A successful detox diet coupled with certain wellness practices will enable the body to release and purge toxins, which may instigate various detox symptoms to arise. So, what are these symptoms and how can you best navigate the healing crisis process?
Foremost, detox symptoms are the physical, emotional, and mental side effects of the body cleansing process. Since detox hydrates the body with alkaline chemistry and loosens up obstructions, the acidic waste that is being purged from tissues and organs is now left to circulate in the body’s waste system – or the lymphatic system. The lymph system is twice as long as the blood network and covers all intra-cellular space where cells excrete their metabolic waste.
When we detox, the lymph system needs to move all acidic and metabolic waste to the lymph nodes for neutralization (through the aid of white blood cells and good bacteria) and then to the kidneys for elimination. When there are a lot of waste products in the body, all the processes can back up, and much of the acidic waste can stay in the system longer than usual.
The result of this is what we experience as detox symptoms, which include headaches, constipation, anxiety, mood swings, and low energy. Over time, as the body cleans and starts rebuilding itself, energy levels will return and detox symptoms will largely subside.
Since cleaning the body loosens obstructions in organs, which also govern the emotional meridians, when you detox, you will likely also release any emotional suppression that has been stored in your body over the years.
This will cause a resurgence of experiencing those emotions as they are ready to leave the body – and this would be the ideal time to resolve any of the emotional issues that we had swept under the carpet and never truly dealt with.
The body is very intelligent, and as we clean the body, any energy that is blocking the ideal cellular function will be released to be purged. This release will bring about an overwhelm of emotion and when you detox to truly heal, you’ll have to be ready for it!
You should create a safe space where you can deal with any emotions that come up – a place where you keep a journal, where you can pray and meditate, and where you can release your emotions through crying and punching the pillow if necessary.
Remember, emotions are meant to be felt, expressed, understood, integrated, and released; if they are not properly dealt with – which happens when we rationalize what happened and use our logical mind to make sense of emotions without truly feeling and making peace with what has occurred – we will only delay our healing.
One big piece of advice is if you know you have many emotional blocks to unravel from the past, getting a counselor or a therapist will be a wise investment in your detoxification journey – I couldn’t recommend it more (you will only delay your progress by keeping everything under the rug so that you don’t have to think about it ever again).
Detox is ultimately about the release of all that no longer serves our well-being and which is blocking us from our full potential and experience in life. By investing in healing, we are investing in our transformation and the ability to live the lives we envisioned for ourselves. Short-term investment toward our health (even though it may seem painful and hard at times) is worth more than gold in long-term benefits!
What is a Healing Crisis?
A healing crisis occurs when toxins are purged from tissues and travel throughout the body to be eliminated by the lymphatic system and the kidneys. This process overwhelms the elimination pathways and causes the body to recalibrate and function on a different mental, emotional, and physical level of health.
Revisiting old emotions and unhealed pain is part of a cellular detoxification process and should be understood so that detox can be embraced and not cease too early because it “doesn’t feel good”.
One of the most prevalent aspects of healing crises is the return of old symptoms. The symptoms can be the result of a condition that has been suppressed from recreational or prescription drugs, constant ingestion of inflammatory foods, or an emotion that a person cannot release.
The body is constantly striving to re-balance itself and will utilize every opportunity it has to heal; oftentimes, it compensates for the degeneration of essential organs and glands by robbing vitality from areas of the body that are less essential to survival. In time, this compensation leads to chronic illness and bodily decay.
With disease, there is blockage, stagnation, or a disturbance of proper regulation and alignment of cellular function. This impairment can be a result of mental, emotional, and/or physical trauma, poor lifestyle, environmental toxins, or a genetic predisposition to disease.
For example, Candace Pert, a neuroscientist and an author who was the first to scientifically demonstrate how emotion can block peptide function in cells, spoke about the power of repressed emotion:
“My research has shown me that when emotions are expressed-which is to say that the biochemicals that are the substrate of emotion are flowing freely-all systems are united and made whole. When emotions are repressed, denied, not allowed to be whatever they may be, our network pathways get blocked, stopping the flow of the vital feel-good, unifying chemicals that run both our biology and our behavior.”
What is a Herxheimer Reaction?
Detox symptoms are formally called “Herxheimer reactions” or “Herx reactions”, named after the German dermatologist Karl Herxheimer.
