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Wellness Way doctors have found that metabolic syndrome contributes to chronic illnesses more than any other factor. It’s an issue everyone should be concerned about since nearly one in three Americans currently has metabolic syndrome. While sugar is the major contributor to metabolic problems and insulin resistance, it isn’t the only factor. Everyday stressors in the form of traumas, toxins, and thoughts also play a role. Here’s what you should know about metabolic syndrome and some hope for overcoming it.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is also sometimes called insulin resistance syndrome or syndrome X. It’s a syndrome rather than a condition because it’s simply a cluster of signs and symptoms occurring together. These underlying factors include abdominal obesity, insulin resistance (leading to high blood sugar), high blood pressure (hypertension), and abnormal lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels. [1]

Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of many cardiometabolic health problems, such as heart attacks, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It’s also linked to estrogen dominance and associated conditions, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, and endometriosis. [2] Metabolic syndrome also tends to precede diseases of low immune function, like cancer. [3]

Autoimmune diseases, associated with an overactive immune response, may also have a connection to metabolic syndrome. Scientists are just beginning to make the connection between autoimmune diseases like lupus and metabolic syndrome. [4]

Even joint conditions, like frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome, and rotator cuff injuries, have links to metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, and diabetes. [5][6] Metabolic syndrome sets a person up for just about every chronic health condition known to man.

Why would this be the case? Well, sugar intake is the main contributor to metabolic syndrome. Excess sugar in the body affects the gut microbiome and the immune system, and the immune system is what keeps us healthy, balanced, and resilient. [7] As Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome itself doesn’t typically have noticeable symptoms. Instead, it’s recognized by underlying metabolic and physiological abnormalities that appear in tests and increase the risk of certain health conditions. However, these individual risk factors of metabolic syndrome can create symptoms: [8]

  • Abdominal Obesity: Increased waist size (waistline at 35+ inches for women and 40+ inches for men)
  • Elevated Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it doesn’t usually cause noticeable symptoms until it becomes severe, threatening heart health. In some cases, very high blood pressure may cause:
    • Headaches
    • Blurred or double vision
    • Dizziness
    • Nosebleeds
    • Fatigue
  • Elevated Fasting Blood Sugar: High blood sugar levels may not cause noticeable symptoms early on. However, as insulin resistance progresses, more symptoms may occur, such as:
    • Increased thirst
    • Frequent urination
    • Increased hunger
    • Fatigue
    • Blurred vision
    • Dry mouth and skin
  • High Triglycerides: Elevated triglyceride levels may not independently produce symptoms, but they’re often associated with other conditions like fatty liver disease.
  • Low HDL Cholesterol: Low HDL cholesterol doesn’t have direct symptoms, but it’s associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

How is Metabolic Syndrome Diagnosed?

The specific criteria for diagnosing metabolic syndrome may vary slightly depending on different medical organizations but commonly include: [9]

  1. Abdominal obesity: Typically measured by waist circumference, with specific thresholds for men and women.  A standard threshold is a waist circumference greater than 40 inches (102 cm) for men and 35 inches (88 cm) for women.
  2. Elevated blood pressure: Blood pressure consistently higher than 130/80 mm Hg.
  3. Elevated fasting blood sugar: Fasting blood glucose levels above 100 mg/dL.
  4. High triglyceride levels: Triglycerides exceeding 150 mg/dL.
  5. Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: HDL cholesterol levels below 40 mg/dL for men and below 50 mg/dL for women are considered low.

Tests for these include a basic metabolic panel, lipid panel, and fasting glucose test. Those with three or more of these imbalances are typically diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare

At The Wellness Way, we talk about the mainstream perspective on healthcare versus our perspective, as the “fireman approach” versus the “carpenter approach.”

Mainstream “fireman” doctors have two tools (treatment options) to take care of people: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out during a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish the “flames”: inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.

Wellness Way doctors are more like carpenters: They assess the body’s current state with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild using nutrients from foods and supplements. Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are some common natural therapies that support the body in healing.

While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness in supporting the healing process.

Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to Metabolic Syndrome

Mainstream medicine’s management and prevention of metabolic syndrome typically involves lifestyle changes, including regular physical activity, a balanced diet, weight management, and smoking cessation. Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe medications to help control specific risk factors, such as high blood pressure or elevated blood sugar levels.

Medications for Metabolic Syndrome

Common medications used to manage metabolic syndrome and its associated conditions include:

  • Blood pressure medications: These drugs are used to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications. Common types include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, calcium channel blockers like Amlodipine, beta-blockers like Metoprolol, etc.
  • Statins: Statin drugs are used to lower elevated cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. Common ones include atorvastatin and simvastatin.
  • Fibrates: Medications like fenofibrate are used to lower triglyceride levels and may also raise HDL cholesterol.
  • Blood sugar-lowering medications: Metformin is often prescribed to manage insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels, particularly in individuals with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

There are many, many others. Often, people with metabolic syndrome are on a few of these, plus others for related conditions. These pharmaceuticals may alleviate some discomfort by synthetically suppressing blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation, but they all have side effects. There is a better way!

What Causes Metabolic Syndrome? Traumas, Toxins, and Thoughts

At The Wellness Way, we think differently! The most common causes of metabolic syndrome, with its elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, and waistline, fit into one or more of three categories: traumas, toxins, and thoughts. There’s rarely one root cause – Usually, it’s a combination of several factors, outlined below.

Traumas (Physical Stressors)

Traumas or physical stressors can be acute (like a car accident) or chronic (like being in a physically abusive relationship). Examples of traumas that could contribute to metabolic syndrome include the following:

  • Obstructed airway causing sleep apnea [10]
  • Physical abuse
  • Concussions
  • Abdominal injuries
  • Sexual assault/rape
  • Car accidents
  • Severe illness or infection
  • Witnessing violence or a natural disaster
  • Military combat – PTSD
  • Having a baby
  • Surgery
  • A death in the family or a close friend

These physical traumas may set off a state of chronic stress within the body. The result may be blood sugar dysregulation, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.

Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)

Toxins are biochemical stressors in the body. Examples of toxins that could contribute to metabolic syndrome include:

  • Sugar: Sugar is the primary biochemical toxin that leads to metabolic syndrome. [11] Giving up sugar and switching to non-caloric alternatives is a game-changer for metabolic syndrome.
  • Trans fats: Most trans fats are created in a lab. (They only occur in nature in trace amounts). Trans fats increase some types of LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease and metabolic disorders. [12]
  • Medications: Several classes of medications are associated with high blood sugar levels and metabolic syndrome. These include blood pressure medications, antibiotics, antidepressants, birth control pills, and chemotherapy drugs. [13] Taking these drugs over time may raise your risk of developing diabetes. Statins and corticosteroids, like prednisone, may also increase your risk of metabolic syndrome. [14][15]
  • Environmental chemicals: Arsenic and dioxin are two environmental chemicals linked to metabolic syndrome. Arsenic is in drinking water, and dioxin is in foods higher up the food chain, like meat, eggs, and milk. [16]
  • Alcohol consumption – While an occasional glass of wine may be protective, frequent (excessive) alcohol consumption contributes to fatty liver and metabolic disorders. [17]
  • Food allergies – Foods can act like toxins, causing inflammation and imbalance. [18]
  • Gut dysbiosis – Intestinal dysbiosis, imbalanced gut bacteria, may also contribute to decreased glucose tolerance and the development of metabolic syndrome. [19]

Traumas and toxins are made worse by negative thought patterns and emotional stress.

Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)

Don’t underestimate the power of your thoughts. Emotional stress is just as powerful (or more powerful) than physical and biochemical stressors in triggering inflammation and imbalance. Interestingly, 10% of type 2 diabetics don’t even eat that much sugar. Their blood sugar imbalance is mainly caused by stress. Emotional stress can come from the following:

  • Relationship issues – Relationships can turn toxic, leading to chronic stress. Prolonged stress can lead to dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which can, in turn, affect inflammation and blood sugar levels. [20]
  • Financial stress – Again, stress and cortisol are linked to inflammation, hypertension, and blood sugar imbalance. [21]
  • Watching the news – The mainstream media rarely focuses on the positive. Regularly exposing yourself to bad news increases fear, worry, and overall stress.
  • Feeling overwhelmed – Stress from significant life changes, like a recent marriage, a new baby, graduation, a divorce, or even moving to a new city, can lead to high cortisol.
  • Holding a grudge/pent-up anger – Holding a grudge creates stress in the body. Chronic stress may show up as inflammation, weight gain, and hormonal imbalance.
  • Grief/feelings of loss – Grief is another form of stress that may create imbalance in the body.

The cumulative effect of these traumas, toxins, and thoughts can create inflammation and increase the risk of dis-ease anywhere in the body.

The Wellness Way Approach to Metabolic Syndrome

At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We don’t just address symptoms; we run tests to find out what’s going on behind the scenes.

Essential Tests for Assessing Your Inflammation Levels and Hormone Health

At The Wellness Way, we do thorough testing to find the unique factors contributing to poor blood sugar regulation in your body. Tests for metabolic syndrome may include the following:

Your Wellness Way practitioner will order more tests based on what he or she considers most relevant based on your health history.

Dietary Changes for Those with Metabolic Syndrome

The most important dietary change for metabolic syndrome is getting rid of sugar and lowering your overall carbohydrate intake. That means avoiding food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as the Wellness Way practitioner recommends. Here are some general dietary guidelines for those with metabolic syndrome:

  • NO SUGAR – Eliminating sugar is #1.
  • No processed foods – Get rid of processed foods like boxed cereals, chips, pasta, sodas, doughnuts, cookies, etc.
  • Consume an overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods, which supply nutrients, antioxidants, and food for a healthy gut microbiome. A Mediterranean diet is an excellent example of a healthy diet to reduce insulin resistance and promote metabolic health.
  • Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, contributing to chronic inflammation. A gluten-free diet may help lower gut inflammation, allowing the body to return to balance. [22]
  • No cow’s milk dairy products – Goat and sheep’s milk products may be better tolerated. In fact, they may even be beneficial for lowering inflammation in the gut, which makes up a large part of the immune response. [23]
  • Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory. [24] Instead, use fruit oils like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and palm oil or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat.
  • Follow a Personalized Nutrition Program based on your food allergy test results.
  • Add specific nutrient-dense foods: Add Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for enhanced nutrition. Liver is nature’s multivitamin, according to The Wellness Way founder, Dr. Patrick Flynn.
  • Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, and other botanicals high in polyphenols supports the gut and keeps inflammation under control. [25][26] A 2022 review study confirmed that polyphenols could greatly improve all aspects of metabolic syndrome. [27]
  • Eat omega-3-rich foods – Wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3s and help lower inflammation. [28A 2023 study showed omega-3 fatty acids support the mitochondria and alleviate many symptoms of metabolic syndrome. [29]

A commitment to healthy eating can help reduce inflammation, but supplements can further support gut healing and blood sugar balance.

Supplements For Those with Metabolic Syndrome

A healthy lifestyle can help keep blood sugar more balanced, but sometimes, you need extra support. Including natural remedies like herbs and supplements can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood pressure. Here are some supplements that may be helpful for metabolic syndrome:

