Studies of fasting show that basal metabolism doesn’t shut down during fasting, it revs itself up. Four consecutive days of fasting increases basal metabolism by 13%.
— Jason Fung, MD, and Bestselling Author of The Diabetes Code and The Obesity Code
The Low (Hypo) Metabolism-Disease Connection
You may only think about metabolism in the context of losing weight. If you’re like most of my new clients and students, you may bemoan the fact that you have a slow metabolism and are having trouble losing those last ten pounds. Makes sense since the definition of metabolism is the rate at which you burn food for energy. If you’re dealing with autoimmune issues, chances are really good that you’re also dealing with a low and slow metabolism too. That’s because autoimmunity is a hypometabolic state. It’s like your body’s energy-producing mitochondria and thyroid (the “gas pedal gland”) have gone on strike. You’re tired, cold, constipated, and may even feel depressed.
Metabolism is strongly connected to your overall health and vitality. When your metabolism is working well, you feel good, your energy is stable, you recover from infections pretty fast, and you don’t have trouble losing weight. Being in a hypometabolic state, however, not only decreases your vitality, it decreases the robustness of your immune system and, in a vicious loop makes you more vulnerable to infections and at risk for numerous harmful health problems including loss of immune regulation, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, body-wide inflammation, infections, autoimmune disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease.
People with hypometabolism tend to gain weight in areas where they shouldn’t have it — inside the abdomen, around organs, and inside the liver. That type of belly fat is inflammatory and associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, and, as we’ve observed, worse outcomes from infections like COVID-19.
Hypometabolic Signs and Symptoms
Concerned you might be hypometabolic? These are signs that you might be:
- Cold hands and feet
- Belly fat
- Known infections
- Daytime fatigue
- Wake up unrefreshed
- Weight loss resistance
- Brain fog
- Low mood or depression
- Autoimmune or mysterious symptoms
What Contributes to Hypometabolism?
Many factors contribute to a sluggish metabolism, including aging. Beyond age-related decline, unaddressed, toxic F.I.G.H.T.S.™ factors hasten the decline:
- Processed SAD, inflammatory Foods and nutrient deficiencies
- Infectious burdens
- Poor Gut health
- A heavy load of Toxicants
- Hormone imbalance
- Chronic Stress
Addressing these F.I.G.H.T.S. categories head on will help you lower inflammation, fix and grow new mitochondria, and optimize your thyroid function, which in turn will boost your metabolism, allowing you to clear infections, beat autoimmune and improve your odds of beating infections like COVID-19:
A Simple At Home Test for Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
- Get an old-fashioned thermometer
- Take your temperature on waking (before you get out of bed)
- Under tongue for 5 min or armpit 10 min
- Write down your temp
- <98F (37C) degrees for 5 mornings in a row is consistent with hypometabolism
Strategies to Rev Your Metabolism
You can assist your body in cranking up your natural energy production by implementing some or all of these lifestyle strategies:
Breathe deeply and slooooowly
Conscious breathing is one of the easiest and most deceptively simple ways to raise your metabolism and relax at the same time. Give it a try: Take 10 conscious breaths with a 1-4-2 ratio. For example, inhale for four seconds, hold for 16 seconds and exhale for eight seconds. Do three rounds of 10 breaths a few times per day.
Use red lights at night
Standard artificial lights emit a blue wave spectrum, which if you are exposed to in the evening and early morning, suppresses melatonin, harming your circadian rhythm and keeping you in a hypometabolic state. Give it a try: Replace your bedside lamp with a red LED bulb (about $5–10) and get a red night light for bathroom use; install the free light-dimming software F.lux on your electronic devices; wear “blue blocker” glasses at home in the evening; and make it a ritual to get some morning sun soon after waking.
