30 Dec Slow Metabolism? Here’s Why
Are you wondering, “Why is my metabolism so slow?”
As we turn the corner and get closer to our 40’s, many of us do all the same things we used to do, but our bodies just don’t respond the same, and we start to feel like we have a slow metabolism. What gives? Is this just a part of getting older?
Well, that’s what some doctors will have you believe.
And then you’re left feeling like you have no control over your body.
This doesn’t have to be the case.
Let’s talk a little about how our metabolism works, signs of a slow metabolism and foods that can help a slow metabolism.
How does our metabolism work?
Technically speaking, the three main purposes for your metabolism are:
- The conversion of the energy in food to energy available for your body to use (in cellular processes) – how your body burns food for fuel
- The conversion of food to building blocks for proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and some carbohydrates – how food becomes your body
- The elimination of metabolic wastes – how you excrete what you don’t use
So why is my metabolism slow?
Now that we know a bit about what our metabolism is and what happens when it doesn’t work well. The question is, why does our metabolism slow down? And why does it seem to not work as well when we get older?
The answer – is that most of us aren’t really taught how to care for our metabolism. As women, most of us are fed the idea that skinny = healthy (which is not at all the case) and if you’re not skinny, then you’re sold a million things so you can try to lose weight.
So let me bust some myths right now:
- You don’t have to be what we think of as “skinny” to have a healthy metabolism.
- Calories in = calories out does not work if your metabolism isn’t functioning properly
- Many things we do to “lose weight” may actually be damaging to our metabolism long term.
- Our metabolism doesn’t slow down “all of a sudden.” After years of not caring for it properly (because we were never taught), the functions start slowing down and we start to feel those effects like weight gain and fatigue.
The truth is, there are a lot of working parts and everything is connected. Here are some reasons why you may feel like your metabolism is slow:
Our bodies and our hormones all require a certain amount of macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). If we aren’t getting the right amount and the right types of them, over time, our bodies won’t function correctly and may feel like our metabolism is slowing down.
One example – our thyroid needs iodine to create thyroid hormones. I don’t know about you, but in the past I have not paid much attention to whether or not I’m getting enough iodine. Which brings me to the next reason for a slow metabolism…
Often times, when women ask me “why is my metabolism slow?” It’s often due to an underperforming thyroid. Our thyroid controls how we use our energy and are often thought about as the hormones that control our metabolism.
If you have an underactive thyroid, you may gain weight unexpectedly and be unable to lose it, feel extremely tired, feel cold – especially in your hands and feet and may experience dry skin or hair loss.
In order to address thyroid health – we really have to address the rest of the body. Our thyroid hormones depend on a few key nutrients to be created, and then more nutrients to be converted. But beyond just the nutrients, most of the hormones are converted in the liver, some are converted in the gut and excess estrogen or stress hormones can both interfere with the conversion.
So as you see – if you want to improve your metabolism by improving thyroid health – you really have to work on every area of your health. This is what I mean when I say, “it’s all connected.”
If you often feel bloated or gassy after meals or if you aren’t having at least one solid bowel movement every day, then your gut may be contributing to a slow metabolism. Our guts are where we break down food and absorb the nutrients from it.
So if your gut isn’t functioning optimally, it doesn’t matter how many nutrients you eat because you aren’t actually absorbing most of them.
A healthy metabolism also requires healthy excretion (bowel movements). In order to have regular bowel movements, a healthy gut and healthy microbiome is imperative (if you want to read more about this, check out my series on gut health),
Another element of gut health includes liver health. Your liver produces bile that helps you break down fats and stimulates bowel movements, so if you want to be property excreting metabolic wastes and toxins, you’ve got to also address liver health.
Stress can contribute to a slow metabolism in a lot of ways. One – as I mentioned above – is that stress hormones (adrenals) interfere with the conversion of your thyroid hormones.
Stress can also cause us to store excess fat around our mid section. This isn’t because our bodies hate us. It’s a defense mechanism to protect us. If we are stressed out, our bodies feel like our lives are in danger and want to add an extra barrier of protection (fat) around our organs. But too much of this over time may not only feel uncomfortable, but may cause more serious health issues like severe inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
If you feel like you have a lot of stress, feel unable to handle stressful situations, have issues sleeping, sensitivity to light, intense salt cravings, feel exhausted or sick after working out, and/or have pain in your lower to middle back, you may have an adrenal issue that is contributing to a slow metabolism.
What’s fake food? When I say this, I mean things that we classify as “food” but may otherwise be classified as chemicals. Oddly enough, a lot of “diet” food falls under this category and is actually not great for our metabolism.
Unfortunately, in the US, we don’t have a lot of restrictions when it comes to the types of chemicals and additives that are in our food. A lot of these chemicals may interfere with our hunger hormones (telling us we are hungry, when we don’t actually need more food), negatively affect our gut microbiome or affect other metabolic processes in the body.
Foods for a slow metabolism
In general, eating a lot of vegetables and staying away from too much packaged foods is a great first step to a healthy metabolism. If you are going to eat packaged food, turn it over and look at the ingredients. Does it sound like real food ingredients or something you’d find in chemistry class?
You also need to make sure you are getting enough protein for your body weight as well as some healthy fats and healthy carbs at every meal.
Despite what you may think – carbs are not the devil – but it’s important to opt for a fist size or smaller of healthy carbs like quinoa, oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and other starchy root veggies.
Other foods that will help with a slow metabolism, all depend on why your metabolism is slow in the first place.
If you have a thyroid issue, oftentimes foods with iodine like seaweed, sea moss, shrimp and eggs will be helpful. Brazil nuts or oysters may also be beneficial for their selenium content. Keep in mind that while these foods may be helpful for creating thyroid hormones, you still need to address gut health, liver health, stress hormones and estrogen levels.
If your metabolism is slow because of a gut issue, you may want to check out your gut’s best friends.
If your stress hormones are contributing to a slow metabolism, you may need to supplement with some adaptogenic herbs and/or incorporate some lifestyle practices like deep breathing, meditation, yoga or epsom salt baths. If you think this may be an issue, working with a professional on an adrenal protocol will be the fastest way for you to get results.
Improving a slow metabolism
To recap, in order improve a slow metabolism, you need:
- The right nutrients to support your hormones and metabolic functions
- Optimized thyroid function
- A healthy gut
- A healthy liver
- A stress management plan
- To reduce/eliminate “fake foods”
I also encourage women to incorporate more weight training into their exercise routine. Many of us feel like we need to do cardio to “burn calories,” but the more muscles you have on your body, the more you burn at rest (which translates to a “higher metabolism”).
If this all sounds like a lot, and you want to figure out specifically what is causing your metabolism to be slow, as well as the most important steps you can take to improve it, let’s hop on a free metabolic breakthrough call and put together a custom metabolic plan for you to feel good in your body again.
A slow metabolism, imbalanced hormones and lack of energy are not just a part of getting older. If you get to the root cause, it is possible to feel good in your body again.
Take the quiz to find out what root causes are affecting your metabolism.