Herxheimer Reaction Associated With Treatment


What Is a Herxheimer Reaction?

The Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction, known colloquially as a Herxheimer Reaction or “herx” was discovered by dermatologists Adolf Jarisch and Karl Herxheimer in their studies of syphilis. Both syphilis and Lyme bacterium are spirochetes, meaning they have a spiral shape and can cause the same reaction in patients during treatment. The reaction occurs as an adverse response to toxins released by the bacteria being killed by antibiotics.

Antibiotics kill spirochetes faster than the body can eliminate them, which means the patient can be stuck with a backlog of dead bacteria. The buildup of this toxic waste can make the patient feel much worse before it makes them feel better, increasing symptoms until their bodies expel the dead spirochetes.

What Are the Symptoms?

Unlike antibiotic treatment for things like a sinus infection, where you may begin to feel better in the first couple of days, Lyme treatment will likely cause the opposite effect, especially if you have a more disseminated case. While the timeline is different for every patient, you can typically expect a “herx” reaction to begin about a week into treatment. Symptoms of this “herx” may be similar to those of Lyme disease and may even occur more violently than the original symptoms. You may experience

  • Exaggerated fatigue,
  • Excessive sweating,
  • Diarrhea or continual bowel movements, and
  • Joint pain and increased inflammation.

It is important to remember that these symptoms will not last forever and are typically a good sign as your body is slowly healing itself. The length of a “herx” will differ for every patient and is dependent on a variety of factors, including the length of infection and the number of bacteria in your body.

Detoxing From Treatment

You can’t control how well your body will respond to antibiotics, but you can help support its natural response by detoxing throughout your treatment. In order to do so, you can use a variety of herbs and supplements, specialty drinks, as well as targeted sweat-inducing practices. All of these things work to flush toxins from your body and aid in the healing process.

Project Lyme has developed a full outline of how to detox while treating Lyme disease. In addition to implementing these strategies, it is advised to speak with your physician to discuss how to best support your body during a detox, so that your herxes are more bearable.