My first job as a professional educator in the l980’s was working at a primary care health clinic under a state grant to educate men about reproductive health, diseases and related issues that affected the overall quality of our lives. In my reading and research at the time, one of the most shocking discoveries for me was that sperm production in men had precipitously dropped in three generations and was a significant contributor to the rise in infertility for couples.
Also at that time, something known as PCB, a chemical compound found in electrical transformers, was thought to be one agent in the disruption of hormone production. The connection gained enough publicity to make utility companies change policy and transformers.
By the early 2000’s, 80,000 new chemicals non-existent for most of our history had flooded our air, land and water, most of these untested for their effects on our and other organisms’ physiology and function. In other words, the last half-century or more has been a relative crap shoot in terms of knowing whether the impact our “better living through chemistry” world will ultimately lead to better living or living at all.
We know so much more now. Even articles by authors in the mainstream Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) allow that toxins in our environment are significant contributors to many debilitating and degenerative diseases that were rare or non-existent for humans before the industrial revolution.
Still relatively unknown due in no small part to controlling interests and profit-making schemes by trillion dollar enterprises, is the field of Functional Medicine based on systems biology. Or in other words, what we’ve been talking about out there, “in the environment,” is also “in here” inside our hundred trillion cells, a vast collaborative ecology that makes us tick…..and talk. An ecology that dramatically varies from individual to individual and is inextricable from the ecology “out there.”
Elsewhere in this blog, I’ve spoken about my own struggles with heavy metal overload and the cascading effects these toxins can produce throughout the body and brain as well as the whole body inflammation caused by belly fat on men. I’ve also taken a close look at what crosses my lips (what I eat) and at the new science of exercise physiology, experiencing first hand its impact on my energy, attitude and ability to get the most out of life.
I’ve recently found something that takes me even further on the path toward wholeness.
In his New York Times best-selling book, The Ultra Mind Solution, former ER doctor Mark Hyman has provided one of the most comprehensive and accessible to the lay reader views of what constitutes real “health,” (from the Old English word “hal,” root of our modern word, “whole.”)
Hyman has been a groundbreaking pioneer in the field and one who advocates simple principles; many still missed by medical schools and minimized by the food and drug giants flooding our world with little tested substances.
Beginning with “taking out the bad stuff” that causes disease and “adding the good stuff” that not only prevents disease but moves an individual along their own course toward “ultra health,” Dr. Hyman structures his book by examining Seven Keys to Ultrahealth, providing quizzes for each key that you can take to see where you line up, then providing the information needed to strengthen your weaknesses, avoiding and sometimes even reversing long term degeneration and acute conditions. For those already suffering with any number of named conditions, from autism, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression and sleep problems to heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and food allergies, so much of what some consider inevitable-- including much of what we call “aging”—can be completely altered or modified.
Hyman says that functional medicine realizes that there may be dozens of causes of depression, autism, dementia or ADHD. Finding the right cause and treatment for each individual requires a radical shift from making a diagnosis based on symptoms, then matching a drug to that diagnosis. It requires moving from the theory that the body functions as a whole with interlinking systems that overlap to practices that actually address those systems and imbalances. His 25-year practice showcases what might seem to be “miracle cures,” for many patients with a variety of conditions though these recoveries are based on applying what is already known from research and systematic practice.
Here’s a summary of the seven keys excerpted from the 400-page book. (Pgs. 36-37)
Key #1- Optimize Nutrition
We are made of the stuff we eat. Our biology, biochemistry and physiology need certain raw materials to run optimally—the right balance and quality of protein, fats, carbohydrates, the right vitamins and minerals in the correct dose for each of us and all the colorful pigments in plant foods, called phytonutrients, that support our well-being and function. Nearly all of us are nutritionally imbalanced in one way or another.
Key #2- Balance Your Hormones
Our hormones, including insulin, thyroid, sex hormones, stress hormones, and many more, are a symphony of molecules. They have to work in harmony for you to be healthy.
Key #3- Cool Off Inflammation
We must protect and defend ourselves from foreign invaders or abnormal cells inside our own body. When this is over- or underactive, illness occurs. Inflammation of the brain is a central theme for almost all psychiatric and neurologic conditions, as well as most chronic diseases.
Key #4- Fix Your Digestion
Digesting, absorbing and assimilating all the food and nutrients we eat are critical for health. Our digestive systems must also protect us from internal toxins, bugs and potential allergens, as well as eliminate wastes. Breakdown anywhere in this process creates illness.
Key #5- Enhance Detoxification
Our bodies must eliminate all of our metabolic wastes and toxins, which we take in from the environment through our food, air, water, and medications. The toxic burden in the 21st century is overwhelming and often our bodies can’t keep up. This leads to illness.
Key #6- Boost Energy Metabolism
Life is energy. Once no more energy is produced in your cells, you die. The process of extracting energy from food you eat and the oxygen you breathe is the most essential process of life. Keeping that metabolic engine running smoothly and protecting it from harm are essential for health. Loss of energy is found in almost all brain disorders along with other conditions.
Key #7- Calm Your Mind
A life of meaning and purpose, a life in balance with connection, community, love, support, and a sense of empowerment, are essential for health. The overwhelming stresses of the 21st century, including social isolation, overwork, and disempowerment, create enormous strain on our nervous system, leading to burn out and breakdown.
Of course I was delighted to see the inclusion of the Seventh Key (along with a host of processes and practices) as so much of what is written in this blog focuses on how to build individuals and community founded on passion and purpose. Indeed, without life meaning, the immune system can and does degrade.
Perhaps what we can consider going into this “auspicious” 2014 is nothing less than building an “immuno-supportive community for ourselves and the world. Won’t you join me?
Find The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman, MD at Amazon
Mark Hyman, MD’s website: www.ultrawellness.com/blog
Along with the book comes a downloadable guide with recipes, shopping lists, helpful trackers, handy checklists, testing guide and supplement guide.