The Healing Crisis

 In Autoimmune/Allergy Medicine

Cheryl Deroin, NMD

A healing crisis is the process by which toxins are eliminated from the body and the mental, emotional and physical being of the person reaches a different level of health. The body is constantly striving to function towards optimal resonance with the memory of its cellular growth. With disease there is blockage, stagnation or a disturbance of proper regulation and alignment of cellular function. This impairment can be a result of mental, emotional and/or physical trauma, poor lifestyle, environmental toxins or a genetic predisposition to disease.

About the Healing Crisis

One of the most important aspects of a healing crisis is the return of old symptoms. The symptoms can be the result of a condition that has been suppressed from recreational or prescription drugs, a constant ingestion of inflammatory foods or an emotion that a person cannot release. For example, a 53-year-old female with Stage IV melanoma developed a rash over her chest and abdomen similar to a rash she had experienced at age 14 after taking high doses of penicillin for a pelvic infection. (The pelvic infection was never completely resolved and probably contributed to her infertility and disease process.) The rash continued for several weeks after the healing crisis subsided and her general condition greatly improved.

A healing crisis can also occur with emotional issues that have stymied a person’s cellular growth. Candace Pert, in her book Molecules of Emotion, was the first to scientifically demonstrate how an emotion can block peptide function in cells in the brain and how this will correspond to a shift in the messenger system via hormones to other parts of the body. An experience and series of repeated events can create an emotion stored in the limbic system of the brain, which subsequently affects the functioning of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland and, hence, the rest of the endocrine system. Patients may not remember the exact situation, but will feel the emotion that corresponds to that time. For no explainable reason, the anger, grief or fear will overwhelm the person as it is released.

Roles of the Body Systems

Generally, a healing crisis will cause a fever of 99 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or higher. Cancer patients can have a low-grade fever on a daily basis, but this can be due to suppressive medications or a chronic low-grade inflammation or irritation of the body. A tumor or stagnation in the body due to cancer can also produce an area of localized inflammation, resulting in a fever state in a specific area.

A true healing crisis stimulates the immune system. There is a breakdown of muscle tissue, increasing the body’s amino acid pool and creating a rise in granular leukocytes. This causes nutrients to be released from storage to be utilized to a greater extent for the healing process. There is a reduction in blood concentrations of zinc and iron; this reduction inhibits bacterial growth and the growth of cancer cells. Optimal adrenal function is a necessary component of the healing crisis, as the adrenal medulla releases epinephrine and norepinephrine to cause vasoconstriction to the GI tract and vasodilation to skeletal muscles via the sympathetic nervous system, thus causing a decrease in blood flow to the digestive organs and protection of the internal organs. Hence, the patient experiences a decrease in appetite. Fasting during a fever maintains the fever at a stable temperature, prevents further suppression and protects the body from the autotoxicity caused by undigested food.

During the healing crisis messages travel back and forth from the adrenal glands to the pituitary gland through the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS cannot function without amino acids, which act as neurotransmitters or precursors to neurotransmitters. Certain amino acids, such as taurine and gaba, neutralize toxins and enhance mobilization of nutrients to the inflammatory areas of the body.

The utilization of oxygen in the body is converted from an anaerobic to an aerobic process during a healing crisis. In the state of fermentation that cancer thrives in, the body has difficulty recognizing its own destruction. During a healing crisis, numerous biochemical reactions take place that shift the body’s ability to both recognize abnormal cell growth and use oxidative processes to relieve inflammation. It is the body’s innate response in returning to homeostasis.

Also playing a role in the body’s ability to generate a healing crisis is the pH level. A very acidic system cannot stimulate a fever. Since many cancer patients are acidic to begin with, an alkaline diet will help them build a stronger foundation and better immune response. A healing crisis sometimes enables patients to shift from an acid to alkaline state and makes it easier for the body to maintain that alkaline state.

Understanding the important role that the endocrine system, nervous system and general vital force of the body play in a healing crisis allows the physician to use the appropriate medicines not only to promote a healing crisis but also to assist the patient in further alleviation of symptoms. In general, the stronger the patient, the sooner a healing crisis may be expected; the weaker the patient, the greater likelihood of a delay.

