Why Your Immune System Might Be Polarized and Causing Histamine Sensitivity with Doctor Gail Clayton

Gail Clayton Image

Today on the Heal Podcast I have Dr. Gail Clayton, who is a pharmacist and certified nutrition specialist whose practice is in Houston, Texas, and she is known to get to the root causes of difficult chronic illnesses. She’s also one of the co-founders of the Mold Detox Diet. Today we talk about how Lyme patients are impacted by heightened histamine response, and how controlling your pH, nutrition, and using polyphenols and minerals can help.

Mimi: Dr. Clayton, thank you so much for coming on today. I am so appreciative of your time, and I’m excited to learn about your expertise in healing people who have illnesses that seem to not be able to be solved by the typical medical community. So thank you so much for coming.

Dr. Gail Clayton: Thanks for having me, Mimi. I’m excited to be here.

Looking At A Patient’s Overall Lifestyle and Possible Imbalances

Mimi: So if someone does come to you that you find out that they do have Lyme, how do you treat them, or what do you find that they have that is causing them to not get better?

Dr. Gail Clayton: I can’t pinpoint it to any one thing. I have a pretty extensive intake form, and when I get a new client, I study everything. Because if somebody comes to me with Lyme, and I do get a lot of Lyme people coming to me, I want to look at everything, I want to look at all the labs, I want to see what all the doctors have done, I wanted to see is there something that’s missing. Because typically, when you have something chronic, there’s something really going wrong metabolically, maybe something you’re eating, something you’re doing, something you’re drinking, something you’re exposed to, or some type of metabolic imbalance somewhere that hasn’t been addressed, and so that’s what I’m looking for.

The first thing I do is look at the symptoms. I have a symptom questionnaire. And then I’d look at the diet and say, “Okay, is it something in the diet? What are they eating, and what’s wrong with what they’re eating? Are they not getting enough of something, or getting too much of something else? Are they eating too many inflammatory allergenic foods?” I go through there, and then look at their sleep patterns, look at their history, look at their… Usually, people come to me with tons of labs, and I specialize in the organic acid, fatty acid, amino acid interpretations, like the OAT testing, and try to see if there’s something that I find that other people haven’t been able to to find. And that’s in my first session.

And then I come up with, “Okay, what do I think is going on with the immune system? What do I think is keeping you stuck?” And then I have a whole list of things like diet, lifestyle things that, “Let’s change this and see if the immune system will come back into balance.” Because a lot of times, it’s something that we’re eating or doing that’s keeping the immune system polarized in this negative self-stimulating loop, and when you remove some of those things, a lot of times it will come back to homeostasis.

Mimi: Are they typically gluten or dairy, or what do you normally see?

Dr. Gail Clayton: In somebody that’s been sick for a while and has really done a lot of diet cleanup and everything, it’s not typically gluten and dairy. It’s usually maybe they’re eating smoothies every day and they’re putting too much fruit or too much of something. I had one lady, she was just a mess, and she was doing these smoothies every day and she put all these berries in it. Well, berries are good and brain food and all of that, but when you overdo it, it can keep you in that histamine loop to where your gut can’t heal. Sometimes I have to take people off of berries, and then these green smoothies, they may have too many oxalates, and then that causes a lot of problems metabolically too.

Or maybe they’re not getting enough protein. Sometimes I’ll look at their organic acids testing and see that they don’t have enough protein. See, to turn on the mitochondria, that’s where we make energy, it requires amino acids. And when you are very inflamed and very sick, you’re drawing those amino acids for wound repair to make our immune cells. All of our immune antibodies, they’re made from proteins. And so if there are problems with making proteins, and let’s say you’re not digesting them completely, and then we’re not getting a full array, maybe some of them are absent or this or that, then we can’t turn on the mitochondria. It’s those free-form amino acids that can turn on the mitochondria and get it spinning around and making ATP, and sometimes you need such an energy boost that they need free-form amino acids to turn it on.

Mimi: How does someone test to see if their mitochondria are working and making ATP?

