MARK HYMAN, MD is dedicated to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness through a groundbreaking whole-systems medicine approach called Functional Medicine. He is a family physician, an eight-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in his field. Through his private practice, education efforts, writing, research, and advocacy, he empowers others to stop managing symptoms and start treating the underlying causes of illness, thereby tackling our chronic-disease epidemic.
If I told you there was one diet that could cure arthritis, fatigue, irritable bowel, reflux, chronic allergies, eczema, psoriasis, autoimmune disease, diabetes, heart disease, migraines, depression, attention deficit disorder, and occasionally even autism and that it could help you lose weight quickly and easily without cravings, suffering, or deprivation, you might wonder if Dr. Hyman had gone a bit crazy.
But it’s true. And the story goes like this.
Food is medicine. Bad food is bad medicine and will make us sick. Good food is good medicine that can prevent, reverse, and even cure disease. Take away the bad food, put in the good food and magic happens.
The problem with current medical thinking is that it treats diseases individually, requiring specific diagnoses and labels: “you have migraines,” “you have depression,” “you have psoriasis.” And then you get the migraine pill, the antidepressant, and the immune suppressant.
What if you didn’t have to treat diseases specifically or even need to know their names? In fact, I often see patients—like one I saw yesterday—who came with 20 pages of analysis from a dozen doctors from the Mayo Clinic. Her “diagnoses” were “muscle pain, fatigue and insomnia,” and she had been given no recommendations for treatment. Not very helpful!
I recently saw a patient treated at Harvard by multiple specialists. She was on 42 pills a day for severe allergies, asthma, and hives. She even died twice and had to be resuscitated after anaphylactic shock. In just a few short weeks, simply by changing her diet, she got off all her medications, and her allergies, hives, and asthma were gone.
Another patient, who suffered for decades with reflux and irritable bowel and whose symptoms weren’t controlled with acid blockers and “gut relaxers,” got complete relief from his symptoms one week after changing his diet.
What if you could just treat the whole person with dietary changes, upgrading the information given every day to your body through food? Food is information carrying detailed instructions for every gene and every cell in your body, helping them to renew, repair, and heal or to be harmed and debilitated, depending on what you eat. What if you could send messages and instructions to heal your cells and turn on healing genes? And what if, by some simple changes in your diet, you could get rid of most of your chronic symptoms and diseases in just one week (or maybe two!)?
That is entirely possible. Some people call it detox, Some people call it an elimination diet. I call it the inclusion and abundance diet.
I call it UltraSimple!
The best part of this approach is that you don’t have to trust me or any “expert.” You simply have to trust your body. It will tell you very quickly what it likes and doesn’t like.
If you are constantly putting in information that is making your body toxic, sick, and fat—hyper-processed industrial junk food, sugar, flour, chemicals, additives, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, inflammatory foods, or what I call anti-nutrients—it acts like poison in the body. It inflames your gut and your cells leading to whole-body inflammation that you experience as pain, allergies, headaches, fatigue, and depression and that leads to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
This one diet, The UltraSimple Diet—getting the junk out, getting inflammatory foods out, adding healing, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory foods—has the power to heal in a way that medication can’t and never will be able to.
I have used it for decades with tens of thousands of patients with remarkable results. We are beginning studies at Harvard that will look at how to tackle the toughest diseases with a simple change in diet.
This approach can work faster and better than any medication. The power of this simple diet change—getting rid of the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff—can often reverse the most difficult-to-treat medical problems and give people the experience of profound wellness, even if they don’t have a serious illness. It is something everyone should try just once. Most of my patients say, “Dr. Hyman, I didn’t know I was feeling so bad until I started feeling so good.”
Let me share a story, one that is very common in the world of functional medicine, which is the science of treating the roots causes of disease, the science of creating health.
One patient, a medical school professor and doctor, came to see me after struggling for years with psoriatic arthritis. He was crippled by pain and inflammation, despite taking powerful immune-suppressing drugs, including an ibuprofen-like drug, chemo drugs, and a drug called a TNF alpha-blocker that suppresses the immune response so much that its side effects include overwhelming infection, cancer, and death. Still, he wasn’t better, and at 56 years old, he was planning to quit. He couldn’t operate any longer and could barely walk up the stairs. He had psoriasis all over his skin, and it was destroying his joints. He also had reflux, depression, canker sores, constipation, and trouble with concentration. His liver function tests were abnormal, and he was overweight.
