Metabolic Syndrome, Syndrome X

a woman who used to be overweight now thin again

Syndrome X is commonly called the metabolic syndrome, or the insulin resistance syndrome. Increased recognition of insulin resistance syndrome has doctors and health practitioners across the world concerned.  There is a steady increase in people who have a pre-diabetic condition (elevated serum insulin levels) due to diet, heredity, lack of exercise, and other “modern” lifestyle phenomena.

It is now well accepted that the vast majority of patients with Type-2 diabetes have insulin sensitivity. Over 16 million people in North America have been diagnosed with diabetes and as many as 47 million Americans (or 25% of the non-diabetic population) may have insulin resistance syndrome X.

Syndrome X refers to a variety of symptoms that are characterized by varying degrees of glucose intolerance, abnormally high HDL cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and obesity (especially belly fat).  The unmistakable appearance of the “fat tire” around the waist can increase the risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease. This condition, however, can be reversed with a combination of diet, supplementation and moderate physical exercise. Insulin resistance, the hallmark of adult-onset diabetes, also lies at the core of Syndrome X.  According to one researcher drawing 45% of calories from carbohydrates, 20-25% from “good” fats, and 20-30% from protein, benefits individuals with Syndrome X.

Research over the past decade has shown a significant relationship between insulin resistance and coronary artery disease–a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the world.  Not everyone who becomes insulin-resistant will ultimately develop diabetes, but chronic insulin sensitivity can lead to many other serious diseases and afflictions

Symptoms and Clinical Signs

  • Family history of diabetes or a dietary history of high-refined carbohydrate intake.
  • Sugar cravings and carbohydrate addictions, Hypoglycemia (low glucose levels) between meals that tend to make people crave sweets.
  • Candida or fungal infections.
  • Sleepiness or fatigue after a meal, or insomnia relieved by snacking. Fatigue may commonly be due to adrenal dysfunction and stress.
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Poly-cystic ovarian disease (PCOS), with hirsutism (hair growth on face), acne or menstrual irregularities.
  • Digestive dysfunction.
  • Weight loss because without insulin, the body begins to starve.
  • Weight gain since the body begins to crave sweets and refined carbohydrates due to increased stress.

Laboratory Signs

  • Abdominal obesity (waist circumference > 40 inches in men, 34.5 inches in women)
  • High triglyceride levels > 150 mg/dL (1.69 mmol/L)
  • Low high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol < 40 mg/dL in men, <50 mg/dL in women
  • Fasting glucose > 110 mg/dL (>6.1 mmol/L)
  • Blood pressure > 130/85 mm.Hg
  • High C-reactive protein (CRP) above 1.0
  • Low red blood cell essential fatty acids (EFA)
  • Thyroid (TSH), cortisol (saliva), DHEA levels
  • Hair analysis: Copper may be high, examine calcium/magnesium ratio to determine how the body is utilizing carbohydrates

Diet

Perhaps no disease is linked to nutrition as much as pre-diabetes and Type-2 diabetes. Not only does nutrition play a role in the development of this disease, but it is also one of the disease’s most powerful treatments. Change to a diet that is lower in refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, and higher in animal proteins, quality fats (mono & polyunsaturated), and higher in fiber like psyllium, legumes (Guar Gum), pectin in fruits, and colored vegetables. Avoid excessive saturated fats and trans-fats (margarine, vegetable oils, French fries, fried chicken, cookies, doughnuts, crackers).

a variety of legumes

Adrenal stress over time, heredity, obesity, and lack of exercise are the likely cause of diabetes. Surely, sugar should be curtailed, but according to American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines, sugar does not have to be completely shunned.  A high-flavonoid diet (containing 76-110mg of flavonoids from tomatoes, onions, and tea) results in a reduction of the oxidative damage of lymphocyte DNA and protects the body against free radical destruction. Here are some dietary tips for diabetic patients:

