Dr. Matthew Gianforte
A popular question many people ask is, “why does your metabolism slow down as we age?” I remember when I was young back in my teenager years and in my early 20s. Back then I could eat just about anything and get away with it and I’d be able to keep my weight very stable. I had the energy that I wanted to and everything was fantastic. What I’ve noticed, as I age, is that I have to do a lot more in order to maintain what I want and maintain my body and my health.
Inevitably, as we age our metabolism slows, which means that you need to be more knowledgeable about your metabolism and what nutrients need to go into the machine to get the right product on the other side of the machine. Naturally, your body’s going to slow down by about 1-2% per year. Now, that can be minimized and optimized so it’s much less than that, but there’s some extra work you’re going to have to do for your body. Another thing to take into account is body size and composition. What do I mean by that?
If you have a higher muscle mass, your metabolism is going to automatically be faster because muscle uses more energy. Now, if you have a higher fat content, inevitably, your metabolism is going to be lower because the fat cells don’t really use a lot of energy for anything. The muscles are going to be using more energy than anything so increased muscle is going to increase your metabolism long term, which is why exercise is good to increase your muscle mass.
How is your metabolism affected by your gender? Typically, testosterone in men is going to help burn fat a lot faster and keep your metabolism revved up a lot longer. It is also going to help you gain muscle mass. Really, where we run into problems is when we get hormone imbalances. Both males and females should have estrogen and testosterone. Yes, ladies, you have testosterone and, yes, men, you have estrogen. There needs to be a good balance between the these two hormones.
The problem with giving somebody hormones to balance them out is you should instead ask the question, why are they imbalanced to being with and treat that imbalance first. Otherwise, you could drive up hormones in a direction they don’t need to be and really screw up the metabolism a lot more. For instance, men that eat too much sugar and too much processed food can have a low testosterone and a high estrogen level. You will still have them, but the imbalance between the two are going to be off. Your body actually converts your testosterone and moves it over to estrogen and it creates an unhealthy metabolic process that happens with the body. Women, if your estrogen goes too high, you become estrogen dominant. If it goes too low, you can also have challenges. Making sure the hormones are balanced properly are very important.
Another item that can affect your metabolism is poor nutrition. Quite honestly this is probably one of the top items that is screwing up all of the others. Poor nutrition plays a critical role in really messing up your metabolism. If you put in foods that you’re allergic to, that creates inflammation. If you put in foods that are highly processed or that have lots of sugars, grains, things that are going to spike your insulin levels, this is going to throw off your hormones. This can play havoc on your energy and metabolism. You can become more fatigued as the day goes on. Food and nutrition is very, very critical. Here is another fact about nutrition, which is really interesting, and that is that no two people are alike and no two people need or require the same diet.
So often I’ll have people ask the question, “How much of this do I need?” I hesitate to give people the answer. The reason why is because they may not need that specific item but this person over here may need it. Everybody’s a little different in their nutrition and what’s going to work best for them.
Stress also messes with the metabolism and it will slow you way down. When you’re stressed your body releases a hormone called cortisol. It’s a stress hormone. You probably have heard of cortisol, or cortisol fatigue, or adrenal fatigue. When cortisol is released in your body, it tells your liver to start producing more sugar. Your insulin levels start to go up and we start to get this imbalance of hormones that are going on in the body.
Your body is so used to having this plentiful supply of sugar, that it starts to not use some of the other machinery in the body of burning fat for energy versus sugar for energy. Stress will wreak havoc on every single organ, tissue, cell in the body. We have more stress today than our parents and our grandparents did in their entire lifetime. The research is showing that we have more stress in one day than our parents and our grandparents do.
What it really comes down to, more than anything, is that years ago people were moving. They were releasing their stress. Stress was also coming at them at a much slower pace. Today we have phones, we have electronics, we have things coming at us at 100 miles per hour and our brain and our bodies are trying to process all of these things. We don’t have the release mechanisms for this stress. We don’t often go out and have walks anymore or exercise. We have a lack of movement throughout the day in the office sitting at a computer. All of this is going to increase stress as well as not release the stress that is being caused in your body.
Chronic disease is another issue that can affect your metabolism. Chronic and degenerative diseases are at an all time high in our country. In fact, when we look at the money that’s spent on healthcare, the research shows that 97% of all the financial resources on healthcare goes to treating chronic degenerative diseases. This includes heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hormone imbalance, digestive issues, autoimmune disease, and osteoarthritis. All of these degenerative diseases that are riddling our country right now and causing people to continue to live through them, but they’re not living at their optimal potential. All of these diseases really have an effect on the metabolism. Many of them are metabolic diseases in and of themselves and the reason they develop is the metabolism breaks down and now we have this disease.
Your metabolism can also definitely be affected by your medications. Many of the medications that people take today on a regular basis disrupt the hormones, and imbalance the body’s metabolism, causing it to slow down. Antidepressants will slow the metabolism as will diabetes medication. Isn’t it ironic that with diabetes, we want to be able to have a faster metabolism so we can metabolize the sugars and create energy to allow the body to function better, but the actual treatment for the disease is making the metabolism worse as time goes on.
Steroids are a common disruptor to your metabolism. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been on steroids when I was young. I’d get very sick and it would happen a couple times every year, like clockwork. They named it virally induced asthma. One of the treatments was a steroid inhaler, and I took a Prednisone, and an Albuterol inhaler to open up my lungs. When I started to feel it come on, I just knew that I better go and grab those medications, and start taking them. That was what was creating the issues, that I didn’t have enough of this medication in my body. Remember, this is the way we’re trained. It’s the way we’re trained to think and the reason why we’re starting to try to educate you to start to think differently about health.
What about physical activity? Why is physical activity so important when it comes to metabolism? Well, physical activity will burn up the extra energy in your body. If done properly with proper nutrition it can turn you from a sugar burner into a fat burner. It can also increase your body size and composition, so your muscle mass will increase and it will increase your body’s metabolism.
The last one to talk about is toxins. Now, when I say toxins, what do I mean? I mean toxins from the foods that we eat, from the air we breathe, from the chemicals we put onto our body, and from processed foods. All of these different chemicals and components that are added into our body have to somehow be processed by our body. Our body can become overloaded and this overload of toxins affects how the body responds to hormones. In fact, many of these toxins are mimicry compounds or they look like the hormones that we have in our body today. They can block estrogen receptors, insulin receptors, leptin receptors, and then we don’t get the same response as we did when we were young because of the toxic overload in our system.
If you want to start to really increase your metabolism and to reverse all of these processes then you want to start building it by improving your nutrition, changing your toxic level and then slowly you’ll see these start to change over time. If you would like more guidance on these issues feel free to call LifeWorks Integrative Health today and schedule an appointment!