He had a horrible diet. He ate oatmeal with milk and sugar for breakfast, tuna with soup and cookies for lunch, and fish or meat with vegetables and potato or pasta for dinner. He snacked on cookies and protein bars. He avoided chocolate and fatty foods. He ate out more than five times per week and craved sweets and caffeine, consuming three to four cups of coffee and one diet soda per day. He drank about 12 alcoholic beverages per week, including wine and the occasional scotch.
So, I put him on The UltraSimple Diet, getting rid of industrial food, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar and adding whole, real foods. I also got rid of the most common food allergens and sensitivities.
At his first follow-up visit, he arrived pain-free and said he hadn’t felt so good in years. He reported an 80% reduction in pain, could climb stairs more quickly, and was no longer limping. All his pain and stiffness were gone. His hands had been swollen and difficult to open, but now, the swelling was gone and he could operate again. And he had quit all his medications after the first visit (even though I told him not to). His reflux and migraines were gone. His mood had improved, and he was less irritable. He was no longer constipated. And he lost 15 pounds.
If there is one thing I could encourage everyone to do, it is to take just one week to see just how powerful a drug food can be. There is nothing to lose but your suffering. It doesn’t take months or years to see change. It happens in days or weeks.
What if you could cure all your health problems and lose 10 pounds in just 7 days?
That’s an amazing claim, hard to believe for sure, but I have seen this miracle so many times in my practice (and now from all the people who have posted on my website who followed my ideas) that even I am starting to believe it!
My true goal is to help people feel better. Period.
Because I once was seriously ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, I know what it’s like to wake up every morning feeling like you can’t go on or to have a thousand and one other minor complaints that lower your capacity to enjoy life.
Now, of course, with more serious illness, it may take more than one week to find the cause and the cure (although by using the systems of UltraWellness and functional medicine, it is possible for so many millions with chronic illness to get better over time).
Functional medicine is medicine by cause not symptom. The ONLY way to truly heal chronic disease and address weight problems and disease is to get to the ROOT of the problem, to find the cause, and then get rid of it and help the body heal.
And two of the major factors that make people sick and fat are being toxic and being inflamed.
So, the secret of the 7 days is to very quickly stop the things that make you toxic and inflamed (sugar, caffeine, alcohol, junk food, processed foods, etc.) and do things that help you detoxify and cool off inflammation (eat whole real foods, stop all potential food allergens, clean out your bowels, deeply relax, and more).
That’s when miracles can occur.
The scientific research supporting the role of inflammation and toxins in illness is overwhelming, but most doctors don’t know how to help their patients deal with it.
Think of it as an experiment and try to prove it to yourself. Don’t believe me.
I was trained in conventional medicine, practiced it for 10 years, and helped many people using the tools I was trained in—namely, medications and surgery.
While I worked in the emergency room, those tools worked amazingly well, bringing people back from the brink of death and relieving suffering.
But I realized that I wasn’t helping the tens and tens of millions of Americans (125 million to be exact) who suffer from some type of chronic illness. And that doesn’t include the millions who just don’t feel well.
In fact, I now believe that most people walk around just accepting feeling mediocre—tired, achy, brain fog, memory problems, depression, headaches, congestion, allergies, digestive problems, joint pains, PMS, skin problems—things that may not even be a disease, yet rob them of the possibility of feeling great.
Who can say they are fully alive, full of energy, and able to greet the day with joy and enthusiasm?
How many of us can really do that?
Well, I know this is possible for most people. And the sad thing is that most people don’t know why they feel less than fully alive and healthy and don’t connect it to their behavior or habits.
The key to creating health is figuring out the cause of the problem and then providing the right conditions for the body and soul to thrive.
It isn’t taking another medication!
Over the last 20 years of practicing at Canyon Ranch, founding The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA, and working with dozens of other leaders in the emerging field of functional and systems medicine, I have found the few simple things that make the most difference for the most people.
That is why I write the books I write. But I was overwhelmed by how the lives of people who never even saw me as a patient were changed. Here is an email someone sent to me after trying the simple things I recommend for getting to the root of weight and health problems.
