume more.
1/4 to 1/2 cup of kefir daily.
2-4 ounces of kombucha daily.
1 tablespoon of cultured vegetables daily.
Blast Off Method!
I did the Blast Off Method and consumed all three - kefir, kombucha, and cultured veggies every day in these amounts.
1 to 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 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, what it wants to be fed, and how you can shine from the inside out. I know this because it happened to me.
Listen To My Podcast
This show can help you understand your body’s signal when it’s trying to heal. Signs of healing can sometimes be mistaken for feeling worse when often it means you're healing and getting better. The healing crisis can be a good thing!