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Mark Hyman, MD: healing the broken brain syndrome.

In his previous book, The UltraSimple Diet (Pocket Books, 2007), Mark Hyman, MD, called himself a "medical detective," a practitioner of the rapidly emerging field of functional medicine, which searches for the underlying cause of illness instead of merely treating the symptoms. Now, in his important new breakthrough book, The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain By Healing Your Body First (Scribner, 2008), Dr. Hyman calls himself an "accidental psychiatrist," a physician whose efforts to help people find and eliminate the causes of their physical disorders have led to the surprising discovery that his treatments often cure their mental problems as well.


In an exclusive interview with Life Extension magazine, Dr. Hyman, who is the founder and medical director of the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, talks about his remarkable findings. He explains how problems of the brain, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disease, attention deficit disorder attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder (ADD or ADHD)
 formerly hyperactivity

Behavioral syndrome in children, whose major symptoms are inattention and distractibility, restlessness, inability to sit still, and difficulty concentrating on one thing for any
 (ADD), Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and mood swings can be prevented, improved, or even cured by his innovative program of diet, nutritional supplements, exercise, meditation, and lifestyle changes. Dr. Hyman's findings are a harbinger of a new approach to dealing with what he calls "broken brains," representing a more natural, healthy, and effective method that might one day make traditional psychiatric medication and treatment obsolete.


Referring to the widespread incidence and exorbitant cost of treating mental disorders, Dr. Hyman explains that, "Functional medicine is a map or model for addressing a chronic disease epidemic which affects over half of Americans and costs 80% of our health care dollars." He says that while conventional methods are effective for acute illness, they simply do not do the job with chronic disease. "We need to change access to health care and create improved coverage for our population," he adds, "But we have to change the type of health care we have access to." Dr. Hyman says that functional medicine grows out of Western science and predicts, "It will reinvigorate primary care medicine and provide success, where today there is mostly failure, in addressing the epidemic of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disease, digestive problems, and brain and mood disorders."


He does not reject scientific medicine and, in fact, the future of scientific medicine is functional medicine. Dr. Hyman also distinguishes functional medicine from alternative or integrative medicine. The key difference lies in functional medicine's focus on finding the root causes of an individual's health problems, as opposed to a focus on prescribing alternative treatments such as acupuncture or biofeedback biofeedback, method for learning to increase one's ability to control biological responses, such as blood pressure, muscle tension, and heart rate. Sophisticated instruments are often used to measure physiological responses and make them apparent to the patient, who  for conventional symptom-based diagnoses.

The aim, he says, "Is to navigate through the maze of chronic disease and understand the very few basic things that can go wrong, that can cause a myriad of symptoms and be easily corrected by addressing the root. So if you have depression because you have a vitamin B12 deficiency vitamin B12 deficiency Megalobalstic anemia, see there , or you have a food allergy or you have mercury poisoning or your thyroid is not functioning properly or you've had some psychological trauma, each one of these things is different and needs a different treatment."


"We have 1.1 billion people in the world with mood problems or cognitive disorders," explains Dr. Hyman. "One in 10 Americans is on antidepressants Antidepressants
Medications prescribed to relieve major depression. Classes of antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (fluoxetine/Prozac, sertraline/Zoloft), tricyclics (amitriptyline/ Elavil), MAOIs (phenelzine/Nardil), and heterocyclics
, one in 10 children are on stimulant medication, and one in four people will be affected by major depression during their lifetime. Today, we have a chance to fundamentally address the causes. This has never really been possible before, because we never understood how biology works and how it all fits together."

As he explains in The UltraMind Solution, "There are only a few, common underlying mechanisms responsible for all disease. Our diet is becoming increasingly toxic, our environment is increasingly toxic, we have significant nutritional imbalances and deficiencies, and we're under constant stress. The results weigh on us day after day after day." He adds that while we cannot escape exposure to all environmental toxins, we can avoid many in food, water, and pesticides.


"The average person consumes a gallon of neurotoxic neurotoxic

pertaining to or emanating from a neurotoxin.

neurotoxic state
a case of poisoning by a neurotoxin.

neurotoxic adjective
 pesticides a year," Dr. Hyman remarks, "And there are 3,500 different additives put into our food supply."

