You’re feeling BAD. Sore knees, nerve pain, headaches, fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness, malaise …. all of it. You can hardly move.
Then you’re TREATED for it! With dull optimism, you gimp into the pharmacy and get the ‘script. You get home and take one. The next day, you take another, then later you take another …..And … you feel worse. You didn’t think it was possible, but your body hit rock bottom and grabbed a shovel and kept digging.
So you want to stop the antibiotics. You want to stop whatever protocol you’re on. Don’t you? Of course you do.
*** And if you’re on antibiotics, it might be wise to ensure this is not an allergic reaction. If your symptoms are out of control, then go to the ER to make sure this isn’t serious. ****
And if it’s not an allergy… then ….
What is happening is a GOOD thing. That extra pain. That comatose-caliber exhaustion. That inflammation. That weakness. That “wanna curl up into a ball and DIE” feeling. It’s called the Jarisch- Herxheimer Reaction, and sometimes simply the Herxheimer Reaction, shortened to the peppier nickname “Herx.”
Lyme is caused by a spirochetal bacteria. Another such bacteria is syphillis. In the 1800’s, two separate dermatologists noted syphillis patients getting worse before they got better. The bacteria releases toxins and the human body can’t detoxify quickly enough, hence an autoimmune response, hence lots of pain (inflammation) and exhaustion.
The bacteria that causes lyme disease can mask their own antigens and our immune systems don’t always detect it. Once it does detect it, the inflammation starts and the pain and fatigue start because the immune system has been alerted and is now fighting the infection. The bacteria then alters its antigens and is disguised again.
The Herx reaction may be worsened when the bacteria reproduce – there are growth spurts every 3-4 weeks (sometimes 6 weeks). A long course of treatment may result in several Herx reactions, and may be spread out during the replication.
It is also important to continue treatment before, during and after the Herx reaction (and not everyone gets them, particularly if the disease hasn’t progressed far enough and the patient isn’t as inundated with spirochetes). Many people have lyme relapses because they don’t finish their antibiotics. Many more may have chronic lyme disease because of not finishing their protocols.
I know there have been times I’ve taken breaks from my antibiotics. I just went off the salt protocol because my Herx reaction was overwhelming.
How long a Herx reaction lasts seems to follow with how long you’ve been sick, how sick you are, how ingrained the bacteria is in you, etc. It can last for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks [gulp].
There are things we can do to get through the Herx Reaction:
1. WATER , water, water – I’m guilty as HELL of not drinking enough. I love diet soda. I love coffee. Water just makes me pee and it seems like it doesn’t sustain the moisture in my mouth the way carbonated things do. But this is the key in EVERY article I’ve read and in EVERY person I’ve spoken to about the subject. If you do nothing else, do this. And make sure it’s 2-3 quarts/day during treatment.
2. Epsom Salts – toss this in a bath. The bath will make you feel better, even if marginally, and the salts will help extract toxins from your skin
3. Milk Thistle – this is a supplement that supports liver function
4. Peppermint Oil – this is reputed to quel nausea and to help with headaches. Sniffing it helps.
5. Peppermint Tea – see above
6. Nattokinnase – a supplement that is reputed to help cleanse the blood (*Note – it’s made with soy. Don’t take it if you’re allergic*)
7. Vegetables – dark, leafy greens are supposed to be the best and most antimicrobial
8. Fruits – makes your liver’s job easier than eating junk food and lots of chemicals
9. Cut back on sugar – mehhhh. They say that Borrelia burgdorferi LOVE feasting on sugar … hmmmm. I don’t even want to think I make them happy.
10. Cut back on caffeine – MEHHHH! I don’t want to. They say that they get what we get and this makes them more active. It may also aggravate some of the symptoms. Mehhhhhh! Who can cut back on caffeine when they’re exhausted?! I guess if the pain is great enough, I will.
11. Benadryl – they say this is good if you get a rash. I’ve read it can be helpful even if you don’t have a rash! However, if you’re prone to feeling tired on Benadryl then you might find it exasperates the symptoms of the Herx Reaction
12. Alka Seltzer Gold – they say this can bring more alkaline to your blood and may be beneficial
Armed with this new information I’ve researched (and relayed to you), I’m going to try the salt and vitamin c protocol again!
*** By all means, stick to your treatment. Follow medical advice. Don’t stop doing something if it’s clearly working! Loved ones are going to HATE seeing you doing badly. They are going to wring their hands in despair and they are going to want to FIX this for you. They might recommend you stop treatment. Keep your eye on the ball. Remember they are good intentioned. Also remember that there is a deplorable infection in your body and it’s dying. Keep doing what you’re doing. Have a funeral for the little varmints. Do something funny. Visualize their die-off. Revel in it. ***