All posts by Mark Hyman, M.D.

About Mark Hyman, M.D.

Mark Hyman, MD has dedicated his career to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness through a groundbreaking whole-systems medicine approach known as Functional Medicine. He is a family physician, a six-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader in his field. Through his private practice, education efforts, writing, research, advocacy and public-policy work, he strives to improve access to Functional Medicine, and to widen the understanding and practice of it, empowering others to stop managing symptoms and instead treat the underlying causes of illness, thereby also tackling our chronic-disease epidemic. Dr. Hyman is Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, and was awarded its 2009 Linus Pauling Award for Leadership in Functional Medicine. He is currently medical editor at the Huffington Post and on the Medical Advisory Board at The Doctor Oz Show. He is on the Board of Directors of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and a faculty member of its Food As Medicine training program. He is also on the Board of Advisors of Memhet Oz’s HealthCorps, which tackles the obesity epidemic by “educating the student body” in American high schools about nutrition, fitness and mental resilience. He is a volunteer for Partners in Health with whom he worked immediately after the earthquake in Haiti and continues to help rebuild the health care system there. He was featured on 60 Minutes for his work there. He is also a medical editor for The Huffington Post, and a proud Ambassador to LYFE Kitchen - a concept restaurant focusing on affordable fast casual dining with an innovatively produced frozen food line featured at national chains. Dr. Hyman has testified before the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and has consulted with the Surgeon General on diabetes prevention. He has testified before the Senate Working Group on Health Care Reform on Functional Medicine, and participated in the White House Forum on Prevention and Wellness in June 2009. Dr. Hyman was nominated by Senator Tom Harkin for the President’s Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion and Integrative and Public Health, a 25-person group to advise the Administration and the new National Council on Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health.

Why You Should Never Eat High Fructose Corn Syrup

Renaissance physician Paracelsus famously said, “The dose makes the poison,” meaning that even harmless substances can become toxic if you eat enough of them. Many people ask me, “is high fructose syrup really that bad for you?” And my answer to this question is “yes,” mainly for this very reason.

In America today, we are eating huge doses of sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup.  It is sweeter and cheaper than regular sugar and is in every processed food and sugar-sweetened drink. Purging it from your diet is the single best thing you can do for your health!

In recent history, we’ve gone from 20 teaspoons of sugar per person per year to about 150 pounds of sugar per person per year. That’s a half pound a day for every man, woman, and child in America. The average 20-ounce soda contains 15 teaspoons of sugar, all of it high fructose corn syrup. And when you eat sugar in those doses, it becomes a toxin.

As part of the chemical process used to make high fructose corn syrup, the glucose and fructose—which are naturally bound together—become separated. This allows the fructose to mainline directly into your liver, which turns on a factory of fat production in your liver called lipogenesis.

This leads to fatty liver, the most common disease in America today, affecting 90 million Americans. This, in turn, leads to diabesity—pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. So, high fructose corn syrup is the real driver of the current epidemic of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia, and of course, type 2 diabetes.

HFCS contains dangerous chemicals and contaminants

Beside the ginormous load of pure fructose and sugar found in HCFS, as an added bonus, it contains other chemical toxins.  Chemical contaminants used during manufacturing end up in the HFCS and in our food.  What we know, for example, is that chloralkali is used in making high fructose corn syrup. Chloralkai contains mercury. And there are trace amounts of mercury found in high fructose corn syrup-containing beverages. Now, it may not be a problem if we eat this occasionally, but the average person in the country consumes more than 20 teaspoons a day of high fructose corn syrup and the average teenager has 34 teaspoons a day. Over time, these heavy metals can accumulate in the body, causing health problems.

Additionally, when we look at the chemical components of high fructose corn syrup on a spectrograph, we can see that it contains many weird chemicals that we know nothing about. That’s why I say better safe than sorry.

Look out for the red flag

The main reason you should give up high fructose corn syrup is that it’s a big, red flag for very poor quality food. If you see this ingredient on a label, I guarantee you the food is processed junk. So, if high fructose corn syrup is anywhere on the label, put it back on the shelf. You should never eat this food.

If you want to stay healthy, lose weight easily, get rid of chronic disease, and help reduce the obesity epidemic, the single most important thing you can do is eliminate high fructose corn syrup from your diet and from your children’s diet. Just banish it from your house.

Purge your kitchen

I challenge you to go into your kitchen right now, go in the cupboard and refrigerator, and look at every single label. And I want you to count how many products you have right now in your house that contain high fructose corn syrup. Then, I want you to get a big garbage bag and throw them out and find replacements that are free of it.

If you want to have some sugar, that’s fine. Have a little sugar, but add it to your food yourself. Don’t eat food made with added sugar. Cut the high fructose corn syrup from your life forever. You’ll be healthier. Our planet will be healthier. And we’ll have a healthier generation of children.

Originally posted on my website, DrHyman.com

Finding the Cure for Chronic Disease

shutterstock-24-4b441131808-original-webA question I am often asked is, “Where can I find a doctor like you—someone who practices Functional Medicine?”

