Metabolic Syndrome and the Incorporation of Mind-Body Medicine

Metabolic Syndrome, also referred to as insulin resistance, is a condition marked by elevated insulin levels in the body’s attempt to maintain a homeostatic balance between blood glucose and blood lipid levels. Sadly, this condition is affecting billions of people worldwide and is on a steady rise.  Worldwide the population of people affected is over 1.7 billion people with 9.4 million people in the United States alone. Yet very little is done to help these people beyond metformin and a “wait-and-see” approach.  The current paradigm almost inevitably leads the patient on the path to develop Type 2 Diabetes and potentially cardiovascular conditions, as these are both potential end results of insulin resistance. It doesn’t have to be this way!

The current paradigm should be and needs to be challenged. Insulin resistance is a product of malnutrition, lack of physical activity and levels of incurred stress. So instead of simply medicating the patient and crossing our fingers, what would happen if we took a more comprehensive and proactive role?

Instead of the current paradigm, let’s actually take a look at the factors that are influencing the patient’s body to develop insulin resistance. Start with mending the negative relationship with food and the person’s own perception of his body. If a person has little to no self-worth then any attempts for ramification will be lost. As the practitioner, it is impossible to assume that all patients with insulin resistance can fit in to one category or another so it is imperative to get to the heart of the matter by addressing the metaphysical heart of the patient. By addressing what is in the heart of the patient, the practitioner is then able to better ascertain what is causing the insulin resistance on an emotional level.

Many people who are insulin resistant report anxiety and/or depression as a co-morbidity. Thus, finding healthy ways of dealing with the anxiety and depression, which may be a cause of trauma and stress, could potentially help to reduce or eliminate the insulin resistance.  Is this anxiety and depression the reason that he is consuming high-carbohydrate meals? High carbohydrate, especially refined carbohydrates or more colloquially known as simple carbohydrate, meals inspire those good feelings helping to trigger the serotonin pathway. People who are depressed, especially, are often seeking that next “fix” of good feelings. It is not coming from within so it must come from without – what easier way than to grab a $1.00 processed, packaged, high-in-sugar treat and spike those serotonin producers in to action? However, the cost of this is also a spiked insulin reaction and, in the case of the patient who is insulin resistant, an overabundance of insulin is produced because the body’s own shut-off mechanisms are malfunctioning. By drastically limiting the amount of simple carbohydrates that an insulin resistant patient consumes and addressing the underlying anxiety and depression through nutrition and meditation we start the process of healing from the inside out.

The second aspect is the lack of physical activity. For so long people have equated good health with hitting the gym on a frequent basis. What if that’s not the right path for everyone? What if there was a gentler way to not only reduce the insulin levels and; thereby, reducing the activity of the insulin resistance, but to also be able to reduce the stress and produce a more calmer and less depressed state of well-being? Hatha yoga has been in the historical archives for many years. Now, due to its popularity, Yoga is being studied more closely for its health benefits and has demonstrated efficacy in reducing insulin resistance by significantly increasing the levels of glucose metabolism while at the same time lowering levels of stress, depression and anxiety.  Even for those who aren’t currently insulin resistant, it begs to offer healthy ways to combat stress, depression and anxiety.

Today’s prescription for fighting insulin resistance shouldn’t simply be a one-pill standard, but a trifecta of treatments that embody the whole patient: Mind, Body, and Spirit. Mind-body medicine is making its mark in the medical world as an excellent adjunctive treatment to nutritional support and physical activity. In fact, to not include the mind-body component to the treatment of any condition is doing the patient a disservice.

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