What is Candida die-off?
‘Die-off’, otherwise known as the Herxheimer response, is a phenomenon that occurs when an anti-fungal contributes to the death of candida pathogens in very large numbers.
Die-off can occur when someone starts following an anti-fungal diet, starts taking an anti-fungal supplement or medication, or from taking a probiotic supplement. However, the most commonly associated die-off is from anti-fungals or any other method that directly kills off pathogens in the body.
What are the symptoms of candida die-off?
Fever, chills, sweating
Aching joints or muscles
Sore throat or swollen glands
Diarrhea or constipation
Itching, hives, or rash
Increase in gas or other GI symptoms
Cravings for sugar, alcohol, carbs, etc.
Tightness in chest
Do you need to experience die-off in order for your candida cleanse to be effective?
There is a huge misconception around experiencing die-off while candida cleansing. Experiencing a little bit of die-off is okay, it can indicate that the cleanse is working. However, you do not need to experience a lot of die-off in order for a Candida cleanse to be effective. In fact, if there is no die-off or very minimal die-off, this is just a sign that your drainage pathways (i.e liver, kidney, lymph, etc) are operating well.
It is normal for there to be an adjustment period and to experience some level of a Herx reaction when initially starting anti-fungals. I tell my clients to expect to feel unwell for the first 3 - 4 days once we bring in anti-fungals.
The reason why I am able to advise this is because I do 3 - 4 weeks of drainage preparation with my clients before we bring in anti-fungals, antimicrobials, and a binder. Some clients that I work with need longer than 3 - 4 weeks of this type of support. Supporting drainage is crucial before bringing in anti-fungals, antimicrobials, and a binder and it is also important to keep up with it throughout the cleanse as well. Typically the level of Herx that you experience has a lot to do with the functioning of your drainage pathways and how well you are detoxifying. The severity of the pathogenic overgrowth can play a role in the development of die-off as well.
What can you do to support your body through candida die-off?
#1. Follow an anti-fungal diet first before bringing in anti-fungals, 3 weeks minimum. If you start an anti-fungal diet and bring in anti-fungals at the same time, without doing any drainage preparation or detoxification support prior, you are increasing the likelihood of experiencing extreme die-off reactions. Starting the diet first reduces candida levels, which may allow your body to tolerate the anti-fungals much better.
#2. Stick with an anti-fungal diet while taking anti-fungals. Sounds easy right? Well it is not always that simple. I am sure you’ve tried starting the diet before and maybe you got thrown off track because you went through some stress, went on vacation, ate out at a restaurant, a friend's place, a wedding, work event, etc. It is totally fine for there to be a few instances when you eat off your candida protocol, this doesn’t typically have a huge adverse effect on progress. The key takeaway here is to avoid sugar as much as possible. If you are consuming sugar consistently while taking anti-fungals at the same time you will be feeding the candida and killing it at the same time, which can be very disruptive to the gut microbiome, and it can increase intense die-off.
#3. Stay well hydrated. Adequate water intake is necessary for cellular and metabolic processes. Without sufficient water, processes are slowed and the elimination of candida and toxins via your stool may be impaired. Electrolytes can be helpful as well.
#4. Consider taking a binder, such as activated charcoal, bentonite clay, fulvic/humic acid, etc. The compounds within these supplements may act like a magnet, they bind to the toxins and dead candida cells in your system, which helps to ensure they get out via your stool, rather than reabsorbed into the bloodstream. The faster the toxins get out of your body, the better you will feel (less die-off). Most binders can interact with medications, supplements, food, etc. So I would only advise to take a binder if you are working with a practitioner who can advise how to supplement with it correctly.
#4. Keep the channels of elimination open. The most important part of the drainage funnel is the bottom, which is the colon. If the colon is not open and if the bowels are not moving 1 - 2 x a day, stool will sit in the colon for too long, which increases the risk of toxins recirculating and perpetuating die-off.
#5. Move your body and break a sweat! If you remain sedentary, this encourages toxins to accumulate in the body, which increases die-off. Physical activity supports the lymphatic system, which gets toxins moving, supports the bowels, liver function, immune function, and overall detoxification.
