This interview is an excerpt from Kevin Gianni’s The Healthiest Year of Your Life Program which can be found at http://www.thehealthiestyearof.com http://yourlife.com. In this excerpt, Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D. weighs in nutrition, toxins and finding the right the vitamins.
The Healthiest Year of Your Life Excerpt with Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., a best-selling author, a respected medical consultant and a leader in the field of functional medicine.
Kevin: Let’s talk about a little bit about the raw food and vegan diet and how it fits into this type of functional medicine.
Mark: Sure. I think everybody is different and I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all diet. Some people thrive on a vegetarian diet. Other people are extraordinarily sick on a vegan or vegetarian diet. I’ve had many patients on raw foods and vegan diets who are extraordinarily malnourished. Then I’ve seen people who manage it quite well.
I think you have to look at what’s right for each person. So I don’t think that any general recommendations are helpful. I also think it depends on where you live. If you’re living in Manitoba, a raw food diet is probably not the best thing. If you’re living on the island in Fiji, you probably could thrive on a raw food diet. It’s also think locally, eat locally. I think it’s a very important thing. What’s local? What’s native to your area? What’s going on with your own biology and genetics and body. I think you have to be careful if you’re doing a raw food, or vegan diet. It’s easy to become malnourished and you have to supplement, I believe, with nutrients and really be smart about it.
Kevin: Anything specific?
Mark: What I would say is that probably 90% of your diet should be a plant-based diet. Whether it’s cooked or uncooked, I think Michael Pollan said, “Eat food, meaning real food.” Not too much and mostly plants. Plant foods have all the phytochemicals and nutrients and things that your body needs to thrive and without them you don’t. The phytochemicals that are from colorful fruits and vegetables in plant foods that are essential for life.
Kevin: What are some of the most potent toxins that you encounter?
Mark: I would say probably without a doubt, the most serious threat to our health in terms of toxins is mercury. It’s something I see and treat every day that affects, I would say, the majority of my patients in one way or another. It’s important to identify. It’s mostly ignored and it’s relatively easy and safe to treat.
Kevin: Anything else?
Mark: Well, I think the rest of it is all common sense. We should be eating food that’s organic whenever we can. We should stay away from hormones, pesticides and antibiotics and any animal products. There are over 3500 food additives added to our food supply. There’s no reason that we need to be eating anything other than food.
Kevin: Yeah. What I like about your books and your programs is that you give real world examples of things working. What are some of your favorite stories, or favorite successes?
Mark: Well, I have many, many of them. One of them was a doctor who had been sick for 30 years and had chronic fatigue and heavy metal poisoning. She was overweight, had diabetes, couldn’t sleep. She was depressed and not able to function anymore. She had some very deep issues and we detoxified her and used heavy metal detoxification, used intravenous glutathione, sauna therapy, a whole integrated approach and she recently performed in a triathlon, which is fantastic for someone who could barely get out of bed. So that was a very gratifying experience.
I’d seen another woman who had severe depression for 30 years and when we detoxified her she got better.. Another young girl who was unable to focus or concentrate on multiple psychiatric medications, but with sauna therapy and intravenous treatment for toxicity, as well as oral treatment, she did phenomenally well and said to me the other day, “Dr. Hyman, I had not even been able to read a magazine or book in seven years and I feel I have myself back and I wake up every day happy and alive, where I thought it was going to kill myself.”
Kevin: Wow. You mentioned glutathione. Can you explain what that is for people who don’t know?
Mark: Yeah. The body had its own system for detoxifying and the major force in that system is glutathione. It is the body’s major detoxifier and it’s made from a number of amino acids, glutamine, systene and lysine that are eaten in our food, mostly in sulfur containing foods, such as whey protein or eggs, garlic, and the broccoli family. It’s critical in the detoxification process, as well as the major antioxidants and it’s also involved in immune function and inflammation, but what happens is that because of our overwhelming toxic load and because half of us have a gene that makes us not too able to actually do this, then we become depleted in glutathione. So we have to learn, one, that if we are and two, we have to actually do a lot of things to boost our own glutathione levels, which we can do through diet, eating broccoli and collards and the whole cruciferous family and the garlic family, if you’re taking herbs or using various supplements, like vitamin C, selenium, zinc and systene and lypoic acid and a number of other things. So all of these things are ways we can actually help the body detoxify.
