Been Giving your Gut Special Attention Lately? Read On…

Those in quarantine for the last several months have been wrestling.

Wrestling with their mental health, physical health, spiritual, and emotional health.

And anyone who has tried to tackle all of them at once probably started right where they should have: the gut. The gut’s trillions of microbes are responsible for so many of the body’s systems, it doesn’t even make sense to tackle disparate pieces of health if you’re ignoring your gut health.

And if you’ve been…

You may have noticed some things happening.

Maybe they even discouraged you!

But because our collective scientific understanding of the gut’s full-system impact is limited (but expanding every day), you may have mistaken some of the changes your body is going through as warning signs to stop.

Rather, it’s possible they were symptoms of something called “die-off”.

What is die-off, and how can you tell that’s what’s happening?

Die-off is a colloquial term for a medical event called a Herxheimer reaction. The short version? Endotoxins, which live in the walls of cell membranes, get released into the system when the harmful bacteria they were living in dies. (Hence die-off).

Let’s get into the long version…

Herxheimer Reaction and You

The purpose of detoxing and realigning your gut’s dysbiosis (imbalance) is to feed the healthy bacteria and starve the negative. 

When you starve the harmful bacteria, it dies.

When it dies, endotoxins are released from their membrane prison cell and into the bloodstream. From there, they travel to the right places for them to exit the body. Which makes total sense, right?

But… if you’re specifically focusing on healing your gut, and therefore starving plenty of harmful bacteria at once, you’re releasing a ton of endotoxins that your body isn’t ready to receive and which floods the bloodstream with toxicity. 

That’s okay – we’ve got immune systems to fight off toxicity, right?

Right. So the immune system goes into hyperdrive trying to fight the toxins in your bloodstream, which cause… acute inflammation throughout the entire body.

Plus, as yeasts (like Candida) die off as well, they produce acetaldehyde, which is the same neurotoxin released while you’re drinking alcohol.


The good news is, the discomfort that you’re feeling is actually an immune response – it’s not a result of the toxicity itself. 

Have you ever felt sore, tired, or achey while taking antibiotics? That’s because the antibiotics kill bacteria indiscriminately – good and bad, releasing endotoxins into your bloodstream and triggering an immune response.

So what does die-off feel like then?

Symptoms that Your Gut Detox is Working

Here’s the tough part: Die-off symptoms can feel like all kinds of things. In fact, it may even feel like you’ve come down with something. Symptoms can include: 

  • Fatigue
  • G.I. issues like gas, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, or bloating
  • Low-grade fever
  • Itching
  • Sore throat
  • Joint aches
  • Muscle soreness
  • Headache
  • Brain fog
  • Cravings for sweet food
  • Irritability
  • Feeling drunk
  • Lethargy
  • Skin irritation
  • Chills
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Cold sweats

The good news is that these symptoms typically only last between 3-7 days – enough time for your body to catch up with and clear all of the toxins released into your bloodstream.

There are also several ways to help prevent die-off symptoms, and also to avoid it in the first place.

To avoid it, go slowly. You don’t need to kill off all harmful bacteria at once. Take it easy, adopting one new practice every week into your detox. 

In fact, it’s better to start by cutting down on drinking, so that your liver, which is a detox organ, is functioning optimally and not busy trying to detox itself.

If it’s too late… and you’re already experiencing the symptoms of bacteria dying off… make sure that you are, first and foremost, staying hydrated. Drink plenty of water to help flush toxins out of your body and lubricate the digestive system.

Consume collagen, sleep as much as possible, focus on introducing probiotics into your body, and avoid toxins as much as possible. That includes from booze, smoking, processed products, pesticides, et al.

Die-off can be a good thing – it means that your body is working hard to lower the overall level of toxicity in your body.

If you’re feeling like the symptoms are worse than they should be, always contact your primary doctor and advise them on what you’re doing. 
Just know that it is natural and normal to experience discomfort as endotoxins and neurotoxins flood your system!

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.