Metabolic Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Have you heard of metabolic syndrome?

The rates of this disorder are continuing to skyrocket in America.

Currently, 47 million Americans have metabolic syndrome. That’s one out of every six people!

The term “metabolic” refers to all the biochemical processes that occur in our cells that allow us to eat, breathe, exercise and do our daily activities.

When metabolic syndrome occurs, this means that body’s reactions have begun to malfunction. These malfunctions can put one at risk for many of the most common chronic diseases today.

While this is a serious condition, the good news is that it can be prevented and reversed with proper diet and lifestyle modifications.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome  (Met S) is also sometimes called dysmetabolic syndrome syndrome X, metabolic disease or insulin resistance syndrome. What is metabolic syndrome exactly? It’s actually the term for a cluster of conditions, including abdominal obesity, high triglyceride levels, high fasting blood sugar levels, high blood pressure or low HDL cholesterol. When a person has three or more of these metabolic risk factors occurring together, then he or she is diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk for the development of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Having one of any of these risk factors increases one’s risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Having three or more of these risk factors is classified as Met S.

Most people who have type 2 diabetes also have Met S.

What Are the 5 Clinical Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome?

  • Increased blood pressure
    Greater than 130/ 85 mmHg or on blood pressure medication
  • Low HDL, or “good cholesterol” levels
    Less than 50 mg/dL for females or less than 40 mg/dL for males
  • High triglyceride levels
    Greater than 150 mg/dL or greater
  • Insulin resistance
    High blood sugar greater than 100 mg/dL
  • Excess abdominal fat
    Waist circumference greater than 40 inches for males and 35 inches for females

Interestingly, with Met S, most of the symptoms can go undetected and are considered “silent” risk factors.

One of the most visible signs of Met S is increased adiposity around the waist as opposed to the hips or thighs.

Where the fat is located on the body can greatly predict health and disease risk.

The fat that’s stored around the abdomen is referred to as “central obesity”. This visceral fat is a much greater risk factor because the fat is stored around a number of internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines.

What are the two most important risk factors for developing Met S?

  • Upper abdominal adiposity
  • Insulin resistance

What are other risk factors?

  • Increasing age
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • CVD
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

How is it diagnosed?

  • Check blood pressure levels
  • Test cholesterol levels
  • Test triglyceride levels
  • Test fasting glucose levels
  • Measure waist circumference

Abnormalities with three or more of the above tests can result in a diagnosis of Met S.

What Can I Do?

  • Get your testosterone levels checked. If you're 30 to 40 years old, get your T levels checked and establish a baseline against which you can compare future blood tests. Symptoms of low testosterone, include, but are not limited to, a decrease in energy, loss of muscle, increased fatness, a waning sex drive, and/or impaired sexual performance.
  • Heal leaky gut. Research has identified distinctly different microbial populations in the guts of lean versus obese people. Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, has been associated with obesity, heart disease and insulin resistance (in other words Met S).
  • Lose weight. Select sensible portion sizes. Drink water instead of high kcal beverages. Limit daily calorie intake. Be aware that to lose weight 1 pound of stored body fat it is equal to a 3,500-calorie deficit.
  • Exercise regularly. Limit sedentary activities. Sitting is the new smoking. Resistance activities help to build lean muscle mass. People with high lean tissue have higher basal metabolic rates, which means they burn more calories.
  • Eat the right foods. Limit consumption of empty calorie foods and opt for nutrient dense foods instead. Avoid processed foods. Avoid sugary beverages and artificial sweeteners that disrupt metabolic processes. Limit excess alcohol intake as it is very high in calories and will be stored as fat in the body. Avoid gluten and soy as these are known irritants to the gut lining and can contribute to leaky gut.
  • Get enough sleep. Research has shown that getting less than 6 hours per night of sleep is associated with increased intake of food and a preference for high calorie, unhealthy foods. At least 7-8 hours is best. Go to sleep with the sun down and awake with the sunrise like our ancestors.
  • Enjoy the sunshine. Sunshine should be treated as a supplement to your healthy routines. When the sun hits your skin it converts the cholesterol in it to vitamin D. This is the body’s way of normalizing its cholesterol levels. It also increases immunity and decreases inflammation.
  • See a chiropractor. Chiropractic can help to align the body and restore its natural nervous system functioning. Chiropractic can help with hypertension and it is one of the best tools for protecting your heart.
  • Eliminate toxin exposures.
    Toxins in the environment or your household cleaners disrupt the body’s metabolism and cause toxins to build up in the body. They are also associated with breaking down the gut lining and leading to leaky gut. You’ve got to choose non-toxic products for health.