One in every two people in America has a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, arthritis, depression, ADD, memory loss, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, migraines, allergies, asthma, or skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Millions more have FLC (feel like crap) and suffer from fatigue, sluggishness, insomnia, or a general lack of vitality.

Despite the advances in conventional medical care over the last 50 years, this suffering continues without relief because of our symptom-focused, organ-focused, and disease-focused medical model.

Yes, the single biggest medical advance of our lifetimes is something most people have never heard of before, and it is the future of medicine.

We don’t want band-aids for our symptoms. We want to get to the root cause. We don’t want to be treated as a body part—we want to be understood as a whole person.

What many people are looking for is Functional Medicine…they just don’t know it. Functional Medicine is, put simply, the science of creating health.

Many people are searching for Functional Medicine doctors because they’re unsatisfied with what conventional medicine offers. They’re unhappy with the way conventional doctors think about their health. They’re discouraged by the focus conventional medicine places on just suppressing symptoms.

Functional Medicine creates an entirely different paradigm: medicine grounded in finding causes, not by treating symptoms. It’s medicine that addresses more than justwhere the issue is in your body (I call this medicine by geography) but how the issue manifests across core mechanisms throughout your body.  We begin by asking: what is the underlying mechanism… and how can we address the root cause?

The name it, blame it, and tame it game

Let’s say you go to your conventional doctor complaining of joint pain, a rash, headache, reflux, a runny nose, and congestion, your doctor will say, “Wait! I can only deal with one problem today, let me just take care of your reflux. He or she may then refer you to an allergist for your runny nose, a neurologist for your headache, and a dermatologist for your rash. Before long, you may find that you have a different doctor for every inch of your body.

This way of thinking about disease is completely wrong: it’s based on a diagnostic system that focuses on where the issue is located in your body—the geography—and the symptoms. We classify all of these discreet diseases and then we try to treat each one separately with a drug. We call this the name it, blame it, and tame it game in medicine.

For example, someone goes to see a doctor complaining of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, low mood, no energy, poor appetite and poor sleep. Their doctor tells them they have depression, and prescribes an antidepressant. Guess what? Depression is not the cause of those symptoms; it’s the name we give to that collection of symptoms, and the antidepressant will do nothing to address the underlying cause. Depression is not a Prozac deficiency.

This way of treating patients is completely wrong. It’s the past. The future of medicine is understanding how your body functions, how it becomes imbalanced, and how to correct that balance. The future of medicine is looking at patterns and connecting everything together.

Connecting the dots

If the person we just discussed came in to see me, I would first ask, “What could be causing all of these symptoms?” The possibilities are many, but a cause can very often be found. It could be that you’re eating gluten, you have autoimmune antibodies against your thyroid and therefore have low thyroid function. It could be that you’ve been taking an acid blocker for 10 years and you have low B12 levels because your stomach can’t absorb the B12 when you don’t have stomach acid. That could be the cause of your depression.

It could be caused by the fact that you live in a northern climate and have a vitamin D deficiency. It may be because you’ve taken antibiotics that have disturbed the normal gut bacteria—the microbiome—which affect your neurotransmitters. It could be because you love sushi and eat it all the time that your eating habits have given you mercury poisoning. It might be because you hate fish and have an omega-3 deficiency, which also causes depression. Or, it could be because you love sugar and eat Cinnabons all day, that habit has led to insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, and this is the cause of your depression.

The diagnosis and treatment of each of those is quite different, even though they produce exactly the same symptoms. One disease can have many causes and one cause can create many diseases.

For example, one cause—let’s say gluten sensitivity—it can trigger all sorts of problems like osteoporosis, anemia, depression, irritable bowel, autoimmune diseases, cancer, or diabetes. You have to think about root causes. You have to think about underlying interconnected systems in your body to find the right solution: that’s the beauty of Functional Medicine. Once you’ve discovered the underlying causes, you take out the bad stuff and you put in the good stuff. When provided the right kind of medicine—your body has an amazing capacity to heal.

The future starts now

Many of you want to find a doctor who can think this way. Where do you look? The best way is to go to the website for the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) at www.functionalmedicine.org. Once there, enter your zip code and you’ll be shown a list of physicians in your area who have been trained to guide you according to the Functional Medicine approach.

The IFM trains physicians all over the world and offers a certification in Functional Medicine for graduating physicians. We are also now working with one of the top medical institutions in the world to create a Functional Medicine institute that will bring this to the world in a very big way, through education, research, and clinical care. Stay tuned: this is the future of medicine.

I encourage you to find a Functional Medicine practitioner who can help you address the root cause of your problems. You will fix the things that really bother you and, in the process, create good health. That’s the beauty of Functional Medicine.

Originally posted on my website DrHyman.com

Are You Sick and Tired? Maybe It’s Your Thyroid

If you feel cold and tired all the time, there’s a good chance your thyroid is to blame, because one out of five women and one out of ten men have thyroid problems. That’s 30 million women and 15 million men. And half of them suffer needlessly because their doctors completely miss the diagnosis or don’t treat it properly.

