Die Off Reactions

I have been talking a lot these past few months about integrative medicine, adding in supplements, and even tracking changes. But there is still one more basic topic that falls within this category that I want to make sure we cover before we expand the conversation further into alternative therapies, and that topic is die off reactions. I initially learned about die off reactions through our integrative pediatrician. And soon after starting the process with them, I got to see this unfortunate, but very relevant part of the holistic treatment process, first hand.

Die off reactions, or sometimes referred to as Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, are negative reactions that occur when something is being removed or killed off in the body. Negative reactions can appear through a variety of different symptoms with possibilities including things like headache, fatigue, pain, etc. Looking in from the outside, as a parent to a child with limited verbal skills, to us it often manifested itself as behavioral issues such as meltdowns, or extreme mood swings. But occasionally we would still see the fatigue or sluggishness show through as well. The thing about these die off reactions is just as their name suggests, they don’t last forever. They are only symptoms the occur as the thing in your body is “dying off” and being removed.

In some ways, die off seems counterproductive to what you would initially expect. I mean, if you are getting rid of the bad, that should make you feel better right? But we know that sometimes things are not as they seem at first. It’s the same idea as someone going through withdrawal when they stop taking a drug, the symptoms of this can be excruciating, but once they are through it, the effects of being off the drug will only be positive for their health.  The human body is kind of like my son’s attitude overall; resistant to change. It may be great for your body to get rid of that mold or bacteria, or whatever it is you are trying to rid yourself of, but it is not going to feel good during the detox part.

Die off reactions are something that our integrative pediatrician is obviously very aware of and has given us forewarning when a certain supplement or process has been known cause the die off reaction. They also have a few supplements they prescribe which can help counteract the die off symptoms to help us get through the unpleasant process. We are thankful they are pros at this because we know firsthand just how “not fun” the die off process can be.

Tracking implemented Change is so important in all this as well, because it helps you decipher between actual negative reactions and those that are just die off reactions. Obviously, the big difference being that die off reactions will start to subside after a bit of time. If you didn’t know about die off reactions and didn’t give enough time between changes, you may find yourself thinking something was not good, when it was actually a positive change that just had a beginning die off. Having a doctor in play can be integral in discussing the types of reactions you see and determining which are die off vs which are not.

Die off reactions are never something to look forward to but can be an indication that something is working to help the body. If you are going through the biomedical or integrative route to help your child, then it is likely inevitable that you will encounter a die off reaction. Even if you are not making changes through things like supplements, you can still find die off reactions even in things such as diet changes. Just remember that just because the initial reaction to a change is bad, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to stay that way. Some of the best improvements we have seen with our son, started with a die off reaction. Keep track of your changes, work with your doctor, and hopefully you will be through any die off and onto positive changes soon!