Die off is the remains of a micro-organism (virus, bacterium, spirochete, protozoan, fungus, parasite, etc.) after it ceases life. Die off can contain the dead micro-organism, the toxic insides of the micro-organism, the dead cell filled with cell-dwellers, toxic wastes and if it is an infection that produces neurotoxins, then these neurotoxins as well.

Release and elimination of die off toxins is an essential step in the healing process. 

When the body is healthy and well-functioning, the immune system reacts to die-off toxins by creating inflammation and mucus to isolate and eventually eliminate these toxins from the body.

When the body is not functioning well or is weakened and the toxic burden is high, the immune system’s ability to isolate and eliminate die off toxins from the body becomes compromised. Sometimes die-off toxins become stuck or re-circulate in the body, causing painful, even severe side effects to occur. This response is called a Jarisch-Herxheimer “herx” reaction (named after the doctors that discovered it). During a herx reaction, the large-scale death of toxins dumped inside the body causes whatever symptoms you typically experience (both physiologically and psychologically) to surge. Fortunately, in most cases, the surge is followed by a sense of relief.

One of the primary goals of the GAPS protocol is to relieve the burden placed on the immune system. As you move through the various stages of the GAPS diet, nutrient dense foods are gradually introduced. The aim of this is to carefully and gently urge the die off of toxins. 

Minimizing the experience of an uncomfortable die off reaction.

When an uncomfortable or painful die off reaction occurs, t is important to address it right away. If you think you are experiencing a painful die off or herxing reaction, stop eating fermented foods temporarily.  You and your coach will decide together how and when to reintroduce them back into your diet. In addition, there are several ways to minimize the effects of a die-off reaction such as an Epsom salt bath, coffee enema, lymphatic massage, sauna, etc..  Ask your GAPS coach to discuss methods best for you.

A Final Note

While a severe die off reaction is not intended, the good news is it means the healthy, nutritious foods you are eating are working. A severe reaction is your body’s way of saying it is not quite ready to move to the next phase; more healing and sealing of the gut is still needed.

Don’t push your body beyond its limits. What another person can handle does not necessarily apply to your body. Each is different in the amount of infection/disease present, amount of time it has had to spread, the individual’s detoxification system’s efficiency, your age, physical fitness, and much more.

The aim is to heal and seal the digestive track and restore a flourishing, thriving microbiome. Essential to this is removing die-off toxins safely and gently from your body.

Throughout the healing process, it is important to always monitor and judge what is going on with your body… and then adjust with the support of your coach. Be kind and listen to your body.