You don’t have to suffer. Are you tired and sluggish? Do you have trouble getting going in the morning? Are you constipated? Do you have dry skin, dry, coarse hair, or hair loss? If the outer third of your eyebrows are thinning that could mean low thyroid function. Or maybe you have depression, high cholesterol, low sex drive, fluid retention, poor memory, and trouble concentrating.

All of these symptoms are potentially related to low thyroid function or what we call hypothyroidism. And because they can be vague and subtle, they’re easy to miss. But these symptoms can negatively affect your quality of life. But when you correct your thyroid function, you can get rid of these symptoms. You can actually get your life back and feel better.

One of my patients is a 73-year-old woman who was tired and a little depressed, had a little fluid retention, was constipated, and had trouble with memory. She had been to another doctor who said, “What do you expect? You’re 73.” Well, you know what? That’s not what 73 has to feel like. 73 can feel like 53 or 43 if you’re tuned up.

Get to the root cause

My job as a Functional Medicine doctor is to be a medical detective, to investigate and address the root causes of problems—not just the symptoms—and help people fix the underlying problems that CAUSE their symptoms and recreate balance in the whole system.

So, how do you find out the root cause of low thyroid function? What do you do about it? Can you reverse it? And what should you do if you have it? Well, if you fix the cause, you often can heal your thyroid. So, first, let’s take a look at the causes of this condition.

There are many causes of low thyroid function, but the most common one is environmental toxins.

For example, plastics, pesticides, thallates in plastic bottles, BPA (bis-phenol A) in cans, parabens in sunblock and make-up, chemicals in our food and water: all of these things interfere with our thyroid function, which acts like the yellow canary in the coalmine that died when the air went bad. When our environment becomes overloaded with toxic substances, the thyroid is the first to go down.

What you are eating can also mess up your thyroid. Gluten is one of the biggest causes of low thyroid function, because it causes an autoimmune reaction against the thyroid. We call this Hashimoto’s disease. It is fixable. If you get rid of gluten, you can heal it.

Nutritional deficiencies may also be causing the problem. Iodine, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, omega-3 fats, and vitamin A are all important for optimal thyroid function. You have to have optimal nutrient levels for your thyroid to work properly. For example, you can’t make thyroid hormone without iodine. You can’t convert the inactive to the active form of thyroid without selenium, and the thyroid can’t work on your cells without vitamin D and vitamin A.

Another big cause of thyroid dysfunction is heavy metals, such as mercury and lead.

People who eat a lot of fish, who have a lot of fillings in their mouth, or who have had a lot of vaccines that contain Thimerosal may develop problems with their thyroid.

Get tested

So, how can you know for sure that you have this problem? Well, first, you have to do the right tests. Most doctors do not do the right thyroid tests, and I strongly encourage you to demand your rights as a patient and ask for them. What are they?

It’s the TSH, or thyroid-stimulating hormone test, and the free T3 and free T4 tests. It’s very important to get the free levels of both the free T4 and free T3 hormones.

Next, you should also always check your TPO (thyroid peroxidase) and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. These are an indication of an autoimmune reaction against your thyroid.

Also, check for celiac or gluten antibodies or anti-gliadin antibodies, because these also can indicate a gluten problem that can trigger thyroid problems.

You also might need to get heavy metal testing, because high levels of mercury and lead can trigger thyroid issues, too. Go to www.functionalmedicine.org to find a doctor near you who can test for metals and help you fix your thyroid.

Take action

So, once you’ve found that you have this issue, follow these steps, so you can begin to treat yourself.

Clean up your diet. Get rid of the sources of pesticides and chemicals. Filter your water. Eat organic when possible. Eat safe fish. Minimize your exposure.

Eat foods that support your thyroid. These include vitamin D-rich foods like mushrooms, sardines, and herring; vitamin A-containing foods like green leafy vegetables and carrots; iodine-rich foods like seaweed, fish, and shellfish; and zinc-rich foods like pumpkin seeds and oysters.

Thyroid replacement may be needed for some people. But this is very controversial. Some doctors recommend only T4 and some recommend a combination of T4 and T3. I think, when you look at the scientific evidence, it’s clear that people do better when you combine the inactive T4 with the active T3 hormone. And that’s what we do at The UltraWellness Center. We give combinations, either in the form of Armour Thyroid, Nature Thyroid, or just combinations of T3 and T4.

Take thyroid supportive supplements. I recommend a combination supplement for my patients called Thyrosol, which contains kelp for iodine, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin A, and selenium.

This is all described in my UltraThyroid Solution. I go through everything in step-by-step detail. It’s a 7-step, goof-proof plan for fixing your thyroid. I encourage you to check it out. Learn what you need to do, and fix your thyroid, because you don’t have to feel tired and crummy all the time. There is a way out.

