One of my guiding principles has always been: Never read a book that has the word "ultra" in the title.
However, interesting perspectives on diet & health intrigue me, & when I saw endorsements from such respected doctors as Dean Ornish, Christiane Northrup & Mehmet Oz, I decided to break my rule and plunge into The UltraMind Solution.
I'm glad I did, for this book is an engaging read that's full of cutting edge science & practical advice. Dr. Mark Hyman has been on a mission to do medicine & health differently since conventional medical thinking failed him in his own debilitating illness twelve years ago. He convincingly argues that maintaining the body's health is essential for the brain's well-being, and that many mental & psychological disorders can be rooted in physical, biochemical derangements in the body's health & metabolism.
In part one of the book he details the background: his personal story which led to his changed philosophy & practice of medicine. He is an advocate of what is termed functional medicine, a relatively new discipline which focuses on not the established "label the disease, give it a drug" approach but "find what's functionally wrong behind the patient's symptoms, then correct the body's metabolism back to optimum function."
The second part of the book contain the outline of his "Seven Keys to UltraWellness" (argh! there's that word again!). He covers optimizing nutrition, balancing hormones, reducing inflammation throughout the body, fixing digestive tract problems, enhancing the body's detoxification, boosting energy metabolism, & calming the mind itself. The third part of the book covers a six week plan to initiate many of these changes, while the fourth part goes into specifics for each of his seven key areas.
Ok, so what's the bottom line? There's a lot of intriguing information and sound advice in the 400+ pages, & I saw nothing that I absolutely disagreed with. Like any diet or health book, he has his own viewpoint & focus, & some of his strategies & recommendations will work better for some than others. This book was a major swing factor in my own decision to try a vegan gluten free caffeine free water only lifestyle, which was difficult but very beneficial for me in multiple areas. I can see this book being useful for two groups of people: First, people who are suffering from problems such as anxiety, depression, "brain fog", adhd, migraines or other brain related problems might find something helpful or even life-changing in his plan. Other people, like myself, who are interested in new approaches & optimum health will certainly find new concepts & tools that they can implement in their own healthy lifestyle. Either way, an excellent book to read.
on December 18, 2008
I was privileged to be one of the participants who was chosen to undergo the Ultramind solution for six weeks prior to publication. Although it has only been 18 days since I started, the change in my energy level and my ability to concentrate is remarkable.
I have been suffering from intense fatigue and trouble concentrating for the last two years, and my physicians have been unable to find a medical diagnosis for my symptoms. Being a 46-year-old graduate student, wife, mother and employee, I have to be able to concentrate for long periods of time, especially in the evenings after work. Before the Ultramind solution, I could not concentrate or stay focused past the early morning. Without knowing exactly when it occurred, I now find that my energy has been restored enough so that I can work twelve hour shifts at the hospital without fatigue and still go home and study, while retaining what I read. As a side effect, I have lost close to ten pounds without ever going hungry.
Although it may sound totally impossible to remove all processed foods, sugar, dairy, trans fat, wheat and flour products as Dr. Hyman required from my diet, I have discovered that all of my prior sugar cravings have disappeared completely, even now during the hoiday season when cookies and candy abound. I snack on nuts and fruit and make sure I eat good proteins and plenty of fresh vegetables and I drink plenty of water.
In the beginning I thought I would never be able to make it six weeks, but three weeks have breezed by. I am definitely going to make the Ultramind Solution a way of life from now on. Dr. Hyman's principles are simple yet effective.
on January 5, 2009
A little over a year ago I had my second child. I worked hard at eating healthy while I was at home for the first three months, and I was quite successful, but when I returned to work full time I felt to busy to continue my healthy lifestyle. For lunch I would eat packaged, frozen entrees or even worse go to our hospital cafeteria and have grilled cheese sandwich with french fries and a soda, this was happening three to four times a week. On my way home, I would stop by the store and pick up dinner that was already prepared or food that was pre-packaged so all I had to do was heat it up. This was no way to teach my kids healthy eating. I have a petite frame and was not overweight by any means but I could tell I was slowly getting thicker around the middle, in addition, I constantly felt tired, unfocused, and distracted. Every time I ate I felt sick, almost like a feeling of being hung-over but without drinking. I decided it was time to change how I, and my family, ate. I have heard of the healing power of food and I decided it was time to try the benefits of whole, unprocessed foods.
