The Dreaded Herxheimer Reaction


Why Lyme Disease Is Like Riding a Continual Roller Coaster

All forms of treatment for lyme disease and it’s co-infections are geared towards killing the lyme bacteria (spirochetes).  These bacteria and co-infections are what is making us sick, suffering many unpleasant symptoms.   As the treatments we use, to regain our health, are killing the bugs,  a die-off effect takes place which creates a toxic body, which also makes us sick.  A herxheimer reaction, aka “herx” is a worsening of symptoms as the body struggles to rid itself of what has been killed with treatment.  This is why detoxing is so important for lyme sufferers.  Some people are able to detox better than others.  The worsening of symptoms are different for each person with a direct connection to how well a person is able to detoxify their bodies.  As I see it, using the FIR sauna and other agents to support the detoxing of die-off and other harmful toxins is just as important as killing the lyme disease and co-infections themselves.

After 8 years of treatment, I am easily able to recognize when my body is herxing.  I will have an increase in inflammation which leads to an increase in pain in all areas of my body.  I will also become very fatigued and weak.  Add to that, an increase with balance issues and dizziness along with increased body jerking, tremors and twitching.  My neuro symptoms (cognitive disabilities)  such as, trouble with word finding and speaking, reading comprehension, unorganized thoughts and focus and short term memory loss, to name a few all become intensified during a “herx”.    The word in the lyme community to describe these neurological symptoms is “brain fog”.

During the first 4-5 years of treatment, the herxheimer reactions where strong and occurring often, every week or two.  A few herxheimer reactions sent me to the ER, which is common for people with lyme disease.  The trips to the ER are usually breathing or heart related.  There were not many days in a month that I felt well, as I was extremely ill during the first 4-5 years of treatment.  I have experienced herx’s that lasted for over a month, which basically left me bedridden.  These serious herxheimer reactions led to backing off of my current treatment plan to give my body a chance to flush out or detox what had been killed by the antibiotics.  After symptoms began to lighten up, treatment was resumed.

So the pattern of being ill, followed by the herxheimer reaction with a good day or two per month in the mix,  was like riding a constant roller coaster that I could not get off of.  As time and treatment went on, the patterns would change, but it was still and up and down ride and still is, just on a lesser scale.

As treatment went on, the strength and duration of the “herx” lessened to some degree but it was not until around year 5 or 6 that I could know the pattern and distinguish between just being ill or having a “herx”.  Thankfully today,  I have learned how to help relieve the symptoms of a “herx” with good detoxing and anti-inflammation efforts among other things, which I have listed below.  I am able to endure and persevere through the treatments and the herxheimer reactions much better than in the past.  I “herx” less often and to a lesser degree and I am able to stay on my treatment protocol much longer before needing to take a break from treatment.

As my LLMD  says, a “herx” is a good thing, as it means the treatment is working!  The bugs are dieing.  It’s a good thing to keep in mind if you are going through a difficult herxheimer reaction.

There are several aids that help me tremendously when I’m experiencing a herxheimer reaction

FIR Sauna-as it helps with pain and is a GREAT way to detox.  Remember, detoxing is key for people with lyme disease.

Reducing Inflammation-eliminating pro-inflammatory foods, such as dairy, gluten, sugar carbs and others. (I have information on anti/pro inflammatory foods on my “Gluten Free/Lyme Friendly/Paleo Diets” page).

I also take MSM, Wobenzyme and Cucurrim to reduce inflammation.  I increase these during a herxheimer reaction.

Binders-During the early years of treatment, I took Cholestyramine, which acted as a binder to sop up toxins from die-off and mold toxins.  Since I currently take pain medication, I’m not using a binder, but this particular binder was really good at reducing herx symptoms.  Cholestyramine is a toxin binder that can be used to flush your body of the spirochete biotoxins. You need your doctor to prescribe cholestyramine and you should follow your doctor’s dosage recommendation.  I have heard of others using Activated Charcol as a binding agent but I don’t have personal experience with it.

Extra Sleep- on top of the extra sleep that my body already requires, there are days when I sleep for 14 hours.  I have become an expert at listening to my body and giving it what it needs, when it needs it.

Taking Extra Glutathione- as it is a great liver detoxing agent.  I currently use a liquid form of Glutathione and it seems to work pretty well.  I usually notice a lifting of fatigue.  During a “herx”, I will increase this to 1 tsp 4 times per day.  I do use it daily.   I.V. Glutathione is probably the best method and can be mixed with other important vitamins and minerals.  The liquid form is probably the second preferred method.

NAC- this is a supplement that aids in liver detoxification and is a precursor to Glutathione.

Increasing Curcumin- double these during a “herx”.

Drinking TONS of water to help flush out toxins.

Increasing Magnesium Injections-helps with pain and twitching/jerking and is excellent for relaxation.  Also, my newly found Magnesium L-Threonate by LifeExtension is proving to help greatly with cognitive function.

Increasing B12 Injections-helps in calming down my over active nervous system and helps with mood.

Using a Good Digestive Enzyme-supports proper processing of bile.  Helps keep you regular which is extremely important for flushing out toxins.

Adding More Fiber-increasing fiber will also help to keep things moving through trips to the bathroom, which in turn helps to flush out toxins.

Increasing Vitamins and Herbs for Detoxification/Anti-Inflammation- you may find these on my “supporting therapies” page.

Detoxing Baths- a good way to help release toxins through the skin, which is the largest organ in our bodies.  Taking baths with Epsom salts, salt and 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide helps draw toxins out through the skin. Bath water should be very warm, but not hot.  You may find more information on these kinds of baths on my “supporting therapies” page.

Accepting My Limitations- it took me years to tackle this one, but it helps tremendously to NOT feel as though I should be doing all the things that I would normally do.  The inner battle is tamed.

Prayer- being the prayerful person that I am, I pray my way through daily life, good or bad.  It helps me tremendously knowing that I am not alone and I have an awesome helper that helps me in so many ways!

Of course there are other aids in dealing with a herxheimer reaction, but these that I have listed are the ones that I use and that help quite a bit.

I think I have moved from the continual roller coaster like the Drop Zone to perhaps the bumper cars with an occasional crash!

May your herxheimer reactions be short lived and bring you steps closer to better health!



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