Originally posted on my website, DrHyman.com

photo by: adria.richards

6 Steps to Healthy Cholesterol

Contrary to conventional wisdom, cholesterol is not the enemy.

The question on the lips of many Americans these days is, “How do I lower my cholesterol?” We’ve all been told that the secret to living a long, healthy, heart-disease free life is lowering your cholesterol. And believing that a low cholesterol count is the best way to prevent heart disease, doctors often prescribe medications like statins to keep these levels low. But these drugs can introduce a whole host of problems and may not even work.

The truth is, your body needs cholesterol in order to function properly. So, it’s not about having lower cholesterol; it’s about having the right type of cholesterol.

The important questions we should ask are:

  • How do I get the right type of cholesterol?
  • How do I lower my triglycerides and raise my good cholesterol or HDL?
  • What’s the best way to prevent heart disease without drugs?

Originally posted on DrHyman.com

8 Steps To Stop Your Nighttime Binges

Do you sometimes sneak a late-night snack, even after you’ve had a big dinner? Or worse, do you find yourself hungry and craving sugar and carbs at night? You may think you’re alone, but nighttime eating is a common problem.

Are you hungry after a big meal? Do you continue eating late into the night?

It is one of the biggest reasons we gain weight. We eat and go to bed and store all that food around our bellies.

Have you ever thought about why, not long after a big meal, you crave more food, more sugar, and more junk, and you want to have chips or sweets or other unhealthy foods?

It’s not a flaw in your personality. It’s not some emotional issue that you have to fix. It’s not some psychological trauma that you have to get over.

It’s simple biology, an imbalance of the hormones that regulate your appetite.

Originally posted on DrHyman.com

Detox For The Holidays Made Safe and Simple

1369381414_83633With the holiday season right around the corner, there is no better time than the present to fortify our diet and cement healthy eating.  Ironically, while healthy eating is our birthright, for many of us it seems like taking the plunge into eating a whole foods-based diet is the equivalent to traveling to some distant land.  But it doesn’t have to be such a scary or foreign experience.

In my work as a functional medicine doctor, my priority is to guide each patient through a safe, simple, realistic, and  pleasurable transition into healthy eating. Because whole foods-based diets remove all the sugary, fatty, chemical-laden, artificial stuff from the diet, they sometimes get called a detox or a cleanse.

Why is detoxification important?

When our bodies become toxic it means that our natural method of ushering out metabolic waste from normal human metabolism, environmental pollution, and what has become known as the Standard American Diet (or SAD) has exceeded the threshold for what the body’s innate detoxification system can tolerate.  With this toxic load, every system in the human body can become affected.  From our head to our toes and everything in between, toxicity makes us sick!

How do you know if you are toxic and need to properly cleanse?

Usually a constellation of complaints help to determine whether or not you are toxic and to what extent you need to cleanse.  Some examples of what might indicate a toxic system are:

  • constipation
  • persistent headaches, muscle aches, and muscle fatigue
  • inclusion of large amounts of swordfish, tuna, shark, etc. into diet
  • mercury fillings and dental amalgams
  • food allergies
  • stubborn weight loss
  • hormonal imbalances and consistent use of hormone replacement such as “the pill” or progesterone cream
  • consistent use of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • skin abnormalities such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
  • a lifetime of consuming the SAD diet

To find out if you are toxic, take a look at The UltraSimple Diet.

How long should you stay on a cleanse? 

Typical cleanses that harness our body’s natural processes for filtering and removing waste tend to be gentle and can therefore  be tolerated for longer periods of time than more extreme protocols.  A safe cleanse is one which doesn’t make you starve yourself or take fancy pills, potions, or expensive drinks.

Safety means allowing the body to do what it wants to do naturally, with a little assistance from some guided healthy eating, appropriate supplements, and relevant lifestyle modifications.  I usually have my patients do a cleanse for 7 days to 6 weeks, or even longer, depending on their particular needs.  Work with a trained medical provider to help determine what length of time is right for you.

How to prepare for a cleanse?

Like we would plan for any big trip to a new destination, we need to prepare, plan, and set out some main goals for our journey.  And by the way, as in all travels, it’s always a good idea to leave some room for the serendipitous excursions to occur.  When handled properly, they can be the best part of a trip!  So how can we plan for a safe and simple detoxification protocol?

  1. Take some basic measurements before you begin to track your progress as you go through your program.  For example, if weight loss is your goal, measure your waist, hips, and record your weight.  If, migraines are an issue, determine the duration, intensity and frequency.  Keep a journal; this will help you in more ways than one!
  2. Make lists!  Organize your pantry, toss out the junk, gather recipes, sketch out weekly menus, make shopping lists for healthy foods you will be eating and formulate a cooking schedule to ensure you allot time to prepare food for the week.
  3. Use journaling as a way to “cleanse” your inner world and relieve yourself of mental and emotional stress.
  4. Gather any supplements you need to take that have been advised for you by your medical provider.
  5. Think about the kind of exercise that will best complement your end goal and plan for it in your schedule.
  6. Detoxification requires you to slow down.  Make sure you fit time for deep relaxation into your plan.
  7. Often, unsavory side effects appear in the initial phase of a cleanse.  Two side effects to look for and keep track of in your journal are:
  • Constipation.  Move those bowels!  Drink plenty of purified water.  Try warm water with lemon first thing in the morning.  Often, taking 300 mg of magnesium citrate is helpful or try an Epsom salt bath.
  • Food allergies or sensitivities.  These can be obvious or obscure.  But chances are, as your body lets go of toxic waste, it will be easier to recognize a hidden reaction to gluten, dairy, soy or any of the other common food allergies.

