Retoxification Reaction: Understanding the Symptoms and Treatment

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

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Symptoms of Retoxification Reaction

Retoxification can cause joint painIn addition to common characteristics of detoxification reaction mentioned previously, signs and symptoms of retoxification reaction include:

  • Severe nausea or dizziness that lingers on for days
  • Joint pain and muscle aches of unknown origin that migrate and are slow to go away
  • Skin eruptions requiring steroids to control
  • Lowered threshold to dermatograhia
  • Persistent heat rash previously absent with detoxification
  • Fatigue that can linger on for days or weeks
  • Anxiety made worse with medication and certain herbs like ashwagandha, rhodiola, and maca.
  • Low grade fever of unknown origin
  • Brain fog that lingers on and fails to resolve
  • Reactive hypoglycemia being triggered
  • Extreme craving for salty or fatty foods

The key differentiation clinically between detoxification and retoxification reaction lies in the overall severity of pathology underneath and thus the recovery time. Retoxification reaction is more severe, lasts longer, and is harder to recover. Even with rest and nutritional support, full recovery cannot be attained. Instead, there are frequent recurrences.

The clinical picture is clear from afar. The body is fragile and weak to start. It is unable to fully neutralize and metabolize toxins within. A residual load of toxins is ever-present internally and continually needs to be cleaned up. It’s a chronic problem rather than one-off. The body is tired. As the toxic load builds up symptoms surface from time to time. Triggers can be something as simple as ingesting cold water, watching an action movie, exposure to direct sunlight, taking a hot water bath, drinking a sugary drink, emotional stress, or over exertion. Many describe this as similar to a mini adrenal crash. Because there are no laboratory tests to diagnose this, a detailed history by an experienced clinician is needed to ascertain its presence.

Extracellular Matrix and Retoxification Reaction

Extracellular Matrix (ECM) is the non-living universe outside the cells. It is an intricate system of fluid, fiber, and collagen forming the scaffolding for the body’s organs to work and communicate within. It is the highway between the organs in addition to the circulatory and nervous system. It connects the entire body, from head to toe. The degree of ECM congestion is a key determining factor in deciding whether one is suffering from detoxification or retoxification reaction.

Retoxification can impact Adrenal Fatigue recoveryThe ECM also acts as an alternative sewage storage and transport facility of the body. Any congestion of the ECM will spell trouble. Unfortunately, the role of ECM is seldom investigated. Mass release of intracellular toxins as cells and cell walls disintegrate, for example, leading to an increased release of toxins to the ECM outside the cell for storage, transportation and excretion. This increase in ECM toxic load causes breakdown of ECM structural constituents, increasing pollutants and debris in the ECM. Problems arise if the ECM becomes overwhelmed, stagnated, and effectively incapacitated by the unusually large quantities of toxicity being released by the cells. A congested ECM puts undue pressure on the remaining pathways, causing a domino effect.

What To Do?

ECM damage and congestion is perhaps the main and most critical contributing factor to why retoxification reaction classically presents itself with symptoms similar to detoxification reaction. However, retoxification reaction lingers on for a longer period without full recovery and attempts to use micronutrients to support retoxification reaction usually backfire while the same use in detoxification reaction yields positive results.

If you are experiencing negative reactions from detox, make the distinction of whether you are suffering from a detoxification or a retoxification reaction. Most detoxification reactions are mild and self-limiting once the detoxification approaches are stopped, whether it be fasting, sauna, or liver flushes. Uses of additional nutrients may be indicated to help facilitate the recovery process. The body is usually stable and strong enough.

This is quite different from those who suffer from retoxification reaction, as they are usually much less stable and weak. Symptoms can linger for a long time, and recovery is usually retarded and suboptimal. Most are at increased risk of adrenal crashes if not timely reversed. The more retoxification reaction is experienced, the weaker the body becomes and the harder is the overall recovery from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). Preventing this unstable vicious cycle from being entrenched is critical. It has to be an integral part in the overall planning of a comprehensive approach to AFS recovery.

Adrenal Fatigue can take time, especially with retoxification issuesAs compared to a detoxification reaction where rest will normally suffice a full recovery, a comprehensive mind-body-neuroendocrine approach is needed here, especially for those with a history of repeated retoxification reaction. Aside from stopping all detoxification modalities, the key in turning the corner lies first with cleansing the ECM. That may take weeks to months. A lot of patience is required. One cannot push through this process quickly without risking backfire. A micro nutritional regimen may need to take a back seat temporarily and allow for adjustment accordingly. Some support may be needed, but it must be carefully matched with the state of the body’s clearance capacity at every point in time.

Once the ECM is cleansed and stable, one can consider to gently commence intracellular micro nutritionals using the right delivery system for the organ concerned, taking care to dose properly for the stage of AFS in an attempt to bring micronutrients into the cell to prime the pump, as they say.

The cleansing of ECM and transition back to micronutrient support are challenging because the body may not cooperate. Hypersensitivity and negative paradoxical reactions are common. Allot plenty of time for a slow and systematic recovery from this fragile state when retoxification is at risk.

Any attempt to short cut the process by using potent medications or nutrients that had worked well previously is risky and can backfire.

Our mental health can affect the recovery speed. Negative thoughts originating in the brain can negatively impact our hormonal output and internal balance. The mere emotional state of frustration and impatience can generate a negative energy field, which further congests the ECM. Accept your body for what it is, and work with it as your friend along with proper professional guidance. The body’s recovery can only go as fast as the level of cellular toxic secretion from within the cell’s respiration process matched by the speed of flow within the ECM that carries the toxins away for eventual excretion. Once the intracellular function is primed, the small but solid snowball can then start rolling on its own, and the speed of recovery can accelerate.

Everybody’s recovery speed and timeframe is different. Some trial and error is required even in the best of hands. Clinical experience is key, which is why most people who try to self-navigate through multiple retoxification reactions with a weak body usually fail to recover successfully from AFS but instead get worse over time.

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© Copyright 2015 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Toxins represent a drain on the body as the anti-inflammatory response takes energy to work. Toxins inside the cells are very damaging to the mitochondrial, RNA and DNA.