Through reading and following the eating plan in your book, I have discovered I am gluten intolerant. Six weeks after starting your plan, I had lost not only 13 pounds but also, the all-over bloated feeling, excess gas, stomach discomfort, and thickening around the middle that I was experiencing. The puffiness and dark circles under my eyes are gone, and I am no longer depressed.
I feel terrific, which is my motivation for staying with the plan (including 45 to 60 minutes a day of strength training and yoga). I have read the comments of others, and like many of them, I no longer enjoy foods that are bad for me and crave the foods that are good for me.
Unfortunately, feeling terrific is not enough motivation for some people. And I am amazed and even saddened that there are so many other people out there with a defeatist attitude. Many of my friends told me the discomforts I was experiencing were a normal part of aging and that I needed to learn to accept it.
Wow, were they ever wrong!! Your book has shown me caring for my physical self is essential, especially as I age. I am 48, and thanks to your book, I am not getting older, I’m getting better, and growing old gracefully is not an option but a cop out.
PS. The only thing I am missing now is conversing with someone I can relate to.
When I read these stories, I realized that I could offer what I have been giving to my patients one on one to help them feel great very quickly and lose weight immediately without compromising my true goal of helping people get to the root of their health and weight problems.
And it occurred to me that what I do for nearly every patient who comes to see me is to give them a chance to see just how sick they have been and how powerful making a few simple changes can be in just one week.
Once they see by directly feeling how their food choices and their behaviors make them sick—and they experience a taste of UltraWellness—then, they are empowered to make changes that can help them feel great and lose weight for the long term.
The most important things to address at the outset for weight loss and creating UltraWellness are inflammation and toxicity. These are among the two most important causes of chronic disease and obesity.
So, I put together a simple program called The UltraSimple Diet Challenge, including all the tricks and tools I have used successfully with thousands of patients for so many years.
In one short week, I teach them how to detoxify and to cool off chronic inflammation.
That is The UltraSimple Diet.
I asked many of you in my online community to try it and give me feedback. I was overwhelmed by the response. We had thousands respond but could only accept about 150 into the testing.
Even though I know what I recommend is effective, I was very surprised by the power of the program in people who I had never even met or for whom I created a customized plan. It had dramatic effects.
We had 131 people complete the program. We asked people to track their medical symptoms—things like headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, congestion, joint pain, depression, and more.
In just one week, they had an average of 51.15% reduction in their symptoms. And they lost an average of 5.53 pounds (and many lost over 10lbs) and lost an average of 1.37 inches from their waist and 0.94 inches from their hips!
To me, the weight loss is nice, but it’s not the main objective (it’s a nice side effect and happens automatically if you deal with the underlying roots or causes of illness).
The real benefit is the possibility of experiencing UltraWellness, a state of deep and true health and vitality. And it happens so quickly. You don’t need to believe me—just try it for one week. Join me for a webinar on May 29 to learn about how you can join The UltraSimple Diet Challenge that starts in just a few short weeks. It’s only seven days—anyone can do it!
6 steps of the UltraSimple Diet
One week before you start the program, prepare your body for all the goodness to come by shedding habits that interfere with your metabolism. Eliminating items from your diet in a systematic way may keep you from experiencing potential withdrawal symptoms and jump-start the process to weight loss and vital health.
Over the course of the preparation week, you should eliminate these items from your diet entirely. Remember, in some cases they are hidden in places you may not expect. Be as vigilant as you can about reading labels and making sure the foods you eat do not contain the following:
- Caffeine (except from green tea)
- Processed and refined carbohydrates and sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Hydrogenated (trans) fats
- Also avoid processed, packaged, junk or fast foods.
Once you’ve completed your preparatory week, you’re ready to embark on the 7-Day UltraSimple Slimdown plan. Use the recipes on the following pages to prepare the UltraShake and UltraBroth called for in each day’s meal plan, and use the Avoid and Enjoy lists to create balanced meals
Set aside some extra time each day to prepare any foods and beverages you’ll need to take with you to work or other activities. Make UltraShakes shortly before consuming. The recipe for UltraBroth can be made in advance and refrigerated. You should make enough broth to last you the entire week.
Also, if you experience low energy during the first day or two, take the time to rest and nurture yourself. Get extra sleep, take a nap or get a massage, so your body is recovering and healing.
