Action Guide—Medicine Hyper-reactivity & Sensitivity

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Hypersensitivity in Lyme Disease and Mold Toxicity

Some with mold toxicity and tick-borne illnesses, like Lyme, Bartonella, and Babesia have sensitivity to medication and supplements that make treatment difficult. In this situation people are very reactive to medications. Such hyper-reactivity makes their underlying symptoms worse and makes it difficult to kill germs or remove mold toxins.

Based on nearly twenty years treating people with medication hypersensitivity and hyper-reactivity, here is the approach I find helpful to get most people well.

Identify and Treat the Causes

There are many causes of hypersensitivity to medicines including supplements, herbal and prescription antibiotics, and prescriptions. These causes include:

  • intestinal yeast overgrowth,
  • Mast Cell Activation Syndrome,
  • Bartonella infection, 
  • poor detoxification, and
  • hyper-reactive brain and limbic system.

Fix Intestinal Yeast Overgrowth to Lower Cytokines and Histamines

Hypersensitivity often occurs in intestinal yeast overgrowth. There are two reasons for this. First, yeast overgrowth triggers white blood cells to produce excess inflammation chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines are also elevated in Herxheimer reactions and in Lyme disease. These excess cytokines cause most Lyme and related infections symptoms and most mold toxicity symptoms. Treating intestinal yeast overgrowth lowers the pool of cytokines which can cause less severe Herxheimer reactions and less reactivity.

Too many yeast also trigger excess histamines and can be a cause of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). See below for more information about MCAS.

If too many yeast are present, I work to remove them. For information on diagnosing and treating intestinal yeast overgrowth see A Silent Problem—Is It Yeast? and Kills and Prevents Yeast: A Brief Guide. For more information about cytokines and steps to lower them, see Control Cytokines: A Guide to Fix Lyme Symptoms & The Immune System.

Liposomal curcumin, quercetin, and liposomal glutathione. Key supplements that help lower cytokines include liposomal curcumin, quercetin, and liposomal glutathione.

Stabilize Mast Cells to Lower Histamines and Cytokines

I also look to see if people have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), and if they do I work to control it too. Mast cells make and release histamines in response to things we are allergic to. But they also get turned on to release histamines more easily by

  • chronic infections,
  • intestinal yeast,
  • allergens,
  • stress, and
  • toxicity.

Excess histamines lead to fatigue, brain fog, headaches, body pains, nasal congestion, asthma, hives and much more. These turned-on mast cells are also major producers of cytokines, which I discussed above. For more information about how to diagnose and treat MCAS see Mast Cell Activation Syndrome & Lyme.

Quercetin. One key herbal support for MCAS is quercetin which stabilizes mast cells so they do not release histamines easily. Quercetin may limit production of cytokines too.

Consider Bartonella

Another cause of hypersensitivity is Bartonella. Ultimately treating it with antibiotics, herbal or RX, helps. But that is tricky in someone with sensitivities. Bartonella, agitates the nervous system leading to neurologic hyperreactivity and even psychiatric symptoms like anxiety. To see if you might have Bartonella see How to Diagnose Bartonella in Chronic Lyme Disease and Kills Bartonella: A Brief Guide.

Boost Detoxification

Many that are hypersensitive have poor detox systems. This means they cannot remove herbal or RX antibiotics easily. So they do not need full doses of herbal or prescription antibiotics to have effective germ killing. Poor detoxification also worsens MCAS and increases cytokines.

Basic steps to improve detoxification include using liposomal glutathione to support liver detoxification. It is also important to lower exposure to environmental toxins and to eat organic foods which are low in toxins. For more information about detoxification see The Basic Lyme Detox Steps.

Calm a Hyper-reactive Brain and Limbic System

The limbic system is a part of the brain that regulates our emotional responses and behaviors. This includes fight-or-flight responses, fear, and survival behaviors, such as feeding the young and reproduction.

For some with Lyme disease, the limbic system becomes overly reactive and chronically turned on. A turned-on limbic system causes some of the ongoing symptoms like pain or even fatigue. It can be part of medicine hyper-reactivity and hypersensitivity reactions.

Several programs can help reprogram the limbic system to turn off, except for when it should be on. Two of the more popular programs are the Gupta Program and Annie Hopper Dynamic Neural Retraining System. Many of my patients have found benefit from these practices. Short of doing these programs, developing a meditative mindfulness practice can help, too. Counseling may also help to decrease emotional reactivity.

Basic Action Steps for Hypersensitivity

Start Supportive Supplements

I recommend the following supplements for my patients that have hypersensitivity reactions to medications and supplements.

  • quercetin 250 to 500 mg 2 to 3 times a day (stabilizes mast cells to lower histamines and cytokines).
  • liposomal curcumin 500 mg 1 to 2 pills 3 times a day (lowers cytokines and limits Herxheimer reactions).
  • liposomal glutathione 400 to 500 mg 1 time a day (improves liver detoxification and helps lower cytokines.

Treat Intestinal Yeast Overgrowth if Present—Go Low and Slow

Two weeks after starting the supportive supplements add an herbal yeast antimicrobial. Start at 1 pill 1 time a day and as you can increase slowly up to 2 pills two times a day. In my practice I use a product called CapriPlus by Karuna or Phytostan by Integrative Therapeutics.

Next Treat Tick-borne Infections—Go Low and Slow

In addition to correcting intestinal yeast overgrowth first, treating MCAS, improving detoxification, and addressing Bartonella, one has to proceed low and slow with herbal or RX antibiotics.

In the hypersensitive patient I prefer to work with herbal tinctures because I can start with low doses like 1 drop 1 time a day or even at 1/4 drop 1 time a day (put 1 drop in 4 oz of water and take one ounce).

After a person is tolerating one herbal antibiotic even at low doses then I would proceed with adding a second one.

If someone has Lyme (Borrelia) alone, a good starting herbal antibiotic is Cat’s Claw because it treats growing and hibernating (persister) germs. If someone has Lyme with Bartonella, Lyme with Babesia, or Lyme with Babesia and Bartonella, a good starting herbal antibiotic is Cryptolepis which can treat Bartonella, Babesia, and Lyme. It is good for growing and persister Lyme and Bartonella.

Small Amounts of Herbal Antibiotics Can Get You Well

In the past, I have gotten people with Bartonella and Lyme well by only using 1 drop 2 times a day of Houttuynia, Sida Acuta, Otoba, and Cat's Claw. The Houttuynia and Sida for Bart and the Otoba and Cat's claw for Lyme. These days I would start with Cryptolepis as I describe above. 

Consider Limbic System Reprogramming

After taking the previous action steps, if you still remain very reactive and cannot tolerate even very low doses of antibiotics, consider the Gupta Program and Annie Hopper Dynamic Neural Retraining System. As I noted above, many of my patients have found benefit from these practices. Short of doing these programs, developing a meditative mindfulness practice can help, too. Counseling may also help to decrease emotional reactivity.

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About The Author

Marty Ross, MD is a passionate Lyme disease educator and clinical expert. He helps Lyme sufferers and their physicians see what really works based on his review of the science and extensive real-world experience. Dr. Ross is licensed to practice medicine in Washington State (License: MD00033296) where he has treated thousands of Lyme disease patients in his Seattle practice.

Marty Ross, MD is a graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine and Georgetown University Family Medicine Residency. He is a member of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The Institute for Functional Medicine, and The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).

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