Dr. Gail Clayton: Well, I use organic acid testing. The OAT testing measures all of those intermediates, the citrate, alpha-ketoglutarate, malic. I mean, we can actually measure that. And they go round and round in circles and they pass electrons, and these intermediates can get pulled out. If we have an amino acid deficiency somewhere else, they’re made of amino acids, our body can borrow it and then replace it later. So sometimes what you’ll see as a pattern is below detectable levels or several of those are very, very low, especially on the front end of the citric acid cycle, those first few, if those are really low. And then the organic acids at the entrance like the pyruvate are very low. And there are some other signs too.

I look at the fatty acids, if the saturated fatty acids are low and the alpha-keto acids are all low, that’s a sign of a hypometabolic state, and this person probably needs free-form amino acids like five grams, twice a day on an empty stomach. And that quickly raises blood levels, and it turns on the mTOR. mTORs is a cell regulator, and you turn that on and you can turn it off. I don’t do that unless I know that that’s the pattern they’re in, because if they’re in a different pattern, you have to go a different way. It’s like, “Okay, what’s causing the mitochondria…” The mitochondria will go into shutdown mode when there are some proteins on the outside that can sense when something is trying to steal too many electrons, and it kind of goes into self-preservation mode. And until you remove all of those things that are causing an excessive need for ATP from the mitochondria, you remove that, if they’re still there, you can’t finish it and go.

Mold Toxicity and the Mold Detox Diet

Mimi: This is a perfect segue I think into talking about, you’re the other half of the Mold Detox Diet, right? You created the Mold Detox Diet, and mold is a big part of cleaning up. Making sure you don’t have mold because it affects your body so badly.

Dr. Gail Clayton: Well, yeah of course. If you’re living in a moldy house. And that’s the first thing. I mean, no matter what supplements we throw at you, I mean diet changes do help, even though you’re living in mold, but you’re never going to recover. That’s the first step, is to get out of the exposure, stop any exposures, and clean up your diet. You want to change to an anti-inflammatory diet. And our Mold Detox Diet course that I developed along with Dr. Margaret Christensen, who hosted the Toxic Mold Summit, we reviewed the most common diets that are used in mold illness, and we kind of talk about the pros and cons of each one and give you guidance on which one to choose that’s best. Because some people have excessive histamine, especially with mold and Lyme you start developing chemical sensitivity. And that’s another thing, people get a lot of digestive disorders and their doctors are treating them for SIBO, but the symptoms are almost indistinguishable from histamine intolerance.

Mimi: I think that’s definitely happened to me at this point because I’ve had Lyme for so long that I’m in that histamine response where I get hives, I break out, I am super sensitive, I can smell anything. And I’m like, “Don’t you guys smell that?” And they’re like, “What are you talking about?” I’m like… I could walk into a house and be like, “Who used non-organic cleaning supplies?” And I could walk to the bathroom up on the second floor and be like, “Uh-huh, there they are.” And they’re like, “What are you…” I mean, I’m kind of psycho about it because I’m so sensitive to any kind of smell or chemicals. And so I think that’s what you’re talking about because I’m just…

Dr. Gail Clayton: So that’s a histamine response, but also losing oral tolerance to foods is a histamine response. And another thing that’s a histamine response is people think that they’re having a heart attack. They have these heart palpitations and then they get really aggressive. I was talking to this lady yesterday and she lives in a mold house and she was saying, “Oh, I feel so bad, I went off on my niece last week. I have some back pain and the doctor gave me some morphine.” And afterward, I just went livid, and I was so mean, and I said, “Morphine degranulates mass cells, so it causes you to be very neurotic.” If you have chronic histamine, you can be neurotic. It’s different, you’re not psychotic, you’re more neurotic, like just obsessive about everything and easily triggered into fear and aggression and anger, and so that’s histamine-driven.

Mimi: And what do you do? I mean, right now I just take two Claritin. And I’ve taken all these mass cell tests and they keep coming back negative.

Dr. Gail Clayton: That’s very, very common. You have to be in a very severe crisis. I never even test or even recommend people test for mass cell because it requires 24-hour urine collection, you have to keep your urine in an ice bucket and iced down, and you have to be in a crisis. You almost can never get a positive mass cell test. One of the things that are really, really overlooked at stabilizing mass cells is using… Of course, minerals are good, and also you want to look at the acid-base balance in just your regular labs to make sure your chemistry, carbon dioxide, and sodium/potassium ratio is a good ratio. You want a ratio between 30 and 35. And you want to make sure that the CO2 and the anion gap isn’t out of whack because we have to fix the pH and the osmolarity first, because most of the energy in the body is to maintain the gradient, the osmolarity gradient, so the cell membranes of the potassium and the sodium going in and out, in and out, in and out.

