10 Causes of Slow Metabolism

As an obesity medicine specialist, I frequently hear from my patients “they must have a sluggish metabolism interfering with their weight loss process. However, I have found that some of them are inadvertently slowing it down. Only a small percentage of individuals are genetically “blessed” for having normal to fast metabolism.

A person’s metabolism is affected by their genetic profile, however, others factors affecting it are self-induced. The great news is that we can speed up our metabolism if we can identify certain habits or conditions causing it to slow it down.

But let us start by defining what is metabolism.

Metabolism is the process by which our body converts what you eat and drink into energy.

Even when you are resting, your body needs energy for breathing, blood circulation, digestion and many other functions. The number of calories that your body is using for these basic functions is known as resting metabolic rate (RMR).

As I described previously, several natural and self-induced factors can affect our RMR. These factors are:

1. Age: As we age, our metabolism naturally slows down. After the age of 30, our RMR decreases about one to two percent per year. This is one of several reasons why most people gain weight as they get older. Muscle mass decreases, while fat mass increases, cutting down the rate at which we burn calories.

2. Body size and composition: Athletic and muscular people burn more calories, even when they are resting, so they are more likely to have a faster RMR than obese individuals.

3. Gender: Men tend to have a lower body fat percentage and higher muscle mass than women of the same age, and this is the reason they burn more calories. One of the reasons is that men produce ninety percent more testosterone than women. Testosterone is a sex hormone that helps increase muscle mass and decrease fat mass.

4. Hormonal imbalance: Sex hormones for men and women decline as we age. The lack of estrogen in women and the amount of testosterone in both men and women can change the muscle/fat ratio. Testosterone helps regulate muscle mass, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even while resting. If you are experiencing symptoms of hormone deficit; ask your physician if you would benefit from hormone replacement therapy. I recommend natural hormone replacement treatment. For more information CLICK HERE (Hormone Replacement FAQ).

5. Poor nutrition/frequent crash diets: Patients who tend to eat food high in refined sugars and/or saturated fat, food with poor nutritional value or those ones who are on a very restrictive caloric diet on a regular basis tend to have slower metabolism. When you are not eating enough calories to meet your RMR, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy, and your body naturally responds by storing fat for future use. Crash diets cause muscle and water mass loss, rather than fat, slowing down your metabolism. Also, patients eating a non-balanced diet can have a deficiency of vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids. The deficit of these macronutrients and micronutrients can affect the rate of our metabolism. To maintain your metabolism or change it for the better, eat a well-balanced diet, rich in complex carbohydrates, lean meats, low or non-fat dairy and healthy monounsaturated fats. Supplementation with whole food vitamins and minerals are encouraged to keep your metabolism up and running.

6. Stress: Emotional stress causes your level of the hormone cortisol to rise, which can harm your metabolism. Increased cortisol levels can cause you to overeat, therefore, causing weight gain (fat gain). Often, individuals affected by life or emotional stressors could benefit from a regular exercise routine, helping release natural “feel good” brain chemicals (endorphins). Consult your physician if your symptoms are worsening or you feel that you need professional intervention.

7. Insomnia: Individuals who are having accumulative sleep deprivation may be affecting their RMR. Chronic insomnia can cause a dysregulation of certain hormones (cortisol, insulin and leptin). Insulin is a hormone that tells your body to store fat. Sleep deprivation appears to have a harmful impact on carbohydrate metabolism. When carbohydrates are not metabolized properly, your blood sugar levels increase. High blood sugar levels spike insulin levels, signaling your body to store unused energy as fat.

A research study examined the effects of leptin, a protein involved in appetite control and the sensation of satiety. “Subjects who participated in the study showed reduced levels of leptin during the period of sleep deprivation, and returned toward normal during the period of recovery sleep, suggesting that sleep may play an important role in metabolic regulation and possibly the etiology of obesity and the night-eating syndrome”.

8. Medications: The metabolic rate can be affected by some drugs, such as antidepressants, diabetic medications, steroids, anti-thyroid agents and hormone therapies. Talk with your doctor if you suspect that a medicine is causing weight gain. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medication or change your dosage.

9. Chronic diseases: Certain medical conditions such as obesity, hypothyroidism, diabetes or Cushing’s syndrome can slow down metabolism.

Obesity: Obese individuals with higher fat mass and lower muscle mass tend to have a slower metabolism. As it was described in the body size and composition section, individuals with more muscle mass will burn more calories at rest.

Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid: Thyroid hormones play an important role in regulating the metabolism and overall energy production. When the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, all bodily processes — including your metabolism — slow down. As a result, individuals affected by this condition may experience weight gain, tiredness, cold intolerance, constipation, and decreased heart rate, among other symptoms.

Diabetes: It is not fully understood why diabetic patients tend to have slower metabolism compared to non-diabetic patients. Research studies have shown that the higher blood sugar levels may actually fool the body into believing there’s lots of energy around, resulting in a slowed down metabolism.

Cushing’s syndrome: Cushing’s syndrome is a disorder that develops when the adrenal glands are producing an excess of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone responsible for maintaining blood pressure, regulating insulin, controlling the immune system and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The excess of cortisol slows down metabolism, resulting in obesity and increased fat around the face and neck. It can also cause fatigue, high blood pressure, high blood glucose and mood swings.

Consult with your physician if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.

10. Physical Inactivity: Lack of exercise or physical activity can cause fat gain and slow our metabolism. Once we start exercising, our heart rate increases and blood pumps through our muscles. When you are working out, your muscles are burning calories and your metabolism increases. Regular exercise and high intensity interval training can boost your metabolism over the long term.

Stay tuned for our next blog! I will be discussing 8 Ways to Boost and Repair Your Metabolism.

Are you convinced you have a slow metabolism? Do you know your Resting Metabolic Rate? The Aesthetic & Wellness Center can determine if your metabolism is normal, fast or slow. A simple ten-minute breathing test can give us information on your metabolism and tips to “rev up it.” Please call us at 941-749-0741 to schedule your appointment.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The Aesthetic & Wellness Center is not responsible or liable for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information, services or products that you obtain through this site. After reading articles, watching videos or reading other content from this website, you are encouraged to review the information carefully with your professional healthcare provider or skin care specialist.

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