Metabolic Syndrome is a primary underlying imbalance that drives the obesity and diabetes epidemics. That’s the bad news. The good news is that by using an integrative medical approach, you can identify this very early so that you can do something about it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than one in five Americans is obese, meaning that they are more than 20 percent heavier than their ideal weight. This problem exists among our children as well as adults. Underlying that process is the growing number of people who have diabetes (up to 20%) and impaired fasting glucose (IFG), more commonly known as pre-diabetes. IFG tends to be our best marker for Metabolic Syndrome.
Impaired fasting glucose is most often related to higher insulin levels. Low activity and high intake of alcohol, sweets and white foods (simple carbohydrates) drive the body to produce more insulin. When this happens, eventually the cells get tired of responding to the insulin signal and they become resistant to its effects. The body counters by producing even more insulin in the hopes that the cells will finally respond. When the cells respond, the insulin uses up all the sugar in the blood and a person feels sleepy, confused, agitated, and even sweaty. They are hypoglycemic (have low sugar). This usually happens 30 to 90 minutes after eating.
Other ways of identifying the possibility of metabolic syndrome are:
- Waist circumference greater than 40” in men and 35” in women
- Triglycerides greater than 150
- Good cholesterol (HDL) less than 40 in men and 50 in women
- Blood pressure greater than 130/85
- Fasting glucose greater than 100
- Fasting insulin at any level above detection
Insulin resistance drives the imbalance in metabolic syndrome. It causes the body to retain and grow fat cells, increases bad cholesterol (LDL) components, increases blood pressure, makes the blood stickier, and helps to deplete key vitamins and minerals. High insulin levels are a potent source of inflammation and can make any inflammatory or autoimmune process worse. Increased insulin can lead to depressive symptoms, can damage arteries, and can worsen any infection. High insulin can increase the growth rate of certain cancers. Many of the challenges of chronic disease can be traced to higher than optimal insulin levels.
Lack of exercise, increased alcohol use, and poor diet are potential causes for insulin resistance. Another potential cause is long-term stress. Stress alone can cause high insulin levels and can create metabolic syndrome. In this case, even the best exercise and nutrition plan may not result in weight loss.
In addition to insulin dynamics there are also interactions among the hormones that regulate fat cells including leptin, grehlin, adiponection, and cortisol.
In order to manage metabolic syndrome, the following aspects of lifestyle must be optimized: cardiovascular and strength building exercise, a low glycemic index diet, stress management, key micronutrients and phytonutrients, at least six hours of sleep a night, and optimizing your neurotransmitters to help manage cravings.