by Tarilee Cornish, Certified Nutritional Consultant
"Die-off" is a casual term used to describe the mass death of pathogenic organisms residing in the body. Die-off is known to create a myriad of symptoms. Some medical doctors recognize die-off, but are more likely to refer to it as a Herxheimer reaction.
What causes die-off?
Individuals with Candida Related Complex (CRC) have an overgrowth of yeast in their bodies. Once Candida yeast populations in the intestines and/or systemic yeast levels have grown to the point that they cause symptoms, it is crucial to a full recovery that the yeast population is reduced to normal or even, for susceptible individuals, to below normal levels through the use of an anti-Candida diet and supplementary anti-fungal agents. However, there is a challenging 'catch" involved with this essential strategy. Living yeast cause symptoms by releasing toxic metabolic by-products into your body. Unfortunately, as you kill them they will temporarily release even larger amounts of these toxins.
It takes the body some time to clear out the toxins released by dead and dying yeast cells, especially if a huge number have died at one time. (Remember too that the dead yeast cells themselves also have to be eliminated.) In the meantime, the released toxins are in your bloodstream and can strain the eliminative capacities of the liver, kidneys, colon and lymph as they make their way out of the body, producing uncomfortable symptoms.
Feeling worse before you feel better
Generally speaking, most folks experience die-off as an exaggeration of their existing Candida-related symptoms or as a worsening of chronic health conditions.
Feeling some of your symptoms worsen a bit after beginning the WholeApproach Candida program might be alarming, but is encouraging in the sense that it confirms both the presence of Candida and its susceptibility to the anti-fungal you are using.
Die-off is experienced differently by each person Most folks experience die-off at some point in their recovery. There really is, however, no sure way to predict what point or to what degree one is likely to feel it.
Some people start the program and feel better almost immediately, noticing positive effects such as increased energy, better mental focus, better elimination, etc. For these folks, the die-off experience is still likely to occur, but probably a few weeks down the road.
Others start treatment (in some cases even just diet change) and feel worse right off the bat in response to the temporary toxicity. They may experience flu-like symptoms (stuffiness, headache, general aches and pains), skin rashes, vaginal irritation/discharge, numbness, mental confusion, fatigue, brain fog, constipation, and/or diarrhea.
The die-off reaction normally lasts from one day to one week and can come and go throughout the program (it is especially likely to occur during the first weeks of a new Phase of the program). However, as your body becomes stronger, your susceptibility to Candida toxins is reduced and thus so are your die-off symptoms.
The severity of an individual's symptoms depends upon the weakness of the organs most affected by Candida, the strength of your immune system, the degree of Candida infestation, and the environmental and emotional stress you are experiencing. We all also have our own different approaches to self-treatment. Some of us are more self- aware and gentle with ourselves while others are still learning about what their bodies need and how to treat ourselves with patient, loving kindness. If we impatiently "push" our progress, we are likely to experience more severe die-off reactions.
Candida most commonly colonizes the sides of the colon. It typically thrives behind and inside any build-up of fecal waste. Where there is a large amount of fecal build-up or intestinal mucous, die-off may be delayed or prolonged. It can take some time for the WholeApproach Program to scrub away at the wastes so that the anti-fungals are able to exert their full effect.
For this reason, response to the WholeApproach Program becomes more noticeable after a few weeks. In the interim, many folks become impatient to feel die-off symptoms for the confirmation of progress that they bring. It's important to keep in mind that once you feel die-off symptoms, you may need to reduce your anti-fungal dosage a bit and then gradually increase it again as your body catches up with the sudden surge of detoxification challenges.
Of course, you'll want to try to prevent die-off symptoms from manifesting throughout the rest of your program. The fact is that more die-off symptoms don't necessarily indicate that you are killing more yeast, just that your eliminative organs are becoming overwhelmed. This is how die-off can become your foe instead of your friend, since overwhelming your body is not conducive to healing. A slow, gradual yeast elimination process is much healthier.
The best strategy is to begin taking the anti-fungal of each consecutive Phase at a very low dose and increase it gradually, according to your responses. If you have moderate to severe die-off symptoms you would be wise to cut back on your anti-fungal dosage to reduce the number of dead yeast cells and toxic waste material your body has to cope with.
Indeed, the art of happily surviving a Candida purge involves learning to manipulate the die-off process by being very aware of and negotiating with your body's response to the detoxification process. Eventually you'll get used to how it feels to be detoxifying healthfully and you can strive to maintain this feeling without suffering through symptoms.
There is no rush and there are no heroes when it comes to Candida treatment. You will be rewarded with faster recovery times when you proceed with your Candida purge at a rate that your body can comfortably cope with.