Healing Crisis Symptoms

The premise that a cancer patient needs to go through a detoxification process initially is inaccurate. This may further weaken the immune system and render the body unable to mount an immune response (i.e., healing crisis). The body needs adequate nutrition, a well-functioning endocrine system and a storehouse of resources to draw upon in order to repair itself.

The typical symptoms of a healing crisis include not only a fever but also chills and sweating. There can be nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Headaches and body aches are common. It is not uncommon for the patient to experience rashes or other types of discharge through the skin and urinary tract. It is imperative that a patient never take aspirin or any antipyretic medication during a healing crisis, as it will cause suppression of the disease process and possibly push it deeper into the body.

The Herxheimer Effect

A healing crisis has been confused with the Herxheimer Effect, which is a drug-induced state discovered by Austrian dermatologist Jarisch Adolf Herxheimer, working in Vienna in 1895, and his brother Karl Herxheimer, a dermatologist working in Frankfort. They were treating syphilitic lesions of skin by means of mercury, arsenic and bismuth preparations. The patients developed high fever, sweats, nausea and vomiting, but after this response, the lesions began to heal quickly.

Other medications, such as antibiotics and chemotherapeutic drugs, can produce a Herxheimer reaction. It has been found that the effect is dose related, as higher doses are often necessary to produce the Herxheimer Effect. The symptoms, which can include rnalaise, diarrhea, body aches, rash, nausea, vomiting and fever, have not been shown to be produced in a healthy person who has been given antibiotics or other medications. Hence, the reaction demonstrates that in each case a type of endotoxin or other organism related to a bacterium is being killed off. There is no return of old symptoms and the metabolism of the body becomes anaerobic. The polymorphonuclear leukocytes are reduced in number. These leukocytes are the neutrophils that take up the food particles from the intestine so the body is receiving less nutrition. There is a decrease in eosinophils and other white blood cells. There is also a decrease in urea excretion.

Experiencing a healing crisis does not guarantee a person will be cured of cancer or any other condition, but its significance lies in a better understanding of the person’s vital force. It also allows the body to move through layers of disturbed metabolism and realign itself with its innate cellular memory. Generally, a person’s quality of life is improved and the immune system is strengthened on many levels. A healing crisis enables the body to remove the obstacles to cure. It is an example of vis medicatrix naturae at work.

Case Study 1

A 24-year-old female diagnosed with Stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was treated with acupuncture, botanicals, homeopathy, oxygen therapies, diet, nutritional supplement and hydrotherapy. Initially, her temperature was between 96.5 and 97.1 degrees F. She regularly had night sweats due to her condition, but after four months of treatment, she started to feel feverish in the early evening extending through the night. During the day, her temperature dropped to her initial temperature range. Her lymphatic system began to swell and ache intermittently. Eight months into the treatment, she experienced a healing crisis with a fever of 103 degrees F for 12-24 hours and flu-like symptoms that endured for three days. She experienced massive sweating, and return of a cough from a past history of a lung infection. Four weeks after the healing crisis subsided, her sedimentation rate began to drop and her CBC returned to normal. The lymphadenopathy in her neck and chest area began to diminish. She did receive one treatment of chemotherapy six weeks after the healing crisis, due to family pressure. She continued with her initial treatments, and her scans were normal in three months. It has been nine years, and there has been no recurrence of the cancer.

Case Study 2

BJ is a 48-year-old female who was perimenopausal and diagnosed with uterine cancer. She had a history of sexual abuse and violence in her past, which she had not dealt with emotionally. Her therapy included homeopathy, color therapy, counseling, botanicals and oxygen therapies. Her healing crisis came when she allowed her anger about the situation to come to the surface. She developed a healing crisis with all the physical symptoms, but it was the emotional release of fear and rage – which had never been expressed before – that changed her path of healing. This patient experienced numerous emotional healing crises and has had no return of the cancer for the past three years.


Cheryl Deroin, NMD is a graduate of NCNM and currently has a private practice in Scottsdale, Ariz. She is a primary care physician with an emphasis on treating chronic illness.

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