Metabolic Syndrome also known as Syndrome X, is a combination of medical disorders that increase one’s risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It affects a large number of people, in fact, some studies indicate that the prevalence in America is up to 25% of the population (50 million people). One of the biggest problems with Metabolic Syndrome is that it prevents people from losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.
Frequently asked questions about Metabolic Syndrome
What are common symptoms and risk factors?
According to World Health Organization, fasting hyperglycemia — elevated blood sugar levels between meals or impaired glucose tolerance, impaired PLUS 2 or more of the following:
- High blood pressure = 140/90 mmHg
- Abdominal obesity (most dangerous type because of proximity of organs)
- High ratio of the waist to hip > 0.90 (male), > 0.85 (female)
- Decreased HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
- Elevated triglycerides
- Yrinary albumin excretion ratio greater then 20 mg/min or albumin, called: “microalbuminuria”
- Creatinine ratio = 30 mg/
Associated diseases include: fatty liver , polycystic ovarian syndrome , hemochromatosis (iron overload); and acanthosis nigricans (a skin condition featuring dark patches).
What causes Metablolic Syndrome?
According to Mayo Clinic, most doctors believe that the underlying cause of metabolic syndrome is resistance to insulin — a hormone made by the pancreas that helps control the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. Normally, your digestive system breaks down some of the food you eat into sugar (glucose). Your blood carries the glucose to your body’s tissues, where the cells use it as fuel. Glucose enters the fat and muscle cells through receptors with the help of insulin. Receptors are like a lock on a door. When glucose knocks, insulin acts like the key to open the lock and let glucose into the cells.
Chronic consumption of high simple carbohydrate foods results in chronically elevated blood sugar and overproduction of insulin by the pancreas. Eventually overproduced insulin levels ‘desensitize’ cell receptors and the cell door stops opening when glucose knocks. This means elevated insulin and elevated blood sugar. Increased insulin raises your triglyceride level and those of other blood fats. This also interferes with how your kidneys work, leading to increased blood pressure. High levels of sugar in blood scratch the lining of the blood vessels and result in Systemic inflammation . A number of inflammatory markers (including C-reactive protein ) are often increased, as are fibrinogen , InterLeukin-6 (IL-6), Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNFa) and others. Chronic inflammation causes many disease, pain, and fatigue.
Why do we crave the types of foods that result in this condition? Stress is often the answer. When we are in sympathetic nervous system mode (“fight or flight”) our bodies produce stress chemicals that make us crave the food that will turn to easy fuel (high sugar foods) because the body mistakenly believes we are in a crisis situation. This would not be a problem if only occurring infrequently, but the problem is that we are often chronically stressed (from work, family, traffic, finances etc) our bodies are constantly calling for these sugary foods!
What can I do if I think I have Metabolic Syndrome?
Whether you have one, two or none of the components of metabolic syndrome, the following lifestyle changes will reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke:
Commit to a healthy diet: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables Choose lean cuts of white meat or fish over red meat Avoid processed or deep-fried foods Avoid excess simple carbohydrates, sodas, and sweets Manage stress
Get moving: Get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.
Be Aware: Check your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels on a regular basis.
Get Help: Acupuncture and herbal medicine work very well to manage the physiological response of the body to stress including cortisol and catecholamine (stress hormone) release. Herbal medicine directly strengthens and balances the organs aiding digestion and cellular vitality.
Coventional Treatment Options
There is currently no FDA-approved treatment for syndrome X.However, According to Mayo Clinic the following are good options for metabolic syndrome:
Exercise: Doctors recommend getting 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, every day.
Lose weight: Losing as little as 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce insulin levels and blood pressure and decrease your risk of diabetes. More about Weight loss here.
Stop smoking: Smoking cigarettes increases insulin resistance andworsens the health consequences of metabolic syndrome. Talk to your doctor if you need help kicking the cigarette habit.
According to a study conducted by Medco Health Solutions, 40 percent of dollars Americans spend on prescription drugs are for adults with metabolic syndrome. Annual prescription costs for people 20 and older with metabolic syndrome averaged $4,116 last year, 4.2 times the average amount spent on drugs for that age group, according to New Jersey-based Medco, which released the data exclusively to The Associated Press. These drugs are symptoms based (i.e. blood pressure medication, medication to increase cell sensitivity to insulin, cholesterol lowering drugs etc. Symptom based drugs do not address the root cause of the problem, and thus do not correct the problem, so long term drug therapy is required, and conditions often continue to worsen.
Alternative Treatment Options
Acupuncture and herbal medicine is one of the most effective, safe treatments of metabolic syndrome. Acupuncture has been clinically proven to lower blood glucose level, hyperinsulinemia, C- peptide levels and blood pressure. Experiments on animals suggest that acupuncture affects glucose metabolism by influencing the hippocampus of the brain. Many studies from China have reveal positive blood sugar lowering and weight loss results for herbal therapy. For more information on treatment options please call our office.
More information about Metabolic Syndrome can be found online here.