I predict that in the future we will be hearing a lot more about Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome. These are basically the same thing. And it seems that this is the root cause of many chronic diseases: Diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimers, Osteoporosis, Asthma,some cancers, heart disease etc. What the coronavirus highlights brutally is that our immune and metabolic systems are key to fighting off disease. We know this theoretically but we seem to gotten lost in the convenience of modern living to really live that reality.
There are stiking statistics now coming to light that the coronavirus seems to have the most severe effects on those with Insulin Resistance or Metabolic syndrome. THIS IS A WAKE UP CALL AND MUST BE ADDRESSED. I myself have been teaching this for the last 5 years but the significance is now absolutely staring me in the face. There is no time to waste on this and we must take this opportunity to make some radical changes to the way we see “fit and healthy”. Fit and healthy doesnt mean young or slim. It means metabolically flexible with a good strong immune system
Although the message has been clear in amongst the most informed and independant researchers, it has struggled to get out loudly into the mainstream. But,as this viral pandemic is showing, the true answer to health is going to be to support and boost our metabolic health and immune system. Not drugs and not necessarily vaccines, although these will be pushed.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, an eminent cardioligist and advocate of lifestyle appraoches to health, has touched on this recently.
What are the symptoms of Insulin Resistance/Metabolic Syndrome?
- Abdominal obesity (too much fat around the waist)
- High Triglycerides
- Low HDL (“good cholesterol”)
- High Blood Pressure
- High fasting glucose
But these indicators are lagging behind the preceding clues: fat storage under the skin and visceral fat (a belly) . This often takes months or years to develop. So we have plenty of time to nip this in the bud! Especially as we know that in this state we have a dysregulated immune system.
What is the cause of Insulin Resistance or Metabolic Syndrome? Basically, its when we overfill beyond the energy requirements of our body. But more importantly, its what we are filling with thats important: a high carb, high fat, high energy diet that is low on nutrition This doesnt mean there are no nutrients in processed foods, but that in order to get the nutrients required we need to eat a lot more to satify our needs and hence we tend to overfill.
So in consuming a highly processed, Western-style diet:
RELATIVE to the TOTAL AMOUNT of ENERGY we consume in a day, the NUTRITIONAL value is low
So lets take a closer look at energy and nutrients
Nutrients: derived from the soil, nitrogen-based chemistry, consists of: protein, minerals, and vitamins.
Energy : derived from the sun, air, and water, carbon-based chemistry, consists of: carbohydrate and fats.
Both protein and energy need to be in the correct balance for optimal health.
Now that “energy” is cheap and convenient in the form of highly addictive, processed foods, protein and essential nutrients are diluted in the diet. We enjoy energy foods. The combination of carbs and fats is pleasurable and releases a reward loop in the brain and hence we actually want to eat more. We choose this combination at dthe expense of highly nutritious protein based foods. It doesn’t help that these foods are everywhere. It is easy to choose them.
So we are consuming too much energy(carbs and fats) and not enough nutrients (protein and minerals). Not enough REAL FOOD.
How can we combat Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome?
Avoid high carb, high fat, high energy, low protein, foods.
- Most of us in the westernised countries eat around 300-400g of carbohydrates a day. If you are inactive you will want to bring this down to around 100g , as advised by Dr Ted Naiman. If you are active you can take it higher. its really a matter of becoming your own expert. Look and listen to your body. If you are putting on weight or holding onto a belly then you need to adjust your levels. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FOLLOW PARTICULAR DIETS, although you may find it helpful. A NATURAL, WHOLE FOOD, MINIMALLY PROCESSED diet of any kind is often low in refined carbohydrates.
- Focus first on avoiding, in fact eliminating ultra-processed foods...high sugar drinks and alcohol.Highly processed products like biscuits, cakes, pastries, desserts, pies, crisps, sweets etcThese foods drive overeating
- Reducing grains to sensible portions or restricted them more rigorously especially if you are already suffering from the physical manifestations of Metabolic Syndrome. Look into Low Carb diets.
- Cook your own foods.
- Avoid Seed Oils….Cook in natural fats.
- Increase protein content of meals and consume carbs/starch sparingly, or limit carb frequency, so for example having two very low carb meals a day and one normal carb portion in the meal you most like to eat carbs(eg rice at dinner)
- Focus on eating your protein and vegetables first on your plate, then whatever carb option you have, in small portions, if necessary
- Calorie Restriction also works (low fat diets, small portions) but people often don’t get enough nutrient dense foods on this type of diet
- Incorporate healing foods like bone broth, raw or greek yoghurt, fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir.
- We are often encouraged to eat fruit and vegeatable as they are promoted as healthy. They are but not at the expense of animal based protiens. These are just as healthy. Even if you dont eat meat, things like eggs, fish, butter, cream, ghee, cheese are excellent sources of the nutrients we need to build or immune sysem and keep our metabolic health in check.
Timing your meals
- Avoid snacking..stick to either one, two or three meals a day depending on your activity levels
- A 16/8 hour intermittant fast daily helps to keep us metabolically flexible, which is crucial for metabolic health
- Experiment with different periods of fasting. If you have never done it before at least aim for a 12 hour fasting period. Avoid extended fasting at the moment perhaps, for example 36/48/72hr fasts.
- Try and keep at least 5 hours between meals/snacks. Get used to having an empty stomach.
- Remeber to break all fasts with REAL FOOD.
- Be consistent. Choose an exercise that you will do, that is achievable and fun and joyful for you.
- Ensure resistance training is part of your plan. Working to failure helps build muscle. This can include squats and press-ups, lifting a weight, or using resistance bands.
- Try and develop your own unique 15-20minute daily workout you can do anywhere and easily fit into your day under any circumstances.
- Short bursts of High Intensity Training, for cardio training, where you use all your effort for 20-60 seconds and repeat for a number of reps, usually 3. EG jumping jacks, sprints etc. Keep these short. Often over-training here just leads to exhaustion. More is not always better
- Being in the fasted state while exercising will deplete glycogen and stimulate fat burning.
- Start gradually, at a level that is safe for you, and build up slowly.
- Be careful of over-exercising. Especially women approaching peri-menopause and menopause. As oestrogen levels fall, we no longer have that shield to the effects of cortisol and can actually find the long term effects of intense exercise or long durations of steady state cardio are negative. Short bursts of activity and mind-body relaxing exercises (walking, yoga, taichi, swimming, etc) are very therapeutic for the 40+ woman.
- Therapeutic and mind-body movement is exceptionally stress-reducing for all ages and for both men and women. Walking in nature, yoga, dance, freestyle dance, taichi, qigong, just gentle stretching and the like
The body can change within a matter of weeks. It KNOWS how to heal. We just have to get the toxins out the way and allow it to do its own magic.
In part 2 of this topic, I will be looking at how to nourish the immune system using lifestyle and habits other than food and exercise. These are often over-looked but just as important.