If you’re wondering why you’re craving carbs, or wanting to eat everything you see, Metabolic Syndrome might be your answer!
Metabolic Syndrome occurs when cellular energy and insulin production gets out of balance. How does that happen? Well everything in nature has a cycle. Plants grow through spring and summer and don’t through Autumn and Winter. Animals eat and eat and then hibernate or fast. Even humans are designed to eat and then fast. We’re designed for times of abundance and times of scarcity.
Prehistoric humans went to a lot of effort to get food. They didn’t pop into Woolies. And if they came home with Wooly Mammoth, they didn’t want to cook it up and decide they didn’t feel like Wooly Mammoth that night, they really felt like Giant Elk, and skip dinner. They, like us, were programmed to see food and eat it. This was a survival instinct. After all, once the Wooly Mammoth meat was gone, who knew when there would be more. They went from abundance to scarcity.
We have the same instincts to eat the food we see while it is abundant, but our downfall is that it is always abundant and there is never scarcity.
Another problem we have is this – how long did it take you to make dinner last night? About 45minutes? I like to cook from scratch and it takes me about that long. How much energy did you burn making dinner?
Prehistoric man had to catch the meat, skin it, make a fire, gather greens, collect water etc etc etc.
Okay, so we don’t even need to go back that far. How about your grandparents? I was off a farm, so I saw what my nan and my pop did to create a meal. Veggies were grown, animals were killed, eggs were collected, all before dinner was prepared.
Me? I go to the shop!
Here’s the crunch… Average caloric intake has increased from 2100 to 2800 over the last 60 years, while energy expenditure has dropped by 46%.
Then there’s gut health (Naturopath’s love gut health!). Food and lifestyles choices lead to poor gut health. Some fries here, a choccie biccie there, maybe some coffee or antibiotics and next thing you know you have a whole set of microbiotia living in your gut that isn’t ideal. The tricky think about this microbiotia is that it wants to survive, so it produces neurotransmitters to make you crave the foods that will ensure its survival.
Boom. Lack of scarcity, lack of caloric energy expenditure and poor gut health equals Metabolic Syndrome.
And here are the symptoms you might experience;
And thyroid imbalances.
And now for the science. (I love this bit!)
It all comes back to AMPK! Or 5 adenosine mono phosphate – activated protein kinese. This is the mechanism that senses if a cell has enough energy.
Here’s how. AMPK checks on the level of AMP (adenosine monophosphate) in a cell and turns it into ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is what cells use as energy. A great side effect here is that AMPK will uses bits of rubbish or debris lying around a cell as energy to turn AMP into ATP. This keeps cells beautifully healthy and reproducing effectively.
AMPK is great!
Here’s the catch. AMPK and insulin have an inverse relationship. When AMPK is high – basal insulin is low. When basal insulin is high – AMPK is low… And all those healthy catabolic debris munching cell cleaning processes just don’t occur.
This is the imbalance we don’t want. It most often progresses to metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, diabetes and cardiovascular events.
What can we do about it?
Skip a meal!
When you skip a meal and burn off the available cellular energy. AMPK has to use AMP to create ATP. It will do this through fat burning, mitochondrial activation, reducing inflammation and through cleaning up that cellular debris we want gone.
That’s a good thing!
In my clinic I use a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet that’s high in protein. The ketogenic diet mimics the experience of fasting and forces the body to utilise fat from your diet and from fat stores. It activates AMPK… So we clean out cells and balance insulin! Yay!
Other tools include calorie restriction or a fasting diet like the 5:2 diet. So five days of unrestricted eating and then two days of heavily calorie restriction.
Fasting though, when we are used to such abundance, is really hard to stick to and compliance is understandably low. Who wants to hardly eat for two days a week!
And then there are the nutrients that increase AMPK.
Reservatrol (a natural phenol produced by plants)
Epigallocatehin gallete from green tea
Genistein from soy
Myricetin from walnuts and onions.
Ingesting all these in the form of fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices is great for general health. Sadly, where there is established Metabolic dysfunction, much higher amounts are needed.
For example, Tumeric is great for general health in curries, but for therapeutic benefits such as pain and inflammation, 25 g a day would be needed!
And dark chocolate is high in beneficial polyphenols, but 100g is needed for therapeutic benefits, placing a huge caloric load on the body.
Exercise is another great tool.
Exercise is a great depleter of cellular energy… Activating AMPK! So we’re not looking at exercise as a calorie burner… It is… But it also accelerates hunger stimulating caloric intake. But it beautifully activates AMPK.
And it doesn’t have to be hard! High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT, activates AMPK. So exercising at a high intensity for you, for 8 to 30 seconds and repeating over a few minutes will do the job.
Moderate intensity exercise like jogging or walking are still good. It boosts AMPK and improves mood, bone density, muscle mass and cognition.
And improving your mood strengthens willpower… Making you more able to stick to your lifestyle changes.
Your last tool is carbohydrate restriction. Your body treats refined carbohydrates in exactly the same way as it treats sugar. There’s something called the cyclic acid cycle which explains how your body makes energy. When sugar or carbohydrate is used as energy, your result is a high basal insulin level… Which mean low AMPK.
Did you know you could be intolerant to carbohydrate? Not everyone processes carbohydrate in the same way! Everyone’s bodies will treat carbohydrate as a sugar, but for some of us, we’ll also suffer these symptoms…
A difficulty burning fat
Gaining weight easily
Fatigue after a high carbohydrate meal
Extreme fatigue after exercise
Elevated waist circumference
If this sounds like you, it will be even more important to cut the carbs!
So whatever way you look at it, reversing Metabolic Syndrome is about high levels of AMPK and the resulting low basal insulin levels while stimulating cell cleaning. And if you’d like a hand with that, just give me a call.