Common symptoms the first few days of withdrawal from a toxic lifestyle and the SAD (Standard American Diet)

The following symptoms are very common at the beginning of the program and should dissipate within the first few days. Don’t worry, these symptoms are indicative that your body is eliminating toxins and are a good sign!

  • bad breath
  • constipation
  • achy, flu-like feeling
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • hunger
  • irritability
  • itchy skin
  • nausea
  • offensive body odor
  • sleep difficulties (too much or too little)

These symptoms can occur for a number of reasons. First, eliminating food allergies and un-junking the diet causes reactions similar to withdrawal from other addictive substances like caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, or heroin. Note: We are often most addicted to the foods we are allergic to! Getting off those allergens can cause a brief, flu-like achy syndrome that may last one to three days. Second, toxins in our digestive tract may make us feel ill if we don’t eliminate them. The best way to get relief from these symptoms is to follow the recommendations below.

How to avoid withdrawal symptoms

Initially, those who consume the most caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, and those who have the most food allergies, will have the most difficulty. Symptoms usually disappear after three to four days. It is best to slowly reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, white flour, and over-the-counter medications (except as directed by your physician) a week or two before you start your program.

  1. Drink at least six to eight glasses of filtered water daily.  Stay away from plastic bottles; glass bottles are okay.
  2. To prevent headaches, make sure your bowels are clean.
  3. Fatigue is normal during a cleanse so allow more time for rest and sleep. To boost energy, exercise for 30 minutes a day.  Walking outside in fresh air is best.  Roll up those sleeves and let the sun hit you with some vitamin D!
  4. Take 1,000 mg buffered vitamin C with breakfast and dinner.  Take 300 mg magnesium citrate at dinner.
  5. Don’t wait until you are starving to eat!  Balance your blood sugar by eating protein-based meals and snacks every three to four hours.  Excellent sources of protein are baked or broiled fish, lean poultry, and legumes such as edamame or black beans.
  6. Heat is a great resource while cleansing as it helps draw out toxins from within.  Try a sauna or a warm bath with Epsom salts for 20 minutes a few times per week.
  7. While safe, these types of cleanses can still be stressful on the body and mind so remember to relax.  Actively engaging your parasympathetic nervous system helps restore your energy which your body needs to replenish itself.  Meditation, deep breathing, or any calming activity is good.
  8. Eliminate all refined sugars, flours, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gluten, or addictive substances.  By allowing certain triggers to stay in the diet the body stays on the vicious cycle of cravings and addictive behavior.  Reset your biology to eliminate all triggers.
  9. Keep a journal and track your symptoms.  You should feel better in three to seven days.  If you do not feel well at this point, please exercise caution and check in with your doctor.
  10. Tune in to your body and listen to the cues it provides.  A cleanse is a great journey to learn more about understanding how to operate your very own owner’s manual!

Originally posted on my site, DrHyman.com

How Eating at Home Can Save Your Life

Portrait of a family saying grace before eating dinnerThe slow insidious displacement of home cooked and communally shared family meals by the industrial food system has fattened our nation and weakened our family ties.

In 1900, 2 percent of meals were eaten outside the home. In 2010, 50 percent were eaten away from home and one in five breakfasts is from MacDonald’s.

Most family meals happen about three times a week, last less than 20 minutes and are spent watching television or texting while each family member eats a different microwaved “food”. More meals are eaten in the minivan than the kitchen.

Research shows that children who have regular meals with their parents do better in every way, from better grades, to healthier relationships, to staying out of trouble. They are 42 percent less likely to drink, 50 percent less likely to smoke and 66 percent less like to smoke marijuana.

Regular family dinners protect girls from bulimia, anorexia, and diet pills. Family dinners also reduce the incidence of childhood obesity. In a study on household routines and obesity in U.S. preschool aged children, it was shown that kids as young as four have a lower risk of obesity if they eat regular family dinners, have enough sleep, and don’t watch TV on weekdays.

We complain of not having enough time to cook, but Americans spend more time watching cooking on the Food Network, than actually preparing their own meals. In his series Food Revolution, Jamie Oliver showed us how we have raised a generation of Americans who can’t recognize a single vegetable or fruit, and don’t know how to cook.

I believe the most important and the most powerful tool you have to change your health and the world is your fork.

