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Metabolic syndrome is a group of physical problems that lead to diabetes and heart problems. But it has been a difficult health condition to diagnose because it is based on the presence of several distinct risk factors that include: excess belly fat, elevated inflammatory markers in your blood, high blood pressure and elevated fasting blood sugar.
Individually, these factors are related to a number of additional health issues besides just metabolic syndrome, prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
With this mixed assortment of related conditions, it may seem difficult to accurately identify metabolic syndrome. Is it a definite condition that leads to type 2 diabetes? Or is it simply the effect of poor cardiovascular health? Or even worse, is it just a group of symptoms that have been lumped together by the drug companies to invent a new disease so they can sell more pharmaceutical drugs?
Let’s table that discussion and start by agreeing that this collection of negative markers is bad for overall health. In fact, some of the confusion about metabolic syndrome comes from the fact that any one of these risk factors alone is a serious sign that you are likely to suffer cardiovascular disease.
Indeed metabolic syndrome contributes to cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular issues can aggravate metabolic syndrome. Additionally, metabolic syndrome enhances inflammation and elevates levels of IGF (insulin-related growth factor) that can degrade the immune system and be a risk factor for aggressive cancer. So identifying whether metabolic syndrome is classifiable as an actual disease is less important than determining a clinical path forward to help people overcome this dangerous set of symptoms.
The biggest challenge: Diet and lifestyle
On the surface, treating metabolic syndrome seems like a pretty straightforward proposition. We know that changing your lifestyle can be a big help.
If you have metabolic syndrome, you just need to get more exercise, eat fewer calories and reduce stress. That should banish the symptoms.
But people rarely make those changes.
While adjusting lifestyle and diet seems like a simple and straightforward way to deal with metabolic syndrome, most people just can’t comply with the recommended lifestyle changes that are needed to make real improvements. This is not entirely their fault. In the past decade, researchers have begun to unravel the complicated relationship between accumulated fat and the rest of the body, particularly the brain.
The fat in your body has its own signaling mechanisms, which may make it hard to do things like exercise more to get rid of the fat. It’s as if your fat becomes a monstrous separate organism that fights for its own survival and clings to its existence on your waistline even as you try to make it vanish.
Another issue is the diet that causes much of the problem in the first place: high-glycemic-index foods that are high in sugar and processed carbohydrates. Studies show you can easily develop an addiction to junk foods and their ingredients. As your sugar high makes way for a sugar crash and that dragged-down, tired feeling, your body naturally craves more of the instant energy offered by more sugar from high-glycemic foods.
However, sugar cravings can be greatly alleviated by a eating a low-glycemic-index diet (more green vegetables!), drinking more water, exercising and taking the correctly targeted nutraceutical supplements.
But again, getting yourself to make these changes is often the biggest challenge.
A pharmaceutical approach
Metabolic syndrome is commonly treated with drugs, in some cases quite a few. There is no one pill that can fix all these symptoms, but there are many that suppress individual risk factors.
As a result, many people are taking statins for their cholesterol, beta blockers for their blood pressure and diabetes medications — each one designed to tackle a single aspect of the condition.
I think we can agree that this is not an optimal approach. The side effects from such a regimen can be daunting, but that isn’t even the greatest downside. When we mask the symptoms, underlying causes are often quietly progressing.
A proactive approach
Like so many other chronic conditions, metabolic syndrome responds to a proactive strategy. In other words, we need to identify the roots of the problem and start there. In this case, we can begin by addressing glucose metabolism.
As noted before, wide fluctuations in blood sugar can have a profound impact on your mindset. It’s a self-sustaining proposition: Sugary, high-carbohydrate junk food causes your blood sugar to spike and then crash. And that makes you gobble more unhealthy snacks.
These blood sugar fluctuations also sap your energy. As a result, if you have metabolic syndrome you may know you should cut back on unhealthy foods, but feel compelled by your blood sugar swings to keep reaching for more.
You may want to exercise, but those same blood sugar crashes undermine your strength and perpetuate the cycle of turning to sugary foods for a small dose of instant energy — followed by the inevitable blood sugar crash landing.
This vicious cycle is also aggravated by stress. Stress hormones like cortisol trigger the production of excess glucose. Elevated stress hormones eventually contribute to insulin resistance, weight gain, inflammation and the other elements of metabolic syndrome and heart disease. So finding healthy ways to relax the system can have a profound effect on these conditions — and make it much easier to lose weight.
The importance of targeted nutraceuticals
Many herbs and nutrients can help reduce sugar cravings and balance blood glucose. These natural solutions are critical allies in preventing those inevitable blood sugar crashes and helping you adhere to a new dietary regimen. A targeted nutraceutical formula can also increase natural energy levels, enhance digestion and fat metabolism, and offer support and protection for the various organs and systems affected by metabolic syndrome.
To strategically address these issues, I recommend a nutraceutical metabolic support supplement.
This natural blend combines alpha lipoic acid, chromium and seaweed-derived alginates, together with medicinal mushrooms and traditional herbs, including cinnamon, fenugreek, holy basil, American ginseng root and others.
The formula supports the body’s ability to metabolize sugar, boosts circulation, helps control inflammation, increases insulin sensitivity, enhances digestion and vital energy, and supports organs and systems affected by metabolic syndrome. Specifically, lipoic acid boosts insulin sensitivity, reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, enhances metabolism and supports vital energy, thus helping reduce sugar cravings.
Alginates, derived from the cell walls of brown algae, control glucose uptake, minimize spikes and also help reduce sugar cravings. Chromium helps break the cycle of sugar cravings and supports fat metabolism.
The herbs and medicinal mushrooms support vital energy and circulation, boost insulin sensitivity, balance blood sugar, support digestion, help control inflammation and help to protect and support vital organs. Such a strategic formula can act as a critical ally in breaking the cycle of glucose crashes, reducing unhealthy cravings and providing more vital energy for adhering to a healthier lifestyle.
Mind-body methods: Healthy stress relief
Many practitioners may find it easy to blame their patients for not following a healthy diet and lifestyle. But the more we unravel the mechanisms behind metabolic syndrome, the better we understand the barriers these patients face.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to getting healthy is chronic stress. More and more published research demonstrates that ongoing stress may be worse for you than the risks of smoking, obesity, poor diet, inflammation and other chronic disease factors related to metabolic syndrome (and many other degenerative illnesses). So by practicing healthy stress relief — using methods like meditation, yoga or Qi Gong, expressive arts, quality time with loved ones — a person can address numerous related risk factors at once: inflammation, elevated glucose, elevated stress hormones and others.
It’s important to tackle the underlying causes of metabolic syndrome with an integrative, proactive and compassionate approach. With the right information, guidance and support, it can become easier for you to make the necessary diet and lifestyle changes and get your health and vitality back on track.
For more information about addressing metabolic syndrome and related conditions, download a free wellness guide on metabolic health solutions here.