  • Gymnema – Gymnema sylvestre, an herb used in the traditional medicine of India, is known for its blood sugar-lowering effects. In a randomized controlled study, Gymnema improved markers of metabolic syndrome and increased insulin sensitivity. [30]
  • Oregon Grape – Oregon grape is an excellent source of berberine, a compound known for its positive effects on metabolism and the cardiovascular system. In clinical trials, berberine promotes a healthy cholesterol balance and improves insulin sensitivity. [31]
  • Japanese Knotweed or Resveratrol – Japanese knotweed is the best source of the antioxidant compound resveratrol. In a randomized controlled trial in metabolic syndrome patients, resveratrol decreased body weight and waist circumference, improved body mass index (BMI), and improved insulin secretion. [32]
  • Turmeric – Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric known for its anti-inflammatory properties. In a randomized controlled trial of 240 prediabetics, curcumin lowered their risk of progression to type 2 diabetes. The curcumin improved insulin sensitivity and pancreatic function. [33]
  • Boswellia – Frankincense (Boswellia species) may also support those with metabolic syndrome in several ways. A review study found Boswellia species could lower insulin resistance while reducing blood pressure, blood glucose, and overall inflammation. [34]
  • Nettle – Nettle is an excellent source of quercetin, a plant flavonoid known to lower blood pressure. [35] A 2021 review study found quercetin could lower blood pressure, reduce blood sugar, reduce insulin resistance, and more. Researchers believed quercetin had great potential for addressing metabolic syndrome. [36]
  • Green Tea Extract– A 2021 review study concluded that green tea catechins may reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome by reducing inflammation and providing antioxidant support. [37]
  • Blood Sugar Glandular – The Wellness Way Blood Sugar Glandular provides pancreas, kidney, and liver from pasture-raised animals from New Zealand. These glandulars may support their respective organs in the body, leading to improved metabolic symptoms.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in insulin sensitivity. Many people with metabolic syndrome also have low magnesium levels. A randomized controlled trial published in 2018 found magnesium supplementation improved metabolic syndrome by reducing blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides. [38]
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D deficiency is associated with metabolic syndrome. Supplementation may help. [39]
  • Fish Oil – Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements are associated with improved lipid profiles, including lower triglycerides. They may also have anti-inflammatory effects and lower blood pressure. [40]

Each person is different – herbal remedies that work for one individual may not work for another. Part of that is due to body chemistry, including genetics and allergenic responses, and part is due to differences in metabolic syndrome’s many contributing factors.

Learn more about Metabolic Syndrome by reading The Wellness Way Approach to Metabolic Syndrome.

Lifestyle Changes & Complementary Therapies for Metabolic Syndrome

These lifestyle changes and therapies help lower inflammation and balance blood sugar levels. They may also help reduce insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome:

  • Weight loss – Losing weight can lead to an improvement in metabolic syndrome. Losing just 6.5% of body weight led to substantial improvements in markers of metabolic syndrome in a 2002 study. [41]
  • Regular chiropractic care – If your posture is poor and your nervous system is affected, it can create stress and inflammation, affecting blood sugar regulation and cholesterol balance. Get adjusted regularly!
  • Physical Activity – Getting moderate physical activity is also important for overcoming metabolic syndrome. Exercising about 30 minutes a day, five days a week, may be effective in reducing metabolic syndrome markers. [42]

Be a well-informed patient! Here are some resources for learning more about inflammation and metabolic syndrome.

Educational Resources for Metabolic Syndrome

Books to Support Those with Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome Book
The Non-Inflammatory Diet
Cholesterol: Medicine’s Biggest Scapegoat

Videos & Webinars for Metabolic Syndrome

Insulin | The Wellness Way Lab Series
Sugar Part 1 | A Different Perspective | Episode 128
Sugar Part 2 | A Different Perspective | Episode 129
Sugar Part 3 | A Different Perspective | Episode 130
Weight Loss | A Different Perspective | Episode 110
Leaky Gut | A Different Perspective | Episode 117

Articles to Support Those with Metabolic Syndrome

Diabetes: What You Need to Know
More Adolescents with Prediabetes + Future Insulin Shortages = Time for Different Approach

CONNECT WITH US

We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Please set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. To learn how best to overcome metabolic syndrome and other chronic complaints, contact a Wellness Way clinic today.