Bentonite and Psyllium minimize die-off toxicity
One of the best aspects of the WholeApproach Program is the unmatched ability of the psyllium and the bentonite to absorb toxins produced by dying Candida organisms. Another reason for the success of the WholeApproach program is the use of the highly effective, yet gentle liquid Caprol product as the Phase One anti-fungal. Caprol is such an excellent choice for a first anti-fungal because it has a direct focus on the Candida throughout the digestive tract. The yeast along the digestive tract, especially in the colon must be resolved to clear this essential elimination pathway. This will help ready the body for effective management of a complete detoxification of yeast and mycotoxins from the rest of the body (in the case of continued treatment to resolve systemic Candida overgrowth).
What if I experience a die-off crisis?
First, don't be hard on yourself. It happens to almost everybody. If you find you have pushed your body too hard and you are feeling ill, the best thing to do is to temporarily stop using any anti-fungal and to drink lots of purified water. When symptoms subside, you can begin to gradually increase the anti-fungal dosage again over a few days or weeks to the level that you were at before the crisis. From there, you can continue to proceed to the recommended maximum dosage according to how you feel. When you do this very gently and patiently you will kill off as much yeast as is possible without suppressing your healing process. If your crisis is severe, please consider the possibility that it may not be die off related and consult with your physician. Although they may not understand or be aware of the healing strategies that you are working with, they can at least check to insure that you are not in any danger.
You may also want to consider using Daily Detox Tea for gentle detoxification support tea that can help clear yeast toxins from your blood, liver, lymph, and kidneys. You may find symptom relief is further expedited by taking Buffered Vitamin C, Querceten/Bromelain, spirulina, non-sweet vegetable juices (especially green juices) and eating extra vegetables at your meals, preferably raw, if you tolerate raw foods well.
The process of treating CRC doesn't necessarily yield linear results. The recovery process involves a complex spiral of steps - killing off yeast, clearing the by-products, strengthening the body, killing off more yeast, clearing the by-products, and so on. You can trust, however, that no matter what is happening, your body never stops working hard to cleanse, repair, and balance itself. But the improvement of our body functions doesn't follow an exact schedule and our organs are not always consistently successful in meeting the challenges that face them.
The organic nature of the healing process and the number of factors that can influence our healing ability can indeed make it difficult to determine the effectiveness of some of our efforts. The use of a detailed health diary and diet diary can help tremendously with the identification of patterns and responses.
Filling out the WholeApproach Questionnaire on a weekly basis is a wonderful method that you can use to track your progress as it will help you to distill all the improvements or setbacks of the last week. You can then look at your results in light of the specific dietary and supplement strategies you employed over the week. Did your actions and efforts lead to symptoms improvement, worsening of symptoms, or worsening of die-off symptoms?
In general, regardless of the tracking strategy you use, the more methodical your observations, the more likely you will be successful in extracting some certainties about the direction in which your health is moving. That said, be aware that you can make yourself feel nuts if you try too hard to make sense out of every phenomenon that occurs during treatment. Sometimes it's important to just accept what is happening without trying to understand it. The reduced pressure on you that comes from a relaxed, positive attitude may just facilitate some healing in itself.
Trying to elicit support from open-minded and supportive friends or family members can also be tremendously helpful for lifting emotional pressure and gaining objectivity about your healing process. If you do not have helpful support, be sure to visit your friends at the WholeApproach.com Forums regularly, as the support provided there will be crucial for your coping abilities until you're feeling better.
In the case of severe CRC, extreme sensitivity and immune weakness is common. In these cases it is crucial to remain aware of how your body is coping and be alert to conditions that may require immediate medical attention. Only you know deep down what's going on in your body. However, your natural health practitioners and the WholeApproach moderators are here to help you tune into what your body needs are right now. If you are really confused and you are doing this on your own (with just our help), you may need to find a practitioner you trust to help you with your assessment of your situation.
To Sum Up
Dealing with yeast die-off can be challenging and complex. To stay on track throughout your healing process, remember the following key points:
- Once you have experienced die-off symptoms, manage your diet and anti-fungal product dosages in such a way that the symptoms stay manageable. Remember, it's important not to overwhelm your eliminative organs with toxins from dying yeast.
- Die-off reactions can cause you to doubt your progress, and may also be confused with other health challenges. To improve your decision-making and ability to discern what is happening in your body, keep records of your dietary and supplement intake, other factors supporting or stressing you, and your responses to these variables.
- If you experience a severe die-off symptom crisis, stop using anti-fungal agents, increase your water and vegetable intake and use Neutral Vitamin C Plus and a gentle herbal detoxification tea.
The following products mentioned in this article are available in the WholeApproach online store: