While you may not have heard of Syndrome X, it’s likely you’ve heard of or maybe even experienced its symptoms. Dr. Gerald Reaven, an endocrinologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, coined the term Syndrome X (which is also called Metabolic Syndrome) to describe a cluster of symptoms that affect about 20 to 25 percent of men and women in the United States today. These numbers may grow rapidly, however, unless immediate dietary and lifestyle changes are made in American society. From mild to severe, the collection of symptoms may be all or most of the following:

  • High levels of cholesterol in the blood
  • Insulin resistance, or abnormally high levels of insulin in the blood
  • High glucose levels
  • Sugar intolerance
  • Low HDL (“good” cholesterol)
  • High triglycerides (components of fat found in the blood)
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity around the middle of the body
  • Overstimulation of testosterone
  • Adult acne
  • Heart disease, coronary artery disease
  • Elevated testosterone levels

In women, symptoms also include:

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Hirsutism (increased hair growth)
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Anovulatory (non-ovulating) menstrual cycles

Syndrome X and Insulin Resistance

Syndrome X is strongly associated with insulin resistance. The Western diet, filled with processed foods that have little resemblance to nutrition and with refined sugars and carbohydrates that are immediately converted to sugar on ingestion, is creating insulin resistance women, men, and even children.

A good way to understand insulin resistance is to realize that every cell in the body needs glucose for energy. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that drives glucose into the cells. Years of ingesting high-refined-carbohydrate foods, such as white bread and pasta, white rice, sugar, soda, alcohol, processed foods, and caffeine leads to too much glucose in the body. The cells are saturated with glucose, and the number of receptor sites available for insulin is decreased. Insulin’s job is to carry the glucose from a recent meal and put it into cells and out of the bloodstream. If the cells are unreceptive, the pancreas will react by secreting even more insulin in an attempt to get the cells to respond and allow glucose to enter them.

At this point, insulin begins dumping glucose into the fat cells.The fat cells around the midsection of the body seem to be most receptive to this process, creating the dreaded fat in the midsection.) Once these cells are filled, Insulin can only remain in the bloodstream, creating Type II Diabetes. Although this process takes years to develop in most people, it is occurring in younger and younger women and men in western society.

How to Heal Syndrome X

If you suspect you or a loved one has Syndrome X, you should know that it is treatable. The primary treatment for Syndrome X is exercise and weight loss if necessary (not everyone is overweight with this disorder) and follow a diet without junk food, processed food, pesticides, sugars, refined flours, caffeine, and high-glycemic fruits and vegetables. Adding hormone-free proteins with every meal and eating healthy fats such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, some dairy foods (including butter), and goat cheese is essential. (Let go of the outdated and incorrect “low-fat” theory–which is what caused Americans to become the largest people in the world, and the most obese.) The South Beach Diet, Somersizing, and The Schwarzbein Principle all elaborate appropriate low-glycemic diet plans that can be followed, along with appropriate exercise, to regain your health.

Secondly, and just as vital, is restoring health to the adrenal glands. This can be done through a comprehensive treatment program with herbal supplements and stress-lowering activities such as yoga and meditation.


Marshall, Keri , ND Candidate 2001. “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Clinical Considerations.” Alternative Medicine Review: A Journal of Clinical Therapeutics. Volume 6, Number 3, June 2001.

Northrup, Christiane, M.D. Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Bantam. NY. 1998.

Schmidt, Jr. Walter, H. D.C. Common Glandular Dysfunctions in the General Practice: An Applied Kinesiological Approach. 1981

American Heart Association www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=534 (retrieved July 2004)
Natural Health Solutions for PCOS. www.ovarian-cysts-pcos.com/insulin-resistance.html (retrieved July 2004)

* The information in this article cannot be substituted for medical advice about your unique body. Call for an appointment to discuss questions or concerns.