What is Syndrome X/Metabolic syndrome?
What is known today as Syndrome X, or Metabolic syndrome is technically a cluster of disorders that all derive from Insulin Resistance. These disorders include:
High risk for heart attack and/or stroke
Elevated triglycerides and/or cholesterol levels
A low HDL reading
High blood pressure
Type II Diabetes
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance is the state where the body’s cells no longer respond to insulin. Insulin is what regulates blood sugar. When cells become resistant to insulin, both insulin and blood glucose levels in the blood increase to such levels that they begin to damage cells and organs in the body.
How does elevated insulin harm the body?
Elevated insulin increases the oxidation of cells in the body, notably in the tissues of the veins/arteries and heart, eyes, kidneys. Insulin also increases inflammation in the body. Insulin also turns off the body’s signal to burn fat, slows the metabolism and increases appetite abnormally. Finally when insulin is dominant in the blood, it is accompanied by a hormone called IGF-1. This hormone increases the growth rate of certain cells, and can increase the rate of cancers and tumors. Insulin suppresses the beneficial Human Growth Hormone, which is responsible for tissue repair (including the cardiovascular tissues!) fat-burning metabolism, and lean muscle mass.
Usually elevated levels of insulin in the body are accompanied by high levels of blood glucose, which are also damaging to tissues in the body. The combination of elevated insulin and blood sugar can eventually lead to Type II Diabetes, a very serious degenerative disease with terrible complications.
What causes insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance is caused by any number of the following:
Genetics- about 25% of people are genetically prone to this as a result of human evolution.
Mineral and nutrient deficiencies-Insulin requires many minerals and nutrients to work properly in the body. Common deficiencies of chromium, magnesium, and zinc can increase insulin resistance.
High carbohydrate and processed foods diet- The increased availability of highly processed foods with refined sugars, carbohydrates and trans-fats in the diet is a large contributor to insulin resistance and obesity in the western world. In addition, the notion that a high carbohydrate diet based on grains and cereals is healthy is largely untrue. Humans evolved eating a high protein, high fat and high vegetable content diet. The appearance of agricultural grain products is directly correlated with an increase in the diseases of the modern world, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The natural human diet is NOT based on rice, pasta, or cheerios. Instead we are best nourished by wild ranging meat, organic vegetables, and a few fruits, like nuts and berries. In addition, dietary fat intake is not the evil they say it is. Dietary fat has little to do with risk for heart disease, obesity or insulin resistance. As long as it is a high quality natural oil with the right omega 3:omega 6 balance. Olive oil, fish oil, and the fat found in nuts and wild or free-range meats are best.
Lack of resistance exercise- Trained muscles and bodies that get regular exercise, especially the kind increases strength, (weights, sprints and anaerobic types) respond much better to insulin. We need at least 30-60 minutes of exercise per day, and we need to use our muscles for more than typing on the computer.
Increased stress and sleep debt – Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough rest, and are under increased stress have high levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance. Most people get less than 7 hrs of sleep per night, and often even 8 hrs is not adequate. Most people are also under increased levels of stress, from juggling work, family, finances and modern life.
I have insulin resistance/syndrome x/metabolic syndrome, what can I do about it?
Insulin resistance can be successfully reversed through a pyramid of lifestyle and diet changes. These measures may help you to loose weight, reduce cravings and hunger, increase energy and prevent the long term and devastating effects of insulin resistance, such as cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
The three objectives to our program are:
A low carbohydrate, real food diet.
Supplements and herbs that help increase insulin sensitivity of cells.
Plenty of sleep and rest. Stress is a contributing factor to insulin resistance
Low Carbohydrate Diet
- No sugary sweets, and no foods with sugar or corn syrup added, pretty much anything in a box. Eating real, whole food will virtually eliminate added sugars.
Removal of high glycemic grains, fruits, and vegetables.
-No bread, pasta, cereal, rice or other grains.
-No starchy high glycemic vegetables, including potatoes, carrots, corn, or winter squash.
-Little to no fruit and no fruit juice. Fruit is pure sugar. Juice is even worse. You may occasionally eat blueberries, which are low glycemic.
Little or no snacking. You may eat small portions of protein snacks if you need something between meals.
Increase protein portion of meals. Protein is very low glycemic and fills you up. It is of primary importance to eat at least 30g of protein and large meal in the morning to prevent cravings and energy crashes. Lunch can be substantial, with plenty of protein. Dinners should be high protein and low carbohydrate and a smaller meal. You should aim to eat 70% of your calories before 3 pm.
Plenty of low carbohydrate and nutrient dense vegetables, especially leafy greens.
Enough fat to satisfy. You should not fear fat. There is little evidence showing that dietary fat increases cholesterol, triglycerides or heart disease. The cause of these diseases is too much insulin in the blood. High carb foods raise blood sugar and insulin.
Aim to get 30-90 minutes of moderate walking in everyday. Three to four 10-15 min sessions are better than one long one.
Include high intensity short burst (90 sec-5 min) type exercise 3-4 times per day. Once upon rising, and once two hours after your last meal. Do not eat before bed. Short sprints, sessions with free weights, or any exercise that makes your muscles burn, and causes you to huff and puff.
Chromium, 800 mcg per day
Magnesium 600-800 mg per day
Zinc 20-40 mg
Daily multivitamin with B vitamins
At least 1 tbsp or 6 capsules of high quality fish or cod liver oil daily.
Antioxidant formula with C, E, Alpha Lipoic Acid, selenium and CoQ10.
The following herbs may help in Insulin resistance: Fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, bitter melon, holy basil, opuntia cactus.
Rest and Relaxation
You need to get plenty of rest every day. This may be more than the recommended 8 hrs per night. You may need up to 10-11 hrs. Allow plenty of time in your schedule to get the sleep you need.
Stress is a contributing factor in insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. In addition to exercise, it would be wise to include practices to reduce and manage your daily stress. This can include breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling and time spent in nature.