Half of all Americans suffer from some type of metabolic or blood sugar disorder, including diabetes, prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, or overweight/obesity.
Worldwide, these related conditions, which have been collectively dubbed “diabesity” by functional medicine pioneer and director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, Mark Hyman, MD, affect one billion people. That’s one in seven people across the globe.
Many of these cases are undiagnosed.
People who have been diagnosed may be the lucky ones: they know there’s a problem and can take action, which matters hugely because the vast majority of metabolic disorders are 100 percent reversible with functional nutrition and lifestyle medicine.
Those who are undiagnosed may experience blood sugar swings or always get that late-afternoon energy slump, but they chalk it up to a normal part of a busy modern life. They’re unaware that problems are brewing beneath the surface – and that mismanaged blood sugar now can lead directly to serious consequences later, including heart disease, stroke, blindness, dementia, and cancer.
“Diabesity is also the leading cause of most chronic disease in the 21st century,” says Hyman.
Other indicators of an underlying metabolic problem include:
- High blood pressure
- High triglycerides
- Decreased HDL (or “good”) cholesterol
- Carrying extra weight around the middle (belly fat)
You may wonder what this cluster of metabolic conditions has to do with hormones.
What’s often forgotten is that insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar, IS one of our master hormones – and all the body’s hormones are in communication with each other all the time. When one is imbalanced, they can all go wonky.
For example, research has shown that the destruction of the thyroid gland in people with Hashimoto’s is largely caused by the constant onslaught of the insulin spikes that are the hallmark of insulin resistance.
As if that weren’t enough, low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is just as detrimental to the thyroid. Chronic low levels of glucose in the blood are perceived by the body to be a significant stressor – some say it’s an emergency state. This in turn signals the adrenals to repeatedly release cortisol and adrenaline in preparation for “flight or fight” from the threat. Chronically high levels of cortisol promote inflammation, exhaust the adrenal glands, and impair overall metabolism.
The thyroid gland, unfortunately, isn’t an innocent bystander in this process. Hypothyroidism can also cause metabolic syndrome and dysglycemia (high or low blood sugar). In the presence of hypothyroidism, the cells become unresponsive to the action of glucose, causing symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, irritability, etc. This unresponsiveness to glucose is, again, perceived by the body as a threat and the adrenals will start pumping out more cortisol, further suppressing thyroid function.
The idea that these conditions and their far-reaching negative consequences can be reversed with lifestyle medicine might seem far-fetched, but it’s not. “I know most people are skeptical when a doctor tells them they can reverse diabetes [and other metabolic conditions], but you can…and you don’t have to suffer or starve to make that happen,” writes Hyman.
That’s worth repeating: You don’t have to suffer or starve to reverse your metabolic condition.
By addressing these issues now, you help protect the years ahead of you. It’s the health equivalent of investing in a 401k. Invest now, benefit later by not spending the last 10 years of your life with a debilitating chronic condition.
You also greatly improve life in the present. Many of our clients experience less irritability between meals, better sleep, more energy, better overall health, and weight loss when they address their metabolic conditions in a systemic, holistic way.
Conventional medicine treats these conditions by addressing the symptoms instead of the underlying cause, using drugs to lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and bad cholesterol.
This approach is unsustainable and ultimately ineffective, continues Hyman:
“Using medication or surgery to treat symptoms like imbalanced blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the other complications of diabetes is like mopping up the floor while the sink overflows.
“In medicine today we have a choice. We can continue to mop up this overflow, or we can deal with the source of the problem and turn off the faucet—that is, treat the root problems that are causing your illness.”
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The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. It is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice from your physician or other healthcare professional.
You should not use the information on this website for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem. Consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you have a health condition.