If you recently cleaned up your diet, gave up alcohol or went gluten-free and now you unexpectedly find yourself feeling worse than you did before, then you might be experiencing symptoms of “candida die off.” Many people describe candida die off symptoms — which can include headaches, brain fog, nausea and more — as being “flu like,” or similar to seasonal allergies, because they can leave you feeling downright exhausted and crummy.
Another name for candida die off is “herxheimer reaction” (or Jarisch–Herxheimer reaction), which is a negative reaction to endotoxin-like products that are released by the death of harmful microorganisms living in the body. What are endotoxins? They are toxins found inside bacterial cells that are released when a cell disintegrates. They cause the immune system to increase autoimmune responses and inflammation and can therefore contribute to a number of symptoms and even diseases.
You’re probably wondering: how long does a herxheimer reaction last? And what can you do to help manage symptoms? Below, we’ll cover a typical candida die off timeline you can expect, as well as natural ways to make symptoms more bearable.
What Is Candida Die Off?
Before diving into the details about how to treat candida die off, let’s start with the basics: what candida is and why candida overgrowth occurs.
- Candida is a type of fungus that is normally found in a healthy human body in small amounts because it aids with nutrient absorption and digestion.
- When candida overproduces, though, a candida fungal infection (also called candidiasis) can develop in a number of locations throughout the body, including the mouth, ears, nose, toenails, fingernails, gastrointestinal tract and vagina. This fungal infection is commonly just called “candida” and can affect both women and men. However, it is often misdiagnosed or never diagnosed at all.
- Candida symptoms can include exhaustion, cravings for sweets, bad breath, a white coat on tongue, brain fog, hormone imbalances and more.
How do you kill candida? One way is to follow a candida diet plan, which is a low-sugar, yeast-free diet that helps “starve” candida fungus. A candida diet can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to be effective. Can candida be cured forever? It’s possible for candida overgrowth to return if someone resorts back to the diet and lifestyle that caused an overgrowth in the first place.
Why does candida die off occur?
While getting candida under control is very important for long-term health, rapidly killing off candida in your body creates a metabolic reaction that releases over 70 different toxins. This is responsible for the uncomfortable candida die off effect, which, unfortunately, means your candida symptoms (and others) may get worse before they get better.
When you experience candida die off, this is a sign that your body is temporarily inflamed, including your liver, adrenals, kidneys and other organs/glands. Metabolites like the neurotoxin called acetaldehyde or gliotoxin, as well as proteins and inflammatory cytokines (like tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6 and interleukin-8 ) are circulating in your system, which causes you to feel “off.” The same type of herxheimer reaction can also occur when treating conditions like Lyme’s disease, some infections and other yeast infections.
You’re most susceptible to experiencing candida die off symptoms if any of these situations below apply to you:
- You’ve recently given up foods like sugar, dairy and gluten, especially if you go “cold turkey” and eliminate them basically overnight
- You recently started an elimination diet
- You are doing “Whole30” or another AIP diet/elimination diet/cleanse/detox-type diet that you dive right into
- You are avoiding alcohol, especially if you used to be a moderate or heavy drinker
- You are taking medications such as anti-fungals or antibiotics, which affect your gut microbiome
Candida Die Off Timeline
When does candida die off start? Symptoms of candida die off can emerge within several days or weeks of you making dietary changes, or taking certain supplements/medications.
How long does candida die off last? Candida die off symptoms usually clear up in three to 10 days. After symptoms have started, within just a few weeks, you should notice an increase in energy and focus, as well as relief from other symptoms, as endotoxins are cleared from the body.
Die Off Symptoms
The most common candida die off symptoms include:
- Impaired brain function
- Digestive issues like bloating, gas, constipation, nausea and changes in bowel movements
- Irritability and anxiety
- Sweating and fever
- Sinus infection, stuffy nose and sore throat
- Skin breakouts (not limited to face), skin rash and itching
- Chills and aches
- Swollen glands
- Soreness near your liver/abdomen
6 Ways to Manage Candida Die Off
1. Make Diet Changes Gradually
While making the switch to a clean, healthy eating plan is no doubt a smart move, you may be better off making changes gradually rather than suddenly starting an extreme detox diet or cleanse. Some practitioners who treat candida recommend gradually transitioning to a diet that includes less sugar and fewer carbs each day, rather than suddenly going sugar and grain-free.
If you’re taking a high-dose probiotic or antifungal, you may want to try reducing your dosage to help lower the amount of toxins being released into your body.
That being said, some people will do best if they jump right into a candida cleanse and diet; it’s ultimately an individual choice and depends on your reaction. Be sure to consult with a certified dietician or nutritionist before making dietary changes.
2. Keep Eating a Clean Candida Diet
You may be tempted to call it quits and return to your old way of eating; however, in the long-term, this is only going to make the underlying issue of candida fungal overgrowth worse. Continue eating a diet that’s high in protein and high-fiber vegetables, and limit grains, flour, fruits, sugar and alcohol (the top offenders that cause candida).
Some of the best foods to eat at this time in order to keep clearing the body of excess candida and endotoxins are:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables
- Green veggies and green drinks
- Coconut oil
- Manuka honey
- Ground chia and flaxseeds
- Unsweetened cranberry juice
- Cultured dairy
- Spices like turmeric and cinnamon
Your meals should include lots of fresh, organic vegetables (ideally that have been steamed), but limit starchy vegetables for a period of time, like carrots, radishes, beets, sweet potatoes and white potatoes. You can also eat salads made with leafy greens or bitter greens topped with just a bit of coconut oil and apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice). Continue to consume fermented vegetables and kefir to help your body stay in balance and keep the candida at bay.