The family dinner has been hijacked by the food industry. The transformations of the American home and meal outlined above did not happen by accident.

Broccoli, peaches, almonds, kidney beans, and other whole foods don’t need a food ingredient label or bar code, but for some reason these foods—the foods we co-evolved with over millennia—had to be “improved” by Food Science.

As a result, the processed-food industry and industrial agriculture has changed our diet, decade by decade, not by accident but by intention.

That we need nutritionists and doctors to teach us how to eat is a sad reflection of the state of society. These are things our grandparents knew without thinking twice about them. What foods to eat, how to prepare them, and an understanding of why you should share them in family and community have been embedded in cultural traditions since the dawn of human society.

One hundred years ago all we ate was local, organic food; grass-fed, real, whole food. There were no fast-food restaurants, there was no junk food, there was no frozen food—there was just what your mother or grandmother made. Most meals were eaten at home. In the modern age that tradition, that knowledge, is being lost.

The sustainability of our planet, our health, and our food supply are inextricably linked. The ecology of eating—the importance of what you put on your fork—has never been more critical to our survival as a nation or as a species. The earth will survive our self-destruction. But we may not.

Common sense and scientific research lead us to the conclusion that if we want healthy bodies we must put the right raw materials in them: real; whole; local; fresh; unadulterated; unprocessed; and chemical-, hormone-, and antibiotic-free food. There is no role for foreign molecules such as trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup, or for industrially developed and processed food that interferes with our biology at every level.

That is why I believe the most important and the most powerful tool you have to change your health and the world is your fork. Imagine an experiment—let’s call it a celebration: We call upon the people of the world to join together and celebrate food for one week. For one week or even one day, we all eat breakfast and dinner at home with our families or friends. For one week we all eat only real, whole, fresh food. Imagine for a moment the power of the fork to change the world.

The extraordinary thing is that we have the ability to move large corporations and create social change by our collective choices. We can reclaim the family dinner, reviving and renewing it. Doing so will help us learn how to find and prepare real food quickly and simply, teach our children by example how to connect, build security, safety and social skills, meal after meal, day after day, year after year.

Here are some tips that will help you take back the family dinner in your home starting today.

Reclaim Your Kitchen

Throw away any foods with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats or sugar or fat as the first or second ingredient on the label. Fill your shelves with real fresh, whole, local foods when possible. And join a community support agriculture network to get a cheaper supply of fresh vegetables weekly or frequent farmers markets.

Reinstate the Family Dinner

Read Laurie David’s The Family Dinner. She suggests the following guidelines: Make a set dinnertime, no phones or texting during dinner, everyone eats the same meal, no television, only filtered or tap water, invite friends and family, everyone clean up together.

Eat Together

No matter how modest the meal, create a special place to sit down together, and set the table with care and respect. Savor the ritual of the table. Mealtime is a time for empathy and generosity, a time to nourish and communicate.

Learn How to Cook and Shop

You can make this a family activity, and it does not need to take a ton of time. Keep meals quick and simple.

Plant a Garden

This is the most nutritious, tastiest, environmentally friendly food you will ever eat.

Conserve, Compost, and Recycle

Bring your own shopping bags to the market, recycle your paper, cans, bottles and plastic and start a compost bucket (and find where in your community you can share you goodies).

Invest in Food

As Alice Waters says, food is precious. We should treat it that way. Americans currently spend less than 10 percent of their income on food, while most European’s spend about 20 percent of their income on food. We will be more nourished by good food than by more stuff. And we will save ourselves much money and costs over our lifetime.

***

Get started today!  Get your copy of The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook  today.  

Originally posted on my site, DrHyman.com

 

3 Ways to Rewire Your Brain and End Food Cravings

brainonstress

I’m a food addict. We all are. Our brains are biologically driven to seek and devour high-calorie, fatty foods. The difference is that I have learned how to control those primitive parts of my brain. Anyone can this if they know how. In this article, I will share 3 steps to help you counteract those primitive parts of your brain that have you chasing high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods. But before you can update your brain’s biological software, you’ve got to understand why it developed in the first place.

Calories = Survival

The brain’s desire to binge on rich food is a genetic holdover from the days of hunter-gatherers. Given what scientists know today about our early ancestors, it makes sense that our brains are hardwired to fixate on high-calorie foods. It’s a survival mechanism. Eating as many calories as possible, whenever possible, allowed our ancestors to store excess calories as fat and survive lean times. That approach worked well for 2.4 million years, but today it’s making us sick and fat.

That’s because our brains haven’t evolved as fast as our food environment. The human brain evolved over 2.5 million years. And, with the exception of the last 10,000 years, people only ate animals they could hunt and wild-plants they could gather. Imagine if you could only eat what you caught or picked! The variety of foods hunter-gatherers ate paled in comparison to the 40,000 different food items we can buy in the average big-box grocery store today.(1)

No cinnamon buns for them!