Dip into ketosis periodically
The ketogenic diet, a high fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet (roughly 70 percent fat, 25 percent protein and 5 percent carbs) helps to lower inflammation, reverse insulin resistance, improve brain function and energy levels, and even helps you detoxify from heavy metals. Yale University published a recent study showing that mice fed a ketogenic diet and infected with the influenza virus had a higher survival rate than mice on a normal, high-carb diet. Give it a try: For a full keto guide, check out Leanne Vogel’s The Keto Diet: The Complete Guide to a High-Fat Diet, with More Than 125 Delectable Recipes and 5 Meal Plans to Shed Weight, Heal Your Body, and Regain Confidence
Practice intermittent fasting (IF)
Studies confirm that going without food periodically has numerous health benefits like improving insulin sensitivity, boosting metabolism, and increasing energy levels. (2) Give it a try: To ease into it, allow 15 hours between dinner and breakfast (that means zero calories) a few times per week. Or try skipping dinner a few times a week and just eat breakfast and lunch.
Induce autophagy: extend your fast
“Autophagy” comes from the Greek words “self” (auto) “eating” (phagy). Sounds awful but it’s a highly beneficial state of clearing out and cleaning up old, damaged, malfunctioning, and dead cells. Old, senescent cells and debris are inflammatory and can trigger autoimmune and other disease processes. Studies show that fasting between 18 – 36 hours “induces autophagy” and help regenerate new cells and energy-producing mitochondria. Give it a try: a few times a month, extend your fast to 23 hours or just one meal a day (OMAD).
Resistance training with heavy weights produces active muscle tissue, which is more metabolically active than fat, helping you burn more calories even at rest. Secondly, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and high-intensity interval resistance training (HIRT), like fast circuits at the gym, are efficient ways to rev up your metabolism. Third, moderate cardio in a fasted state, for example first thing in the morning, has been shown to offer superior metabolic effects than exercising after eating. (3) Give it a try: If you are able, do Dr. Izumi Tabata’s 12-minute HIIT protocol: 20 seconds of all-out effort (e.g., sprint, high step, jumping jacks) and then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat eight times, and you’re done! You can find four- and 10-minute Tabata workouts for beginners on YouTube.
Take cold showers
Like fasting, cold water immersion has a “hormetic effect” — meaning a little bit of stress has a beneficial effect. Not only does cold water force your body to work harder to keep you warm, thereby burning more calories, it also activates healthy brown fat that helps to eliminate harmful adipose (white) fat. Give it a try: Alternate 20 seconds of hot and 20 seconds of cold water in the shower for a few minutes. Or, just finish your normal shower like I do with 1-2 minutes of cold water.
Supplement for energy production
Energy-enhancing nutrients include amino acids (especially L’tryptophan), omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-lipoic acid (I recommend “R-lipoic acid” form), N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), L-carnitine, B-complex vitamins, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and PQQ. Give it a try: You can find these and other supplements that help speed up your metabolism, support your immune system, and lower inflammation in my online Fullscript supplement dispensary where you can find professional grade supplements at good prices.
How Can You Tell if These Strategies Are Working?
- Your morning temperature should go up a little
- Your daytime energy should improve
- You should be able to go longer without food
- Cravings for sugar and unhealthy snacks should subside
- Your thinking should be more clear
- Your mood should be brighter
- Your pants should fit better
Raise Your Metabolism to Improve Your Health Outcomes
One of the best ways to improve your immunity, reverse autoimmunity, and strengthen your resistance to infections is to raise your metabolism. As you improve your metabolism through these simple lifestyle habits, you’ll be shifting your terrain for the better and your immune system can often eliminate — or at least reduce the magnitude of — persistent infections on its own. By proactively working to make yourself an inhospitable place for infections, you are taking a critical step in controlling your health and wellbeing.
This is arguably one of the best times to prioritize your health and I invite you to use this time wisely. As you see positive results, you’ll find the motivation to address other F.I.G.H.T.S. factors like gut health, toxins and stress, until you’re living the life you deserve, one of resilience and vibrant health.
Which metabolism-raising strategies will you try? I look forward to hearing about your experiments to recover from hypometabolism and autoimmunity.
Take good care!
p.s. Want my help beating an autoimmune condition and optimizing your immunity? If you live the U.S. and are ready, willing, and able to invest in your best health, I offer Functional Medicine Total Health Transformation Programs over Zoom. I collaborate with a naturopath who is an expert in resolving chronic infections and toxic burdens which are almost always part of the autoimmune puzzle. Together we provide comprehensive, customized treatment plans, and collaborative, caring support. Sign up for a complimentary 15 min discovery call to discuss how we might work together. If you’re truly ready to invest in your best health and life, I’d love to talk with you.