by Dr Minkoff December 17, 2023 7 min read
There is something called Metabolic Syndrome. And while you may or may not have heard of it, about one third of the US population has it (and Australia is likely not too different considering the similarity in diet).
And almost 90% of us are somewhere on our way to it.
As metabolic health can predict current or future health conditions and longevity, it’s pretty important to understand. So let’s define it.
The word “metabolic” means having to do with our metabolism, the whole range of chemical processes that occur within our body that keep it alive and functioning.
This would include energy creation and use, cellular creation and breakdown and even our hormones.
And “syndrome” means a group of symptoms that occur together.
So Metabolic Syndrome is a group of symptoms occurring together that show a lowered functioning in the overall processes within our body that keep us alive, healthy and doing well.
Metabolic Syndrome, or just lowered metabolic health, can lead to:
Key symptoms looked for are:
As only about 12% of the population of the US are metabolically healthy as of ten years ago… it’s something that is important for us to understand so we know both what is happening, and also what to do about it.
So let’s dive in.
Our body deals in quantities.
If a little bit of toxins come in, they’re gotten rid of by our liver and kidney.
Increased toxins put more work on our liver and kidney and tax our immune system as it has to start defending and healing our body from the harm toxins do.
Too many toxins, or too much of a few, and our liver, kidneys and immune system become overloaded and start functioning less, either slowly over time or quickly in the case of very poisonous toxins.
Similarly, a little sugar is dealt with easily by the body. When sugar comes in, the hormone insulin is released to shuttle it into our cells where it is mixed with oxygen to make energy.
A bit more, more than our cells can take in, and insulin directs some of the sugar to be stored for later as something called glycogen and some to be connected up with fatty acids and converted into triglycerides, body fat.
Even more sugar and the insulin starts having to work harder to get the cells to take in the sugar because they already have too much. This is called insulin resistance, where the cells resist insulin’s push to take in sugar.
In this case insulin pushes to make even more fat from the sugar. This is because insulin needs to get sugar out of the blood vessels because if sugar stays in too long it can injure the blood vessels causing other problems.
That’s toxins and sugar. The body can also receive harmful bacteria or viruses, which the immune system takes care of it.
If more come in we may get an infection, causing more work for the immune system.
And a host of microorganisms coming in cause a lot of work. Not only that, they can cause continuous work because there is so much that our immune system is never fully able to address them and they become chronic infections.
Now, those are a few different examples. But do you see that it’s all in quantities?
Our body was made to protect itself and to recover. But it can only take so much at one time. When the amount of harmful quantities entering it increases too much and the nutrients it needs to deal with them are too low, then it can get overloaded.
But now look at this. The above are individual situations, and just a few of the many that can occur.
But what happens if we’re taking in too many toxins for our liver and kidney to easily get rid of?
And at the same time we have a poor digestive system that lets in more harmful bacteria and viruses than our immune system can tackle at once?
And we’re also consuming more sugar than our cells can take in, which is then being converted to body fat both in our stomach and around our body, and also stacking up in our arteries, slowly clogging them and raising our blood pressure while also feeding the harmful bacteria and viruses and making our immune cells less effective?
(Yes, sugar makes immune cells less effective at fighting off harmful organisms. If you put immune cells under a microscope and then add sugar, the immune cells become sluggish, less active.)
Okay, so we have all of this. What then?
Well, you’d have a body that was tired often.
One that felt sore often. That had trouble sleeping. That felt stressed out.
One that could get sick more easily. That was more susceptible to chronic infections and even autoimmune conditions.
We could get skin problems.
We could have headaches, lightheadedness or feeling out of breath too easily.
We would be over weight and have a very hard time losing that weight.
And we could start to develop various body problems that could lead to much worse problems down the line.
This is metabolic syndrome.
It’s a decline in the overall ability of the body’s natural processes to function and support itself.
And it’s all tied together.
But let’s dive deeper.
