The coming together of high triglyceride levels, low “good” or HDL cholesterol, high “bad” LDL cholesterol, and insulin resistance can be part of a common health problem called syndrome X (or metabolic syndrome). This is an umbrella term for having several health problems within a particular cluster that includes high blood pressure and obesity, especially fat around the abdomen.
One problem that is always a symptom of syndrome X is insulin resistance, a metabolic disorder. Insulin resistance happens when the cells begin to resist this hormone, insulin, that transports blood sugar throughout the body for its use. Eventually the body tries to compensate for the cell’s inability to use insulin by overproducing it. The excess insulin, however, is not helpful and ends up as a contributor toward obesity, high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
Elevated triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels are common symptom of syndrome X. Statin medications, which are powerful drugs with frequent side effects, are often prescribed for these problems. Patients should at least consider the possibility of insulin resistance and syndrome X before starting on statin medication. Among the root causes of syndrome X, only one—family history—is something people can’t change.
The other factors are unhealthy diet, chronic stress, nutritional deficiencies (especially chromium, B vitamins, zinc and vanadium), obesity and lack of exercise. A determined patient can correct every single one of those and there is a good chance he/she can improve cholesterol levels as well. I will work with you to create the right plan, including proper supplement levels and the proper combination of supplements.
THE SYNDROME X PLAN
You must eat breakfast, which will immediately help prevent blood sugar swings, and be on a diet designed specifically to correct insulin resistance.
For those who have a difficult time eating breakfast protein drinks are a great alternative. You need to make sure you are using a low sugar protein drink, however. Protein helps to even out blood sugar levels and increase metabolism, and may be highly beneficial for those with diabetes. I recommend adding fruit to make the breakfast drink more palatable and to add fiber. A banana will add consistency, as will frozen berries or cherries. Add a tablespoon of flax seed for heart protecting soluble fiber and short chain omega-3 fatty acids. I believe the best protein powders are those that include concentrated green food. I use Garden of Life “Perfect Foods,” or Nutriwest Total Green protein powder.
The diet also includes…
- High fiber to help balance blood sugar — vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains, including heart-protecting soluble fiber found in oat bran, beans, nuts, seeds and apples. For example, have one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds at each meal (or close to one quarter cup daily), and drink at least 10 ounces of water per tablespoon of flaxseeds. Aim for a daily fiber total of 35 g to 50 g.
- Protein with each meal and at most snacks — consume protein in the form of legumes, nuts, seeds and peas and lean animal protein including skinless turkey, skinless chicken and fish.
- Quality fats — fish (including salmon), nuts and seeds. Use olive, coconut, and flax seed oils for salads and other oil needs.
- Plenty of chromium — a chromium deficiency contributes to blood sugar problems. You can find chromium in brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, whole grains, cheese and garlic.
- Do not go longer than three hours without eating! This will help stabilize blood sugar levels. Focus on foods with a low glycemic index.
Foods to avoid include the following, all of which spike blood sugar levels…
- Simple sugars — such as candy, cookies and soda.
- White refined bread.
- Alcohol and caffeine (in some people, they also spike blood sugar).
- Artificial sweeteners. Choose healthier sweeteners such as stevia, agave nectar or xylitol in moderation.
- Reduce the amount of saturated fat as found in red meat and dairy products and eliminate trans fats completely from your diet.
In addition, the following supplements help to balance blood sugar and insulin: Cinnamon extract (500 mg), chromium (500 mcg), vanadium (50 mcg), alpha lipoic acid (300 mg), l-carnosine (500 mg) and red yeast rice (1,200 mg twice a day) to help bring down cholesterol. To lower cholesterol I use a synergistic Nutriwest product called Total Lipotrophic that includes some of these, and other products. Total Lipotrophic is extremely effective at quickly reducing high cholesterol levels.
There is no reason to think you will ever need statin drugs with a program such as described above. The healthy base you establish will help prevent insulin resistance and eventual diabetes, likely high blood pressure as well. The changes in laboratory values will likely be better than what one could expect from statin or other medications.