Upon starting this program, I decided I had to commit myself wholly. I began by doing all my grocery shopping in Sundays as well as cutting up all my fruits and vegetable so they were easily accessible. I also planned out my breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus in writing for the entire week and stuck to them. I will admit the first week was hard; giving up sugar and my biggest food obsession - soda. After the first week it became easier and easier. As the program continued, my mind felt clearer; I felt sharper at work. The fog that inhabited my brain was lifting and I started to realize that I had been going through daily motions without motivation or care for what I was doing; now I take on challenges because I enjoy thinking through the problems. I also began to feel more energized, more so than I had in a long time, I could finally make it through the entire day without complaining I was tired; I wake up at 4:30 in the morning to exercise before getting ready for work and I don't get to bed until my kids are finally asleep around 9:30 pm. I have the liveliness now to work, be a wife, and play with my kids every day.
There were definitely added benefits to following Dr. Hyman's six-week program. By eating food that was promoted in book and avoiding the foods that contribute to brain fog, inflammation, and, for me, the overall feeling of frustration, I lost body fat, my clothes fit much better, and I am down to my goal weight/size that I have been trying to achieve for years. When you eat whole, unprocessed foods, your weight is naturally controlled; no need to count calories. Additionally, within the first few weeks my skin looked brighter, I now feel comfortable leaving the house without make-up and my skin is much healthier. I feel Dr. Hyman's programs and books are well worth the time and commitment, I would recommend it to anyone who is trying to bring focus and clarity back into their life. You feel so good about yourself that I think it will be difficult to go back to old eating habits. I look forward to my future of a healthy body and brain, both inside and out.
on January 7, 2009
I was one of the privileged few selected to undergo the initial trial of the UltraMind Solution, and the changes I have seen in my body and mind after 5 weeks on the program have been amazing! I highly recommend this book to anyone who feels they are living in a "brain fog".
Like most of the people who have reviewed this book, I may not have placed reviews in the past, but I am a real person who has actually been through this program! I am a physician practicing in a fast-paced emergency department, and I turned to this program as a last-ditch effort to heal my "broken brain." I excelled early in my career, but over the past 5 years have noted a decline in my mental functioning. I gradually became less motivated to do anything other than get up and go to work--just early enough to shower and change--then come back home, go to sleep, and wake up and do the same thing the next day. I had little motivation to exercise as I had in the past (1 hour cardio daily through my 2nd year of med school) or do any other activities I once enjoyed. I noticed both short- and long-term memory problems. I stuttered when I tried to explain results and plans of care to patients, and they looked at me like I was the one who needed to be in the hospital bed, not them! I felt stressed with every shift, could not finish my notes in a timely manner, could not organize my thoughts, and had difficulty making decisions. At home I was chronically tired, apathetic, bordering clinical depression. I had dry skin and chronic itchy skin after showering. I was not happy; in fact, I was miserable and felt like my life was falling apart around me.
Soon after starting this plan, people around me began to notice changes in my skin. I noticed I was no longer stressed at work, made more rapid decisions, no longer stuttered, and was able to juggle more patients at a time. I became more motivated to do things at home and outside of work, and I became a happier person overall!
I began this program with some skepticism but was soon won over. Although initially difficult to eat all organic food, cut out dairy, wheat, gluten, and sweeteners, I did find plenty of food to eat, and I even learned to enjoy foods I never liked before! With my hectic and ever-changing schedule, I had difficulty sticking w/ the minimal daily exercise (30 minutes of walking) and relaxation exercises, but overall the plan was easy to stick to. I plan to continue this plan indefinitely and hopefully encourage my spouse and family to adopt it as well.