It takes a lot of energy. So if the pH is off and the osmolarity is off, you’re using a lot of that energy and the cell membrane is so impaired, so stressed that it’s sending off a lot of stress chemistry, and then that’s going to release a lot of histamines and make things worse. I have a client in Canada and her lab came back, and I knew that her pH was off. And so I made some recommendations about how to quickly alkalinize her blood and tissue, and she did it, and she says, “Wow, for four hours afterward I just had this sense of peace and joy.”

Mimi: That’s great. What did you recommend that she did?

Dr. Gail Clayton: Some alkaline water.

Mimi: That’s it?

Dr. Gail Clayton: Yeah. And she was looking at this and, “Shouldn’t I try this other stuff?” I’m like, “Can you just do this one thing?”

Mimi: So it’s just the alkaline water that you could buy at the grocery store, like that 9.5 alkaline water?

Dr. Gail Clayton: Yeah. I could tell her body was acidic, and she was having what we call reductive stress, and reductive and stress is basically having too many electrons, too much hydrogen. And the new big supplement is NAD, right? Well, NAD has an ionized form, it’s looking for an electron, but when you have a lot of electrons laying around, that electrons are going to go sit on that NAD, now it sits as NADH. And that’s when the pH is low, we have a lot of electrons or those hydrogen ions, and that’s acidic. So we have very little NAD in the body, but the thing is, we do this oxidation-reduction, oxidation-reduction, it’s very, very quick, quick, quick, quick, quick, quick. But if we have a lot of the hydrogens, you can’t pull it off. We need to be able to pass those electrons because that NADH is used to pass those electrons. So by raising the pH, you’re reducing the number of hydrogens.

Now you have the NAD to run the cycle and to make ATP. So, balancing the pH is very, very crucial. I use organic acids a lot to determine the acid-base balance just on whether. The lactate pyruvate will tell me a lot about the balance between oxidation and reduction. And there are some other things that I look at too. And then even in a stool test, you can see there are certain bacteria that are hydrogen-producers, and then there are certain bacteria that are hydrogen-consumers. And when you got this real imbalanced bacteria growth, that whole thing… And most of the hydrogen in the body is produced in the gut, that’s why they say you got to always start with your gut. So you want to get that balance of the hydrogen-producers and the hydrogen-consumers, and balance because that hydrogen can go into the body and cause reductive stress. We all think about oxidative stress, but nobody’s talking about reductive stress.

Alkalizing the Body and Hydrogen Water 

Mimi: Okay, so I have two questions from what you just stated. One is, could you use Alka-Seltzer Gold… Is that what it’s a call to get your pH..because someone had mentioned that once to me, and I didn’t know this.

Dr. Gail Clayton: I don’t know. I know that when I was recovering from mold illness a long time ago, I used Alka-Seltzer Gold when I was having a histamine reaction. It’s very common to use for histamine reaction. I mean, I think what it does is it causes oxidation in the gut, but I’m not so sure systemically how that works. But yeah, that’s kind of in a toolbox of people that have histamine issues is trying Alka-Seltzer Gold, because it’s a high pH, it’s got a baking soda-type reaction.

Mimi: Yeah. And then you had mentioned hydrogen, and I’ve heard the buzz word of the past month is hydrogen water. So, what do you know about that, if anything?

Dr. Gail Clayton: I really don’t know a lot. That is a new buzzword. I haven’t looked into it, but it’s called molecular hydrogen, and I’m like, “Well, that word just doesn’t make sense to me.” But I haven’t looked into it and studied it. That’s on my to-do list to try to figure is it beneficial. Because there’s a lot of new things on the market, and you hear these buzz words and people are going and buying this NAD, and I’m like, “You know what? You could probably just take niacin to do the same thing.” Because niacin is basically nicotine adenosine dinucleotide, the same thing as NAD and my thought are once it gets to the gut with a low pH, whatever it’s attached to, that’s going to be all cleaved off and everything, and basically what you have is NAD. I don’t know. I kind of doesn’t get the big hoopla. I tried those expensive things. I thought, “Okay, well I’ll try it,” and clinically I didn’t see much.

