Metabolic syndrome is defined as being diagnosed with three of more of the following five biomarkers, including increased waist circumference/fat accumulation around the midsection; elevated triglyceride levels; reduced high density lipoprotein (HDL)/“good” cholesterol; elevated blood pressure; and elevated fasting blood glucose.
When combined, these biomarkers indicate the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, and can increase an individual’s risk for a cardiac event such as heart attack or stroke. It also can pose an increased risk of developing diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease. Needless to say, metabolic syndrome is a serious medical condition that requires attention.
Lifestyle factors play a huge role in both preventing the development and managing metabolic syndrome. Quitting smoking and minimizing alcohol consumption are vital. Additionally, maintaining an active lifestyle, including both daily movement and regular intentional exercise is important, as it helps improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and improves body fat composition. Physical activity also doubles as stress management, another important component of a healthy lifestyle.
Nutrition can play a foundational role in supporting balance within the body, preventing the development of metabolic syndrome, and helping manage symptoms. The diet should be centred around local, seasonal vegetables and fruits, and include ample amounts of high quality protein sources from ethically raised, grass fed and pastured meat, poultry, and eggs, as well as wild seafood. Healthy fats should be included, with extra attention paid to omega 3 fatty acids found in seafood, grass fed dairy and meats, and organic seeds, as well as plant based oils including avocado and olive. Soaked, sprouted, and fermented grains and legumes can also be included to provide extra fibre and variety to the diet. These primary foods of focus ensure optimal nutrient density in the diet, reduce inflammation, help maintain healthy blood glucose levels, improve the ratio of LDL (“bad”) to HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and help manage weight by increasing satiation.
Eliminate inflammatory foods, which contribute to the development and progression of metabolic syndrome biomarkers. Inflammatory foods include refined sugar, highly processed grains and carbohydrates, gluten, soy, corn, and highly refined oils such as canola, sunflower, soybean, and “vegetable” oil. Alcohol and caffeine consumption should be minimized whenever possible.
Other considerations include supplements to help restore balance within the body.
This preventative approach helps prevent progression of metabolic syndrome, and may protect you from a cardiovascular event.
While pharmaceutical medications can be beneficial (and sometimes life saving), certain prescriptions can lead to a cascade of interventions that could otherwise be avoided using a more holistic approach. Under the guidance of a trusted medical professional, diet and lifestyle changes in combination with herbal medicine can be effective at preventing or managing metabolic syndrome, and improving whole body health.
Kayla MacDonald, R.H.N.
Originally published in 50+ Living in the Comox Valley Record for Edible Island Whole Foods Market