I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to those people who feel like they are at the end of their rope as I was. Give it a try and see how you feel. You won't regret it!
on January 18, 2009
Before the diet I was on Zoloft for anxiety. It was a low dose but I've needed it for years. When I started the diet I stopped the Zoloft. I was obviously concerned but asked my husband to pay close attention to me! After the first week or two it was never a concern. Neither the anxiety nor the lack of Zoloft. Aside from anxiety the greatest change in my life was in my digestion. Prior to the diet I was having urgent often painful bowel movement. After a few weeks on the diet, that all stopped. No more belly aches and loose stools. Along with that I noticed a real increase in energy- waking up without feeling like I never slept. Instead of relying on coffee which I knew bothered my stomach before but couldn't give it up, I looked forward to my protein shakes that have become a new addiction at our house. The whole UltraMind Solution program just taught us SO much about how food affects us. It seemed so daunting at first since we are so set in our patterns of behavior, but after a little transition period it truly became easy. I look back at the foods I used to eat and I already cannot believe what we were eating and I know that food will probably never again be on our table because the cost is not worth it. I am so grateful to have learned so much not only for my husband and I, but because we can now use our knowledge to help shape our kids life habits. Not only that but I lost a bunch of weight without even feeling like I was trying, what a bonus. We can't thank Dr. Hyman enough for putting all his knowledge together in one place and in a way that we could follow and understand pretty easily! Our lives have truly been changed.
on February 24, 2013
About 14 months ago, my body just decided to shutdown. Hindsight, it had been a long time coming with symptoms ranging from sleep problems, hair loss, GI issues and memory problems. I didn't think twice about any of them until 14 months ago. My weight shot up by 15 pounds in 3 weeks, my vision was blurry, my joints/muscles would not recover, I couldn't sleep, but was exhausted, my brain was functioning poorly, I was irritable, sad, angry, gassy, bloated and about 20 other issues. So I went to my doctor. First "diagnosis" (mind you no labs were done or offered)..it was my age. I was 32. Second diagnosis, I was overeating. WRONG! This all happened when I was in peak condition. I was training for a weightlifting competition and was eating better than ever and stronger than ever (until the crash). Third diagnosis, PCOS (no labs done). Fourth diagnosis, hypothyroidism. And on and on and on. I diagnosed myself with adrenal fatigue and decided to take a big ol' long break from the gym and allow myself to sleep as much as I wanted. That, alone, made me feel loads better. For six months, I allowed myself lto sleep as much as possible. Thank goodness for Google! I was also on a birth control pill, which, in hindsight, only exacerbated everything. Finally saw a naturopath who did a lot of lab work and basically told me to rest, eat well, take supplements and enjoy life. I thought there was some validity, but wasn't seeing fast results. Went to yet another doctor. Back to the stupid PCOS diagnosis and within 10 minutes the doctor was prescribing me 5 medications. I was totally done at this point. I started self-treating with loads of supplements (more than 20 different supplements a day). It is a slow progression, but things are looking better.
I found this book while looking for ways to manage my depression. What a godsend this book has been. Not only has it reiterated everything I thought to be true, but it gives valuable advice and background information. This is definitely a revolutionary way of thinking that may cause some to be uncomfortable as it goes against everything we know to be true (or at least fed to us) and causes us to lose faith in a big portion of our medical community. All I can say is, stop drugging yourself up, read this book and get your body back on track. It is ridiculously slow process and patience is necessary. You have to be very mindful to tiny improvements. For me, I noticed my hair stopped falling out as much, I could fall asleep normally (and stay asleep) and about a week ago, I stopped needing naps! I am now going to include other supplements recommended by Dr. Hyman. I can't recommend this book enough. You are not unfixable and you do not need a label. You need to find the imbalances in your body and balance them. Simple as that.
on March 9, 2009
Book Review: The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First (Scribner, Dec 2008) by Mark Hyman, M.D.
