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10 Slow Metabolism Symptoms & What to do About Them

by Jessica Hegg April 19, 2017 3 Comments

Older woman walking

Your metabolism is responsible for regulating functions such as body temperature, energy level and how easily we gain and lose weight. All which make a big difference in overall feelings of wellbeing. Slow metabolism symptoms tend to kick in as we age, but some lifestyle habits, and underlying medical conditions can also decrease metabolic rates.

Concerned that your metabolism isn’t keeping up? Here are 10 common slow metabolism symptoms to watch for.

1. Weight Gain 

Metabolism is the process through which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. While your food intake and physical exercise are the biggest determiners of your weight, a slowed metabolism can contribute to weight gain as your body simply slows your calorie conversion, you burn less calories on the same amount of food in a day, and your body ends up storing more fat.

2. Lethargy & Chronic Fatigue 

Can’t shake that feeling of being tired and worn out? If your metabolism is lagging, and therefore the process of breaking down food and transforming the nutrients into energy, your energy levels will be diminished as well. Some medical ailments like a reduction in your red blood cell count brought on by iron or vitamin B deficiency can cause both fatigue and accompanying metabolism slow down.

3. Difficulty Losing Weight

A decrease in your metabolism might make it harder to lose weight because while weight is largely dependent on burning more calories than you take in. If you suddenly restrict your diet and undereat in general, your metabolism is naturally going to slow to conserve calories for energy. When your metabolism slows, you burn less calories and are more likely to keep weight on.

4. Dry, Cracked Skin

The same hormones that aid in keeping your skin and nails healthy are the ones the control your metabolic processes - an imbalance in one can definitely be seen in the other. Dry, itchy, or even oily skin accompanied by discoloration, paleness or an increase an acne are helpful signs in narrowing down potential metabolic deficiencies.

5. Hair Loss

Along with your skin and nails, your hair is constantly regenerating requiring more and more nutrients for growth. If your slowed metabolism is affecting your body’s nutrient intake, your hair won’t have the supply it needs to stay strong, vibrant, and healthy. Hair loss or simply a change in texture to dry and dull hair can be a sign of a slowed metabolism.

6. Feeling Cold or Difficulty Staying Warm

A cooler core body temperature has been shown to slow metabolism - in some studies resulting in up to 130 less calories being expended each day. If your natural body temperature errs on the side of coolness, it could affect your metabolism and in conjunction with other symptoms help lead you to a diagnosis.

7. Physical Stiffness, Inflexibility, General weakness

Your body’s natural protections against foreign bacterias and viruses requires a healthy immune system which can be affected by a change in your metabolism. Since your body takes the nutrients from your food and delivers them to your organs and immune system for proper functioning, if your food to nutrient conversion is slacking, your body is more vulnerable to getting sick. Fluid build-up around joints and muscles as a result of a slowed metabolism can also cause stiffness, weakness, and even pain.

8. Sugar Cravings

When your body’s blood sugar levels drop, you might find yourself craving sugar and calories to make up for it. In addition to regulating when stored fat is converted into energy, your adrenal glands keep your metabolism functioning properly. If your adrenal glands are ‘out of whack’ and you find yourself craving sugar to make up for a lack of energy, it may be an indicator that your metabolism is affected as well.

9. Difficulty Concentrating

Your brain survives off the nutrients your body is able to take in from the food you eat and beverages you drink. If a sluggish metabolism is causing this nutrient to energy conversion to impede your normal brain function, concentration and alertness will also lag behind. In addition, without your usual mental clarity, the judgement and decisions you make regarding healthy behaviors might be negatively affected as well.

10. Headaches

Brain swelling and the accompanying tension headaches and migraines can be associated with an underactive thyroid which also slows your metabolism. In addition, an unhealthy fluctuation in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol causes a metabolic imbalance and has also been shown to trigger migraines.

    Tip:
    This list is not comprehensive, and some symptoms could also be indicative of other health problems. Always discuss symptoms with your doctor.

    What Causes Slow Metabolism Symptoms?