We spoke about toxins, sugar and harmful organisms. But let’s look further here.
All of these things affect our organs abilities to operate. They throw our hormones out of balance. They make weight loss hard and exercise harder.
But it goes deeper.
When we have too high sugar in our blood vessels, or toxins, or harmful microorganisms, these cause inflammation and injury.
They do this to our cells but they also due it to our blood vessels.
We all know about blood pressure and that high blood pressure is bad. But why? What does it actually mean?
Blood pressure is literally how much pressure your heart is putting on your blood to push it through your blood vessels.
You see, over 25% of our blood vessels are microscopic. They’re tiny. In fact, they’re smaller in diameter than the blood cells that pass through them, the cells that carry oxygen to our bodily cells.
Now, this is fine, because healthy blood cells are able to squish down and lengthen to fit through these tiny passageways.
But what happens when these passageways become clogged to one degree or another? Or narrowed.
Well, that’s when we get raised blood pressure. The heart is having a hard time pushing this blood through. It needs to push it through because it’s carrying oxygen-rich blood cells that need to make to the cells of the body so they can live and function. Without it they’ll die.
So it raises the pressure it’s putting on the blood to push it through.
Incidentally, that’s what feeling out of breath actually is. It’s not that you can’t get enough oxygen into your lungs, you can. It’s that the heart is having a hard time getting that oxygen through the blood vessels and to your cells.
It’s not you out of breath. It’s your cells.
But carrying on.
When there are too many triglycerides (body fat made from excess sugar) some of these start to coat the inside of the blood vessels, making them more narrow.
Or, we can have sugar stay too long in the blood vessels, or toxins or microorganisms coming in, and these things injure the blood vessels.
And, just like when you scrape your knee and your body bandages it with a scab, when the inside of the blood vessels get injured your body also puts a bandage on. A scab, if you will.
And this bandage is made from cholesterol.
But this cholesterol is soft and could possibly come off. So over time the body covers it in a layer of calcium, hardening it. (This is what hardening of the arteries is.)
But all of these things end up narrowing the blood vessels, making it harder for the blood cells carrying oxygen to get through. And the cells need this oxygen, and fast and constantly, or they’ll die.
So your heart raises pressure, and raises pressure, and raises pressure to push them through. This may lead to a heart attack eventually.
Or maybe not. Maybe these blood cells just can’t get through to certain areas? Or they can get through, but less and less?
Then you have body parts or areas in the body slowly being cut off from receiving oxygen.
Cells in the area can start to function less and less or even start to die off faster because they need that oxygen to survive.
We can start feeling pains in the areas cut off, or numbness or weakness.
Healing ability in the area goes down and it’s easier for infections to take root.
Cortisol, physical stress levels and inflammation rise.
Imagine living on just enough oxygen, food and water to survive but no more. How would you feel?
Well, that’s how these cells feel and, as your body is nothing but trillions of cells, that’s how you can start to feel.
They can’t make energy so you feel low energy.
The liver and kidneys aren’t functioning as well and so toxins are building up.
The immune system is overwhelmed and we can have various small or large infections that we mainly just notice as aches or exhaustion.
Our nutrition is poor so our recovery is poor, our joints may ache and we don’t recover well.
Our sleep doesn’t refresh us.
Our hormones are out of balance and causing various conditions.
Do you see what Metabolic Syndrome is now?
And it’s not that we have it or we don’t. It’s a gradual scale of high metabolic health dropping off bit by bit to lower and lower levels until we have real, tangible physical conditions.
And it’s caused by our diet.
And it’s also reversed by our diet.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to dive into this more, more aspects of it, what causes each one, and exactly what to do to start turning things around.
Because we can turn it around. Don’t worry about that.
And the first thing to do is to stop eating processed sugars and foods. These are killer. Literally.
But we’ll go more into that later.
Alright, I know that was long. But I hope it gave you some more understanding of what is happening in our bodies today.
I’ll see you in the next article.
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