Mark Hyman, the author of the bestselling The UltraMind Solution has hit home with readers by explaining to them the correlation between the brain and the body. Bringing the whole body concept (functional medicine) to the forefront of the doctor-patient relationship, Dr. Hyman writes, "I was trained according to the dogma of separate medical specialties--for heart problems you see the cardiologist, . . .The road map I was given in medical school to navigate through the territory of illness was the wrong map. It taught us to diagnose disease and then assign standardized treatments no matter who was suffering. This is the wrong approach." Instead, he asks that functional medicine be used in the diagnosis of a disease.
Dr. Hyman states that there are Myths of Psychiatry and Neurology:
* You know the name of your disease, you know what's wrong with you
* Your brain is protected from your body
* Drugs are the answer to mental illness
* You can talk or meditate away your mood and brain problems
* Once you lose brain cells, they are gone forever.
These myths are examples of common thinking which he seeks to expunge from our culture. Hyman advocates a return to healthier living by:
1. Optimizing nutrition--we are all of us, nutritionally imbalanced
2. Balancing our hormones--they must work in sync with each other
3. Cool off any inflammation--"Inflammation of the brain is a central theme for almost all psychiatric and neurologic conditions, as well as most chronic disease."
4. Fix the digestive system--problems here inevitably lead to sickness
5. Enhance detoxification--the toxic burden during our lifetime is excessive and can lead to disease
6. Boost energy metabolism--"Loss of energy is found is most brain disorders." We use food and oxygen to fuel our cells
7. Calm our minds--we all need meaning, purpose, love, and nourishing relationships
Dr. Hyman believes that our greatest tool in the human arsenal for disease prevention and reversal is the mighty fork. Food itself (buzzword--nutrigenomics) allows for personalization of any "prescription."
Hyman recommends Omega-3 fatty acids which build cell membranes, reduce inflammation, balance sugar, and increase new cell growth in the brain. He also writes that the human diet needs lean protein (eggs, nuts, seeds, chicken, soy); carbs--important for long-term health and brain function (eat plants); and vitamins and minerals--we need supplementation.
"Depression is not a psychiatric illness, but a system disease." Dr. Hyman sees the individuality of each patient, addressing illness differently. In The UltraMind Solution, he addresses Alzheimer's, ADHD, and Autism--problems seen to be of the brain, but which also present physical signs in the body.
Hyman warns against "The four top things purchased in American supermarkets" which are "mood-altering drugs."
* Caffeine--causes anxiety and depression
* Alcohol--more than four glasses a day doubles the risk of dementia, whereas a few glasses a week/not daily could reduce the risk of dementia by 35%
* Nicotine--constricts blood flow to the brain; cigarette smoke contains 4,000 toxins and leads to depression
I must say that some of the ideas encompassed in The UltraMind Solution have been present in the alternative medicine world for a time, but here they are put into perspective with a whole body approach, focusing on the brain, by a doctor who has openly shunned an element of his medical training. It is an excellent book, and no doubt should be read by many, but is a must read for parents.
The cover of The UltraMind Solution is a stalk of broccoli in a prescription bottle, set against a bright fire engine red background. Simple, but effective. Let food be your medicine.
on June 8, 2009
I'm not an MD or a Scientist for that matter... All I can tell you is that this really works! I'm 5 weeks today into the 6 week elimination diet and I've lost 17 pounds and 2 inches from my belly, I have my 20 year old brain back as far as focus and memory are concerned, my libito and the "tools" necessary to take advantage of it are all functioning at a 25 year old level again AND I'M 52! Just in case these subjective measures don't convince you, let me give you some more objective stats: My cholesterol was at 310 before the diet, it was at 163 when I gave blood last week; My blood pressure was always around 120/80 to 130/90, last week it was 94/56!!! My resting pulse rate has dropped by about 20% over the 5 weeks as well!