    Some things are out of our control when it comes to metabolism. Genetics, age, and your sex, all play a role in how efficiently your body uses energy and maintains weight. Many think those who are obese have a slow metabolism, but that isn’t always true; there are many other factors involved in regulating metabolism.

    Your Thyroid:

    Your thyroid is a gland in your neck that secretes hormones that regulate your metabolic rate. It’s also the defining factor in just how efficient your metabolism will function

    Your thyroid helps to maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails. If your skin is dry and cracked, especially on or around your heels, this is a possible indicator that your thyroid is not functioning effectively.

    Hormone Production:

    This goes hand and hand with your thyroid. Hormone levels and rate of production also plays a significant role in the functioning of your metabolism.  

    Watch for theses signs of a possible hormone imbalance:

    • Gender - Woman will typically lose hair at the crown of the head and menstrual cycles may become irregular
    • Ongoing fatigue or low energy
    • Depression or feelings of anxiety
    • Weakened immune system

    Genetics:

    Genetics are uncontrollable factors that can greatly influence our metabolic rates.  The two main genetics are age and sex.

    • Age - metabolism slows with age as muscle mass decreases, and lowers the rate you burn calories.
    • Sex - metabolism is generally lower in women than in men due to usually having more muscle mass and less body fat.

      Lifestyle:

      Old couple walking Older couple talking walk to increase heart rate and strive for a healthier wellbeing ( Image Reference ).

      Your body naturally burns 1,800 (women) to 2,400 (men) calories each day simply while at rest - functions like your heart pumping, breathing, and your blood circulating throughout your body keep it busy. Maintaining a high metabolism, however, is directly dependent on your diet and the amount of exercise you get. As your body converts food into energy, or calories for you to burn, you want to avoid blood sugar spikes that come with eating refined grains and white sugars. Lots of lean proteins, fruits, veggies, and whole grains in combination with proper hydration are going to power a regulated hormone production that controls your metabolism. And hand in hand with that goes lots of physical fitness. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day helps trigger your metabolism to burn more calories, gets your internal core temperature up which burns more calories, and helps you build muscle mass which also burns more calories!

      Underlying Health Conditions:

      While metabolism naturally slows with fluctuations in hormonal functioning as you age, there may be underlying conditions that are reflective of the signs above which require medical attention

      Health Conditions that May Cause Slow Metabolism Symptoms:

      If necessary, your doctor can order blood tests to rule out some of the potential underlying causes of an unbalanced metabolism listed below.
        • Hypothyroidism: Underactive thyroid. Women over 60 are more likely to have hypothyroidism.
        • Cushing Syndrome: A disorder of the adrenal glands, small glands located on the top of each kidney which results in high levels of the hormone cortisol. A few other symptoms include excessive body hair, irregular menstrual periods, purple stretch marks, and wounds healing slowly.
        • Hashimoto’s Disease: An autoimmune disorder that attacks your thyroid and can cause hypothyroidism, which can lower metabolism. Primarily affects middle-aged woman but can occur in men.
      Tip:
      This list is not all-inclusive. Your doctor can determine if tests and treatment are necessary.

      Habits that Cause Slow Metabolism Symptoms:

      You may be causing slow metabolism symptoms without even realizing it.  Healthy daily habits are crucial for your metabolism.  Check to make sure you are unintentionally slowing your metabolism by any of these (not so good) habits:

      Significantly Reducing Calories -

      An insufficient amount of caloric intake reduces your metabolism as it forces your body to conserve calories rather than burn. By eating less than your body requires, you’re unintentionally training your metabolism to slow and store calories because your body believes it’s preparing for starvation.

      Skipping Breakfast -

        Your metabolism decreases while you sleep, so if you start your day without eating, your metabolism continues at a lower rate. Begin your day with a healthy breakfast and plan balanced meals and snacks throughout your day. Infrequent and unhealthy meals result in unstable blood sugar levels and floundering energy levels.

        Inadequate Rest -

          When you’re exhausted from stress, and lack of sleep, your body has trouble completing its daily functions. Fatigue causes your metabolism to function at a lower rate.

          Low Water Intake -

            Staying hydrated and drinking enough water will increase your metabolism. Dehydration causes your body temperature to drop, and your body will want to store fat to increase your body temperature. Thus decreasing your metabolic rate.

