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Hypothyroidism and Metabolism

Why understanding your metabolism is a key to better health
Hypothyroidism and Metabolism

What exactly is your metabolism? For decades it has been a hot topic synonymous with weight loss. People continually try to alter their metabolism with pills, diets, and workouts. But without your metabolism, your body would cease to function. 


Even though many tend to blame their metabolism for their lack of energy, weight gain, and more, it is actually a vital bodily function. 


Metabolism is defined as the process of your cells breaking down the food you consume into energy, that in turn supplies numerous other processes within your body.


A fast metabolism means that your body regularly burns a great number of calories, while a slow metabolism equates to burning fewer calories. Typically, the number of calories burned compared to your intake translates to weight gain or weight loss.


The Many Factors of Metabolism


Your metabolism can be affected by various factors and result in undesirable symptoms, but it would be incorrect to assume that your metabolism is the sole culprit of all of your health issues. 


How can your metabolism vary and what does this mean for your health? 


What you eat.

It is often cited as one of the top influences on your metabolism. Commonly, you will see food marketed to speed up your metabolism. This isn’t exactly possible, or sustainable. Coffee, chili, and spicy foods may be able to minimally increase your metabolic rate but it is short-lived. This short-lived and insignificant increase is not enough to have any true effect on the numbers reflected on the scale. Additionally, the more you eat these foods, the greater the likelihood that your body becomes accustomed to them, negating any hyper-metabolic properties.


However, there are a few foods you can avoid or eat less frequently in order to maintain a healthy metabolism and stave off weight gain. Fried foods, fatty foods, and those with refined sugars are often tasty and tempting but not filling and satisfying. These foods don’t require much energy to be metabolized, resulting in fewer calories burned and allowing your metabolism to slow down. 


Your metabolism has to work much harder to break down protein and complex foods such as whole grain. Therefore, more energy is expended and you burn more calories. Eating healthy to maintain a properly functioning metabolism may help you to stay focused and fit. 






Crash dieting and fasting.

Just as what you eat can affect your metabolism, the same goes for what you don’t eat. Withholding food from your body or crash dieting can negatively affect your metabolism. Contrary to some diet claims, not eating for long periods can slow your metabolism. 


If you don’t eat from morning until night your body goes into emergency mode, thinking there must be a shortage of food. This results in your metabolism slowing down to try and make the most use out of each calorie. Your body will burn fewer calories and use less energy, possibly leading to weight gain, fatigue, and irritability. 


How old you are.

Your age affects your metabolism as well, and for a few reasons. Your metabolism correlates with your muscle mass (muscles burn more calories than fat, even when your body is resting). This is why strength training and gaining muscle is often touted as a metabolism booster. 


As you get older your muscle mass tends to decrease, your calorie burn and energy expenditure slow, and your metabolism decreases. Loss of muscle when aging is likely due to a decreased level of physical activity, which could affect your metabolic rate as well. 


Finally, just as almost every organ and process within your body does, your metabolism naturally ages and things begin to slow down and function at a slightly less than optimal rate as compared to when you were young. 


Physical activity.

As briefly mentioned above, how you exercise affects your metabolism. Building muscle and strength is one of the only ways to boost your resting metabolism as muscle burns more calories than fat while the body is active and at rest. 


However, aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or running burns more calories than lifting weights. Therefore, it is beneficial to have a balanced exercise routine that includes both aerobic elements and strength elements. 


What you weigh (and what you used to weigh).

Your current and previous weight affect your metabolism. Anabolism and catabolism are the two components of metabolism. Anabolism helps your body store energy and maintain tissues while catabolism breaks down food (mainly carbs and fats) to produce energy. 

Anabolism relies on insulin to trigger this process. If you are overweight or have type two diabetes your body may not appropriately react to insulin. This may throw off your metabolism and disrupt the breakdown of fat. 

If you have lost weight your body will often have a more difficult time maintaining the loss than it did initially losing it. Most people will not be able to return to a normal diet as their metabolism has been slowed yet they still feel hungrier; researchers are not entirely sure why this occurs. 

Food deprivation negatively impacts your metabolism, and so does sleep deprivation. Skipping out on your zzz’s might result in an overproduction of insulin which as mentioned above leads to increased storage of fat. 


Certain health conditions.

Illnesses or disorders can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Disorders concerning your thyroid, pituitary gland, and others such as PCOS can slow your metabolism due to the hormones and chemical levels they affect.

Count how many hypothyroid symptoms you have with the following quizz: 


Don’t Blame Your Metabolism


Your metabolism is a necessary bodily function to turn what you eat into energy. Everyone is born with a metabolism that functions at a relatively steady level but can slow as you age or due to health and dietary factors. 


Metabolism is a key component of weight loss and weight gain but it cannot be sped up or slowed down by drastic increments or for long durations with diets, foods, pills, or exercise. A healthy metabolism can be maintained by eating protein and complex foods while steering clear of refined foods and fried fatty foods, and a balanced exercise routine. 


An optimally functioning metabolism provides your body with the energy to keep functioning even while you sleep, repairing cells, circulating blood, and breathing. Don’t be so quick to blame your metabolism, without it you would cease to function! 


Hypothyroidism only compounds all of the above mentioned details of the metabolism, as associated weight gain may impact underlying metabolic function. To set a health and meal plan that works with you and your metabolism, consider seeing a specialized thyroid nutritionist:


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