Also, be sure to drink lots of water to help your body expel the endotoxins in your system.
3. Take Supplements That Support Your Immune System
The supplements below are useful for managing candida diet off symptoms because they replenish beneficial bacteria in your gut, reduce inflammation and help move endotoxins out of your system:
- Glutathione, alpha lipoic acid (ALA) and n-acetyl cysteine (NAC).
- Curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory component of turmeric
- Quercetin, an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation
- Ecklonia Cava (brown seaweed extract), which helps fight oxidative stress
- Molybdenum, which is a mineral that helps break down proteins and other substances. It is useful for those experiencing die off. Your body needs it to produce enzymes that convert the neurotoxin acetaldehyde into acetic acid.
- Probiotics (50 billion units daily), or healthy bacteria, which can help reduce the presence of yeast
- Bentonite clay, which can help surround the toxins and efficiently remove them
- Milk thistle, which supports your liver as it filters out toxins
- Pancreatic digestive enzymes. Dr. Jill Carnahan, who helps patients treat candida and die off recommends pancreatic enzymes to help with digestion (but not fungal- or plant-based enzymes).
- Garlic (2 caps or cloves daily), which helps fight fungal infections and boosts the immune system
- Vitamin C (1,000 milligrams, 2–3 times daily), which supports immune function, helps support health of the skin and helps fight off infections
- Magnesium, to help treat constipation and keep the bowels moving. Drinking lots of water and consuming flax seeds daily can also help with constipation, and if necessary, an enema is an option for fast relief.
- Adaptogen herbs, such as astragalus and ashwagandha, that build the body’s defenses against stress, fatigue and illness
- Omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation
Do probiotics kill candida? While taking a probiotic supplement and/or eating probiotic foods likely won’t be enough to get rid of candida overgrowth, in most cases it can help. Probiotics are especially beneficial if candida has become overgrown following use of antibiotics, which wipe out healthy bacteria in the gut that keep candida in check. Even if you aren’t sure if you necessarily have candida, probiotics can help with digestion, reduce inflammation, boost your immunity and more.
On the other hand, some practitioners feel that eating lots of fermented foods may be problematic when someone has candida or candida die off, because these help feed not only healthy bacteria, but also unhealthy bacteria too. If you find that taking a probiotic supplement/eating fermented foods makes symptoms worse, reduce or eliminate them for several weeks to see if things improve.
4. Help Speed up the Process with Essential Oils
A number of essential oils can help kill a variety of parasites and fungi, including candida, while also supporting your immune system. These oils include:
- Clove oil and oregano oil (taken internally)
- Myrrh oil, lavender oil and tea tree oil (can be rubbed onto the skin to help with candida die off rashes, itching, etc.)
Oregano oil is naturally antibacterial and antifungal. You can use two drops of oregano oil three times daily for seven days to help control candida. Note that essential oils should only be taken internally for 10 days or less.
For oral thrush/a white coating on your tongue, you can combine three drops of clove oil with one tablespoon of coconut oil, then swish the mixture in your mouth for 20 minutes before swallowing. Rub frankincense oil and peppermint oil onto your temples to help with a headache. To treat a candida die off rash and itching, try mixing a couple drops of lavender oil and/or tea tree oil with coconut oil before applying to the skin.
5. Reduce Stress and Your Exposure to Toxins
Prioritize relaxation, rest, slowing down and avoiding anything too taxing during this period.
Do activities that allow you to de-stress, since stress can further deplete your energy, weaken your adrenals and thyroid and cause your immune system to take a hit. Aim to get plenty of sleep, at least seven to nine hours per night. Find some time to do self-care practices like walking, yoga, skin brushing, acupuncture, massage or using a sauna. All of these are great for promoting relaxation, increasing circulation and supporting your lymphatic system.
If you’re dealing with candida die off aches and pains, try sitting in an epsom salt or magnesium chloride bath, using a sauna, gently stretching, applying a heat pack and/or getting a massage.
Also steer clear of cigarettes or second-hand smoke, alcohol, too much caffeine and any unnecessary medications. Additionally, you can reduce toxin exposure by avoiding the use of toxic body products, avoiding fish/seafood contaminated with heavy metals and avoiding environmental pollutants as much as possible.
6. Keep an Eye on Symptoms
If you have chronic or unusually persistent candida and candida die off symptoms, you should consult your healthcare provider. This could be a sign of an underlying illness, such as diabetes or immune system dysfunction. If you aren’t feeling better within several weeks of your symptoms starting, be sure to rule out other contributing problems via a blood test, exam, etc.
- When candida overproduces, a candida fungal infection can develop, which can occur in the mouth, ears, nose, toenails, fingernails, gastrointestinal tract and vagina. Treating this infection causes endotoxins to accumulate in the body, which is referred to as “candida die off.”
- Even though candida die off symptoms — like nausea, fatigue, brain fog, skin rashes and headaches are unpleasant — going back to your old habits and ways of eating will likely just bring the candida back all over again.
- How long do candida die off symptoms last? You can expect symptoms of candida die off to typically last between three to 10 days. You should feel better within several weeks, which will hopefully make it all worth it.
- To help manage candida die off, keep eating a candida diet, rest, use essential oils and look into anti-inflammatory supplements.
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