            How to Fix a Slow Metabolism

            Fruits and vegetables

            Increasing intake of healthier foods (such as fruits & vegetables) help to speed up slow metabolism ( Image Reference)

            Don't waste any more time suffering from uncomfortable slow metabolism symptoms, it's time to take matters into your own hands.  Making simple changes to your diet and exercise routine can make a huge impact on your metabolism. You'll definitely start feeling the difference.

            Consume Foods that Increase Metabolism:

            Increasing these foods in your diet can provide a short-term boost to your metabolism. If you incorporate them into your daily diet, you can make a difference that benefits your metabolism.

            • Protein intake:  Proteins such as lean poultry, eggs, fish, dairy and beans keep you feeling fuller, and your metabolism higher, longer. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are harder to break down than fat and carbohydrates so you burn more calories while digesting them.
            • Spicy foods: Eating spicy food can please your palate while giving your metabolism a boost.
            • Green tea: The mild caffeine and catechin in green tea can increase your metabolic function by 4-5% plus you get the bonus of antioxidants which can lower the risk of some diseases.
            • Iodine rich foods: Without adequate iodine your thyroid cannot work effectively and thus negatively impacts your metabolism. Many people have switched to using sea salt, but don’t give up table salt altogether. A quarter-teaspoon of iodized table salt provides about 50% of your recommended daily dose of iodine. Other iodine rich foods to include are seaweed, cod, shrimp and eggs.  

            Decrease Foods that Slow Down Metabolism:

            Reducing certain foods in your diet that can help to improve your metabolism:

            • Caffeine - gives you a nice boost to your metabolism, but too much caffeine can suppress your appetite. This can result in binge eating later in the day, or not eating enough meals through the day, which both result in an unstable, or slow, metabolic rate.
            • Alcohol - slows your metabolism because your body metabolizes alcohol before other food. Alcohol also adds additional empty calories.  
            • Carbohydrates - are easily broken down by your body which results in little nutritional value and a slower metabolism because your body repeatedly uses less effort.
            • Sugary foods - these play havoc with your blood sugar levels and are quickly absorbed.
            • Processed foods - can expose you to chemical preservatives thought to produce additional abdominal weight gain.

            Tip:
            Consider consulting with a nutritionist who can help you structure your caloric intake and meals to your advantage, but there are some easy changes you can make to your diet today.

            Exercise to Speed up a Slow Metabolism:

            Running man

            Getting your heart rate up and an adequate amount of exercise helps to speed up a slow metabolism ( Image Reference).

            A boost in activity level and exercise can have a positive effect on your body’s metabolic rate and help to decrease slow metabolism symptoms.  Trying adding some of these activities into your day routine to boost your activity level:

            • Take a walk - Head out in the early morning sunlight to help regulate your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is like your ‘body clock’. It helps you maintain a healthy metabolism by improving upon how well you sleep, eat and burn calories. Plus getting up early for breakfast and exercise gets your metabolism burning.
            • Incorporate strength training - mix up your cardio routine. Muscle burns more calories, and this burn lasts hours after your workout ends.
            • Cardiovascular exercise - with higher intensity cardio and small bouts of activity throughout the day can keep your metabolism accelerated.

            Start Relieving Your Slow Metabolism Symptoms

            Some things are out of your control when it comes to wrestling with your metabolism, but it’s invigorating to know there is something you can do today about regulating your metabolism to improve your wellness for tomorrow.

            Remember...

            • Rule out any underlying medical cause. Most conditions respond well to treatment and can improve your metabolism.
            • Make little changes in your diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle habits to get your metabolism running smoothly and enjoy better overall health.
            Jessica Hegg
            Jessica Hegg


            3 Responses

            Robert Potsic
            Robert Potsic

            April 23, 2017

            Thanks very much for the information. Very informative.

            anthony centineo
            anthony centineo

            April 20, 2017

            Thanks for sharing the information in your email I found it very helpful.

            Robert Kuller
            Robert Kuller

            April 20, 2017

            Helpful and factual. Thanks.

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