Herxheimer reactions are a common phenomenon that can occur when the body is undergoing a detoxification process, such as during a cleanse or when treating an infection. During a Herxheimer reaction, the body experiences a temporary increase in symptoms as a result of the release of toxins from the cells and tissues into the bloodstream. This can lead to symptoms that are discussed in this article.
The name “Herxheimer reaction” was coined by Karl Herxheimer in the late 1800s, after he observed a phenomenon where patients with syphilis experienced a temporary worsening of symptoms after receiving treatment with antibiotics. Herxheimer noted that this reaction was caused by the release of endotoxins from the bacteria as they were killed off by the antibiotics.
Since then, the term “Herxheimer reaction” has been used to describe a similar phenomenon that can occur during detoxification or antimicrobial treatment. While Herxheimer reactions can be uncomfortable, they are generally considered a sign that the body is responding to treatment and eliminating toxins or pathogens from the body.
The Importance of the Lymphatic System in Detoxification
The lymph system is comprised of circulatory vessels, tonsils, the appendix, the spleen, and lymph nodes. If you ever suffer from infection or inflammation of these organs and are medically advised to remove them, know that there is another way! These organs can heal naturally, and removing them will only weaken the body which will now be predisposed to the greater accumulation of waste and toxic substances.
The lymphatic system not only acts as the waste circulation system of the body but also helps clean acids and pathogens that can cause potential harm and tissue degeneration with the help of white blood cells and good bacteria that dwell in the lymph nodes.
It is the governor of the immune system and when it is functioning optimally, waste is filtered and removed from the body through the kidneys. However, if the lymph system is sluggish and the kidneys are weak, the body will have a hard time eliminating toxins and metabolic waste.
The most essential part of any detox program or detox plan should center around strengthening the function of the lymphatic system and the kidneys. A daily routine of light and regular exercise will move and circulate the lymph system and is the best thing you can do for proper lymphatic function.
Since the lymph system does not have a pump, it relies on our movement to circulate waste back to the kidneys. In addition, with clean eating that includes plenty of astringent and alkaline fruits and vegetables, the lymph system is relieved of metabolic waste burden through fasting.
If your body is unable to eliminate waste products, the acidic waste will degenerate cells and tissues over time, leading to many health conditions.
Detox diets that promote kidney function and the cleansing of the digestive system (which deals with nutrient absorption, skin and brain health, and healthy gut flora) are the most effective.
A clean colon also ensures that non-soluble toxic waste that has been processed by the liver can be eliminated through bowel movements properly. This is why fiber-rich raw foods are essential components of an effective detox plan.
When the kidneys and the colon can eliminate waste efficiently, skin conditions and bodily aches and pains will be the first to show disease reversal and healing. Over time, all systems will strengthen and your body will regenerate to heal all disease symptoms naturally.
Additionally, the liver plays a big role in the process of detoxification. It is the alchemical laboratory that processes toxic waste to denature its harmfulness and then either stores it within its tissues for later elimination or sends it to the kidneys and the bowels for elimination through urine and feces. For a successful cleansing of the body, supporting the liver with liver-friendly foods and herbs is vital!
Common Healing Crisis Symptoms
So, what are detox symptoms and how do they relate to the healing crisis experience? In a nutshell, healing symptoms are part of a healing crisis event that occurs as the body is purging and healing from the effects of acids, toxins, and metabolic waste.
During a healing crisis, you will often feel worse before you feel much better, as the body adjusts to the elimination and regeneration of toxins from tissues. Stay strong and motivated!
The symptoms will probably last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (depending on the severity of inflammation in the body), but know that you can always slow down a detox if it becomes too overwhelming.
For example, quitting any addictive substance cold turkey, such as caffeine, alcohol, processed sugar, or food that our body is accustomed to can instigate withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings. It is important to go slow with the elimination of addictive substances by reducing their levels of consumption over time.
Feeling tired, sweating and having chills, experiencing brain fog, and enduring body aches are some of the most common mild detox symptoms.
Depending on the severity of your body’s acidosis and toxicity, the types of symptoms you can experience during detox can range from mild to severe. The severity likewise depends on the nature and the extent of your detox and how deeply you choose to heal your body (healing can range from symptom alleviation, illness cure, and even reversal of genetic weaknesses).