  • Eat 3 times a day to minimize hypoglycemia.
  • Make dietary fiber the main carbohydrate in your diet. The American Diabetes Association recently revised its dietary guidelines to 20-35 grams of fiber daily (the U.S. average is 16 grams).
  • Eat more seafood, meats, and eggs for protein.
  • The current dietary trend away from fats and toward refined carbohydrates can be a fatal departure for individuals with Syndrome X or Type II diabetes. Good fats (omega 3 fatty acids) increase insulin sensitivity, are mood enhancers, regulate the production of prostaglandins (inflammatory mediators in the body), and slow the secretion of hydrochloric acid, prolonging the digestive process.  Limit consumption of trans-fatty acids (a fatty acid that the body is not able to successfully metabolize), which often appear in cakes, cookies, margarine and processed foods.
  • Magnesium-rich foods lower diabetes risk. According to Harvard Medical School, the benefits of magnesium–found in beans, green vegetables, spinach, halibut and nuts- found that people who consume more of these foods were the least likely to develop diabetes.
  • People who eat more unrefined (complex) carbohydrates have lower insulin levels, and therefore, a lower risk of heart disease. Elevated circulating insulin levels are thought to contribute to several heart disease risk factors including high blood pressure, obesity and high HDL.
  • Artificial sweeteners should be severely limited or avoided by diabetics. Stevia, an herb considered 100-300 times sweeter than sugar, is often recommended as an alternative to refined sugar, aspartame, or sucralose.  Diabetics should not be ingesting artificial sugar substitutes of any kind. A moderate amount of honey is permitted.
  • Cow’s milk and dairy products have been implicated as a possible trigger of autoimmune responses. A protein in cow’s milk is believed to result in the production of antibodies in genetically susceptible people that leads to the subsequent destruction of beta cells in the pancreas, which may result in juvenile diabetes. Nicotinamide (niacinamide), a form of vitamin B3, has the capability in vitro of interrupting the pathogenic mechanism of IDDM and protecting the beta cells.
  • Minerals for diabetics are more important than vitamins, especially since all minerals have an effect on the others. The two most important ratios for diabetics are 1) Sodium/Potassium 2.5/1, which may negatively affect the amounts of copper, iron, and zinc in the body, and 2) Calcium/Magnesium balance.
  • Drinking coffee may lower the risk of developing type-2 diabetes according to new research. A study of 126,000 men and women found that individuals who drank coffee had a decreased risk of the disease, compared to those who drank less or no coffee at all.
  • Drink at least 6-8 full glasses of spring water daily.

Stress & Pre-diabetes

Countless studies caution that stress (stressors on the adrenals glands) over time can lead to Syndrome X and diabetes, and if not controlled, to a shorter lifespan.  Anxious persons spur the sympathetic nervous system into heightened activity, and the adrenal gland leaps to respond. The medulla, the inner portion of the adrenal gland, secretes epinephrine (or adrenaline) with is a neurotransmitter-hormone that has a significant influence over blood sugar levels.

a woman coping with stress

During periods of continued emotional stress, the chief glucocorticoid hormone, cortisol (secreted by the adrenal cortex), is also significantly increased.  Both of these hormones increase the rate of protein conversion into glucose. As cortisol levels increase with long-term stressors, DHEA (a hormone commonly suppressed in insulin resistance) also diminishes.

Extended stress robs the body of vital nutrients.  Diabetes and hyperglycemia–conditions fueled by stress–cause increased urination.  Stress also contributes to obesity (a factor associated with Syndrome X and Type-2 diabetes).  A stressful person often eats not because of hunger, but as a reprieve from unpleasant situations.  As the person eats more food (sugars in carbohydrates) the pancreas pumps out insulin to oppose the rise in blood sugar.  The insulin release from the pancreas may be too much, and blood glucose levels plummet to hypoglycemic lows. Stress is an initiator in an eating frenzy, and unstable blood sugar is the consequence.

Supplement Protocol

With links to specific supplements where applicable.

