Syndrome X

Insulin resistance syndrome (IRS) or Syndrome X, is a disorder characterised by high levels of insulin, the hormone which usually reduces high levels of glucose in the blood. Cells become “switched off” to insulin and literally ignore it as a chemical messenger. Syndrome X is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, stress, depression, heart disease, diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome.

It is not certain why this condition develops, but there may be changes in the insulin receptors on cell surfaces, or the way in which they pass on the message that the insulin brings.

This condition can run in families however, Syndrome X may be a direct result of too much sugar in the diet combined with nutritional deficiencies. It is thought to affect 20% of people. Common symptoms include fatigue; energy and mood fluctuations; reliance on tea, coffee, sugar or cola to stay awake; craving refined carbohydrates such as bread, cakes and sweets; always feeling hungry; weight gain and an inability to lose body fat. Other signs are splitting nails; dry flaky skin; limp or dull hair; bloating after meals; skin tags in the neck, armpit or groin.

Dietary changes and herbal remedies can control this condition, which is very important as it is linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, cholesterol problems and high blood pressure. Some naturopaths also sugest that it may be linked to candida and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)

Supplement/Herb What it does Dosage
Chromium Helps regulate blood sugar levels. 200 – 600ug per day
Zinc Zinc is required for the formation of insulin as well as its secretion and utilisation. Diabetics generally excrete too much zinc in their urine, making supplementation more important. 15 – 30mg per day
Vitamin B6 Vitamin B6, as well as being important in insulin production, may be helpful in reducing the potential side effects of excess sugar in the blood. Studies have shown B6 to have a protective effect against diabetic neuropathy, nerve damage caused by elevated blood sugar levels. as directed
Magnesium Required for glucose metabolism and helps to modulate the action of insulin in relation to blood sugar. 200 – 400mg per day
Alpha Lipoic Acid A powerful antioxidant which also helps to lower blood sugar levels. NOTE: Alpha lipoic acid may potentiate the action of insulin. Consult a Doctor before concurrent use of insulin and alpha lipoic acid. 60 – 120mg per day
American Ginseng American ginseng stimulates the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete more insulin and can significantly reduce blood glucose levels after meals. 100 – 300mg per day
Fenugreek Fenugreek may be helpful in increasing the sensitivity of the cells to insulin. 150 – 450mg per day
Psyllium husks Slows down the absorption of sugar and fats. 1-20grams daily with water
Vitamin E Anti-oxidant protection and improve insulin sensitivity. 400-1500iu daily


Diet and Lifestyle Factors


A diet rich in complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre is recommended to avoid sudden rises in blood sugar levels. This means wholegrain bread and pasta and brown basmati rice are best for you. Get familiar with the Glycaemic Load of foods on your system.

Eat more oil fish, nuts and seeds to provide the right fats to the body and cut down on saturated fat found in meat and dairy products.

Have at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily.

If you are overweight, particularly around the waist line, this can make other symptoms of insulin resistance worse. Weight loss improves insulin sensitivity.

Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity and weight loss. Aim for 20 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week.

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