Metabolic Syndrome

The supreme goal of any physician is to make their patients feel better and live longer.No other condition presents a richer opportunity to achieve this goal than metabolic syndrome.This is a fairly newly defined diagnosis, but one talked about more and more in medical circles.We even have a formal ICD9 code for it now: 277.7.This is the code doctors put on medical insurance billing forms, and the fact of its existence means the condition is finally recognized as a bona fide disease and its treatment is covered by insurance.It also goes by the names syndrome X or metabolic syndrome X.

This disease is more pervasive than cancer and kills many more people every year.According to the article in Wikipedia, 44% of the US population over the age of 50 is affected.And the most interesting thing is the fact that compared to other major killers, this disease is fairly easy to treat.This is where integrative medicine really shines, and this is what I want to discuss today.

The condition is characterized by the following main symptoms: obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and a predisposition to diabetes. Many people affected develop full blown diabetes.The condition leads to severe complications, such as coronary artery disease and heart attacks, cerebro-vascular disease and strokes and untimely death.Independent risk factors for early demise include uncontrolled hypertension, elevated cholesterol, insufficient levels of physical activity, high blood sugar levels, and last but not least, waist circumference.This last one is the size of your pants, and if you wear them low, with your belly hanging over the belt, it does not count.Life insurance companies know this well.I do insurance medical exams once in a while, and one of the data they want me to supply is the applicant’s waist size.I pull out a measuring tape and ask the client if they were aware they were getting a new pair of tailored pants as a part of the service.They laugh.They quickly stop laughing when they see how much their new life insurance will cost if their pants are size 48.Those insurance companies are not run by idiots: they know where the risks lie.

Of course, if you smoke in addition to having all the other issues discussed above, then you are really suicidal and should see a psychiatrist.Let me give you a free advice here.Get yourself a book by Allen Carr, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking.It is a curious book.Most people reading it to the end quit smoking.Some can’t finish it, because somewhere in the middle of the book they begin to feel afraid that if they read any more, they’ll quit.It does a number on your head, better than any shrink, and for a much lower price ($14.95).The guy probably saved millions from early death.Can you imagine the amount of good Karma he has accumulated for himself! If the book does not work for you, there are other quitting methods out there. But back to our main topic.

Besides all the major health problems listed above, many relatively minor problems are caused by obesity/metabolic syndrome.Sleep apnea (suffocating during sleep and constant waking up because of it), knee joint degeneration from excess weight, back pains from the belly pulling the spine forward, infertility, breast and other cancers, fatty liver, etc, etc, etc.I won’t even mention the emotional problems due to poor body image.Most of them improve significantly or go away with weight loss.There is some additional help in the integrative medicine’s bag for some of them as well.

So why do Americans get fat?I think the explanation is fairly simple.Ability to eat more than one needs at the moment carried significant evolutionary advantage until very recently.Think of our forbearers a few thousand years ago.They would kill something big, then gorge on it until they couldn’t eat any more.Then they would crawl home to their cave and the hyenas would finish off the carcass.A kill like this would not happen every day, and those of them who could eat more and store it in their fat cells had a much higher probability of surviving until the next kill than those without such capability.We are, in effect, offspring of the survivors, and so carry their ability to eat a lot in our genes.And, of course, none of them would get very fat for the same reason: big kills were rare, so the inherent negative side of this adaptive mechanism, that is, getting fat and developing all these horrible diseases, never came into the picture.Besides, very few of them lived to be forty, and I won’t even mention fifty, and that is when metabolic syndrome just begins to take hold.So, Nature never realized its little mistake until just a few years ago in this country blessed with abundance of cheep calories.Did you know that most new immigrants gain 20-30lb in the first year or two of coming here?Why?It’s cheep!!!Coming from most anywhere outside North America, it is very hard to stop eating in an all you can eat buffet!You don’t find this sort of excessive eating anywhere else in the world.And we don’t have a long period of time between our kills.For us they happen a few times a day, and no running is required!

Lucky for us pigs (I include myself here), we do know how to reverse this little mistake of Nature.It is very clear that weight loss is the key to stopping and reversing most of the problems associated with metabolic syndrome.For a significant number of people their cholesterol and triglyceride levels come down.For a larger number, probably up to 70%, blood pressure comes down to normal without drugs.Blood sugar comes down to normal levels in almost everybody who loses weight.Many cases of full blown diabetes have been cured in my clinic just by weight loss.Hemoglobin A1C, a marker of blood sugar, comes down from over 10 to under 6 (normal) in just a couple of months on the diet.