In his new book, he explains that the old idea that the blood-brain barrier acts as an impenetrable shield against harmful elements is no longer sufficient. "What I found," he says, "Much to my surprise, was that when I treated people for problems with insulin, or when I treated food allergies or when I got people detoxed from heavy metals, their mental problems also went away. Their mood got better, their depression lifted, their dementia reversed. There were children with autism autism (ô`tĭzəm), developmental disability resulting from a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. It is characterized by the abnormal development of communication skills, social skills, and reasoning.  who began to talk again and others I treated for asthma or allergies who suddenly found their attention deficit disorder (ADD) went away. They went from having brain chaos to having healthy inner brain function. And I said, 'Wow, what's going on What's Going On is a record by American soul singer Marvin Gaye. Released on May 21, 1971 (see 1971 in music), What's Going On reflected the beginning of a new trend in soul music.  here?'"


Dr. Hyman writes that if people "eat wild, fresh, organic, local, non-genetically modified food grown in virgin mineral- and nutrient-rich soils that has not been transported across vast distances and stored for months before being eaten ... and work and live outside, breathe only fresh unpolluted air, drink only pure, clean water, sleep nine hours a night, move their bodies every day, and are free from chronic stressors and exposure to environmental toxins," then, perhaps, they might not need supplements.

For the rest of us (abuse) for The Rest Of Us - (From the Macintosh slogan "The computer for the rest of us") 1. Used to describe a spiffy product whose affordability shames other comparable products, or (more often) used sarcastically to describe spiffy but very overpriced products.

, whom he considers to be all of us, supplements are an absolute necessity. His book lists daily nutrients that he considers basic for everyone, including vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, carotenoids Carotenoids
Carotenoids are yellow to deep-red pigments.

Mentioned in: Vitamin A Deficiency

carotenoids (k
, biotin biotin: see vitamin; coenzyme.

Organic compound, part of the vitamin B complex, essential for growth and well-being in animals and some microorganisms.
, choline choline: see vitamin.

Organic compound related to vitamins in its activity. It is important in metabolism as a component of the lipids that make up cell membranes and of acetylcholine.
, and inositol inositol (ĭnō`sĭtōl): see vitamin.

The generic name for hexahydroxycyclohexanes, which are classified as carbohydrates.
; macrominerals calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur; trace minerals copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum molybdenum (məlĭb`dənəm) [Gr.,=leadlike], metallic chemical element; symbol Mo; at. no. 42; at. wt. 95.94; m.p. about 2,617°C;; b.p. about 4,612°C;; sp. gr. 10.22 at 20°C;; valence +2, +3, +4, +5, or +6. , selenium selenium (səlē`nēəm), nonmetallic chemical element; symbol Se; at. no. 34; at. wt. 78.96; m.p. 217°C;; b.p. about 685°C;; sp. gr. 4.81 at 20°C;; valence −2, +4, or +6. , vanadium vanadium (vənā`dēəm), metallic chemical element; symbol V; at. no. 23; at. wt. 50.9415; m.p. about 1,890°C;; b.p. 3,380°C;; sp. gr. about 6 at 20°C;; valence +2, +3, +4, or +5. Vanadium is a soft, ductile, silver-grey metal. , zinc, boron boron (bōr`ŏn) [New Gr. from borax], chemical element; symbol B; at. no. 5; at. wt. 10.81; m.p. about 2,300°C;; sublimation point about 2,550°C;; sp. gr. 2.3 at 25°C;; valence +3. , chromium, and silicon; essential amino acids tryptophan tryptophan (trĭp`təfăn), organic compound, one of the 20 amino acids commonly found in animal proteins. Only the l-stereoisomer appears in mammalian protein. , methionine methionine (mĕthī`ənēn), organic compound, one of the 20 amino acids commonly found in animal proteins. Only the L-stereoisomer appears in mammalian protein. , phenylalanine phenylalanine (fĕn'əlăl`ənēn'), organic compound, one of the 22 α-amino acids commonly found in animal proteins. Only the l-stereoisomer appears in mammalian protein. , threonine threonine (thrē`ənēn), organic compound, one of the 22 α-amino acids commonly found in animal proteins. Only the l-stereoisomer appears in mammalian protein. , valine valine (văl`ēn), organic compound, one of the 22 α-amino acids commonly found in animal proteins. Only the l-stereoisomer appears in mammalian protein. , leucine leucine (l`sēn), organic compund, one of the 20 amino acids commonly found in animal proteins. , isoleucine isoleucine (ī'səl`sēn), organic compound, one of the 20 amino acids commonly found in animal proteins. , and lysine lysine (lī`sēn), organic compound, one of the 20 amino acids commonly found in animal proteins. Only the l-stereoisomer appears in mammalian protein. ; and essential fatty acids Essential fatty acids
Sources of fat in the diet, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Mentioned in: Nutritional Supplements
 linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA EPA eicosapentaenoic acid.

eicosapentaenoic acid

EPA, See acid, eicosapentaenoic.

), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA DHA docosahexaenoic acid.
DHA, See acid, docosahexaenoic.

"Think of nutrients as fertilizer for your brain," Dr. Hyman says. "Think of them as little helpers that improve communications and connections." He believes that approximately 80% of us will do well and maintain a healthy brain on basic supplements (combined with a healthy lifestyle and diet), including a high-quality multivitamin mul·ti·vi·ta·min
Containing many vitamins.

A preparation containing many vitamins.

; calcium and magnesium; vitamin D3, omega-3 fatty acids This is a list of omega-3 fatty acids.

Common name Lipid name Chemical name
α-Linolenic acid (ALA) 18:3 (n-3) octadeca-9,12,15-trienoic acid
Stearidonic acid 18:4 (n-3) octadeca-6,9,12,15-tetraenoic acid
; probiotics Probiotics
Bacteria that are beneficial to a person's health, either through protecting the body against pathogenic bacteria or assisting in recovery from an illness.

Mentioned in: Colonic Irrigation, Dysentery, Gastroenteritis
; and the methylation methylation,
n a phase-II detoxification pathway in the liver; methyl groups combine with toxins to rid the body of various substances.

 factors folic acid, B6, and B12.


Dr. Hyman has a simple two-fold approach for improving both brain and body: take out the bad stuff and put in the good stuff. He pinpoints a few dietary elements as causes of major mental and physical problems, urging us to eliminate them from our menu: gluten and dairy, which he calls "staples of our American diet;" sugar and high-fructose corn syrup High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is any of a group of corn syrups that have undergone enzymatic processing in order to increase their fructose content and are then mixed with pure corn syrup (100% glucose) to reach their final form. ; trans or hydrogenated fats, which he calls "markers of poor quality food;" and artificial sweeteners.

"Hidden food allergies are a major unrecognized epidemic in the twenty-first century," he asserts, adding that most of us fail to make the connection between what we eat and what we feel.


"Optimal nutrition is the most important factor in keeping your brain healthy," says Dr. Hyman. "Feeding your brain is not something most of us know how to do." He explains that most doctors know little or nothing about proper nutrition, something that is slowly beginning to change, as it becomes more evident that "vitamins and minerals are so essential for brain function and health."

Pinpointing carbohydrates as "the single most important food for long-term health and brain function," Dr. Hyman advises eating "real, whole food as it comes from the earth," including fresh vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices, and lean animal protein such as fish, chicken, and eggs.

Ideally, should we eat only organic food? "It's preferable," he responds, "But not necessary. If it's a choice of eating organic or getting off gluten and dairy, get off the gluten and dairy." He also advises eating food that is as low as possible in pesticides, and recommends checking the website of the Environmental Working Group (, which lists the latest figures on amounts of pesticides in foods.


Dr. Hyman is especially aware of the dangers of environmental toxins because early in his career, he worked in China for a year and was exposed on a daily basis to air polluted with coal dust and mercury. When he began to experience many symptoms of a "broken brain," after returning home, such as insomnia, exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and memory loss, Dr. Hyman was finally diagnosed with mercury poisoning and went through a course of treatment before recovering. Based on this personal experience, the connection between brain disorders and environmental toxins became very clear.

Realizing that such problems are far more common than most of us realize, Dr. Hyman advises the following: "Filter your water, stay away from large, predatory fish, try to eat organic food whenever possible, and find out the levels of pesticides in the food you eat." The higher up the food chain you go, the greater the likelihood of toxins, so he recommends eating low on the food chain--for example, sardines rather than swordfish.


As part of his program, Dr. Hyman emphasizes the need to confront the harm that daily stress does to our minds and bodies (which includes increasing levels of cortisol cortisol (kôr`tĭsôl') or hydrocortisone, steroid hormone that in humans is the major circulating hormone of the cortex, or outer layer, of the adrenal gland. ), and to be proactive in diminishing this contributor to "broken brains." He mentions the importance of a good night's sleep, noting findings that Americans are sleep-deprived, which can have a powerful effect on brain function. As an example, he points to indicated links between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer's disease.

He also recommends regular meditation, which improves mood and cognitive function, yoga, deep breathing, laughter therapy, biofeedback, making love, hypnosis, and exercise, and advises everyone to do at least one every day.