#6. Support the liver!!!! The liver is one of the organs that takes the biggest hit from candida toxins. Mycotoxins, acetaldehydes, etc., clog up the liver's detoxification pathways and drain essential nutrients required for detoxification. I highly recommend incorporating high fiber foods, as well as foods that have cholagogue properties such as beets, artichokes, dandelion, radishes, radicchio, lemons, apple cider vinegar, cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, chard, bok choy, arugula, collard greens, cabbage, mustard greens, etc). Foods that have cholagogue properties are able to stimulate bile flow from the liver. Bile is a liquid that needs to be thin and free flowing, if the liver gets overburdened with too many toxins, bile can become thick and sludgy, which means it will be less effective at clearing toxins from the body (more toxins, more die-off). It can also be helpful to incorporate nutrients or herbs in supplement or tea form which support liver detoxification, such as vitamin c, milk thistle, NAC, molybdenum, alpha-lipoic acid, glutathione, artichoke root, l-methionine, vitamin B6, etc. It is important to remember that supplements should be secondary to dietary changes and may require supervision from a practitioner for safe use.
#7. Increase parasympathetic nervous system activity. It is important to support the body through perceived stressors as being in the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) can impair detoxification and drive up inflammation. Stress can be both internal and external, so even if you are not experiencing external stress, if you have candida overgrowth, that is an internal stressor, which can turn the fight or flight response on. If the nervous system is locked up, it will be very difficult for the body to excrete candida via stool. There are many different ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, a few of my favourites include deep breathing exercises (diaphragmatic, 4-7-8 technique, breath work, etc) or mindfulness meditation.
What should you do if your die-off is intense and lasts longer than 3 - 4 days?
If you experience intense Herx reactions for longer than 3 - 4 days, you may want to consider backing off on the intensity of your cleanse, such as by easing up on dietary restrictions, pausing anti-fungals for a little bit or reduce the dosage, as well as boost drainage/detox support. However, I would recommend addressing this with your practitioner first before making any changes to your protocol.
If the body goes through intense die-off for longer than 3 - 4 days, the body is going to be extremely inflamed and this poses a risk for the Candida overgrowth to get worse. It's important to remember that Candida thrives in an inflammatory environment, which is why supporting drainage and detoxification is the most important thing you can do for your body while cleansing.
Not familiar with the term drainage?
Check out my saved guide on drainage here: https://www.instagram.com/theholisticseedling/guide/drainage-detox-support/17848467068692500/?utm_medium=copy_link
Watch my story highlight on my Instagram page called Drainage.
Still have questions? Drop them in my inbox on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theholisticseedling/
Interested in working together?
I totally understand how overwhelming it can be when you are initially starting a candida cleansing journey. All of the information online and in books about candida overgrowth conflicts one-another. I tried to figure it out on my own for several years and I truly didn't get better until I went to school for Holistic Nutrition. While I was in school I learned that when you are on a healing journey, you cannot ignore one or more realms of your being, realms being emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental. I had been ignoring my physical and spiritual realms without even realizing it.
In my nutrition studies I learned that my body was holding onto trauma and my mind was holding onto limiting beliefs, which had led to sympathetic nervous system dominance. I was living in a perpetual state of fight or flight because I had not yet taken the time to work through the trauma I endured as a child and teenager. This was extremely eye opening for me because I finally began to understand why I had developed candida overgrowth in the first place and it also explained why the numerous candida cleanses I was doing weren't working. I began to see a trauma therapist who confirmed the state of my nervous system and how it was affecting my gut microbiome. With the combined support of my therapist and everything I was doing nutritionally, I finally began to heal from candida, something I truly thought I was going to struggle with for the rest of my life.
In my candida program, I don't just provide a candida food list and supplement recommendations. I help you get to the root cause of your candida overgrowth. You see, we have to look at candida as a symptom of a deeper rooted imbalance. We have to ask why or how the candida got there in the first place because if this aspect of your journey is overlooked, you may continue to do cleanses and not see results. We can uncover the root cause through doing a deep dive into your medical and health history. This can be done through assessing your current and past symptomatology, lifestyle, diet, and more.
If you've tried an anti-fungal diet and/or taken anti-fungals and did not see success with the approach, I would love to connect with you. If you are interested in learning more about my 1:1 Multi Phase Candida Program, you can apply through this link: https://www.holisticseedlingnutrition.com/1-1-nutrition-coaching