What Is Die-Off And How to Avoid It
You probably made some good starts at taking charge of your health this year. Maybe you vowed to exercise more, get a better night’s sleep, or take control of your diet once and for all. Perhaps you ditched gluten, said goodbye to caffeine and alcohol, and bid sugar a bittersweet “adieu.” You feel great, right?
Maybe not. It could be that you felt terrific at first, and now you suddenly have flu-like symptoms or you’re dealing with headaches, brain fog, and even nausea. You might be thinking, “How could I possibly feel bad when I’m doing something so good for myself?” If this sounds familiar, it’s likely you are experiencing what is known as “die-off”.
Die-off can be common for people trying an elimination diet, a 30-day challenge, or a cleanse. It’s also fairly common when you first start avoiding certain food such as carbs, sugar, dairy, and alcohol. Die-off can cause irritability, fatigue, digestive issues, and other unpleasant symptoms that make sticking with beneficial lifestyle changes challenging to say the least. However, these symptoms are temporary, and the good news is you’re on the right track.
To help you avoid die-off — or to quickly remedy it — I have tried-and-true solutions. First, let’s discuss what die-off actually is and why it happens.
What is Die-off and What Causes It?
Die-off, also known as the Herxheimer reaction, is a bodily process triggered by a sudden increase in endotoxins. These harmful substances are released when microorganisms in the body such as fungi and yeasts, as well as bacteria, are destroyed. Rapid destruction of microorganisms can cause a flood of endotoxins. Your immune system responds by triggering an acute immune response resulting in inflammation that can be experienced throughout the body. This can lead to worsening symptoms as well as the development of new ones.
Die-off is commonly the result of medications such as antifungals or antibiotics. What many people don’t realize is that when they suddenly change their diets during a detox or cleanse — or switch to a healthy eating plan —they can experience die-off and its accompanying symptoms.
Die-Off in Action
The bacteria and yeasts that live in your gut thrive on sugar. A small amount of these bacteria and yeasts, including Candida are critical for digestion and beneficial to your gut health. However, if you’ve been consuming a diet high in carbs, sugar, and alcohol, you likely have a lot more of these than your body needs. They fuel your desire to consume even more carbs and sugars. So when you limit your intake of sugar and carbs, it starves this overpopulation, causing a die-off.
As yeasts die they release a toxic substance called acetaldehyde, which is the same byproduct produced when you drink alcohol. Acetaldehyde is a neurotoxin. It can be irritating to your brain and it can even cause neurologic symptoms, which is why some people literally feel as if they are drunk while experiencing die-off. To make matters worse, yeast also produces a toxin known as gliotoxin. This can suppress your immune system and damage your liver cells1. Because your body is being flooded with toxins faster than it can clear them, you can experience a range of issues that typically last 3-7 days2.
Symptoms of Die-off
- Brain fog
- Moodiness and irritability
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Joint pain
- Skin issues
- Flu-like symptoms
You are more likely to experience die-off if your detox pathways are compromised (e.g. if you have an MTHFR mutation), or you already had a high toxic burden and the dying microorganisms are overwhelming your system. You could also simply be clearing an overgrowth of yeast too fast.
How to Avoid Die-off
If die-off is an indication that you are clearing your body from bacteria and yeast your body doesn’t need, why would you want to avoid it? Aside from feeling miserable, die-off is a toxic state. The longer your body remains in this toxic state, the more likely you are to reabsorb the toxins being released by the dying microorganisms.
So let’s take a look at some of the ways you can prevent die-off symptoms while you change to a healthy diet. Then, if you’re already experiencing die-off, I’ll cover the steps on how to reduce your symptoms so you can start feeling great again!
1. Go Slow
First, it’s important for you to be gentle on yourself. I never believe that you need to feel bad in order to feel good. When your excess microorganisms die too fast, your body simply cannot handle the huge toxic burden from the acetaldehyde being produced. Take it slow! Begin by gradually transitioning to a diet of less sugar and fewer carbs each day. I also recommend supporting your body with a combination of supplements that naturally destroy yeast and encourage good bacteria growth.