Not too long ago, it was thought that you are born with certain genes and you are simply stuck with them. Now, we are beginning to explore the world of "gene expression," finding that we can often control the way our inherited genes manifest themselves. Dr. Hyman finds this discovery both challenging and significant.


"There's a whole new emerging science called nutrigenomics," he says, "And it's extremely exciting to see that changes in the diet can have extraordinary effects on changing the way your genes are working or not working." He cites a recent study that put two groups of obese men and women on diets with identical calories, but different sources of carbohydrate: one group ate wheat, oats oats, cereal plants of the genus Avena of the family Gramineae (grass family). Most species are annuals of moist temperate regions. The early history of oats is obscure, but domestication is considered to be recent compared to that of the other , and potatoes, while the second group ate rye and pasta. "Rye has unique properties called phytonutrients," he explains, "And they actually improve insulin sensitivity." After 12 weeks on these diets, the scientists looked at DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
 or deoxyribonucleic acid

One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes.
 expression patterns and found that about 60 genes that promote obesity, inflammation, oxidative stress, and diabetes were turned on in the group that ate wheat, oats, and potatoes, while the group that ate rye and pasta had more than 70 genes that did the reverse."

Dr. Hyman points to this study as important evidence that we can use food and nutrients as medicine, and use them very effectively for the prevention of many health disorders.


Balancing hormones is also a part of Dr. Hyman's program. He notes that in the US, there are three big epidemics of hormonal imbalance: too much insulin (from sugar intake); too much cortisol and adrenaline (from stress); and not enough thyroid hormone. He says that all three interconnect and affect our sex hormones.

"I believe that most of the symptoms of aging we see are really symptoms of abnormal aging or dysfunction that are related to imbalances in our core body systems," he concludes. Dr. Hyman recommends bioidentical hormones, which he says can be "life-saving" when used correctly.


As a physician who is strongly motivated to solve medical puzzles, Dr. Hyman has paid close attention to his own health since his bout with mercury poisoning. "I have the unique benefit of knowing my particular genetic potholes," he says, "And I also know I had chronic fatigue and work very hard, so I take a number of supplements to help me deal with that."

Dr. Hyman's personal supplement program includes the following:

* Multivitamin

* Fish oil

* Vitamin D3

* Magnesium

* Coenzyme Q10

* Acetyl-L-carnitine

* Methylating nutrients (such as vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid).

Dr. Hyman's overall wellness plan? "I keep my gut healthy, keep myself free of toxins, and keep my mitochondria healthy. I exercise at least four or five times a week, get enough sleep, eat whole, real food, keep my sugar intake at a minimum, enjoy alcohol as a treat once in a while, and make sure I hit the pause button every day or two."


In The UltraMind Solution, Dr. Hyman writes, "My goal for all of you is to live your life as you were meant to live it--a life full of energy, vitality, pleasure, and happiness." Noting that, "The brain is not disconnected from the rest of the body as many practitioners of conventional medicine would have you believe," he hopes to change the way we treat mental problems and help us realize that the causes often lie in places where we haven't been looking: our diet, nutrient deficiencies, and toxins that have invaded our bodies.

"The future of medicine is personalized treatment, not 'one size fits all,'" he explains. In his campaign to bring the principles of functional medicine to a wider population, Dr. Hyman recently met with senators from the working group on health care reform in Washington. He hopes the results will be evident in the new administration's approach to health care.

"I told them that we have to keep up with the rest of the developed nations, in which we are 19th out of 19 in all health care outcomes," he says. "We have to stop pharmaceutical advertising on television, we have to stop junk food marketing to children, because 40% of the time, when patients are in their doctor's office and request something they saw on television, they get it. The government has to protect us from that and I think it's a critical issue that has to be dealt with.


"The other thing is that we need to retrain re·train  
tr. & intr.v. re·trained, re·train·ing, re·trains
To train or undergo training again.

 our doctors and train a new generation of doctors to think and practice in a way where drugs will be one tool, but not the only tool. I'm concerned about using the right tool for each person at the right time." Dr. Hyman adds that, "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 exorcism (ĕk`sôrsĭz'əm), ritual act of driving out evil demons or spirits from places, persons, or things in which they are thought to dwell. It occurs both in primitive societies and in the religions of sophisticated cultures. !"

In addition, Dr. Hyman has been helping to train physicians in functional medicine. "The Institute for Functional Medicine has trained over 1,000 practitioners, including 50 academic physicians and fellows from 20 major medical schools who are going through the program," he explains." We have research projects starting at Harvard and we're putting together a certification program in functional medicine." For Dr. Hyman, spreading the word through books, lectures, seminars, and meetings is the easy part.