Here is a thorough list of detox symptoms that range from mild to severe (reproduced and slightly altered from Dr. Robert Morse’s The Detox Miracle Sourcebook):
- Cold and flu-like symptoms
- Low-grade fevers
- Skin problems and breakouts
- Coughing with or without discharge
- Clear and yellow mucus discharge from nose or throat
- Minor aches and pains
- Mucus in urine and stools
- Loss of energy (may go up and down)
- Rashes and itching
- Disease symptoms increasing temporarily
- Mucus discharge from eyes
- Mild headaches
- Minor blurred vision
- Minor vertigo
- Weight loss (average 2-15 lbs. in two weeks)
- Emotions arising, such as mild crying, anxiety, anger, or even laughter
- Short-term nose bleeds
- Some rectal bleeding (hemorrhoids or lesions)
- Minor blood in the urine
- Symptoms of bronchitis or pneumonia
- Heavy discharges of green to brown mucus from nose and throat (lungs, bronchi, etc.)
- Pain in joints
- Heavy discharge from kidneys (urine color changes to brown, orange, or dark yellow, etc.)
- Pain in old injuries or degenerative areas of the body
- Minor paralysis of limbs
- Chronic fatigue symptoms
- Spasms of the lungs in asthma/emphysema/ C.O.P.D.
- Moderate shortness of breath (asthma, emphysema, C.O.P.D.)
- Temporary increase in tumor size
- Disease symptoms magnifying (short-lived)
- Sores appearing on the skin
- Oozing of innumerable substances from the skin, especially from the hands and feet
- Weak muscle breakdown (muscle built from meat protein)
- Heavy mucus discharge from eyes and ears
- Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
- Cellulitis “clumping”
- Dizziness and/or vertigo
- Minor heart palpitations
- Loose teeth (minor)
- Minor abscesses in the mouth
- High-grade fever (103° to 105° Fahrenheit)
- Deep coughing (sometimes dry)
- Depression or anxieties
- Emotional releasing (crying, anger, laughter, etc.)
- Heavy thoughts (lack of clarity)
- Skin splitting where heavy toxins exist
- Excessive itching
- Mercury tooth fillings can be pushed out by the body
- Rectal bleeding from past or present hemorrhoids or lesions
- Paralysis of any part of the body
- Black mucus discharges from the lungs
- Heavy brown discharge or blood in the urine with associated kidney pain
- Heavy black discharge from the bowels with diarrhea
- Tumors popping out all over the body
- Loss of sight (temporary)
- Loss of hearing (temporary)
- Severe dizziness (or vertigo)
- Severe fatigue
- Abscesses developing all through the mouth
- Loss of fingernails or toenails (followed by the growth of healthy, new nails)
- Excessive weight loss (this can result when a pancreatic weakness exists)
- Severe shortness of breath (use an antispasmodic or inhaler)
- Temporary deep depression, released through crying, anger, laughter, etc.
- Mental confusion
- Skin cracking open
- Teeth becoming loose (major)
- Old suppressed symptoms (like the case of “poison ivy”) reappear
Here is some advice from Dr. Morse, a naturopath who has been helping patients detoxify effectively for 50 years, about detoxing and how to navigate the symptoms of a healing crisis:
Don’t panic. You want these [symptoms]. I love to see dark-green mucus coming out of my patients. That’s an excellent sign that they are doing the program correctly and are benefiting from it. It is always smart to work with a qualified healthcare practitioner who has had advanced experience with detoxification and its side effects.
Most people do not experience this severe level of detoxification. It depends upon the individual and how toxic he or she is. How many medications a person is taking is also a factor. A few people who have chosen to suppress their body’s need to cleanse themselves (through steroids like prednisone) will have some deeper issues. However, those who are more likely to experience the severe effects are chronically toxic from birth, who manifest cancer, H.I.V. and/or other serious illnesses.” –The Detox Miracle Sourcebook, pg. 22
What Helps With Detox Symptoms
Depending on your detox journey, you may find that your physical and emotional detox symptoms may be too much to deal with, especially if you are heavily involved with the external environment and need to feel centered and grounded.
That is why it is important to do everything you can to keep yourself grounded during this process. This can include taking walks, earthing (connecting skin to earth), talking to a good friend, painting/creating/reading, etc.
