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The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First - The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety, and Sharpen Your Mind Hardcover – December 30, 2008
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Broken brains go by many names -- depression, anxiety, memory loss, brain fog, attention deficit disorder, autism, and dementia, to name a few -- and show up in radically different ways from person to person, making each seem like a separate problem.But the truth is that these "diagnoses" are all the result of a few basic problems with our biology. Pinpoint these biological problems, fix them, and let your body's natural healing intelligence take over to repair your brain. Now you can experience an UltraMind -- one that is highly focused and able to pay attention at will, with a strong, reliable memory and a mood that is calm, confident, in control, and in good spirits.We have all heard of the mind-body connection or how our thoughts affect the health of our body. But the reverse is far more powerful: what you do to your body, your basic biology, has a profound effect on your brain.Have you ever experienced instant clarity after exercise? Alertness after drinking coffee? A mental crash after popping candy? Does your brain inexplicably slow down during stress, while multitasking, or when meeting a deadline? Each is an example of how what we do to our bodies -- whether through nutrition, sleep, exercise, or stress -- has a dramatic effect on our brains.Conventional treatments don't help, or provide only slight benefit, because they just manage symptomsrather than deal with -- and heal -- the underlying problem. And just as brain problems all stem from the same root causes, they all have the same solution -- The UltraMind Solution.Our ancient genes interact with our environment to create systemic imbalances that affect our brains. Correct those imbalances -- most caused by nutritional deficiencies, allergens, infections, toxins, and stress -- and you can achieve optimum mental health without drugs or psychotherapy.The UltraMind Solution is the future of medicine, the culmination of the last twenty years of research on what makes the brain happy, focused, and calm;
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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.
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.
The author defames legitimate doctors and therapists, painting them as evil drug-pushers who want to force drugs down peoples' throats. In truth, the vast majority of psychiatrists suggest the more sensible things that Hyman suggests, except they don't make outlandish claims of being able to magically fix everything. People tend to think of drug companies as evil and greedy---well, alternative medicine practitioners make a pretty penny off of vitamins, candles, crystals, homeopathy and other placebo new-age flimflam sold to desperate, gullible people looking for a quick fix.
Hyman can't offer real data in support of his beliefs (just anecdotal evidence), so instead he villifies his competition. There is nothing he provides his patients that cannot be explained by the placebo effect. Thank goodness he isn't offering advice for more serious problems (people like him usually don't), though it would be entertaining to see him try to explain how vitamins and eliminating gluten from one's diet can cure paranoid schizophrenia or AIDS or something.