By Dr. Mark Hyman

The following comes from The UltraMind Solution.

Everything is connected.

Your entire body and all of the core systems in it interact as a single sophisticated symphony. You are one whole person, and all the pieces of your biology and your unique genetic code interact with your environment (including the foods you eat) to determine how sick or well you are in this moment.

This means your body and mind are connected as well.

The body and the mind are a single, dynamic bi-directional system. What you do to one has enormous impact on the other. What you do to your body you do to your brain. Heal your body and you heal your brain.


Your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes, traumas, and life experiences directly influence your biology. We know that stress and other psychological factors can have a major impact on your health. Now we understand that 95 percent of all illnesses is either caused by or worsened by stress. What you think can influence how sick or well you are. The mind influences the body.

This is known as Mind-Body Medicine. It is an important contribution to the field of science and is researched by major institutions such as Harvard and Stanford.

Sadly, most physicians do not apply this knowledge in their practices. They accept it. But rather than using the power of the mind to heal, they disdainfully say that people with psychological influences on their health have “psychosomatic illness” or “somatize,” meaning that their “physical” symptoms are all in their head.

Even worse, “somato-psychic” medicine (or how the body affects the mind) is hardly on the radar.

The body directly and powerfully influences the brain. Nutritional status; hormonal imbalances; food allergies; toxins; or digestive, immune, and metabolic imbalances primarily influence mood, behavior, attention, and attitude.

You already know about this body-mind connection, even if you have never consciously considered it. Just take a moment to think about how your own body has affected your mind over your lifetime, and then extrapolate that to more serious conditions.

    • Have you ever felt anxious, irritable, jittery, fearful or even had a panic attack only to have a can of coke or muffin and feel better right away? Why were you anxious? Because your blood sugar was plummeting, and when that happens your body is programmed to respond as though it is a life-threatening emergency.
    • Do you feel foggy and mentally sluggish after eating a large meal?
    • Have you ever felt stressed and anxious and then taken a long walk or ridden your bike a few miles only to feel calm and relaxed afterward? Why did this happen? Because you burned off the stress chemicals, adrenalin and cortisol that made you feel anxious.
    • Have you ever felt angry and irritable because you have been deprived of sleep? Have you felt happier and that you had fewer problems after a great night’s sleep?
    • Have you ever had the flu and tried to focus and read a book or concentrate on anything only to find it difficult, perhaps even impossible?
  • Have you ever hallucinated or been delirious with a high fever?

These are basic examples of the body-mind connection that many of us have experienced. But there are so many other things that occur inside of you that affect your brain and mind of which you have no awareness.

These obvious and not so obvious interactions between your body and your mind are only the tip of the iceberg.

Consider for a moment that depression, anxiety, insomnia, attention deficit disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder (not to mention the hundreds of other mental disorders described by psychiatrists in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM IV)) may be primarily caused by imbalances in the body and have very little to do with the meaning, metaphors, and myths we associate with them. It is a perfect system for describing your symptoms, but useless for helping you find the cause.

Interestingly there are a few conditions recognized and treated by conventional medicine that clearly show how problems in your body cause “diseases” in your brain, but the implications are ignored.

For example, when someone with late-stage liver disease develops something called “hepatic encephalopathy” or temporary insanity from liver failure, the treatment is not anti-psychotics, but antibiotics to clear out the bacteria in their intestine, which produce brain-destroying toxins that can no longer be detoxified by the liver.

Imagine, treating insanity with antibiotics.

Similarly, we know that alcoholics become “crazy” with a condition known as Wernicke’s encephalopathy from vitamin B1 (or thiamine) deficiency and can be cured by giving them a vitamin.

And we know that an antibiotic for a streptococcal infection can cure some children who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. The condition is called PANDAS or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep.

Yet as physicians, we typically don’t stop to consider whether or not other mental disorders may be related to imbalances in gut function, the immune system, problems with detoxification, or an imbalance in any of the body’s other key systems.

I think this is because we, as doctors, see what we believe and often don’t believe what we see, even when it is right in front of us.

What happens in the body influences the brain, as we never imagined it could. The implications for treatment of mental and brain disorders are staggering. A whole new array of possible causes and treatments are open to us.

Changing your diet, nutrient levels, circadian rhythms or sleep patterns, the substances you use, the amount of exercise or play time you have, connecting with community, getting rid of toxins in your system, balancing your hormones, correcting imbalances in your digestive tract, boosting your cell’s ability to produce energy, and fixing food sensitivities or allergies can ALL radically transform your mood, your brain function, and your biology.

With that in mind, consider the following:

    • Can lifelong depression be cured?
    • Can children completely recover from autism?
    • Can dementia be reversed?
  • Can chronic illness be overcome?

Conventional medical wisdom says no. We don’t see many cases in the medical literature where people recover from autism, reverse dementia, are cured from lifelong depression, or overcome chronic illnesses.

But just because psychiatrists, neurologists, and physicians aren’t reporting dramatic recoveries like these employing the “normal” methods used to treat such disorders doesn’t mean the disorders aren’t treatable. In conventional approaches, partial relief of symptoms is sometimes possible. But cures or dramatic recoveries? Where is the evidence you may hear doctors say?

The idea that psychiatric or neurologic “diseases” like depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia can be effectively treated, not by administering psychoactive medication, but by altering dietary and lifestyle influences and repairing the body’s systems that affect the entire body-mind system in which the brain functions, is resisted by conventional psychiatry and neurology.

Not too long ago I presented a lecture at Harvard outlining the case of a boy who recovered from autism using the approach in The UltraMind Solution. I shared this story—the story of Clayton—with the people on the Daniel Plan as well. At the lecture, I documented in great detail his story, and showed how when his abnormal tests and biology returned to normal, his brain and behavior returned to normal, and he lost his diagnosis of autism.

The pediatrician present explained away his recovery as an example of spontaneous remission. One of the other physicians at the lecture, who knew my work, said facetiously, “The only problem is that Dr. Hyman has 12 cases like this of spontaneous remission in his practice.”

Unfortunately too many doctors have the same mindset as that pediatrician: Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is made up.

Nevertheless, the recent discoveries about how behavior, mood, and mental functioning are linked to our biology are one of the greatest advances in 21st century medicine. These discoveries are growing to meet other advances, which show how our thoughts, feelings, and life experiences literally shape our brain and influence our biology.

This bio-psycho-social approach to understanding disease holds the answer to the epidemic of chronic illness, mood, behavior, attention and memory problems that are rampant in today’s society. It is the same approach you are following on the Daniel Plan and it holds the key to lifelong health and vitality.

To learn more about the connections between your brain, your body, your community, and your environment see The UltraMind Solution.