Sleeping longer and taking naps throughout the day is truly recommended, as your body can heal faster when you are energetically and sensorily “turned off”.
Likewise, helping support the elimination organs will expedite the healing process by strengthening the kidney, lymphatic, bowel, liver, and skin functions. You can do so by consuming a high organic fruit intake and committing to a herbal detox protocol.
The best fruits for detoxification are ones that are astringent, watery, and full of electrolytes. Watermelon and red grapes are some of the most cleansing fruits found in nature!
When it comes to detox herbs, dandelion root, nettle leaf, and milk thistle are my favorite detoxification herbs!
But, if you still feel too ungrounded in your daily life to function optimally in the world, my advice is to slow down the detox.
Ways you can slow down the detox process:
Eat steamed vegetables or a cooked/healthy vegan dish (no protein) – preferably a veggie curry or a soup.
You can also eat more salads, as cellulose and fiber are harder to digest, and the body will use a lot of the healing energy directed in the detox for digestion instead.
Another tip is to help clean the bowels by drinking a mixture of psyllium husks and activated charcoal on an empty stomach an hour or two before bed. This will not only promote more bowel movements, but will also help expel toxins faster so they don’t linger in the system causing discomfort.
Overall, always listen to your body and try to keep yourself balanced in mind/emotions/body. And don’t worry, slowing down a detox will not stop the detox – it will simply slow down the pace of healing so that your body adapts to the changes occurring. It will not reverse any of the healing progress that has been made during your detox!
How to Go on a Detox
To be very successful at detoxification and achieve the health benefits of full-body cleansing, these are some of my top tips:
- Get rid of all processed foods and unhealthy foods
- Eliminate saturated fats (excluding coconut oil) and trans fats
- Cease all caffeine intake and refined sugar
- Stay away from protein (including nuts and seeds) when on a detox protocol
- Commit to a 100% organic vegan diet
- Steadily increase the quantity of raw plant-based foods that you introduce into your diet
- Eliminate all processed sugar (make sure to read the ingredients!)
- When in doubt, eat lots of fruit (fruit will help expedite healing and regeneration)
- For deeper healing of the nervous system, introduce more berries to your diet
- Use herbs in the form of tinctures/capsules/supplements
- Eliminate all conventional household cosmetics and products that have ingredients you can’t pronounce (or don’t know what they are)
- Introduce whole superfoods as the only nutritional supplementation
As a standard practice, I don’t endorse supplements that consist of isolated or synthetic vitamins and minerals. Instead, I recommend supplementation with whole food powders (dehydrated fruits, veggies, roots, and superfoods), since they utilize nature’s intelligence and nutritional synergy wholistically.
Isolation of elements can prevent them from working the way nature intended them to – alongside other elements. Vitamins, minerals, sugars, and enzymes all work together to enable the absorption and integration of the compound we think should be able to be integrated into our bodies on their own. By using whole food supplements (superfoods), you can ensure that you integrate all nutrition from herbs/compounds/foods in their natural state.
Keep envisioning where you want to be, and enjoy the healing process of becoming a new version of yourself to the highest degree. Healing is truly a personal rebirth, and knowing who you want to be and how you want to show up in the world should be the ultimate driving point that will keep you committed to the journey, no matter the obstacles.
All it takes is taking that first step and knowing that you don’t have to do it perfectly. Know that habits can change the more we do something and feel personal reward in doing so!
Once you invest in changing certain unhealthy habits for a week, you can dip your toes into doing another week and then a month. You simply push the envelope until you can’t, knowing you can always start again with greater will and resolve. And any step toward healing is an incredible commitment toward self-love and transformation – one of the most beautiful gifts you can give to yourself!
If you need more advice on how to detox properly, I’ve written an extensive article that will help you in the process. I hope you find it useful!
Support is a big one when it comes to healing – it’s a must! Since the body goes through so many changes during the detox process, you can join healing groups, find a detoxification specialist to help you on this journey, or follow individuals on social media who share their own journeys and tips.
Please know that you are not on this journey alone – there are so many health warriors right there with you looking to get a new lease on life! And if you need any more help in navigating your detox symptoms and healing your disease symptoms naturally, you can browse through my services and complimentary guides!