2. Reduce Your Toxic Burden
One reason you may experience die-off is because you already have a high accumulation of toxins in your body. Taming the toxins is crucial to help you avoid die-off symptoms. See this article for tips on how to reduce your toxic burden.
3. Support Your Detox Pathways
Remember what I said about gliotoxin damaging your liver cells? Your liver is your number one detox organ, which is why if you’ve been dealing with excess yeast in the form of Candida in your gut, your liver is probably not working optimally. That’s why it’s so essential to support your detox pathways.
One of my favorite tools for this is Acetyl-Glutathione. Glutathione is your body’s most powerful detoxifier, and can help your body process and eliminate toxins. As a bonus, glutathione supports your immune system. Supplementing with glutathione will help your body counteract the immunosuppressive effects of gliotoxin, and you’ll be better equipped to deal with die-off..
Steps to Reduce the Symptoms of Die-off
1. Take Coconut Charcoal
Coconut Charcoal binds to toxins and helps flush them from your body safely and quickly. Coconut Charcoal is activated, which means that it’s been heated to really high temperatures in order to create millions of tiny little pores, giving it an incredibly large surface area that allows it to bind the toxins.
The way that charcoal works is through adsorption, rather than absorption. It’s full of negatively charged ions that work like magnets to attract positively charged elements such as the toxic byproducts released during die-off. These byproducts bind to the outside of the activated charcoal and get trapped in its tiny little pores. Once trapped, the charcoal quickly escorts these harmful byproducts out of your body so they don’t get reabsorbed.
I recommend taking one capsule of Coconut Charcoal in the morning and one capsule in the evening to help minimize die-off symptoms.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
You want to make sure you’re drinking at least 8 oz. of filtered water while you’re taking Coconut Charcoal in order to support your digestion since charcoal may cause constipation. In fact, drinking water is hugely important during the detox process as it is. My motto is when it comes to detoxifying, you need to make sure you’re peeing, pooping, and sweating every single day. Drinking plenty of water will help ensure that you’re doing all three of these.
Stirring a scoop of Organic Greens into your water is a simple and effective way to supercharge your detox efforts with immune-boosting greens and superfoods. Organic Greens also contains spirulina and chlorella, which are natural chelators that can help speed up the elimination of toxins from your body.
When it comes to sweating, my favorite way to sweat out toxins is to get in my infrared sauna. You can check out this article to learn more about infrared saunas, how they work, and why they’re beneficial for your health. I personally use mine a few times a week and it’s a great way to sweat out toxins.
Now, I know that not everybody has an infrared sauna, so not to worry! You can always do light exercise or use a traditional sauna to help you sweat out the toxins.
4. Prioritize Sleep
Sleep is super important while you are working to overcome die-off because it’s when your detox pathways are the most active! I recommend getting 8-9 hours of sleep while you are detoxing so that your body has plenty of time to rest and rejuvenate.
Again, if you’re not experiencing die-off, bravo! And if you are having any die-off symptoms whatsoever, don’t worry! Following these simple steps will get you back on track in no time at all. I am SO proud of you for taking your health into your own hands, and remember: you don’t have to go through this alone!
Your Opportunity To Take Back Your Health
As I mentioned, yeasts such as Candida feed on sugar. If you’ve been eating an unhealthy diet of carbs, sugars, and alcohol, you are very likely to have an overgrowth of Candida in your body because it is very opportunistic. It can break down the walls of your intestines—causing leaky gut—and can then travel to the rest of your body. From there it can colonize your skin, ears, thyroid, respiratory tract, and other areas of your body, leading to a host of symptoms including brain fog, skin irritation, seasonal allergies, mood swings and autoimmune disorders.
If you suspect you have Candida (take this FREE quiz to find out) or if you know you have it, my Candida Breakthrough® Program will help you to break the vicious cycle of sugar, carbs, caffeine, or alcohol.
So don’t wait — take back your health today and start your very own journey to optimal health with the Candida Breakthrough® Program.
- Wright, M. C., Issa, R., Smart, D. E., Trim, N., Murray, G. I., Primrose, J. N., … & Mann, D. A. Gliotoxin stimulates the apoptosis of human and rat hepatic stellate cells and enhances the resolution of liver fibrosis in rats. Gastroenterology, 2001; 121(3), 685-698.