And whereas we have easy access to food 24/7, drive-thru meals were not an option for hunter-gatherers. Not to mention that hunting and gathering was hard work. Early humans expended lots of calories acquiring their food, so they needed to eat high-calorie foods to offset the loss. The average hunter-gatherer got up to 60 percent of his calories from animal foods, such as muscle meat, fat, and organ meat, and the other 40 percent from plants.(2)

That balance between protein and carbohydrates in the diet is where the problem lies, but it’s not what you think. Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap, but they are the single most important nutrient for long-term health and weight loss. But I’m not talking about bagels and donuts. I’m talking about plant foods that more closely resemble what our ancestors ate. Hunter-gatherers ate fruit, tubers, seeds, and nuts. These are whole foods. They are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and disease- and weight-busting colorful phytochemicals. They also take time to digest. Therefore, they raise blood sugar slowly, which balances metabolism and offers a steady stream of energy. Whole foods have all the right information and turn on all the right genes.

But the past 10,000 years saw the advent of both agriculture and industrialization. And, in the blink of an eye (by evolutionary standards), the human diet got turned upside down. Today, 60 percent of our calories come from things that hunter-gatherers wouldn’t even recognize as food. The bulk of those items—cereal grains, sugary drinks, refined oils and dressings—are simple carbohydrates.(3) The primitive brain sees an endless supply of easy energy. Left unchecked, our bodies pay the price. The result is a two-fronted epidemic of obesity and diabetes in our country—what I call “diabesity.”

3 Ways to Reprogram your Brain

Luckily there are ways to rewire the primitive parts of your brain by making good food choices. Here are 3 ways to get started.

1.) Balance blood sugar.

Blood sugar highs and lows drive primitive food cravings. If you get famished between meals, that’s a sign that your blood sugar is crashing. When blood sugar is low, you’ll eat anything. To better balance blood sugar, eat a small meal or snack that includes healthy protein, like seeds or nuts, every 3 to 4 hours.

2.) Eliminate liquid calories and artificial sweeteners.

Early humans didn’t reach for soda or fruit juices when they got thirsty. Sodas are full of chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. Processed fruit juices are awash in sugar. Try sticking with water and green tea. Green tea contains plant chemicals that are good for your health. And, last but not least, don’t succumb to the diet-drink trap. The artificial sweeteners in diet drinks fool the body into thinking it is ingesting sugar, which creates the same insulin spike as regular sugar.

3.) Eat a high-quality protein at breakfast.

Ideally, you’re eating quality protein at every meal, but, if you need to prioritize one meal, choose breakfast. Studies show that waking up to a healthy protein, such as eggs, nuts, seeds, nut butters or a protein shake help people lose weight, reduce cravings and burn calories.

Ultimately, you may not control your genes, but you do control what and how you eat. Since taking control and changing my diet, my brain no longer caves into the cravings and urgings that seduce the reptilian brain. The most powerful tool you have to transform your health is your fork! Use it well and you will thrive.

References:
(1) “What to Eat,” Marion Nestle, p 17
(2) “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets,” L
Cordain, et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000; 71
(3) “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets,” L
Cordain, et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000; 71

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com

Why You Should Not Stop Taking Your Vitamins (Part 2)

Amor Sin Remedio Hopeless Love Hoffnungslose LiebeClick here to read Part 1!

Why Most Vitamin Studies Are Flawed

There is another important thing to understand about clinical trials that review the utility of vitamins in the treatment of disease. The studies that show harm are often designed like drugs studies. For example, a study may use a high dose of vitamin E and see what happens. This is actually a prescient example also explored in recent media.

Studies recently found that high doses of vitamin E and selenium didn’t prevent prostate cancer and may increase risk. What this study didn’t explore properly was the true biochemical nature of vitamin E and selenium. These nutrients work as antioxidants by donating an electron to protect or repair a damaged molecule or DNA. Once this has happened, the molecules become oxidants that can cause more damage if not supported by the complex family of antioxidants used in the human body. It’s sort of like passing a hot potato. If you don’t keep passing it, you will get burned. Many studies simply fail to take this into account.

Nature doesn’t work by giving you only one thing. We all agree that broccoli is good for you, but if that were all you ate, you would die in short order. The same is true of vitamins. Nutrients are not drugs, and they can’t be studied as drugs. They are part of a biological system in which all nutrients work as a team to support your biochemical processes.

Michael Jordon may have been the best basketball player in history, but he couldn’t have won six NBA titles without a team.

Obesity Is Linked To Malnutrition

The tragedy of media attention on poor studies is that they undermine possible solutions to some of the modern health epidemics we are facing today, and they point attention away from the real drivers of disease.

Take the case of obesity, for example. Paradoxically, Americans are becoming both more obese and more nutrient deficient at the same time. Obese children eating processed foods are nutrient depleted and increasingly get scurvy and rickets–diseases we thought were left behind in the 19th and 20th centuries. After treating over 15,000 patients and performing extensive nutritional testing on them, it is clear to me that Americans suffer from widespread nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, folate, and omega 3 fats. This is supported by the government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data on our population. In fact, 13% of our population is vitamin C deficient.