You’ll say, easier said then done!Not true.Thanks to two giants of thought, Dr. Atkins and Dr. Hinz, most people can lose weight fairly painlessly.Other methods also exist, but I have not seen that much long term success from any of them.My most favorite program was developed by Dr. Hinz in our own back yard, Duluth, MN.The simple information is contained here.For those interested in more detail, Dr. Hinz’s site will hold your interest for hours.The idea of Dr. Hinz’s program is to suppress the patient’s appetite by administering a combination of certain amino-acids and vitamins according to a simple protocol.Once the patient is no longer hungry, they can be taught how to count calories and eat very low calorie diet without stress until they lose weight to their goal, then increase the intake to a normal level and stay at the goal weight indefinitely.There are no conventional drugs that can accomplish this feat, none come even close.The effectiveness of the supplements is not lost with time.I’ve been on the program for several years and my weight has been stable with no stress on my part, as long as I take the pills.I have many patients doing the same.Because these supplements also work as an antidepressant/antianxiety/anti-fibromyalgia medicine, Dr. Hinz’s following is growing by leaps and bounds.

Now for Dr. Atkins’s method.Here no pills are needed.Just stop eating all carbohydrates and your hunger goes down.This happens because carbohydrates require insulin to process them, and insulin causes hunger.If there are no carbs in the diet, no insulin is released and one does not get hungry.You still need to watch the calories, but it is fairly easy when you are not hungry.I had a patient recently refusing to take the supplement pills. He told me in no unclear terms where to shove them. I told him he would die early if he does not lose weight, because he already had full blown diabetes and refused pills to treat that as well.He told me he would go on Atkins diet and did it.He researched the diet and learned to do it well.In the first 3 months on the diet he lost 20 lbs and his diabetes went away completely.Great initial result!Will he be able to stick with the diet for the rest of his life?Only time will tell.I wish him luck.It is not so easy.I tried and could not do it.Bacon and cheese without bread does not appeal to me very much.I guess, to each their own.Whatever works!

For some people eating has to do with their particular response to stress, and they have deeper problems than just excessive hunger.I’ve had a 328lb woman tell me that if she loses weight, men will start looking at her.Another large woman told me that if she lost weight, she might start looking at other men besides her husband.To deal with this sort of issues, one needs psychoanalysis and/or homeopathy to work through them.

Effective weight loss provides the most bang for the buck in cases of metabolic syndrome.We make people much healthier, they live longer.Once the weight loss is in good swing, we can start addressing other problems the patient might have if they don’t respond to weight loss.But we know one thing for sure: just weight loss alone, without addressing any other issue, will extend life for most overweight people.

If the lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) don’t normalize with weight loss, we can look at complementary treatment options, such as conventional medications or other supplements known to reduce cholesterol.One such supplement is a soluble fiber product called Bios Life 2.It is widely available on-line.It has been shown to reduce bad cholesterol and increase the good kind.It is entirely harmless and free of side effects. It helps bowel action as a side benefit.For some people medications for cholesterol may be necessary, but they are not the majority.

If blood pressure does not come down with weight loss, medications may be necessary, but the choice must be made carefully.Some of them have undesirable side effects.For example, I recently learned that a very common drug atenolol causes statistically significant increases in incidence of diabetes, as well as all cause mortality.Diuretics, like hydrochlorothiazide are also known to predispose one to diabetes.I can go on and on…In the words of the TV commercial, ask your doctor about it!

Now for the musculo-skeletal problems caused by obesity.Carrying all that extra weight causes a lot of wear and tear on our joints, in particularly knees.Weight loss alone often improves the condition of one’s knees to the point that nothing else needs to be done, but if the wear is beyond the body’s natural ability to heal them, Low Level Laser Therapy comes in very handy.This form of light therapy is very effective in all forms of joint wear and tear problems, sports injuries and many other problems.The info is here

Most other problems associated with metabolic syndrome can also be addressed in integrative fashion.We have to evaluate each person individually and figure out the best single therapy or a combination of therapies which are the most effective, cost efficient and least harmful.