WHAT do the phrases “METABOLIC SYNDROME”, “SYNDROME X”, “INSULIN RESISTANCE” have in common?
All three phrases refer to a particular chemical imbalance seen more and more in the U.S. They are all involved in the explosion of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
“METABOLIC SYNDROME” (aka Syndrome X) is a medical diagnosis. It is estimated that 35% of all US adults have been so diagnosed. 50% of those over 60 were found to be affected by this syndrome most recently in the 2011 - 2012 sample year.
The criteria for making the diagnosis are the presence of three or more of the following factors:
Insulin Resistance (elevated fasting Glucose)
Abdominal Obesity (Men > 40 inches, Women > 35 inches)
Prothrombic state (elevated Fibrinogen or plasminogen activator inhibitor -1)
Inflammation (elevated CRP)
High Serum Lipids (especially Triglycerides, LDLs and Reduced LDLs)
WHY ARE SO MANY AMERICANS SUFFERING WITH THIS DISORDER OF LATE?
Too many Americans have adopted habits their bodies were not designed to support. Part of our metabolic system was designed to keep us from starving in prolonged periods of famine. When food was plentiful on occasion, we could carry those extra calories with us for the inevitable times of little.
Women especially were affected by this as they needed to be able to maintain a pregnancy, suckle a young one or two without food to nourish her. Nature designed this system to favor preservation of the species.
For our discussion here we need to define the most significant feature of our metabolic system, Insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas gland (approximately opposite the liver at about the same level). Insulin’s function is to store excess calories for future need. The more “available” the calories, the more the storage system turns on. And the more “refined” a food, the more available it is. And, unfortunately, the older we get the more we tend to store it in the belly.
In the digestive process the presence of fiber slows down the absorption of the glucose that is derived from carbohydrates. Without the fiber, the glucose is much more available and therefore even more easily stored. We use the term “Refined Carbohydrates” to refer to starches relatively low in fiber, just as in white bread as opposed to whole wheat bread for example. Much of the fiber has been removed from this “white food”. It is this refined food source, high in calories, low in nutrient value, that is making Americans sick. It has the unfortunate effect of being somewhat “addictive”, increasing hunger and making it’s victims bigger and bigger!
In my many years of clinical practice I have observed a further curiosity in that those whose family history contains alcoholism or drug abuse are particularly prone to Blood Glucose dysregulation by Insulin. Carbohydrate addicts are often adult children of Alcoholics. The cause is the same. It would seem particularly prevalent in many of Irish, Scotch, and English descent. Could there be a relationship with many years of high potato consumption alternating with years of starvation?
“Insulin Resistance” occurs at the point in our metabolic history where the Insulin receptor cells in our tissues require increasing amounts of Insulin to respond to the signaling to begin storage. Eventually some people will be unable to produce it at all leading to Type 2 Diabetes which can then significantly increase the risk of Heart Disease and Stroke. Obviously a lethal outcome, it’s well worth the commitment to revise your diet and improve your lifestyle habits.
THE GOOD NEWS? . . . THIS IS REVERSIBLE!
An adjustment in lifestyle can reduce “Insulin Resistance” which will keep us healthier a lot longer.
Since we don’t yet have a way to change our original metabolic design, we are left with the realization that we must change our system of values toward the types of fuel we consume! and how we take care of our bodies overall.
I’d suggest you start here :
No white foods
Protein at each meal
Small frequent meals
Increase the Fiber (to your Elimination tolerance)
Veggies dominate at least 2 meals a day
Eat as few “starches” as possible (exception: with vigorous exercise and then a banana & peanut butter vs a doughnut from the drive thru)
ps - “Protein Bars”, in general, have too many calories & are often hard to digest - sorry.
Better a hard boiled egg, a little hummus, a little nut butter
No alcohol, dried fruit, jams, jellies, fruit juices, sodas…only whole fruit and that with a few nuts
Determine to move around more than you have been; just gradually increase your activity level above your current baseline. If a physical ailment is preventing exercise seek professional advice to find acceptable forms of exercise for your capability.