References

  1. Metabolic Syndrome – What Is Metabolic Syndrome? | NHLBI, NIH
  2. Association between endometriosis and metabolic syndrome: a cross-sectional study based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data – PubMed (nih.gov)
  3. Metabolic syndrome and risk of cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis – PubMed (nih.gov)
  4. The shared biomarkers and pathways of systemic lupus erythematosus and metabolic syndrome analyzed by bioinformatics combining machine learning algorithm and single-cell sequencing analysis – PubMed (nih.gov)
  5. Diabetes and shoulder disorders – PMC (nih.gov)
  6. Metabolic Syndrome and Its Effects on Cartilage Degeneration vs Regeneration: A Pilot Study Using Osteoarthritis Biomarkers – PMC (nih.gov)
  7. Impact of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome on Immunity – PubMed (nih.gov)
  8. Metabolic Syndrome: What It Is, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)
  9. Metabolic Syndrome | Johns Hopkins Medicine
  10. Metabolic dysfunction in OSA: Is there something new under the sun? – Almendros – 2022 – Journal of Sleep Research – Wiley Online Library
  11. Microbiota imbalance induced by dietary sugar disrupts immune-mediated protection from metabolic syndrome – PubMed (nih.gov)
  12. Trans fatty acids: effects on metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes – PubMed (nih.gov)
  13. Drug-Induced Hyperglycaemia and Diabetes – PubMed (nih.gov)
  14. Statins and their increased risk of inducing diabetes – PubMed (nih.gov)
  15. Steroid-induced diabetes: a clinical and molecular approach to understanding and treatment – PubMed (nih.gov)
  16. Toxins and Diabetes Mellitus: An Environmental Connection? | Diabetes Spectrum | American Diabetes Association (diabetesjournals.org)
  17. The metabolic syndrome in patients with alcohol dependency: Current research and clinical implications – ScienceDirect
  18. Food Allergies: The Basics – PMC (nih.gov)
  19. Gut Microbiota and Complications of Type-2 Diabetes – PubMed (nih.gov)
  20. Chronic Stress and Diabetes Mellitus: Interwoven Pathologies – PubMed (nih.gov)
  21. Metabolic health disparities driven by financial stress: Behavioural adaptation or modification? – PubMed (nih.gov)
  22. Extra-intestinal manifestations of non-celiac gluten sensitivity: An expanding paradigm – PubMed (nih.gov)
  23. Reviewing the Benefits of Grazing/Browsing Semiarid Rangeland Feed Resources and the Transference of Bioactivity and Pro-Healthy Properties to Goat Milk and Cheese: Obesity, Insulin Resistance, Inflammation and Hepatic Steatosis Prevention – PubMed (nih.gov)
  24. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids – PubMed (nih.gov)
  25. The Immunomodulatory and Anti-Inflammatory Role of Polyphenols – PubMed (nih.gov)
  26. The effects of polyphenols and other bioactives on human health – PubMed (nih.gov)
  27. Natural polyphenols: a potential prevention and treatment strategy for metabolic syndrome – PubMed (nih.gov)
  28. Omega-3 Fatty Acids And Inflammation – You Are What You Eat! – PubMed (nih.gov)
  29. The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Insulin Resistance – PMC (nih.gov)
  30. Effect of Gymnema sylvestre Administration on Glycemic Control, Insulin Secretion, and Insulin Sensitivity in Patients with Impaired Glucose Tolerance – PubMed (nih.gov)
  31. Berberine and Its Role in Chronic Disease – PubMed (nih.gov)
  32. Effect of resveratrol administration on metabolic syndrome, insulin sensitivity, and insulin secretion – PubMed (nih.gov)
  33. Curcumin Extract for Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes | Diabetes Care | American Diabetes Association (diabetesjournals.org)
  34. Effect of Boswellia species on the metabolic syndrome: A review – PubMed (nih.gov)
  35. A review of the effects of Urtica dioica (nettle) in metabolic syndrome – PubMed (nih.gov)
  36. Quercetin and metabolic syndrome: A review – PubMed (nih.gov)
  37. Green tea and metabolic syndrome: A 10-year research update review – PubMed (nih.gov)
  38. Oral Magnesium Supplementation and Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial – PubMed (nih.gov)
  39. Role of Vitamin D in the Metabolic Syndrome – PubMed (nih.gov)
  40. Role of omega-3 fatty acids in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular diseases: a review of the evidence – PubMed (nih.gov)
  41. Impact of weight loss on the metabolic syndrome – PubMed (nih.gov)
  42. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin – PubMed (nih.gov)

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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