Practitioner Spotlight: Gail Clayton

We’re excited to introduce you to Gail Clayton, founder of Beyond Pharmaceuticals, LLC.  In addition to being a Registered Pharmacist, Gail is also a Certified Nutrition Specialist, Doctor of Clinical Nutrition, and Functional Medicine Practitioner. Find out how Gail’s unique background and training help her to find the underlying root cause of symptoms in her clients and guide them back on the road to better health and vitality.

Can you start by telling us a bit about your educational and training journey?

My educational journey started with becoming a pharmacist first in 1988. I never was crazy about being a pharmacist. I only chose it because pharmacists make a lot of money right out of the gate! I had two little kids to support. As the years went by, I became more and more unhappy with the job. Then in the early 2000s I got sick with a mystery illness and conventional medicine failed to give me any real answers. I met a PhD nutritionist and we became best friends. I loved following her around and listening to her talk! She encouraged me to go back to school. She said I’d be a great nutritionist with my pharmacy background. I thought I was too old so I was quite resistant. I was 56 years old, and who quits a job at 56 to go back and get another degree and start all over in a new career? Especially one in which you have to create your own audience and find people willing to pay you? But my PhD friend convinced me to take one class. After that, I was hooked. I loved it! When I finished my Masters degree from the University of Bridgeport, I sat for the CNS exam, then went straight into the doctorate program at Maryland University of Integrative Health. I graduated at age 63! I realized that my age didn’t really matter. I love what I do and I’ll probably do it until I’m so old I can’t get up out of bed by myself anymore.

It’s not common to find a pharmacist turned functional medicine practitioner. What drew you to functional medicine and how does your pharmacist background complement your functional medicine work? 

I was looking for answers to my own mystery illness. I never heard of functional medicine before 2011. I think most conventionally trained practitioners find functional medicine when they get sick themselves and realize that conventional medicine does a poor job managing chronic illness. They do a great job with acute problems such as car wrecks, burns, cardiac surgeries, but when it comes to chronic illness, they really fall short in offering any real solutions.

Being a pharmacist offers the perfect marriage of training and clinical experience to get to the root of the issues you are struggling with. My specialty is working with clients who may have exhausted the expertise of their current medical practitioners. 

What do you enjoy most about working with clients on their journey to better health and vitality?

I love watching them improve and feel better so that they can really enjoy life and the stress burden of health issues is lifted from them and their families that are stressed too.

How do you collaborate with a client’s primary care or specialist physicians if they come to you under their care?

Many times, I work with clients and their doctor. We want to keep their primary care doctor in the loop and make sure we aren’t stepping on any toes. I will usually have the client talk with their doctor about the plan that I come up with. I even encourage my clients to download their session notes from Practice Better and take it with them to see their doctor. Sometimes I will also have a few Rx suggestions to ask their doctor about. Almost every single doctor has an appreciation for what I’m doing to help their patient and they are more than willing to order any test that I recommend or write any Rx that I suggest. 

I think being a pharmacist gives me a competitive edge over other nutritionists because I can legally counsel a client about their medications and work with them to taper off of them as their symptoms improve. I think first you have to figure out what was causing the problem in the first place and remove any triggers that they are still being exposed to.

I would never ask a client to just stop a medication without first knowing the root cause of the underlying the symptoms that the doctor is treating, and without the doctor’s knowledge and approval. Close monitoring of symptoms during a taper is important. Also, I give my clients a “rescue plan” should they have a problem with their taper.

As a clinical nutritionist, are their considerations to take into account when creating dietary recommendations for a client on medications? 

Of course! Not just clients taking medications, but every client I have to make sure I’m not creating more of a problem than I’m trying to resolve. Some diets can be too restrictive, or the client may not have the ability to comply. I try to make sure it’s simplistic and that I give sufficient support material so that they don’t go hungry or feel like they can’t eat anything. A review of medications is a good idea. I don’t want someone that has had a kidney transplant on herbs that are stimulating the innate immune system to rev it up to the point that it’s attacking their transplanted organ! I also don’t want to give certain supplements to a cancer patient that will stimulate cancer cell growth. There are so many factors to consider!

Are there any resources you can share that practitioners can use to learn more about food-drug interactions?

Information is so readily available these days. Drugs.com has an ingredient checker online. Personally, I like using Consumer’s Labs for checking interactions and ingredients, but it is a paid service. 

You also do quite a lot of lab testing, including looking at client’s genomic and biochemical blueprint.  What is the relevance in how they process certain medications or how they absorb and utilize various nutrients from their diet? How does this information impact your treatment protocols?

I used to think nutrigenomics played a much bigger role than it really does. I don’t think we know enough just yet for it to become prime time. There’s still too much to learn. The variations in genetics is so complex and it’s not just one variation that can be considered, there is a whole barrage of them and it’s quite complex. They all interact with each other too. Some up-regulate a particular biochemical pathway, and others will down-regulate that same pathway cancelling out the effect of each other! 

For me, I think if you clean up the diet and address underlying symptoms you don’t even have to go as far as looking into the genetics. However, it can be useful for some individuals, and can be a valuable tool for prevention planning. 

You also work with children, is the functional medicine approach the same or different than with your adult clients?

Yes, I do work with children. They are mostly ADD/ADHD and on the autism spectrum. All of these kids can do better with a biomedical approach. I had a 6-year old child on the autism spectrum that was able to assimilate back into mainstream classes and function as a neurotypical child in less than 6 months! I wrote that case up and had it published. That’s not the norm though. If you care to read the publication, here is the link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31043911

My approach is the same with kids as adults. Do a workup and fix what you find! It does require that the parents trust in me and my recommendations and the willingness to follow through in order to be successful with kids. 

Do you have anything exciting that you’ve got coming up that you’d like to share with the Practice Better community?  

I always have exciting things coming up! Right now I’m working on a FREE webinar for my Facebook followers on “How the Immune System Works”. Of course, at the end, I will have an upsell of packages to work with me. I’m really excited about this because the immune system is a very difficult subject and I think giving a free webinar will show that I am genuinely wanting to educate my followers and clients. This will also be part of the online course that I already launched earlier this year, the Mold Detox Diet. You can find it at www.molddetoxdiet.com


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