This approach is designed to decrease the number of times your diet stimulates Insulin to store those calories as Fat around the Middle. The ultimate goal is to reduce these events to zero frequency in order that you can lose the Jiggles & Bulges and Prevent Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease & Stroke at the same time.
Plans like the Paleo Diet, JJ Virgin, Atkins, South Beach, Hypoglycemia/Low Blood Sugar Diet, Carbohydrate Addicts Diet are all more similar than they are different. (The latter has worked very well for me in the past. You’re allowed carbs once a day consumed in no more than 60 minutes. Fresh fruit was my carb of choice).
There’s also the ‘Intermittent Fasting’ concept of limiting calories 2 days a week to 500 kcal which, according to one of my patients, means a piece of fruit & a large salad. Eat reasonably the other days. (Between that & regularly working out, the last time I saw her she’d lost more than 20 lbs).
As a bonus resource for you, I recommend you explore the work of British physician Michael Mosley. He’s done a number of documentaries on health related topics & written several books. One is about the science behind the Intermittent Diet and another is about the science behind what is being called Burst exercise. His British sense of humor is a bonus. To start your research, CLICK HERE.
IF THE ABOVE SUGGESTIONS AREN’T ENOUGH . . .
Find a Licensed ND to help you. Lifestyles are made up of habits. Changing habits requires commitment, support, patience & time. And it doesn’t have to be done all at once. It can be taken step by step.
Consider testing & measuring to see how many of the criteria above you qualify for.
Consider testing other Hormonal factors such as Thyroid, Adrenal, Reproductive. Saliva testing can be very helpful in determining what adjustments need to be made to get things back in balance.
Women with elevated Testosterone or DHEA levels and, conversely, men with low Testosterone levels may be more prone. High Cortisol and Estrogen Dominance contribute to and are perpetuated by the abdominal obesity.
Consider testing Food Sensitivities & for Hypoglycemia to help in deciding the particulars of your nutrition protocol.
AND FOR MEAL PLANNING & RECIPE INSPIRATION:
Add weekly input to your Inbox from web sites such as: BuzzFeedFood.com, MindBodyGreen.com, MarthaStewart.com, epicurious.com, NourishedKitchen.com and many others. You can have them dropped right into a folder to look at any time you need ideas. Spend some time looking for sites whose ideas are simple and tasty. BuzzFeed Food is my current favorite. Please feel free to share sources you find helpful.
Prepare food to create leftovers. Get clever about using leftover ratatouille in an omelet the next night, for example. Cook a large pot of quinoa. Use some the first meal with grilled veggies and fish.
Use some to make a cold quinoa salad made of lots of chopped veggies (scallions, red pepper, parsley...), some pine nuts, some chopped dried apricots and a lemon vinaigrette dressing.
Use some of it to stuff peppers or a portabello mushroom. The salad would work as the stuffing.
A “3-fer 1”!
Purchase pre-washed greens like Mesclun, baby Salad Spinach, baby Kale, Arugula, Watercress. Buy or, better yet, grow romaine lettuce. Wash ahead of time. Dry. Place wrapped in paper towel in a bag in the refrigerator; will last days.
Research local groceries, vegetable stands, and farmer’s markets; they often have interesting things they make in their delis that are on your nutrition plan. Like a 3-bean salad or rolled stuffed grape leaves or hummus . . . and purchase those so you don’t have to prepare absolutely everything you consume.
As always, I like to provide you with a helpful Resource: Below find the link from a recent BuzzFeedFood post that arrived in my Inbox. It contains some great health-promoting Recipes. I think you'll find some of them irresistible from the photos alone, as I did! The ones I can’t wait to try are #s 1, 3, 4, 13, 19 and 20. URL: http://bit.ly/scrumptiousHealth
REMEMBER: Love People, Cook them good food. And that includes you -- be good to yourselves!