What Do High Histamine Levels Mean and What Can You Do?

Mimi: So if you are having high histamine responses, is that going to just go away on its own once you address the other issues, like once you get the mold out, once you figure out whatever else is causing inflammatory or the viruses, then does it naturally subside, or is that something that has to be addressed completely on its own?

Dr. Gail Clayton: Well, it’s multifactorial. I mean, it’s partly a limbic response. And I think you interviewed Dr. Christensen, you all talked extensively about the limbic systems. That has to be done. And initially, you may need to use some really potent over-the-counter medications, because my main goal is to stabilize the histamine response right away, and that’s going to include over-the-counter anti-histamines and maybe some prescription.

Mimi: What I use now is Claritin, that’s kind of my-

Dr. Gail Clayton: Claritin and Zyrtec, I usually try to mix them. Or what works even better is Hydroxyzine, it’s a very inexpensive prescription. And it’s basically a very strong Zyrtec and it penetrates the brain a lot better. So, it really helps better with CNS symptoms, helps you sleep better, get into deeper REM sleep. And you can use up to 100mg four times a day, and it doesn’t really cause the drowsiness side effects like Benadryl and some of the other over-the-counter… And histamine. So, we want to use those in combination with maybe some of the prescriptions like the Cromolyn sodium and the Ketotifen. One thing that’s missed a lot of times is using a huge variety of polyphenols because the polyphenols are going to modulate and regulate the whole immune system in the gut.

Some people are a little sensitive to polyphenols because they can get trapped in some part of the metabolic pathway in some people, and usually B6 and magnesium kind of help. And then there’s also an enzyme called No-Fenol by Houston Enzymes that can help people tolerate polyphenols. But we really need to include foods that are high in polyphenols, and we need to have a variety. And people will say, Oh, “Well I drink coffee,” but the thing is, is people say, “Oh, polyphenols,” and they just focus on one food, like, “Okay, I can have chocolate,” but polyphenols are very, very high content in herbs and you want hot… Quercetin is actually a polyphenol. It’s basically called nature’s antihistamine, And that needs to be part of everybody’s toolkit on immune modulation because they improve the blood flow, they squash the inflammasome activation.

 I think most people with Lyme disease have an adaptive immune system polarization and maybe a TH 17, a lot of auto-immune processes going on. You may or may not have any auto-immune diseases, but the immune system is polarized in that direction, it’s very, very inflammatory, and to squash that, you have to start with the inflammasomes. You got to make sure you have good oxygenation, good perfusion, make sure you don’t have sleep apnea, make sure that you’re getting enough oxygen, no anemias, no blood sugar problems. Those things have to be addressed and squashing the inflammasome.

You’re never going to get an auto-immune disease if you don’t have inflammasome activation. So working at things that block the inflammasomes and polyphenols, and minerals are really, really good at blocking that inflammasome activation and modulating, especially in the gut. Now, another thing, the polyphenols, they’re very poorly absorbed and used by the body, let the gut bacteria use them for food. And so if you’ve ever seen a Genova Diagnostic stool test, and they have the commensal strains, I think they’re the only ones that have those commensals, and you look at it and there are dots all over… I think they have about 20 or 30 of them on that page, and they should all be past that 50% mark and abundant.

A lot of times you’ll see them just spotty and some not even present, and there are a few of them that are really, really key in having a healthy gut. And the way to get a healthy microbiome to balance, you want them all to grow out because one bacteria strain will maybe like one certain polyphenol, and another one might not like another one. So if you’re eating one polyphenol, that strain’s going to grow out and cause an imbalance. So you want a huge array of polyphenols. And you know where you’re going to find your polyphenols? In your spice cabinet. So you want to have all those herbs and everything. I kind of like making porridge or something with breakfast with some quinoa and bone broth. I take out all of those herbs and I just pour them liberally. And I built a herb garden outside, and I just go out and cut lots of herbs and put them in everything.

