What is Candida die-off?
Once Candida has been diagnosed and accurately treated, large amounts of fungal and yeast cells are killed off rapidly and a die-off phase can occur, this is known as an Herxheimer reaction. This is basically a short-term (from a few days to a couple of weeks) reaction in the body as it detoxifies. It is also called the HERX reaction or healing crisis.
Herxing was first seen during the 15th century in patients who were undergoing the treatment of acute infections such as syphilis and were receiving mercury treatment (which is a weak antibiotic). It is an immune system response to the recovery and detoxification process and is known as the immune cascade.
In the cases of candida die off, the symptoms experienced are often those associated with the candidiasis infection, but are intensified. Patients often feel as though they are not improving in their health but that the infection is actually spreading and worsening.
The regular process of cell elimination of candida cells (the process that occurs naturally in the body when there is no infection or overgrowth) is vastly different to the pace of cell elimination associated with the treatment of infection.
When the candida yeast cells die, they will release a noxious (harmful) substance that contains roughly 79 different toxins. When these toxins are released (whenever a large number of micro-organisms that are parthenogenic are killed off over a short amount of time, they will release toxins as they die), the kidneys and liver work overtime to try and remove them. These toxins result in the symptoms within the body being intensified.
Some of these toxins include:
- Uric acid
The neurotoxin acetaldehyde has a wide range of detrimental effects on the health of the patient. The toxin is able to kill brain cells and therefore impair the functioning of the brain. The endocrine, respiratory and immune systems may all be affected. As well as this, the red blood cells can also be damaged as their ability to transport oxygen through the body can be reduced as the toxin attacks the membranes of the cells. It is easy to see how the consequences of this toxin can lead to symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog.
These toxins are also able to trigger allergic reactions which can lead to inflammation as the body’s ability to recognise non-threatening organisms is impaired resulting in certain substances or foods being identified as antigens. The immune system will, in turn, create antibodies as a means of fighting off the invaders, which leads to inflammation.
The symptoms of Candida die off will vary between individuals and each person will have their own unique degree of the symptoms depending on the area of the candida infection. It is best to always keep a professional doctor informed on the progress of the recovery.
Doctors may suggest the use of liver supplements such as milk thistle which aid in the liver’s ability to rid the body of toxins or that the patient decreases their doses of antifungals and probiotics should the Herxing symptoms be too severe.
Candida die-off symptoms
It is often the case where the symptoms of Herxing are compared to the symptoms of seasonal allergies or a common cold, these tend to differ from person to person and can be more severe (i.e. mood swings and psychological issues).
The by-products of the toxins involved will often cause inflammation which can lead to blocked sinuses and other sinus infections. Toxins such as acetaldehyde can lead to headaches, brain fog, nausea and fatigue. The liver will also be working at max capacity to filter the toxins out of the body which can result in a painful abdominal area.
The below is a list of the most common symptoms experienced with a Herxheimer reaction:
- Psychological issues such as anxiety, depression and mood swings
- Muscle and joint pain
- Increased heartbeat
- Flatulence, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and/or constipation
- Skin rash
- Swollen lymph nodes or glands
- Moderate to more severe headaches
- Dry mouth and oral thrush
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Sleep issues
- Sore or itchy throat
In addition to these symptoms, the pre-existing symptoms of the current candida infection may progress, this is known as the healing reaction. In addition, the symptoms caused by toxins can be exacerbated due to the body having to use more energy to replace the damaged cells and defective tissue that the toxins and Candida have caused during the infection.
Coping with the Herxheimer reaction
The exact amount of time a patient will suffer from Herxing is based on their infection and reaction to treatment. If Candida albicans occurs in the colon and intestines, the infection can lead to other issues such as leaky gut syndrome (this is where candidiasis breaks through the intestinal lining and this results in the contents of the intestines leaking into the bloodstream). This will often result in the patient experiencing a different reaction to the treatment.
There are a few things that can be done to help ease the symptoms (please note that the supplements listed should first be approved by a doctor before being taken):
- Liver-support supplements – Mill thistle or molybdenum helps the liver to expel the toxins from the body. Molybdenum is especially helpful in those who are suffering from Candida die-off. This aids in helping the body to produce the enzymes needed to convert acetaldehyde into the acid known as acetic acid, this can then be converted into either helpful enzymes needed for digestion or be easily expelled from the body.
- Drink enough water to help flush out toxins – Drinking water may help your body in eliminating toxins a bit faster as urine helps in transporting toxins out of the body. Hot showers, saunas and skin brushes (help to increase the circulation of lymphatic system) can also aid in detoxing the body.
- Decrease stress levels – Stress can often weaken the body’s ability to recover and fight off the fungal infections. Stressing also increases levels of the hormone cortisol which can impact the immune system’s ability to function at full capacity.