"The hardest part of being a doctor is helping people connect to why they want to heal," he says. In this pursuit, Dr. Hyman tries to understand each individual, what that person wants, what is important to him or her, and what provides "meaning and purpose."

In his latest book, Dr. Hyman offers a new and revolutionary way of seeing brain disorders in a positive, encouraging format that is readily accessible to anyone willing to try it. He constantly reminds us that we need to forget the old idea that the cause of a "broken brain" is totally within the brain and can only be helped through psychotherapy and drugs. He tells us that we need to think in a new way and realize that most of these difficulties are caused by biological imbalances that can be corrected. "What you do to your body you do to your brain," Dr. Hyman says. "Heal your body and you heal your brain."

Dr. Mark Hyman is the founder and medical director of the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. He is the author of numerous books including The UltraMind Solution, The UltraSimple Diet, and UltraMetabolism.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Health Advisor at 1-800-226-2370.


* Functional medicine aims to heal chronic disease by finding and addressing the root causes of illness.

* In his new book The UltraMind Solution, Dr. Mark Hyman describes how a functional medicine approach incorporating diet, nutritional supplements, exercise, meditation, and lifestyle changes can help heal brain problems such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and more.

* A brain-healthy diet includes abundant fresh vegetables and fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, and lean protein, while minimizing or avoiding high-fructose corn syrup, trans or hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners, gluten, and dairy.

* In addition to a healthy diet, most will benefit from nutritional supplements including a multivitamin, calcium and magnesium, vitamin D3, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and methylation factors (such as folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12.)

* Other key strategies for promoting brain health include avoiding toxic elements in food, water, and the environment; practicing daily stress management; and achieving and maintaining hormonal balance.

* Targeted nutritional supplements may offer further support for conditions such as anxiety, depression, memory disorders, and ADD.



Nutrients that support the synthesis of serotonin or norepinephrine norepinephrine (nôr'ĕpīnĕf`rən), a neurotransmitter in the catecholamine family that mediates chemical communication in the sympathetic nervous system, a branch of the autonomic nervous system.  help promote happiness and well-being:

* Omega-3 fatty acids

* Tryptophan

* Phosphatidylcholine phosphatidylcholine /phos·pha·ti·dyl·cho·line/ (-ti?dil-ko´len) a phospholipid comprising choline linked to phosphatidic acid; it is a major component of cell membranes and is localized preferentially in the outer surface of the plasma  

* Phosphatidylserine

* Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid

* Tyrosine

* Magnesium

* S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)


Nutrients that increase acetylcholine acetylcholine (əsēt'əlkō`lēn), a small organic molecule liberated at nerve endings as a neurotransmitter. It is particularly important in the stimulation of muscle tissue.  may help support memory, learning, and focus:

* Vitamin B5

* Choline

* Phosphatidylcholine

* Phosphatidylserine

* Glycerophosphocholine

* Huperzine A

* Ginkgo biloba


Nutrients that increase the inhibitory neuro-transmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA GABA ?.

gamma-aminobutyric acid

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
A neurotransmitter that slows down the activity of nerve cells in the brain.
) help promote relaxation and may soothe anxiety:

* GABA (as a dietary supplement)

* Theanine

* Taurine taurine /tau·rine/ (taw´ren) an oxidized sulfur-containing amine occurring conjugated in the bile, usually as cholyltaurine or chenodeoxycholyltaurine; it may also be a central nervous system neurotransmitter or neuromodulator.  

* Inositol

* Vitamins B3, B6, and B12

* Magnesium

* Valerian valerian, in botany
valerian, common name for some members of the Valerianaceae, a family chiefly of herbs and shrubs of temperate and colder regions of the Northern Hemisphere; a few species, however, are native to the Andes.

* Passionflower passionflower, any plant of the genus Passiflora, mostly tropical American vines having pulpy fruits. Some species are grown in greenhouses for their large, unusual flowers of various colors; those seen by early Spanish settlers were interpreted as symbolic of  

* Hops


Nutrients that support the synthesis of dopamine dopamine (dōp`əmēn), one of the intermediate substances in the biosynthesis of epinephrine and norepinephrine. See catecholamine.

One of the catecholamines, widely distributed in the central nervous system.
, epinephrine, and norepinephrine help promote focus, concentration, and motivation:

* Tyrosine

* Omega-3 fatty acids

* Phosphatidylcholine

* Phosphatidylserine

* Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid
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Title Annotation:ON THE COVER
Author:Caruso, Donna
Publication:Life Extension
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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