Benefits of Polyphenols

You want as much variety as you can get. Polyphenols are so important that I had developed a supplement that is extracted. They’re very potent and there are five polyphenols in each one of them I put in there for a different thing, but they all have the mechanism of action of modulating the T regulatory cells in the immune system in the gut. And so there are five of them and so it improves the tissue perfusion, and it causes a much more balanced macrobiotic growth. And they’re full of vitamins and minerals and proteins and all kinds of things. And so the polyphenol supplement that I developed is called Immunothrive, and they’re all herbal extracts. And sometimes I had people that had ulcerative colitis that nothing would work and I put them on this. And also Integrative Therapeutics makes a product called Repair Guard that has a really rich source of quercetin and other polyphenols in there. So I will combine all these polyphenols together and it does an amazing job at stabilizing histamine many times.

Partnering Up With Dr. Christenson To Create The Mold Detox Guide

Mimi: That’s great. And is that available on your website, the supplement?

Dr. Gail Clayton: This Immunothrive? Yeah. Well, you can go to immunothrive.com. It’s also on Amazon. I’m not sure if there’s a link on my website. My website is Dr. Gail Clayton, but I talk about it in the course, the Mold Detox Diet course. We have the mold detox diet course for anyone getting started with all the diet changes and how to choose the right diet, and then we have the advanced mold immune course where Dr. Margaret and I talk about the whole immune response and what happens in immune dysregulation with mold. But it’s really interesting. 

It’s seven modules in this course, and we kind of took out some of that really technical stuff and we made it innovated so that we bring you through all the things that cause the immune system to become dysregulated, and then explain how the immune system works. And then we go into the T-cells and the B-cells. And then we talk about how to modulate it back into homeostasis. So, the last three videos are all about modulating it and what to do, and all the clinical pearls. We’ve had some really great feedback on that course.

Mimi: That’s great. Now, how did you guys wind up partnering together?

Dr. Gail Clayton: I met Dr. Christensen at a… Real Times Lab hosted a conference in Dallas one summer, I guess it was three or four years ago, and I happened to be sitting next to her and she says she’s hosting the Toxic Mold Summit. And I said, “Really?” I said, “I’m taking a course and I had just started on it, for lay people on how to get started in diet changes.” And I said, “Maybe we should come and do this together so we can kind of bring that out.” And we exchanged information and then we’ve been kind of working at this for quite a while now.

Diet Is Crucial To Lowering Histamine and Mast Cell In The Body

Mimi: Oh, that’s great. Now, is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you think is important to address for people who have chronic Lyme and don’t seem to be getting better?

Dr. Gail Clayton: Well, of course the diet’s very important.

Mimi: When you say that, I just want to clarify, is it your typical real food?

Dr. Gail Clayton: Yeah, kind of like a Whole30 or auto-immune paleo is really good, but sometimes you may need to modify that depending on what’s going on with your gut and your immune system. And sometimes people can’t get their immune system back into homeostasis because the mitochondria are still in shut-down mode and maybe that there’s something that hasn’t been fixed yet some nutrient, maybe problems with methylation, there may be something genetic wrong with methylation, or there may be something genetic wrong with actually making the enzyme that metabolizes histamine in the gut, and maybe their immune system is impaired. I can look at the CBC, I can look at some of the markers and see that, “Okay, your innate immune system…” Which is the immune system we’re born with. And that’s the one, kind of like Pac-Man, it goes around and does all the surveillance.

It should keep all of those bacteria, viruses, and fungus at a level where it’s not causing illness. So sometimes we need to give things to boost that, to push that innate immune system. And sometimes there’s a lot of inflammation that hasn’t been addressed, and the inflammation impairs those lymphocytes that are made in the bone, and so I see signs of bone inflammation. And so now these immune cells are not maturing into healthy immune cells, and then they themselves become very inflammatory. And so we have to figure out what’s going on, what’s causing that bone inflammation, how can we lower that stress in the bone, and how can we stimulate the bone marrow to make more lymphocytes sites that are going to mature to help us out.

Mimi: So technical. You’re super smart. All these words, I’m like, “Ooh.”

