The first time you hear it, “syndrome X” sounds a like a villain in a comic book.
While it’s actually another way of saying “metabolic syndrome,” it is every bit as pernicious as it sounds. It’s also more pervasive than you might think, affecting nearly 35 percent of adults in the U.S.1
That’s more than one third of all adults. It’s about as prevalent as the common cold or acne.
Statistically speaking, this means that at least one third of your patients are experiencing metabolic syndrome, putting them at risk for heart attack and stroke. And, because you’re seeing patients with preexisting conditions (for which they decided to visit your office in the first place), it’s quite probable that the numbers in your clinic are even higher than this.
To be clear, metabolic syndrome is typically defined as a combination of high blood pressure, excess fat around the waist, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL). If a patient has any three of these five conditions, they have metabolic syndrome.
Together, these conditions increase one’s risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even psychiatric illness. Typically, patients presenting with metabolic syndrome are inactive and have a poor diet.
Gut health and metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome and poor gut health go hand in hand. A person harbors over 100 trillion microbes in their intestines, and these organisms interact with the bodies to regulate nearly every system—including metabolism. If something goes wrong with the microbiome, the rest of the body will suffer.
Unfortunately, the standard American diet wreaks havoc on the gut health of millions of Americans. Many if not most patients seem to have inadvertently declared war on their microbiome, bombarding their systems with foods that kill off good bacteria while allowing harmful varieties to thrive. Though we don’t yet fully understand how gut flora interact with delicate metabolic processes, we know that disruptions to normal healthy flora can have devastating effects on the body’s metabolism.
While processed, nutrient-stripped foods may seem satiating (at least, superficially), they don’t feed the microbes that are necessary for optimal health. This in turn prevents the metabolic system from doing its job, leading to the negative health effects discussed above. Our comic book villain is given an opening to invade the fortress. And, although there was a time when metabolic syndrome only affected aging adults, it is now being increasingly seen in younger individuals. Because of the way they eat, Americans are developing metabolic disorders sooner than ever.
Room for hope
Like all comic book villains, syndrome X can be defeated. As a chiropractor, you have studied nutrition and know how to help your patients reduce their risk factors for this condition.
By recommending a nutrient-rich diet designed to support the gut microbiome, you can help reduce the incidence of metabolic syndrome among your patients. You can also prescribe probiotics and other helpful supplements designed to promote balanced gut flora and support a healthy metabolic system.
Because dietary changes can be challenging, patients need coaching, counseling, and consistent follow-up to maintain long-term results. This is the important part that you (and your staff members) play. Your patients need help making these changes, and they can’t do it without you—they need your support, your encouragement, and your advice.
To help your patients succeed, you’ll need to have a system in place to coach your patients and inch them toward success.
Focus on fiber
With the right diet in place, the symptoms of metabolic syndrome can fade within six months to a year. This means encouraging a healthy and plant-based diet, one rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber. Fruits and vegetables provide plenty of the fiber needed to move things through the intestinal tract, stabilize blood sugar, support healthy digestion and elimination, and feed the microbiome.
To help your patients stick to a nutrient and fiber-rich diet, provide them such guidelines as:
Eat more of this:
- Lots of organic dark leafy greens and brightly colored vegetables
- Organic poultry and eggs
- Wild-caught fish
- Unrefined, cold-pressed olive and coconut oil
Eat less of this:
- Limited grains and dairy
- Limited organic fruits
- Limited organic, grass-fed red meat
- Whole-grain products
- Non-organic produce
- Non-organic poultry and eggs
- Farm-raised fish
- Refined olive and coconut oils
- Natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, agave)
Stay away from:
- White bread, pastries, cookies, crackers, etc.
- Refined oils (soybean, canola, sunflower, etc.)
- Refined sugar
- Fast food and junk food
- Large amounts of red meat
- Alcohol and caffeine
This diet will also help patients sleep better, think more clearly, have more energy, and enjoy an all-around better quality of life. They’ll feel better, look better, and reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.
Catalyze with supplements
While diet can make a big difference, expedite things by providing your patients with high-quality supplements. These should be carefully chosen and explained to patients, so they’ll understand the value of continuing to take them as indicated. It’s easy for patients to forget about supplements if they don’t understand why they’re taking them.
When choosing a probiotic, look for one that’s enterically coated and has a high number of bacteria per serving. Enterically coated probiotics have a better chance at surviving contact with a patient’s stomach acid, allowing them to reach the intestines alive. And, the higher the bacterial count, the better. High quality probiotics cost a little more, but they make a bigger difference in your patient’s health.
Also, if a patient is on medication, encourage them to work with their prescribing doctor to monitor their evolving needs. A healthy, plant-based diet will change your patients’ lives, and may even allow them to reduce or discontinue the use of some medications. Always encourage your patients to make these changes under proper supervision.
Save the day
Though syndrome X seems to be a powerful villain, you can be the hero in this story. As a chiropractor, you have the knowledge and skills needed to really make a difference in your patients’ lives.
By recommending nutritional changes and prescribing supplements, you can reduce your patients’ symptoms, help them avoid deadly health outcomes, and dramatically improve their quality of life.
Todd G. Singleton DC, is an author, speaker, and consultant in practice for more than 25 years. He has an all-cash nutrition practice in Utah specializing in nutrition. He teaches fellow chiropractors how to implement nutritional protocols to their practices. He can be contacted at 801-917-0900 or through drsingletonsarticles.com.
1 American Heart Association. “What Is Metabolic Syndrome?” https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/down- loadable/ucm_300322.pdf. Published Nov. 2015. Accessed July 2017.