Herxheimer reaction is a term most Lyme Patients have heard tossed around, but what does it actually mean for them in treatment?
Herxheimer Reaction is a die-off reaction of spirochetes when treating the Lyme infection and some co-infections. The symptoms to die-off reaction are generally an amplified version of the underlying symptoms of these associated infections. In a die off reaction different agents are released such as proteins and toxins that will increase inflammatory cytokines. The increase in inflammation leads to worsening symptoms including fatigue, muscle and nerve pain, chills and sweats, memory loss and brain fog.
What are Cytokines: Cytokines are types of white blood cells designated to target infections. They are responsible for decreasing viral and bacterial replication as well as making antibodies work more effectively. Based on this information, the assumption would be more cytokines would be good, but in regards to Lyme Disease that is not the case. When cytokines are found in excess in the body they have been shown to cause an increase of symptoms over the entire body. Cytokines are triggered by infectious agents in the body. Once stimulated, a messenger NF-kB responsible for the genetic programming for production of these cytokines flips the light switch on to communicate to the cytokines to fight these infections.
There are a number of approaches for intervention in Herxheimer reaction, the general science behind many of these methods is decreasing NF-kB that programs the cells, block inflammatory markers triggered by cytokines, and promote detox pathways.
Spirochetes cause a lot of headache because of the different forms they can take, making it more difficult to treat and detox them out of the body. First, spirochetes can encyst themselves in a biofilm layer making many treatment approaches useless as oral protocols can’t break through this protective barrier. The biofilm layer allows the spirochetes to band together and “hide out” for extended periods of time by-passing treatment protocols. Lastly, their ability to burrow anywhere in the body; muscles, joints, intracellularly, leads to many people often being misdiagnosed with autoimmune diseases.
Surprisingly after all this… Herxing is a good thing. Spirochetes are incredibly difficult to kill. If you are having a herxheimer reaction, then you are reaching the infection and it will get better over time. Herxing can be an awful experience, but to get off the Lyme roller-coaster it is an important to go through… You can’t battle and not have any wounds.
What to expect while Herxing? It is not easy to recognize a Herx versus worsening symptoms as a rise in symptoms could suggest many different things going on in the body. Herxing can also be symptoms you have never experienced before but most reported symptoms of herxing are:
-Increased Fatigue -Skin Rashes -Migraines -Swollen Glands -Dizziness -Night Sweats -Nausea -Brain Fog -Tachycardia -Bowel Changes -Temperature Sensitivity