Kevin: What do you think about the philosophy of intuitive eating? Do you think there’s some ground to that, that your body knows what to eat and when to eat it?
Mark: Well, certainly that’s true of animals, right? And it’s certainly true of babies. They self regulate. I think we have to recognize that our bodies have innate wisdom and that if we provide things which are naturally supportive of our body’s physiology, it will self regulate. I think that when we get off of the toxic foods, these are extraordinarily addictive kinds of substances and the additives and sugars and high fructose corn syrup and trans fats, our bodies self regulate very well.
Kevin: Now, I want to talk about some of the things that you’ve covered in some of your books, like feed reactive protein and homocysteine and those effects on health. I think it’s kind of important to know what those are and what someone can do to recognize if they have high levels of them.
Mark: Right. What I do talk about in all The Seven Chis to Ultra Wellness and in my books are how to look at each systems. One of the tests you can do if you think you have a problem, so if you take the quiz and you find you have an issue in one or a different area, what do you do about it and there are a lot of different tests I use. You mentioned two I talked about, but it certainly doesn’t mean that there are only two. One is called feed reactive protein and it’s a non-specific type of test that measures inflammation. So it’s a very good marker of generalized inflammation in your body. If it’s high it tells you that something is wrong. It doesn’t tell you what it’s from, but it tells you there’s something wrong. It will then drive you to look for something. The second thing is that inflammation can also relate to toxicity, but it’s often another allergen or infection, or dietary things, sugar and so forth.
Homocysteine is a marker of a level of folic acid and also a function that we call, methylation, in your body and there’s two things are required for detoxification. One is sulfation, which is the process of moving around sulfur molecules and producing glutathione and any other is methylation, which is moving around of carbon and free hydrogen. That is a key function in the body that is involved in every chemical reaction and in order for you to have a proper methylation system, you have to have adequate levels of folate, B6 and B12 and if you’re homocysteine is high, it’s an indicator that you may be deficient and you may have some problems in this area. It’s very easy to treat by getting really, really very good quality folate in special forms, as well as adequate levels of B6 and B12.
Kevin: Is there a way that the consumer can figure out what’s the best quality supplement?
Mark: Yeah. I think there’s generally a couple of things I should say about this. First, there’s no regulation in this industry. So it’s up to self policing of these companies to determine whether not they’re actually going to put what they say on the label in the bottle, or whether they’re going to put other things in there that are toxic. There are ways of finding out how these companies do their manufacturing. Do they send their products out for third-party analysis to look for impurities, toxins, as well as the active ingredients? Do they use fillers and additives and shellacs and petrochemicals and colors and dyes in the supplements?
In other words, if you’re taking some of the common multivitamins that are blue and pink, why do you want to be taking blue dye for the rest of your life, if you’re taking a multivitamin? It’s just common sense with some of these things and then there’s generally different places these are sold. For example, in large places like Wal-Mart and Costco they only have poor quality brands and then there will be the drugstore brands and then there will be the health food brands, which are generally better and from smaller companies and then there’s the professional brands, which is what I use, which are really designed for medical and nutritional therapy and they’re a little bit harder to get, but you can get them from various pharmacists and doctors.
Kevin: Great. Well, I do want to wrap up by talking a little bit more about The Ultra Simple Diet.
Mark: Well, The Ultra Simple Diet was something that I wrote almost as an add-on to my book, Ultra Metabolism and I realized that people needed a quick start and I basically just put together iwhat I’ve learned in my practice over the last 15 years working with people and doing these programs with them on an individual basis and what I found was really profoundly effective. It’s very clear, very simple, laid out step-by-step what to do to help your body take a break and the reason that I designed it this way and that I encourage people to do it is that most people don’t know how bad they feel, number one and number two, that this is a relatively simple thing that anybody can do. It’s not a fasting program, but it is a powerful detoxification program, so you can continue your life without having to stop and go to an island and drink juice all day. I think that it’s extraordinarily effective in helping people connect how bad they feel with what they’re eating and their behaviors, which most people don’t do.. They think that their symptoms and how they feel is sort of random. It’s unrelated to what they’re doing and the choices that they’re making, but it’s not and they have full control over it and when they do this program and anybody can do anything for a week, then they make the connection and see how they are acting and how they feel and then they can make a choice. Do I want to feel like this, or not?