What is metabolic health?
What is metabolic health? Well the answer varies according to who is answering the question, but the absence of metabolic disease is the agreed definition. Metabolic health can be measured in our body and blood. There are physiological and laboratory tests that may show if complex body processes are working normally. We don’t have to understand these complicated metabolic processes to reap the benefits of measuring them.
Metabolic health explained
As I said earlier, metabolic health means free of metabolic disease, in succession metabolic diseases are defined by diseases of which symptoms can be corrected by metabolic treatment. Can you see what I’m getting at? Normally, therapies are based on controlling food intake (diet) or the enzymes and hormones. More and more in nutrition, we see that different diseases respond well with the diet approach. Diabetes is still the classic example of metabolic disease.
There is an argument that cancer can be considered a metabolic disease because of the similarities to diabetes and, why not? We are, after all, what we eat. Diabetes still remains a glucose-insulin axis disease and the effects are seen in global metabolic changes.
Several tests of the condition have been developed, these include:
1. The Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) is a method that can diagnose diabetes mellitus or insulin resistance. This test is more efficient than a finger prick test.
2. Oral Lipid Tolerance Test (OLTT) this test assesses whole-body lipid homeostasis.
3.Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenges. This test evaluates the animal’s ability to respond to an inflammatory stimulus by mounting an acute phase response.
Interesting isn’t it?
Can metabolic syndrome define metabolic health?
If you haven’t heard of metabolic syndrome it is simply the medical term for diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity combined. These put you at high risk of getting coronary heart disease, stroke and other conditions that affect the blood vessels.
Singularly, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity may damage your blood vessels (very bad news), having all three together is extremely dangerous. These are very common and tell us why metabolic syndrome affects one in three older adults aged 50 or over in the UK - only one in eight Americans is metabolically healthy, that’s only 12% which means only three out of 25 have:
1. The ideal waist (less than 40 inches in men, and less than 35 inches in women).
2. They have no traces of diabetes in their blood sugar.
3. Have a normal blood pressure (90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg).
4. They have normal blood fats (HDL the 'good' cholesterol).
5. They do not take medications for these conditions.
Every chemical process in your body is metabolism and it is necessary for maintaining your life.
Energy production, building new tissues, breaking down old tissue to repair it, elimination of waste, growth, cellular reproduction? Metabolism! It should be clear by now that metabolism is everything our body does and therefore metabolic syndrome is very serious as it can influence all the different functions of our body. Vice-versa, metabolic health is super-important as it optimises all of the bodily functions and makes you run like a well-maintained car.
How can you improve your metabolic health?
Remember what your grandparents do to stay healthy?
- Eat a diet of raw and plant-based food. Reduce sugar and processed foods. Minimise emotional eating and snacking.
- Get enough, restful sleep.
Keep or increase your level of exercise.
- Reduce stress. That includes stressing about stress; practise mindfulness techniques.
- Do not eat from dinner to breakfast. Also known as Time-Restricted Eating or TRE (it’s what I do and it works well)!
- Get plenty of sunshine and fresh air in nature. Expose your arms and legs on a sunny day. Try forest bathing.
- When allowed, maintain your positive social networks (at a distance).
- Cultivate fulfilment. This can be through spirituality, meditation, gratitude practice or a hobby like gardening. Turn off the news!
- Practice a positive mindset. Learn something new every day or read a book.
- Do not smoke, avoid (best to quit) excess alcohol and drugs.
- Find a nutritionist you can work with.
- If you feel overwhelmed (us women often feel this way), choose one item and work on that. You will be surprised at how achieving one task can motivate you to fix everything else!
What are the reasons for such poor metabolic health?
We still have poor metabolic health because we still haven’t understood that a low-carb diet is an effective way of lowering insulin resistance and even reversing type 2 diabetes. Every time we consume wheat our intestines work much harder, and our digestion is affected causing water retention, bloating and gas but another very important reason is that every time we eat grains, they are quickly converted into sugar.
Even when we eat a slice of 100% organic whole grain bread, we will receive only 2 grams of fibre and we will consume 20 grams of carbohydrates (starch and sugar) as well as 100 calories!
Ways to improve your bio-individuality. Put together a kit.
1. Consider wearing a continuous glucose monitor. These are now available, and you don’t have to prick your finger. You can see what your blood is doing every time you eat. Pay attention to the foods that don’t seem to make much difference. Is your sugar raised first thing in the morning? Notice how the glucose in your blood levels vary throughout the day.
2. Starting at £16.99 a blood pressure cuff is an inexpensive way of keeping an eye on your blood pressure which is part of metabolic syndrome.
3. If you can, measuring your ketones is another way to keep a check on your metabolic health. Ketone readers start at £7.50 or a little bit more if they come with glucose strips. You can monitor your ketone bodies after you exercise. If you try to skip a meal (time-restricted eating), then how does your ketone reading change?
4. A regular tape measure which we all have in our homes can give you an indication of how your lifestyle changes are progressing.
5. Detailed body compositions can be obtained from analyser machines usually found in gyms and health clubs. They do not require a blood sample and will provide a much more accurate reading than your bathroom scale.
On this note, I’d like to share my body composition from a measurement that was taken on 17th July 2020. I entered my age and gender and I was very happy to see that my metabolic age was 46 and my visceral fat rating was four. Not bad for 61! I look forward to a new reading as soon as the gyms open.
Working with a nutritionist
A nutritionist’s job is to get to the root cause of your issue. We are trained to spot signs of metabolic health problems from the initial phone consultation and subsequent medical questionnaire. Being healthy has never been easier, we have every test available to us including food intolerances to DNA testing. As you read, metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity and blood pressure can be prevented and reversed with diet.
Not only we have been fighting a highly transmittable disease with COVID-19, but we have also been fighting for non-transmittable diseases like diabetes and obesity which unnecessarily raised the death toll in this pandemic. We are facing a global recession and mass unemployment together with financial death which could affect us globally for many years to come. The last thing we need is to create these metabolic diseases.
We have never had a better reason to be healthy, and in taking action we are treating our bodies as they deserve and contributing to rebuilding our economy. I believe that in this sophisticated age there isn't an excuse to be unhealthy if we can help it (of course there are many things out of our control) and if you need help, as nutrition professionals, we're here for you. If not now, then when?
To your health.
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