There are no common side effects of ingesting phytoplankton supplements, although, as with many so-called ‘superfoods’, the body may experience a healing reaction when the product is first consumed. First documented by Adolf Jarisch (1860-1902) working in Vienna, Austria, and a few years later by Karl Herxheimer (1861-1942), the ‘Herxheimer Reaction’ brings with it flu-like symptoms including muscle pains and aching joints, sweating, bad breath, chills and a general feeling of being under the weather. This is not, in any way, suggesting that marine phytoplankton has a particular propensity for inducing Herxheimer reactions, but merely that, as with any powerful superfood, detoxification may occur if an unhealthy system is suddenly flooded with nutrition.
When is the Herxheimer Reaction Experienced?
People in good health rarely, if ever, experience the Herxheimer Reaction. Rather, it is when those with compromised immune systems start to see a change in their health that ‘Herxing’ commences. The theory is that, when large amounts of pathogens are killed off, the immune system reacts to the endotoxins. While people assume that they’re ill, the situation is, conversely, one of health returning. There’s no doubt, however, that healing reactions can be unpleasant and, depending on the level of immune depletion, they can last some time.
Marine Phytoplankton and the Herxheimer Reaction
Despite the extraordinary national density of phytoplankton, very few people appear to be experience the Herxheimer reaction when taking it, even those who may be prone to this with other supplements. One of the reasons for this may be due to phytoplankton’s incredibly small cellular size, which means it does not tax the bodies detoxification pathways unduly.
In a small number of cases, people have reported
- flu like symptoms
- Skin flushes
These reactions can be alleviated with drinking plenty of water and allowing the body as much rest as it’s asking for. Please remember, if these do occur, that the marine phytoplankton has not ’caused’ this, and that this isn’t an indication that this product is somehow harmful. Rather, you could take it as a positive sign that your body is returning to a state of equilibrium.
Time frames of the Healing Reaction with Phytoplankton
This is impossible to quantify as its down to the individual and their level of health. Some people report feelings lasting only a few hours, others up to a week.
What to do in the event of a Herxheimer Reaction
The best advice is to:
(a) Listen to your body and rest as much as you need
(b) Drink a liberal amount of clean, filtered or spring water
(c) Skin brush to aid the lymphatic system
(d) Consider all your organs of elimination, so psyllium husks may be useful if constipation becomes an issue
(e) No need for exercise during the healing period,
(f) Eat lightly
Cara Hayes is an experienced natural health practitioner with a Masters in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics from the University of Sydney. She has been writing for Plankton for Health since 2019 and contributes widely to many well-known health publications.