Foods that Make Metabolic Syndrome Worse

  • Fake and Processed Foods. Avoid fake and processed foods as much as possible. These frozen, bagged and boxed items are typically devoid of nutrients and loaded with unhealthy additives and preservatives that do nothing good for your health. In fact, a 2015 study found that fast food consumption, some of the most unhealthy processed food on the planet, increases the incidence of metabolic syndrome in both children and adults. In addition, researchers in Brazil found that high consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with metabolic syndrome in adolescents.
  • Artificial Sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners like Splenda have been directly linked with the occurrence of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Accumulating evidence suggests that frequent consumers of sugar substitutes containing aspartame, sucralose and saccharin may also be at an increased risk of excessive weight gain as well as development of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • Diet Sodas. Since diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners as well as other unhealthy ingredients, you don’t want to touch these lethal soft drinks. Studies show that the consumption of diet soda is associated with significantly greater risks of select incident metabolic syndrome components and type 2 diabetes. According to one 2009 study, daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 36 percent greater risk of metabolic syndrome and a 67 percent greater risk of having type 2 diabetes!
  • Trans Fats (Trans Fatty Acids). Trans fats are found in foods made with hydrogenated oils and fats, such as margarine; baked goods like cookies, cakes and pies; crackers; frostings; and coffee creamers. They raise LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which is bad news for your waistline, heart health and metabolic disorders.
  • Refined Carbohydrates and Sugar. Consumption of these two are major culprits when it comes to high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and the development of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Sugar, especially when used to sweeten beverages, is a major culprit, as are refined carbs. A recent study conducted in Korea, where metabolic syndrome incidence is high, looked at the effects of refined carbohydrates on this metabolic disorder. What the researchers found was that “the percentage of energy from carbohydrates in men and intake of refined grains, including white rice, in women were associated with metabolic syndrome.”
  • Alcohol. Limit alcohol intake is key to metabolic syndrome and good health in general. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Alcohol also adds extra calories to your diet, which can cause weight gain. However, limited consumption of alcohol can actually be good for you, as a meta-analysis published in Clinical Nutrition found that while heavy alcohol consumption indeed increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, “very light alcohol consumption seemed to be associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.”

Men should have no more than two drinks containing alcohol a day, while women should have no more than one drink containing alcohol a day. One drink is:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor

Foods that Heal

When it comes to metabolic syndrome and encouraging good health in general, you want to focus on consuming whole, real, high-quality food and drinks. Some of the top foods to heal and prevent metabolic syndrome include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon. Wild-caught, fatty fish like salmon are rich in omega 3 fatty acids to lower inflammation and boost levels of HDL.
  • Avocados. These are rich in monounsaturated fats to increase HDL and lower inflammation. These can also help to lower blood pressure due to the unique compounds they contain. They are also anti-obesity. Avocados are cardioprotective and can protect against Met S.
  • Artichokes. These are really great at boost HDL levels. They are also rich in soluble fiber, which acts as a prebiotic to fuel good microbes in gut and aid in healing leaky gut.
  • Dark, leafy greens. Greens like kale, spinach or arugula are rich in antioxidants that can fight inflammation and oxidative stress. These are also high in natural nitrates, which can boost nitric oxide in body, lower blood pressure and lower inflammation.
  • Beets and beetroot greens. These contain relatively high levels of natural nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body, and can significantly reduce blood pressure and inflammation. They also have betaine in them, which is an amino acid that can lower homocysteine levels, which reduces risk for plaque formation.
  • Citrus fruits. Citrus fruits are cardioprotective. They have compounds in them that can lower blood pressure and increase HDL, both of which are heart protective. They can also lower triglycerides and systemic inflammation, which further protects against Met S.
  • Grass fed organ meats. Grass fed organ meats like liver contains high levels the vitamin B3 or Niacin. Niacin significantly raises HDL levels. Also, these are a complete protein that can increase satiety and aid in waist loss.
  • Eggs. Eggs contain a good level of ApoA, the good type of HDL cholesterol. They are also a complete protein, which can increase satiety and assist with weight loss. Overall, eggs are rich in nutrients and can aid in normalizing cholesterol levels and decreasing inflammation.
  • Soluble fiber foods. These foods are great for weight loss. Fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer and has prebiotics, which help to heal the gut. Additionally, it can slow the passage of foods through the digestive tract and lower the glycemic response of foods, which helps with insulin resistance.
  • Fermented foods. These are rich in beneficial bacteria and B vitamins to heal the gut and lower inflammation. The gut microbiome regulates metabolic processes. Eat these to help your metabolism. These foods, through their effects on the gut, also play a role in improving cholesterol, blood pressure, weight and glycemic response.
  • Chamomile tea. Chamomile tea is heart-healthy. It has a compound called apigenin, which significantly boosts HDL levels and is heart-healthy. Also, this compound significantly lowers inflammation.

Above all, follow the guidance of our ancestors and enjoy a Paleo diet, which is built upon vegetables, healthy fats, quality meat and fresh fruits.

Final Thoughts on Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is becoming more and more prevalent due to a rise in obesity rates among children and adults. In the not so distant future, metabolic syndrome may even overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.

Thankfully, there is realistic hope for naturally preventing metabolic disorders in the body. You can prevent or delay metabolic syndrome mainly with something that is very much in your control — lifestyle changes. A daily and long-term effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle is no doubt your surest and best bet to avoid metabolic syndrome and all the complications that can arise from this multidimensional health struggle! So keep the following in mind:

  • Metabolic syndrome is a metabolic disorder that involves not one, but a combination of three or more of the following health issues: abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure or low HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
  • On a metabolic syndrome diet treatment plan, you should avoid fake and processed foods, artificial sweeteners, diet sodas, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and sugar, and alcohol. Foods to eat include fish and omega-3 foods, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. In addition, the following supplements are beneficial for metabolic health: ginseng, berberine, bitter melon, holy basil, spirulina and maca root.
  • Other natural remedies include essential oils, burst training, losing weight and not smoking.
  • About 85 percent of people who have type 2 diabetes also have metabolic syndrome.
  • Symptoms and risk factors for metabolic disease include large waist circumference, high fasting blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol.
  • The two main causes of metabolic syndrome are being overweight or obese and a lack of physical activity.

Stay Strong,

Brett Place

References for this article include: