STOP METABOLIC SYNDROME BEFORE IT STARTS
Metabolic syndrome is killing America. This group of risk factors - which includes a large waistline or "apple shape," a high triglyceride level, a low HDL "good" cholesterol level, high blood pressure and high fasting blood sugar - can raise your risk of stroke, double your risk of heart disease and multiply your risk of diabetes by five. You must exhibit at least three of these risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. Although the risk of developing metabolic syndrome is closely linked to obesity, a lack of physical activity at any body size, as well as insulin resistance, genetics and aging may also increase your risk for metabolic syndrome. As a general rule, everyone should pay attention to metabolic health. Luckily, committing to a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent metabolic syndrome and its related disease states.
Here are FIVE areas to be mindful of:
1. Maintain a balanced diet of whole foods. Limit unhealthy foods. Instead, reach for fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. Always make the better choice. That's all you have to do. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet are centered on real, whole foods and provide excellent guidelines for eating for your health, metabolic and otherwise.
2. Get up and move! Moderate exercise - such as taking a brisk walk - for 30 minutes each day will drastically improve your body's defenses against developing metabolic syndrome and a host of other ailments.
3. Reduce your sugar intake. Honey was the primary sweetener until the Middle Ages when sugar was introduced. Still, due to primitive production techniques, both sweeteners were primarily reserved for the well-to-do. In fact, up until the last few hundred years, the majority of people, especially the poor, had no sweeteners at all in their normal diet, so obesity was seen primarily among the wealthy. Observational data and international research suggest a strong link between sugar-laden diets and metabolic syndrome, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. One of the easiest ways to reduce your sugar intake is to ditch soft-drinks and other sugary drinks, including processed juices. You can also cut out candy and cut back on how often you enjoy a sugary dessert. Missing the sweet in your life? Enjoy a piece of fruit, or opt for a small amount of raw honey as a sweetener. Another suggestion? Substitute Stevia for sugar as your daily sweetener, it does not increase blood glucose levels.
4. Keep stress to a minimum. Research now shows that chronic high stress levels can significantly increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and obesity. In fact, it is reported that three-quarters of American health care spending goes toward treating such chronic conditions. To help cut back on your stress, consider setting boundaries for yourself, learn to say "no" without feeling guilty, meditate, give yoga a try or set aside time everyday to read a good book. Whatever it is that calms your nerves and allows you to recharge, do that! Get out of your head and into your heart. Stress of any sort is the underlying cause of dis-ease. Managing your stress is the most important thing you can do for your overall health and well-being.
5. Maintain a healthy weight for your body. If you are overweight or obese, implementing and sticking with the lifestyle changes listed above will naturally help you shed pounds. Losing weight can help reduce insulin resistance, blood pressure and your risk of diabetes. Find a body composition scale in your area to get a better idea of what your body's ideal weight is.
No matter your size, shape or current state of health, it is a good idea to consult your Naturopathic Doctor to determine if you are at risk for, or living with, metabolic syndrome. For more information, visit the resources below.
What is Metabolic Syndrome? National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Blood Sugar Basics. BloodSugarBasics.com
Metabolic syndrome. Mayo Clinic.
Stressful Life Events and the Metabolic Syndrome: The Prevalence, Prediction and Prevention of Diabetes (PPP)-Botnia Study. American Diabetes Association.
Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Huffington, Arianna. 2014. New York, NY: Harmony Books. Thrive.
If you're already living with diabetes or metabolic syndrome, you should avoid carbohydrate-rich foods. However, whole grains can substantially lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. 100% whole grains retain the bran and germ, which hold the majority of nutrients. These nutrient compounds - which include vitamin B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron and fiber - are referred to as complex carbohydrates. They take longer for the body to break down, allowing for higher nutrient absorption and slower delivery of sugar into the body. Processing strips the bran and germ from the grain and later adds synthetic imposters at a fraction of the original nutritional content. These processed grains are simple carbohydrates, which break down more quickly in the body and can negatively impact a variety of body processes. Recent research clearly links refined grains with weight gain, as well as a heightened risk of developing insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Whole grains are rich in magnesium and phytochemicals, and may help improve insulin sensitivity, as well as protect against the development of chronic degenerative diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and varicose veins; and diseases of the colon. Only a handful of whole grains, from a pool of thousands, play a significant role in the human diet. Although corn, oats, white rice and wheat are the most prevalent whole grains, they are not the most preferred. Mix up your diet with these additional options:
Barley flakes, hulled, or pearl
Steel-cut Oats (best type of oats)
Rice - brown basmati, brown long-grain, brown quick, brown short-grain
Rice - wild (most preferred of the rice)
Whole Wheat. The World's Healthiest Foods.
Murray, N.D., Michael, Pizzorno, N.D., Joseph and Pizzorno, Lara. 2005. New York, NY: Atria Books. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods.
YUMMY 5-SEED CRACKERS WITH HUMMUS
Snacking is not only acceptable but beneficial, especially with these 5-seed crackers and hummus. This easy snack will help you stay on track with healthy eating while curbing the mid-day munchies.
1 cup sunflower seeds, soaked for 4 hours
1 cup pumpkin seeds, soaked for 4 hours
1 cup flax seeds, soaked for 4 hours
1 cup chia seeds, soaked for 4 hours
1 cup sesame seeds, soaked for 4 hours
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ginger minced
2 zucchini spiralized and chopped
6 carrots shredded
½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 red pepper, diced
2 tbsp organic pizza seasoning
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp Bragg's Amino Acids
2 tbsp Tamari Sauce
Rinse the seed in a strainer and remove excess water, place in a big bowl and add remaining ingredients, combine well.
Place the screens on your dehydrator trays and scoop one tablespoon of the mix on the tray. With the back of your fork, flatten it to the shape you want. Dehydrate for about 10 hours or until dry and crispy.
1½ cup chickpeas, soaked in water for 8-9 hours and then cooked until soft
½ cup olive oil... add more if required
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp red chili powder or cayenne pepper
½ tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp cumin powder/jeera powder
½ cup roasted and powdered white sesame seeds or ½ cup tahini
a few sprigs of parsley or coriander/cilantro
salt as required
Roast the sesame seeds and then finely powder them. Puree the cooked chickpeas, all the spices, parsley, salt and garlic in a blender. Add the powdered sesame seeds, lemon juice and olive oil. Blend to a smooth paste.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR HEALTHY BLOOD SUGAR
The blood sugar balance is a delicate endeavor. Both high and low blood sugar levels can result in potentially fatal reactions in the body. If you are having trouble maintaining a healthy blood sugar level, there are a number of supplements available that can help stabilize and even lower blood sugar. Chromium (from chromium picolinate), Alpha Lipoic Acid, Vanadium and Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia), are just a few.
Chromium is an essential mineral that may enhance the body's sensitivity to insulin, the hormone which helps move glucose from the blood into the body's cells for use as energy. Some studies suggest that chromium supplements may reduce blood glucose levels and the amount of insulin needed in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Chromium may also help with weight loss and muscle building. It is commercially available in several forms and included in many multivitamins.
Alpha-lipoic acid - sometimes referred to simply as lipoic acid - is an antioxidant that is made by the body and found in cells, where it helps turn glucose into energy. Its ability to kill free radicals may help people with symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy. Alpha-lipoic acid passes easily into the brain and may offer protection for the brain and nerve tissue.
Vanadium is an essential trace mineral found in soil and in many foods. Research suggests that vanadium may lower blood glucose, reducing the need for insulin in people with diabetes. Vanadyl sulfate is a form of Vanadium often used for such purposes.
Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia), is a member of the same family as squash, watermelon, cantaloupes and cucumber. This plant contains polypeptide-P, a substance which has been shown to lower blood glucose in people with diabetes. In addition, it contains a compound called charantin which increases glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis in the cells of the liver, muscle and adipose tissue. It is believed that these two compounds along with all the other phyto-nutrients (ß-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, vitamin C, folate, vitamin A, fiber and minerals) contained in Bitter Melon, make it an exellent addition to the diet for anyone at risk of or diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance or diabetes.
Stabilizing and lowering blood sugar is tricky business. The process is highly individualized and supplements may negatively react with other supplements and medications, making this a very important thing for you to discuss with your Naturopathic Doctor before beginning or changing a therapy that can affect your blood sugar levels.
Alpha Lipoic-Acid. University of Maryland Medical Center.
Chromium. University of Maryland Medical Center.
Diabetes. University of Maryland Medical Center.
Bitter Melon. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
GYMNEMA (Gymnema sylvestre)
Used in many fields of medicine, Gymnema is native to parts of India as well as tropical Africa and Australia. Natural healing modalities often employ the plant as a tea, for its potent anti-diabetic properties. Now, initial modern research suggests that Gymnema may also be useful in preventing and treating obesity. The plant's active compound - a group of "gymnemic acids" - work to help curb diabetes by blocking sugar from accumulating in the body. Similarly, they help fight obesity by delaying glucose absorption, and blocking the binding of carbohydrates in the intestine. Essentially, this means that gymnemic acids may be helpful in warding off so-called "empty calories." Additionally, gymnemic acids prevent the activation of sugar molecules by the tongue, curbing sugar cravings. Finally, they prevent the absorption of sugar molecules by the intestine, which can help to lower blood sugar levels. Research has shown that Gymnema leaf extract can impact diabetes by stimulating the pancreas to increase the release of insulin. More study is needed, but current hypotheses suggest that Gymnema may prove useful in both adult onset and juvenile diabetes mellitus. Gymnema leaves have also been noted for lowering serum cholesterol and triglycerides. When considering Gymnema treatments for any ailment, it is important to consult your Naturopathic Doctor first.
Photo credit. "Gymnema sylvestre" by Vinayaraj - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Gymnema sylvestre: A Memoir. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
J Clin Biochem Nutr. Sep 2007; 41(2): 77-81. Published online Aug 29, 2007. DOI: 10.3164/jcbn.2007010
WALKING FOR HEALTH
Walking is one of the things that distinguishes man from all other animals, and some 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates even referred to walking as man's best medicine. Modern research has shown that walking, which is considered moderate exercise, is highly beneficial for overall health and carries less risk of injury than intense aerobic exercises such as running. In fact, research shows that walking may reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by some 31% in both men and women. Such protection has been shown at distances of just 5½ miles per week and at a pace as casual as about 2 miles per hour. Of course, walking longer distances, walking at a faster pace, or both will enhance cardiac protection. Studies have also shown that walking can lower the risk of cardiac diseases, heart attack, stroke and even death, in both men and women. Better still, for people already suffering from heart disease, research has shown that walking for 30 minutes, three times a week, can help reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 26%. And walking is multi-purpose! It helps improve cholesterol, blood pressure, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress, in addition to helping protect against dementia, depression, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer and even erectile dysfunction.
Walking is one exercise that is easier to integrate into your daily lifestyle than you may think. You can walk to work and to the store, or any other nearby destination. If your destination is more than a couple of miles away, give public transportation a try and sneak your exercise in by walking to the train or bus stop, then get off the bus or subway a few stops before your destination. If you must drive, park farther away than you normally would and walk to your destination. You can also break up your day and benefit your health with a short walk at lunchtime.
When you first start walking for health, you may want to keep track of your distance. Pedometers are an easy step-tracking product that range in price based on the bells and whistles they include. In general, begin with routes that are well within your distance range and begin at a modest pace for you. As your fitness level increases, you'll be able to extend your distances and increase your speed, and even add in challenges such as hilled terrain and timed interval training. To stay motivated, walk with a friend, listen to music, podcasts or even audiobooks - anything to help you feel like you're using your time wisely, and not sacrificing one activity for another. As a rough guide, the current standards suggest able-bodied adults complete moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes, five days per week, compared to intense exercise for 20 minutes, three days per week. As with any new exercise plan, you should consult your Naturopathic Doctor before beginning.
Walking: Your Steps To Health. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School.
The information offered by this newsletter is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this newsletter.