Dr. Gail Clayton: It’s so funny, I had this doctor come to me, I guess it was about four years ago, and she’d say one of my videos about looking at the NutrEval, and she’s like, “Maybe I need to look at my diet.” And I’m like, “Really?” She’s been sick with lawn for 20 years. She’s gone to six different doctors, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and nobody had told her anything about diet. And so she saw my video and she’s like, “Oh, I haven’t even thought about diet.”

Mimi: Oh my. And the funny thing is I have thought about diet, and it takes you a long time to give up everything. I mean, it’s pretty much everything I love is what I’m not supposed to have, the coffee, the alcohol.

Dr. Gail Clayton: In our course, it’s really hard if you don’t have the research to support, because it’s like, “Oh my gosh, you’re taking away all my food. What am I going to eat?” We give a lot of ideas, like what can you have. And, “I love potato chips, do I have to give those up? I have to give up the corn chips.” But then, “Okay, I can have cassava chips, I can have my salty chip, and I can have plantain chips cooked in coconut oil instead of corn chips.” And there’s a lot of really good. You can even have pizza, I have this fantastic pizza recipe. 

Find The Alternatives So You Can Heal

Mimi: You just got to find the alternatives, yeah.

Dr. Gail Clayton: Learning how to switch to a healthier diet. And then even using food sensitivity testing. Now, I like to use the newer ones that… There’s the IgG4, plus the C3D because the C3D is the complement protein that’s very, very inflammatory. So if you’re making that, it’s… So the IgG4 is basically an immune response, and that was all we had at one time, but now a lot of times you see this food allergy and everything’s elevating, and you’re like, ” I can’t do this.” Right? But if you narrow it down to just the ones that are actually causing the inflammation-

Mimi: It is important to do those tests because I did those tests and it was almost like everything that I thought was good for me was causing my inflammation. It was like kale was causing my inflammation, coconut oil causing me. Avocados. Everything I was eating that I thought I was being super healthy, was actually causing my inflammation.

Dr. Gail Clayton: I had this one client a few months back and she was so brain fogged and everything, and I think she had Lyme too. And she was on all these supplements and doing all this. She was taking the wrong supplements. Her immune system was so polarized in a certain direction, and everything that she was doing and eating was keeping it there. All we did is I removed 17 supplements she was taking and I changed… And I’m like, “You’ve got to stop the smoothies, and you’ve got to stop eating this and this and this.” And I just changed her diet completely and took off 17 supplements. Two weeks later, for the first time in 20 years she had her brain back. Because her immune system would kind of go back into… And I’m like, “Oh, it’s time to start adding in foods.” And she’s like, “I’m not adding in anything, I’m staying on this.”

Mimi: Yeah, because it’s working. Like, “Why would I mess it up?”

Dr. Gail Clayton: It feels so good. It’s so funny. I’ve had several clients, they’re like, “Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. I like this diet, I’m staying on it. I feel so fantastic.”

Mimi: That’s amazing. That’s great. So thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. And I’ll have everyone go and check out the Mold detox diet and also your website.

Dr. Gail Clayton: And also the Immunothrive. If you haven’t tried using polyphenols to help modulate your immune system, this is good. And also that Repair Guard, I think it’s Perque Repair Guard, that’s a product that I like a lot. And another thing that I could recommend if you’re having a lot of histamine issues, besides the over-the-counter anti-histamineS is to add high-dose riboflavin. Its kind of like all these B-vitamins are interdependent, but riboflavin is the nexus of where it all starts. It’s needed to make that DAO enzyme in your gut, okay? So the riboflavin, it can help you make more of that to help you metabolize the histamine, and it also is used in methylation, and we use methylation to metabolize histamine in the central nervous system. So, the high dose riboflavin can be very effective and the polyphenols, the anti-histamine. So you want to get your histamine stabilized, and then make sure you’re not in a mold environment.

Mimi: Great advice. I thank you again for your time and we’ll talk to you soon.

Dr. Gail Clayton: Thanks, Mimi.

Each week I will bring you different voices from the wellness community so that they can share how they help their clients heal. You will come away with tips and strategies to help you get your life back. Thank you so much for coming on, and I’m so happy you are here. Subscribe now and tune in next week if you want to learn how I detox and you want to check out my Detox for Lyme checklist, go to lyme360.com/detoxchecklist. You can also join our community at Lyme 360 Warriors on Facebook, and let’s heal together. Thank you.

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