A herx reaction is no fun, but it is generally inevitable during treatment of chronic infections. Fortunately, we can manage your herx reaction. But in order to do so, you must first understand more about herxing. Please refer to this diagram when reading the following information.
Dr. Bazylewicz believes
that it is best to determine and then to treat the underlying cause of disease
rather then just treating symptoms.
Symptom management helps to alleviate suffering, but it does not fix the
Causes of disease include the following:
When your immune system
recognizes a virus, your immune system will produce cytokines which are
chemical messengers that tell your immune system to attack the virus; and so it
does. These cytokines also cause your associated
viral symptoms, such as fever, aches, runny nose, etc. The virus does not cause these symptoms; it
is your own immune system causing the cytokines which in turn cause the
symptoms. Your immune system kills off
most of the virus and then puts the rest in remission. The body detoxes the
cytokines out, and our symptoms disappear.
So, we think that the virus is gone, but it is really in remission. Every infection that we have had in the past
is still with us, but in remission.
When you acquire the Lyme bacteria, the same thing starts to happen. But Lyme is tricky; it can move outside cells, inside cells, into microscopic cyst form, and into biofilms which are like slime castles which hide microbes from the immune system. Lyme can also put markers on itself with almost infinite variations which each look different to the immune system (antigenic variation). So, Lyme hides from your immune system by changing location and by changing appearance.
Lyme may have also brought buddies with it called co-infections. And Lyme can also suppress your immune system so that microbes can reactivate. Your immune cells attack these microbes creating more cytokines. However, these infections never fully resolve resulting in chronic infections that continue to create more and more symptoms and more and more inflammation. Eventually, your body is in the midst of a cytokine storm and inflammatory cascade.
When you start to kill these microbes, you will most likely experience a herx reaction which is an abbreviation for a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction and which is named after the two people who discovered this process. In summary, it is an inflammatory response which produces additional cytokines due to the interaction of the immune system with microorganisms and their toxins as a result of killing these organisms with antibiotics or natural products. Quite simply, they are “die-off” reactions which is an indication that your treatment is working to kill infections. If you have Lyme disease, you will usually have herx reactions associated with die-off from treatment.
Herxing symptoms can be quite diverse, such as fatigue, pain, fever, brain fog, headache, rashes, depression, anxiety and more. You can have one symptom or many symptoms. You may have experienced that symptom in the past or it may be new to you. Herxing may last a few minutes, a few days, or a few weeks, and occasionally even longer. When not managed well, herxes can also be very serious and possibly even life-threatening. Each person is unique in their response to herxing. Most ILADS physicians - including Dr. Bazylewicz - believe that the risks of chronic infections far outweigh the risks of herxing.
Nevertheless, a herx reaction should be and can be minimized by weaning up slowing on killing products (medication and/or natural products) one at a time in order to produce less cytokines and by using adequate amounts of detoxification products in order to eliminate the cytokines responsible for the herxing. You do not have to - nor should you - suffer through significant herxing. Herxes can be managed to minimize discomfort.
Specifically, Dr. Bazylewicz will suggest that you start on a sufficient amount of detoxification products to make sure that your detox pathways are wide open so that cytokines can be easily eliminated. She will also recommend other pertinent supplements. Then, she will ask you to slowly wean up your killing product (antibiotic and/or natural product) one at a time as tolerated. If you herx too much, she will slow your killing even more and/or increase your detoxing. If you herx a lot, she will most likely stop your killing for a while continuing to detox. Then, she will add back your killing when you can better handle it.
During this process, it is important that you do not add any other killing products on your own. If you choose not to detox simultaneously or take additional supplements, then you need to wean up on your killing products even more slowly and healing will take even longer.
During appointments, Dr. Bazylewicz will also discuss life-style modifications, such as diet, exercise, stress management, healthy homes, etc to help you even more.
Management of your herx reaction may seem complicated, but Dr. Bazylewicz will help you through the process. If you have problems with herxing, then please contact Dr. Bazylewicz for assistance. Let her know everything that you are taking including how much and how often so that she can provide you with specific recommendations. Occasionally, phone appointments or more frequent in-person appointments are necessary in some circumstances.
Management of the herx reaction is highly individualized, and Dr. Bazylewicz will guide you every step of the way.
be thy medicine,
be thy food.
is a lamp
to my feet
and a light
to my path.
The secret of health
for both mind and body
is not to mourn for the past,
worry about the future,
or anticipate troubles,
but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.