What I like best about Dr. Hyman's approach is that he writes for the average Joe to understand. You don't need to be a Harvard MD to get to the end of the book and know what he was talking about. He also does such a good job explaining the biochemical principals behind this program so that you DESIRE to try the program after you read the book because you understand that it will work before you even start! My 6 week elimination "diet" has now turned into a lifestyle change for me for the rest of my life! And it will do the same for you when you regain your 20 year old brain and body again, too! I highly recommend this book and I never write these reviews!
on February 3, 2009
Hyman recommends the use of methyl-donating vitamins and says that methylation is the key to all chronic diseases. He calls it riding the methylation train. But I'm not so sure that is safe. An article in Scientific American Mind (June July 2008) on how methylation effects our genes says that methylation is associated with gene silencing of the corticosterone receptor, and silencing of genes that regulate hippocampal brain derived neurotrophic factor. The increase in methylation was associated with impaired stress response and depression.
I'm not sure that this Hyman is on the right track with his methylation train. Methylation is also linked with promoting cancer and researchers are looking for substances that demethylate the genes. Also M Szyf has shown hypermethylated genes in suicidal patients.
Methylation is not a panacea, nor is it necessarily always good for our genes. Methyl donating vitamins like folate and B6, which Hyman recommends, do lower homocysteine, but if you do not eat a lot of animal protein, you won't have elevated levels of this toxic chemical to begin with.
Also, eating seaweed (which Hyman suggests) may actually be bad for those with hypothyroid, according to researchers in Japan who were able to reverse hypothyroidism by restricting iodine to 100 mcg a day. Seaweed like kelp and bladderwrack is very high in iodine.
I thought the comments about potatoes being destructive to the brain were pure fiction. There is a book called Potatoes Not Prozac that talks about how important carbs are for tryptophan to enter the brain where it is synthesized into serotonin. It's based on J Wurtman's research. Wurtman says that even small amounts of protein or fat will interfere with the ability of carbohydrates to get tryptophan into the brain.
Missing from the list of foods that cause an immune reaction in the gut are beef and pork. These are prominent in leaky gut or as he puts it leaky brain. S Zar showed that IgG antibodies to beef and pork are the most prevalent and consistent food allergens for all types of IBS.
One of the primary ways to ward off diseases goes unmentioned, but not without the author letting us know he knows about it, but won't tell us. It's very weird. The way Hyman writes about The China Study, he makes it sound like some people need animal protein, even thrive on it, but in fact the whole point of that huge study was that not only do we NOT need animal protein, but that even modest amounts of it are associated with all of our western diseases of affluence, from heart disease, to cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes; it's a long list.
I ate the way Hyman suggests for years and it did not work. It wasn't until I found The McDougall Program that I started to understand how to use food to get healthy and stay healthy. Plus you don't have to figure out all the supplements because you get all your nutrients from your food, which is the best way to take vitamins and minerals. It is simple, effective, and very inexpensive. I would recommend any of Dr John McDougall's books on the subject.
on June 11, 2010
"A valuable brain tonic, and a cure for all nervous affections -- sick head-ache, neuralgia, hysteria, melancholy." - 19th century advert
To be honest, it was hard to give this book only 1 star, because so much of it contains sensible, good advice: eat organic whole foods, especially lots of vegetables, exercise, and learn to relax. How can you not like it, even if most of us have heard this advice many times before?
Well, it's the conclusions that Mark Hyman draws from his patients' experiences, (and to be fair, from various reputable studies), which he then implies is true for anyone suffering from depression or anxiety, or even autism, that makes this book stink of quackery.
Don't get me wrong: I do believe that common sense advice such as exercise and a good diet can help with mild to moderate anxiety and depression that is situational in nature (your sweetheart dumps you), or even perhaps a very small percentage of people who suffer from severe and chronic mental illnesses might be cured by fixing a vitamin deficiency or eliminating food allergies, but suggesting that this applies to ALL "broken brains" is irresponsible.