Scurvy in Americans in 2013? Really? But if all you eat is processed food–and many Americans do–then you, like the British sailors of the 17th century, will get scurvy.

Unfortunately, negative studies on vitamins get huge media attention while the fact that over 100,000 Americans die and 2.2 million suffer serious adverse reactions from medication use in hospitals when used as prescribed is quietly ignored. Did you know that anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen kill more people every year than AIDS or asthma or leukemia?

In short, these studies often confuse rather than clarify, and they only serve up doses of media frenzy and superficial analysis. They leave the consumer afraid, dazed, bewildered, and reaching for their next prescription drug.

Please, be smart; don’t stop taking your vitamins. Every American needs a good quality multivitamin, vitamin D, and omega-3 fat supplement. It is part of getting a metabolic tune-up and keeping your telomeres long!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Why You Should Not Stop Taking Your Vitamins

pale-woman-taking-vitamins_123rf.com_Do vitamins kill people? How many people have died from taking vitamins? Should you stop your vitamins?

It depends. To be exact, it depends on the quality of the science and the very nature of scientific research. It is very hard to know things exactly through science. The waste bin of science is full of fallen heroes like Premarin, Vioxx and Avandia (which alone was responsible for 47,000 excess cardiac deaths since it was introduced in 1999).

That brings us to the latest apparent casualty, vitamins. The recent media hype around vitamins is a classic case of drawing the wrong conclusions from good science.

Remember how doctors thought that hormone replacement therapy was the best thing since sliced bread and recommended it to every single post-menopausal woman? These recommendations were predicated on studies that found a correlation between using hormones and reduced risk of heart attacks. But correlation does not prove cause and effect. It wasn’t until we had controlled experiments like the Women’s Health Initiative that we learned Premarin (hormone replacement therapy) was killing women, not saving them.

New studies “proving” that vitamins kill people hit front pages and news broadcasts across the country seemingly every day.

Paul A. Offit’s recent piece in The New York Times, “Don’t Take Your Vitamins,” mentioned a number of studies that suggested a correlation between supplementation and increased risk of death. Offit asserts, “It turns out … that scientists have known for years that large quantities of supplemental vitamins can be quite harmful indeed.” The flaws in the studies he quoted have been well documented. Giving large doses of a single antioxidant is known to set up a chain reaction that creates more free radicals.

But many studies do not prove anything. Science is squirrelly. You only get the answers to the questions you ask. Many of the studies that are performed are called observational studies or epidemiological studies. They are designed to look for or “observe” correlations. Studies like this look for clues that should then lead to further research. They are not designed to be used to guide clinical medicine or public health recommendations.

All doctors and scientists know that this type of study does not prove cause and effect.

Why Scientists Are Confused

At a recent medical conference, one of most respected scientists of this generation, Bruce Ames, made a joke. He said that epidemiologists (people who do population-based observational studies) have a difficult time with their job and are easily confused. Dr. Ames joked that in Miami, epidemiologists found everybody seems to be born Hispanic but die Jewish. Why? Because if you looked at population data in the absence of the total history and culture of Florida during a given time, this would be the conclusion you would draw. This joke brings home the point that correlation does not equal causation.

Aside from the fact that they fly in the face of an overwhelming body of research that proves Americans are nutrient deficient as a whole and that nutritional supplements can have significant impact in disease prevention and health promotion, many recent studies on vitamins are flawed in similar ways.

How Vitamins Save Money and Save Lives

Overwhelming basic science and experimental data support the use of nutritional supplements for the prevention of disease and the support of optimal health. The Lewin Group estimated a $24 billion savings over five years if a few basic nutritional supplements were used in the elderly. Extensive literature reviews in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine also support this view. Interventional trials have proven benefit over and over again.

The concept that nutritional supplements “could be harmful” flies in the face of all reasonable facts from both intervention trials and outcome studies published over the past 40 years. For example, recent trials published within the last few years indicate that modest nutritional supplementation in middle age women found their telomeres didn’t shorten. Keeping your telomeres (the little end caps on your DNA) long is the hallmark of longevity and reduced risk of disease. A recent study found that B12, B6 and folate given to people with memory loss prevented brain atrophy that is associated with aging and dementia. In fact, those who didn’t take the vitamins had almost ten times loss of brain volume as those who took the vitamins.

A plethora of experimental controlled studies–which are the gold standard for proving cause and effect–over the last few years found positive outcomes in many diseases. These include the use of calcium and vitamin D in women with bone loss; folic acid in people with cervical dysplasia (pre-cancerous lesions); iron for anemics; B-complex vitamins to improve cognitive function; zinc, vitamins C and E and carotenoids to lower the risk of macular degeneration; and folate and vitamin B12 to treat depression. This is but a handful of examples. Fish oil is approved by the FDA for lowering triglycerides and reduces risk of heart attacks and more. There are many other studies ignored by Offit in his New York Times piece.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

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