The 7-Day UltraSimple Slimdown
Here are the foods you will include in your recommended meals over the course of the 7-Day UltraSimple program:
- Filtered water (six to eight glasses per day)
- Fish, especially small, nonpredatory species such as sardines, herring, wild salmon, black cod or sable fish,
sole, and cod
- Lean white-meat chicken breasts (preferably organic)
- Fresh or frozen noncitrus fruits, ideally berries only (preferably organic)
- Fresh vegetables (preferably organic)
- Fresh vegetable broth (3 to 4 cups a day)
- Legumes (e.g., kidney beans, black beans, white beans, etc.)
- Brown rice
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and pumpkin seeds)
- Ground flaxseeds (preferably organic)
- Lemons (preferably organic)
During this program, you will avoid the following foods. The list is simply to remind you of the toxic and inflammatory foods that most of us consume daily. Some of the fruits and vegetables, and even eggs and meat, listed here may not be a problem for some of you, but the only way to find out is to stop all of them for one week and listen to what your body tells you.
- Sugar (including honey, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.)
- Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol
- Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, etc.
- Natural sweeteners like stevia (although this might be fine in the long run, in the short run it stimulates sweet cravings and will sabotage your efforts)
- Caffeine (sodas, coffee, tea — except for green tea)
- Citrus fruits and juices (except lemon juice)
- Yeast (baker’s and brewer’s, fermented foods like vinegar)
- Dairy products (milk, butter, yogurt, cheese)
- Gluten (see www.celiac.com for a comprehensive list of gluten-containing foods)
- Beef, pork, lamb or any other meat (except organic poultry)
- Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers)
- Refined oils and hydrogenated fats
- Stimulants (these include decongestants, diet pills, ephedra, ma huang and yerba mate)
- All flour products
- Processed foods or food additives (fast food; junk food; any foods that come in a box, package, can, or that are commercially prepared using chemicals, preservatives and other unnatural ingredients to make them shelf-stable)
The UltraBroth Recipe
Our modern diet is an acid-producing diet — including sugar, excess animal protein and processed foods — that creates a toxic cellular environment that can contribute to many diseases. This broth, filled with many healing nutrients, is a simple way to detoxify and alkalinize your body. (For those who can’t make the broth, you can substitute low-sodium, organic vegetable broth from Pacific Foods or Imagine Foods, but making your own broth from fresh, organic ingredients is preferable.)
For every 3 quarts of water, add:
- 1 large chopped onion
- 2 sliced carrots
- 1 cup of daikon or white radish root and tops, cut into large cubes (ideal, but optional)
- 1 cup of winter squash, cut into large cubes
- 1 cup of root vegetables, cut into large cubes: turnips, parsnips and rutabagas for sweetness
- 2 cups of chopped greens: kale, parsley, beet greens, collard greens, chard, dandelion, cilantro or other greens
- 2 celery stalks, cut into large cubes
- 1/2 cup of seaweed: nori, dulse, wakame, kelp or kombu
- 1/2 cup of cabbage, cut into large cubes
- 4 1/2-inch knob of ginger, sliced
- 2 cloves of whole garlic
- Sea salt to taste
- If available, you can add 1 cup of fresh or dried shiitake or maitake mushrooms.
Add all the ingredients at once and place on a low boil for approximately one hour. Simply continue to simmer to taste.
Cool, strain out the cooked vegetables and discard them. Store resulting broth in a large, tightly sealed glass container in the fridge.
Before consuming, heat gently. Drink at least 3 to 4 cups a day.
Makes approximately 8 cups or 2 quarts.
The UltraShake Recipe
This shake provides essential protein for detoxification, omega-3 fatty acids from flax oil, fiber for healthy digestion, increased elimination from flaxseeds, and antioxidants and phytonutrients from the berries and fruit. Also, for alternative snack options, enjoy raw veggies and hummus (don’t forget to read the label if it’s store-bought), seeds and nuts, or steamed vegetables or chickpeas spiced up with a little extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt.
- 2 scoops of rice protein powder (the average is 2 scoops, but you should follow the directions for the serving sizes of the product you pick)
- 1 tablespoon organic combination flax and borage oil
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
- Ice (made from filtered water), if desired
- 6 to 8 ounces of filtered water to desired consistency
- 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh noncitrus organic fruit, such as cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, pears or bananas
Optional: Add 1 tablespoon of nut butter (almond, macadamia, pecan) or ¼ cup nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans or any combination of these, soaked overnight.