When your body decides to slow your metabolism it's all about one thing: survival! It’s not about your body trying to conspire against you and ruin your life. It’s your body making a wise decision to sacrifice long-term health for short-term survival because it's being told to do so (usually through food/nutrient scarcity). The slowing of the metabolism allows your body to go LONGER on less food. The body also tends to hold on to fat as a protective mechanism.
So if this is where you're at, today I'm going to tell you how to go about reversing your slow metabolism. Knowing what habits to change is the most important place to start!
Step 1: Identify the slow metabolism trigger:
- Not eating enough food
To make an analogy, think of your body like a house. If you’re not making enough money to pay your electricity bill, what do you do? Well, you turn down the heat in your house to compensate, you may not turn the lights on as often, and/or you may fail to perform regular maintenance. The body operates in a similar way. When there are not enough calories coming in, the body saves energy by reducing body temperature (slowing the metabolism), turning down digestive juices (making digestion weaker), reducing the pulse, and slowing thyroid function (resulting in less energy). This is a built-in survival response by the body, to help you go longer on less food. And this is not a bad thing. It's actually a very good thing because it's going to help keep you alive in an emergency or famine.
- Not eating enough food
- Not eating enough carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are really the most important macronutrient when it comes to the metabolism (and by macronutrient I mean protein, carbohydrates and fat). All macronutrients are extremely important, and none should ever be limited in any fashion intentionally. Adequate carbohydrates in the diet are very important because the conversion of T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) to T3 (active thyroid hormone) is dependent on enough glucose (sugar) and stored glycogen (sugar) in the liver. So you need regular carbohydrates to set the stage for that to happen.
- Mineral imbalances (this one is HUGE)
Mineral imbalances disrupt the conditions desired by your body. Calcium and potassium are two minerals that when not balanced can influence your thyroid's ability to do it's job. High calcium levels slow down your body, especially when paired with low potassium levels. When you're aware of what minerals are out of balance in your body, you can make supplemental adjustments to bring the ratio into better balance, supporting healthy thyroid function naturally. Find out what your calcium and potassium levels are using hair analysis or get started here.
- Fatty acid imbalance (don't ignore this one)!
Getting the right kinds and the right ratio (specifically your omega-6:omega-3 ratio) of fats in your diet is huge, especially when it comes to your metabolism and weight issues. Studies show that during evolution this ratio of fatty acid intake was closer to 1:1, and the Western diet today hovers closer to 20:1 creating huge implications on human health, especially regarding weight gain and obesity risk. “A balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio 1–2/1 is one of the most important dietary factors in the prevention of obesity, along with physical activity.”  Read more about fatty acid imbalance and how you find out your levels with testing here.
- Hormonal imbalance
Low progesterone levels or estrogen dominance can slow the metabolism by interfering with the body's ability to convert thyroid hormone (from T4 to T3). This can happen for a variety of reasons, usually stemming from nutrient deficiencies, hidden gut infections triggering increased production of the beta-glucuronidase enzyme that causes estrogen headed out of the body as 'trash' to get recyled and brought back into circulation instead. You can check in on your beta-glucuronidase levels with gut testing.
- Insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is when your cells become less responsive to insulin and don't take in glucose (sugar) from your blood as easily. This causes your pancreas to pump out more insulin. When the body is not doing a great job managing blood sugar, a tendency towards weight gain is not unusual. Insulin resistance can have a number of underlying triggers, especially cellular inflammation, gut issues, poor diet and genetic predisposition.
- Other causes….
If you're eating enough calories, carbohydrates, nutrients, and you are still having issues, there are a few other things you may want to think about. Consider if any of the following could apply to you and support your slow metabolism:
- Malnourished liver: often caused by not enough high quality (animal) protein that is common in those with a history of veganism or low protein vegetarian diet. Nutrient excess (vitamin A, copper, iron) can also give the liver 'too much work to do' impairing it's ability to do work that supports metabolic functions.
- Nutrition deficiencies: fat soluble vitamin deficiencies are common due to the popularity of low-fat diets, as well as some other common nutrient deficiencies. Hair analysis is a great way to assess your mineral deficiencies.
- Poor digestion: weak digestion down-regulates or reduces the appetite often due to bloating, constipation and often causes you to not be able to take in as many calories. This weak digestion is often caused by pathogenic and bacteria overgrowth that can be addressed once identified.
- Toxic lifestyle and/or poor liver detoxification: excess toxins in the diet and lifestyle as well as poor liver detoxification further burden the metabolism.
- Stress: the stress hormone cortisol blocks thyroid hormone conversion, which will protectively slow the metabolism over time.
- Inflammation: food sensitivities, food allergies, iron overload, and omega fatty acid imbalance are common causes of inflammation.
- Over-exercising: too much exercise, especially when the diet is poor is a sure way to send your body running for safety by slowing the metabolism.
- Not eating enough carbohydrates
Step 2: Support the slow metabolism trigger with food
Once you've discovered the cause(s) that are contributing to your slow metabolism, it's time to make some changes. The longer you've had a slow metabolism, the more causes you are likely to find yourself with, and the LONGER it will take to turn it around.
- If the cause is not eating enough food and/or nutrients, it's time to eat more real food and stop counting calories.
- If the cause is eating too few carbohydrates, it's time to work some nutrient dense carbohydrates into your diet gradually.
- If the cause is nutritional deficiencies, it's time to fill in the nutrient "holes" in your diet (you must get data on your body to do this).
- If the cause is a malnourished liver, it's time to nourish the liver with the right foods and ditch the excess.
- If the cause is poor digestion it's time to learn about what is wrong in your gut by way of stool testing and incorporate more easy to digest foods to work to up-regulate your digestion over time.
- If the cause is hormonal imbalance it's time to ensure you are supporting hormone production by giving your body enough of the raw materials it needs to make hormones and getting any testing needed to identify estrogen issues.
- If the cause is insulin resistance address cellular inflammation and work on managing your blood sugar balance with your diet.
- If the cause is toxins it's time to ditch the toxins from your food, and detox your lifestyle!
- If the cause is over exercising, it's time to make sure that you are supporting energy balance on a day-to-day basis (avoiding a calorie deficit).
Step 3: Be consistent and patient
Be patient with your body. You don’t get a slow metabolism overnight, and a recovery won't happen in a day, week, month, 6 months or even a year in some cases! Understand that your body is doing the best it can to re-balance and to find homeostasis once again.
If this sounds overwhelming, consider the following helpful tools:
- How to Align to Weight Loss to Reboot Your Metabolism (without dieting and exercising more!)
- The 6 Week Metabolism FastTrack Program — enrollment is open for the next session beginning in 2 weeks. Apply here.
What's your slow metabolism trigger? Please share in the comments!
- Photo Credit: Depostphotos.com/Komvell