This is a loooooong book. For me, it was life-changing and made it onto my list of Books That Changed My Life. But Dr. Mark Hyman could have written it with a lot less words, and this comes largely from repetition (and also from technical details, but that might be necessary). Not everyone is going to want to read a rather thick book filled with case studies about managing one’s mental health with lifestyle changes. But it’s an important book, and has definitely been life-changing for people besides me.
Dr. Hyman has an empire of Functional Medicine which includes several books and a clinic. I heard him just last week on The People’s Pharmacy (on NPR). His Ultramind Solution is just a variation of his whole body and whole life solution, though I believe it started with his approach to mental health. The idea is that most of disease can be tracked back to what we’re doing to our body and also that any part of our health functions as part of a whole. In this particular book, Hyman argues mental health (including autism, ADHD, bipolar, etc.) back to the body. He doesn’t dismiss genes (although sometimes he seems to make light of them) but says that they can be “turned on” or “turned off” by what is happening to the rest of our body. As for the “Solution,” Hyman resists magic bullets and instead outlines the Seven Keys to UltraWellness and even a six-week UltraMind program (Ultramind Solution) to help cool down the body, identify stressors, and move you into a lifetime of great choices and health (The Ultramind Lifestyle).
The Seven Keys to UltraWellness are:
- Optimize Nutrition (food and supplementation)
- Balance Your Hormones
- Cool Off Inflammation (including identifying allergens)
- Fix Your Digestion (not just probiotics, but cofactors, etc.)
- Enhance Detoxification
- Boost Energy Metabolism
- Calm Your Mind
Which includes, obviously, eating well, resting well, and exercise, the triumvirate of healthy living. He also addresses many environmental toxins and stressors—some of which may just happen to us and some which we may be able to eliminate or at least reduce.
I like Dr. Hyman’s multifaceted approach, which rings true with me. I am hesitant to believe that our modern mental woes are over, though he has had many successful cases. And let’s face it: he’s not promising anything except better health and pointing out the connection between and complexity of our body’s many systems. He’s kind of saying, “This is what we’ve got to work with in our currently toxic and stressful world full of pitfalls and dangers galore. What do we know about the human body that can help us feel and operate better?” And then here comes the respect for the whole body and its communications and sensitivities, as well as long-term damage and various symptoms for more universal problems (as well as several digs against the DSM-whatever-number-we’re-on, traditional diagnoses and medication, and medical specializations).
Hyman’s other books are:
- Food Fix
- Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? (alternately, Food: WTF Should I Eat?)
- Food: What the Heck Should I Cook? (cookbook)
- 10-Day Detox Diet
- The Blood Sugar Solution (series of three)
- Eat Fat, Get Thin (and the Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook)
- The UltraSimple Diet
There’s also plenty of information at his WEBSITE, including a podcast.
My experience with this book has changed over time. I first read it about twelve years ago. I was unable to use it to completely get everyone in my house off of meds, which is what I really wanted. But we have used it as an occasional detox and to check periodically for allergies and sensitivities. I read it most recently because I have been reigning in my diet to deal with some symptoms from vitamin deficiencies while also going through a series at church that encouraged body, spirit and soul wellness. Re-reading UltraMind Solution was really helpful. It re-educated me on things that I had forgotten. It underlined the importance of many of the things I had been implementing (like exercise and resting) and reminded me that there is still work to be done (like taking all those vitamins, and meditation). I actually feel tremendously better, with only my sinuses still really bugging me. My only hang-up, really, is getting to someone who will actually test me for things (like hormone levels and whatnot), but I did get a mediocre vitamin, heart, and thyroid panel done sort of on accident, so that helped. I really just feel like I don’t have the resources (including money) to manage everything it would take. And yet, I love implementing the majority of what is in Hyman’s books. And while my kids complain that there are no pretzels or chips in the house, I have lost ten pounds “on accident.”
I also want to note that the book is structured nicely and is fairly user-friendly. You wouldn’t even have to read the whole thing, though I found it interesting. There are quizzes to give you ideas where you (or your family members) might be having a struggle. There is a section for implementing the six-week plan and a section for practical steps to take for the long haul, as well as specific sections based on what you specifically need to work on (like inflammation, detox, etc.). There are no recipes here, but there are some online (along with a six-week meal plan) and obviously in his new cookbook. I’m far from done with this book, and I think next I will get Food: What the Heck Should I Cook?
And if you already know this book (or one of his other books) isn’t going to be your thing, I can leave you with his advice: if you do nothing else, stop ingesting high fructose corn syrup and trans fats. Those two things alone could make quite an impact.
I underlined like half the book. Here are a few highlights.
“A very few fundamental problems exist that explain nearly every disease” (p42).
“Our goal in medicine should be to find the right ‘medicine’ for each person, without prejudice, whether it is a drug, a nutrient, diet change, detoxification, a hormone, exercise, or exorcism!” (p46).
“Interestingly, one of the reasons most people eat refined carbohydrates or sugars is to boost serotonin levels temporarily … then they crash, which sends them out hunting for something starchy or sugary. Unfortunately, this ultimately makes us feel more depressed and causes us to gain weight—not a very effective strategy” (p104).
“There is really no such thing as junk food—there is just food, and then there is junk” (p113).
“Many of the day-to-day complaints we think we have to live with as we age are the result of nutritional deficiencies” (p117).