Mark Hyman, MD, leans over his lunch of tofu, soba noodles, and beet-carrot-spinach-ginger juice and searches my face. “You have a little bit of—if you don’t mind me saying—you have a little fluid and, you know, puffy eyes, and that is often allergy related,” he says. He peers at me for another beat, nodding. “A little redness around the lids. I don’t usually tell people I see,” he adds with a laugh. “But that is often a sign of low-grade inflammation, and it’s often gut-related.”
Hyman, a practitioner of “functional medicine” (a holistic branch of medicine), is the founder of the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, and the guru behind the series of best-selling “Ultra” self-help books (UltraPrevention, UltraMetabolism, The UltraSimple Diet, and The UltraMetabolism Cookbook, among others). He used to be the co–medical director of Canyon Ranch and is a staple on the morning-talk-shows-andladies’- magazines circuit. Unlike my puffy self, Hyman looks freshly polished and pressed, with a light tan and a neat khaki suit. Since I was on maternity leave, Hyman—and his publicist—had graciously trekked up to a vegan restaurant near my apartment in New York City to talk about his latest tome, The UltraMind Solution.
The premise of UltraMind is that unhealthy lifestyles and our environment are not only making us fat and diabetic but mentally ill. “Your brain is broken. You know it. You feel it. You hide it. You fear it,” Hyman writes ominously. “We refer to our ‘broken brains’ by many names— depression, anxiety, memory loss, brain fog, attention deficit disorder…autism, and dementia to name a few.”
The culprit and cure for most psychiatric disorders lies in the gut, Hyman says. Allergies and toxins in food, the environment, and drugs damage it, causing it to become inflamed and to “leak,” allowing undigested food and bacteria to slip into our bloodstreams. This leads to autoimmune disorders, malnutrition, and brain damage. To heal, he recommends taking supplements, discontinuing nonessential drugs, and embarking on an abstemious diet often called the gluten-free, casein-free diet (or GFCF), which eliminates all foods containing wheat or dairy, “the most important allergens that lead to brain problems,” he writes. (But to get rid of gluten, you also have to cut out barley, oats, rye, spelt, Kamut, and just about any other grain you could make into a decent slice of bread.)
I first came across GFCF when researching a story about autism. Many of the same people who believe autism is the result of overvaccination also believe putting kids on the GFCF can help cure it. Most mainstream scientists say the theory lacks biological plausibility. When I note that Hyman seems to be recommending the controversial treatment for the general populace, he agrees, telling me that children with autism are the “canaries in the coal mine” and that we’re all being damaged, just with less noticeable effects. For example, misplacing your keys isn’t normal, he claims, and, if not addressed, one day small lapses may become a more serious disease, such as Alzheimer’s. “They’re the extreme example of brain dysfunction, but the point is the lessons learned in autism can be generalized to everybody who’s got a brain,” he says. “All of us are affected in some way.”
Read more at: The truth behind the wheat-free, dairy-free diet.