I unfortunately have suffered from moderate to severe anxiety/depression for most of my adult life (runs in the family). I have tried talk therapy (helped), exercise (helped), diet (helped somewhat) and vitamins and other "tonics and elixirs" (didn't do a thing) but the the hands-down winner was Paxil. That was a game changer. After all the hard work in therapy and the CAM wild goose chases, just a stupid little pill. It would be insulting if it didn't work so well.
Sadly, a book like the Ultramind Solution might keep sufferers from trying medication. For example, Mark Hyman writes: "Most patients who take antidepressants either don't respond or have only a partial response." (Kindle ed., p. 437)
Well, that's because some depression is situational, which is better treated with pyschotherapy, and to be fair, with some of the things Dr. Hyman espouses, like diet and exercise. Also, Mark Hyman has conveniently glossed over the fact that each antidepressant has a unique molecular structure, and hence will affect each person differently. Thus, while someone might do really well on an SSRI, another might have terrible side effects and ironically do better on an older tricyclic. This invariably makes antidepressants look less effective in clinical trails. In the future, if scientists are able to develop a genetic test which matches the sufferer's particular genetic makeup to the right antidepressant, then naturally, the non-placebo group will be even more responsive. The fact that Mark Hyman doesn't even bring this up shows how biased he is.
But according to Mark Hyman: "Conventional treatments don't help, make things worse, or provide only slight benefit...Just as brain problems all stem from the same root causes, they all have the same solution - The Ultramind Solution" (Kindle ed., p 284)
So fixing a severe brain problem, like say, schizophrenia, is really just a matter of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, tracking down hidden food allergies and possibly chelating mercury? Almost seems too simple.
(Actually, all of this obsessing over what I eat and what poisons might be lurking in my body is giving me anxiety. And I think I may have a slight wheat intolerance, but a life without pizza and beer is too depressing. Oh shoot, a catch-22!)
Mark Hyman also states in the UltraMind Solution that "the foundation of modern psychiatry and neurology are based on myths"(Kindle ed. p 244), which puts him in the same company as noted mental health expert and actor Tom Cruise. When speaking of mental illness, he goes on to say "...they are ALL (emphasis his) really the same problem - imbalances in the seven keys to UltraWellness."(Kindle ed. p 284)
Wow, Mark Hyman has just cured all mental illnesses! Give the man a Nobel Prize!
Of course, you shouldn't take this reviewer's opinions or experiences too seriously, because they are based on personal anecdotal evidence. I could be just making this up, or perhaps I work for a pharmaceutical company, or for the same reasons that Mark Hyman shouldn't draw conclusions based on his own anecdotal evidence - because people's stories and perceptions are not scientifically reliable due to a host of issues, from the placebo effect to confirmation bias. That a licensed MD could disregard these facts so easily should give one pause.
Speaking of which, Dr. Steven Novella, noted neurologist and skeptic, had this to say about Mark Hyman on his blog, theness.com:
"What Hyman does is mix some cherry-picked scientific medical facts with pure speculation and misinformation, without distinguishing among them, and then presents them as cutting-edge medicine...He seamlessly mixes some reasonable statements with pure nonsense, and a misrepresentation of the evidence."
And, finally, there's the ultra-marketing and the ultra-self promotion that bothers me. You see, in addition to being all over the blogosphere (look everybody, I'm volunteering in Haiti!) and on youtube.com, Mark Hyman also sells the supplements he recommends in his book (to insure purity). As the Church Lady would say, "How conveeenient!"
Is Mark Hyman really Kevin Trudeau with an MD? Nah, this was just hyperbole on my part, a la Mark Hyman. I think Dr. Hyman is more the John Harvey Kellogg of our time - outgoing, charismatic, immensely pleased with himself - not a bad man, just ultra-misleading.
P.S. People who rant about pharmaceutical companies need to get some perspective. Yes, they are profit driven, and sometimes do naughty things. They shouldn't, for example, be allowed to advertise directly to the public, or fudge or exaggerate clinical trails (which even CAM studies are guilty of). But this also applies to the **for-profit** billion dollar supplement industry, which often makes questionable scientific claims, uses misleading marketing, and worse, has no regulatory oversight.