  1. MAGNESIUM
    Magnesium plays an essential role in glucose balance by altering both glucose secretion and action in the body. Adequate supplementation of magnesium may improve intracellular levels thereby improving glucose utilization. Magnesium levels are inherently low in diabetics, but also in non-diabetics causing a worsening of insulin resistance and blood pressure. Daily magnesium supplements appear to improve hormone receptors response, arterial strength, and glucose transport into the cells. Dosage: 400-600mg daily. NOTE: Young adults with higher magnesium intake lower the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
  2. CHROMIUM and VANADIUM
    Chromium is essential for glucose metabolism and assists in overall insulin resistance. Low levels may lead to insulin insensitivity and abnormal insulin usage. Chromium is also necessary for normal carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Chromium deficiency is associated with elevated blood glucose levels, more arterial plaque, and higher cholesterol levels. Chromium picolonate significantly lowered HbA1c level after 2-4 months. Dosage: A moderate dose of 50-100 mcg daily is high enough to correct deficiency but not sufficient to improve blood sugar control. Persons with diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance should take 500-1,000 mcg of chromium daily. VANADYL SULFATE is a salt of the mineral vanadium.  Vanadium may reduce need for insulin and deficiencies have shown to decrease glucose metabolism. Dosage: 5-50 mg daily. Supplementation above 5 mg daily for extended periods of time should be closely monitored.
  3. B-COMPLEX VITAMINS
    Levels of B vitamins are frequently low in diabetics. These B vitamins may be essential in adding energy and rejuvenating cells. NIACINAMIDE protects beta-cells from destruction. Dosage 1-3 grams daily. VITAMIN B-12 (Injection or oral) helps to relieve neuropathic pain. Dosage: 1,000 mcg daily. VITAMIN B6 (Pyridoxine) corrects a deficiency and may help decrease risk of developing retinopathy and neuropathy. Also inhibits glycosylation of proteins. Dosage: 50-100mg a day. FOLATE (folic acid) lowers homocysteine levels to prevent retinopathy and neuropathy. Dosage: 1mg daily. VITAMIN B2 (Riboflavin) often is at abnormal levels in diabetics. Dosage: 50-100mg daily. THIAMINE corrects possible deficiency and minimizes neuropathy. Dosage: 50-100mg daily.  NOTE: The prescription drug metformin may decrease vitamin B12, while increasing homocysteine levels. Biotin is a B-vitamin in which intake can improve the metabolism and/or utilization of glucose without the acceleration of insulin secretion from the pancreas.  Biotin deficiency has been suggested to result in an improvement of glucose tolerance. Dosage: 5-10 mg daily.
  4. L-CARNITINE
    There is clear evidence that this amino acid improves blood glucose and HbA1c levels, increases insulin sensitivity and glucose storage, and optimizes fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Deficiencies appear allied to diabetic neuropathy and cardiomyopathy. Carnitine also appears to reduce plasma lipoproteins (cholesterol) levels successfully in patients with type-2 diabetes. Carnitine (200 mg daily), together with chromium (400-600 mcg daily), and moderate caloric restriction, typically results in impressive fat losses. Dosage: 200-1,000 mg daily.
  5. ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID (ALA) ALA plays a key role in our health, not only as an antioxidant, but as a cofactor in a number of vital enzymes responsible for metabolism of glucose, and fatty acids to cellular energy.  ALA increases the efficiency of glucose metabolism, improves insulin sensitivity, and prevents hyperglycemia in pre-diabetics. Dosage: 200-400 mg 2 or 3 times a day.
  6. CINNAMON
    Cinnamon grows in abundance in many parts of the world, and is used as a spice. Recently, it has been demonstrated to control tye-II diabetes.  All cinnamon groups have been shown to reduce serum glucose (18-29 percent), triglycerides (23-30 percent), LDL (7-27 percent), and total cholesterol (12-26 percent).  Dosage: 200 mg-6 grams daily.
  7. COENZYME Q10 CoQ-10 is a potent anti-oxidative enzyme that enhances beta cell function (from the pancreas) and glycemic control. Some researchers credit CoQ10 with being able to counter the oxidative stress (aging factors) imposed by diabetes. CoQ10 also helps diabetics adequately process carbohydrates depleted by long-term use of drugs that impair the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin. Diabetics are low in this enzyme. Dosage: 60-500mg daily depending on severity.
  8. GYMNEMA SYLVESTRE
    Gymnema is a tropical plant of the milkweed family native to India. The active ingredient of gymnema is called gymnemic acid, which has been found to have the ability to fill receptor sites on the taste buds, thereby preventing the sweet taste of sugar molecules.  It also helps the pancreas produce insulin in NIDDM, helps balance sugar, and may help weight loss. In some cases gymnema may double the number of islet and beta cells. Dosage: 400mg a day, or as directed.
  9. STEVIA
    The plant Stevia rebaudiana has been used as a tea for many years in the treatment of diabetes among Indians in the Amazon basin.  Stevia is widely used in Japan as an artificial sweetener (it can be safely used by diabetics). Stevia stimulates the release of insulin via a direct action on the pancreatic beta cells and normalizes the response to glucose, especially in type-2 diabetes.  Dosage: Use as a sugar supplement in drinks and foods.
  10. BITTER MELON
    Bitter melon has widespread use in traditional medicine. In a recent clinical study, bitter melon was shown to significantly reduce both fasting and postprandial (blood-sugar levels after carbohydrate consumption) serum glucose levels in NIDDM patients. It works by inhibiting glucose absorption, and may help a diabetic liver function better. No known drug interactions are associated with it. Dosage: As directed on package.

 

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