Metabolic Insight Series
Part 4 - Hormones and Metabolism
Accelerated Aging and the Metabolic Continuum
Over the past several decades, we have learned a great deal about what drives and accelerates aging, and how to slow it down. The most significant thing we learned is that humans actually have a great deal of control over their own aging. In short, YOU determine the rate at which you age!
It’s All About Your Cells
As is often said, you are only as old as you think you are. Though there is great wisdom in this, we also want to propose the following: You are only as young as your cells are healthy. Think of this as your metabolic versus your chronological age. Though your chronological age is set in stone, your metabolic age can be changed, and even reversed, through proper daily habits.
In order to do their jobs optimally, your cells must be undamaged and have a sufficient supply of the structural, functional, and energy biochemicals that we discussed in Part 1.
As your cells perform their day-to-day jobs, they become worn out and essential biochemicals are depleted. Therefore, to keep your body functioning optimally, you must continually repair or replace your cells, and replenish your functional and energy biochemicals.
If these restorative processes don’t happen, your body cannot Build sufficiently to offset Using. You end up with fewer “healthy” cells at work trying to do their respective jobs, including producing the functional biochemicals they need in ORDER to do their jobs. And, having to do so with less energy. When Building doesn’t keep pace with Using you are in a breaking down process — what we refer to as “accelerated metabolic aging.”
Accelerated metabolic aging is a compounding process — problems beget more problems. For example, from the loss or degradation of its cells, your GI tract does not perform optimally. Therefore, you don’t digest food and absorb nutrients as well, so you have fewer nutrients to Build with.
In the lifelong tug-of-war with Building, Using once again strengthens its upper hand and, over time, continues to accelerate your aging process.
The Metabolic Continuum
The journey from health to disease is called the Metabolic Continuum. A continuum is
basically a progression during which each step isn’t much different from the previous or next step, but the beginning and end points are worlds apart. In other words, you don’t go to sleep healthy and wake up with a degenerative disease!
Throughout the Metabolic Continuum, you transition from having a Healthy metabolism to an At-Risk metabolism, to a Compromised metabolism and, ultimately, to a Damaged metabolism.
Phase I: Healthy Metabolism
In the first phase of the Metabolic Continuum, all of your cells are healthy, all your hormone systems are functioning optimally, and all metabolic activity happens normally. With proper habits, your body can perform all of the essential regenerative functions of Building that counteract the degenerative effects of Using. You have a balanced metabolism.
Phase II: At-Risk Metabolism
In this second phase, your metabolism is technically still healthy – capable of performing all of its regenerative functions. However, because of chronic poor nutrition and lifestyle habits, it begins to struggle to do so. Your body has to work harder to sustain the necessary Building functions that enable it to keep pace with Using. It can still do so because your cells are still functional, but it is more of a strain on your cells and organ systems. You are beginning the breaking down process and you have begun to accelerate the normal aging process. Your metabolic health is now “at-risk.”
I should point out that during the early stages of Phase II, you will actually feel pretty great, due to the increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol, Using hormones which are often referred to as “feel good” hormones. Only later in Phase II will you experience warning symptoms such as occasional headaches, heartburn, constipation, indigestion, flatulence, sleep disruption, and garden-variety aches and pains.
Phase III: Compromised Metabolism
The next stop on the continuum is a Compromised Metabolism. In Phase III you are either in the early stage of insulin resistance, which compromises the Building side of your metabolism, or you are in the early stage of adrenal fatigue, which compromises the Using side of your metabolism, or, possibly, in the early stages of both.
With a compromised metabolism, enough cellular damage has occurred to compromise functionality. Though you can still produce hormones, you may not produce them in the right amounts or for the right durations. As a result, your cells don’t receive the correct hormone signals and/or they may be unable to respond to them appropriately. Therefore, you don’t get the necessary hormone effects that enable your cells and organs to function optimally.
Over time, a compromised metabolism becomes even more so. Increasingly, the right things do not happen under the right circumstances. People with a compromised metabolism can eat correctly, but not feel well. Even after a balanced meal, they may feel bloated, tired, and achy. They may gain weight, have trouble sleeping, feel sluggish throughout the day, or experience a number of other symptoms such as allergies, headaches, and irritability. Pre-existing symptoms worsen, new symptoms rear their ugly heads and various medical conditions develop – conditions like abnormal cholesterol metabolism, inability to lose weight, hypertension, insomnia, anxiety disorders, depression, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune issues.
As awful as this all sounds, the good news is, if you don’t wait too long, you can still heal a Compromised Metabolism.
Phase IV: Damaged Metabolism
A damaged metabolism occurs after years of cellular degradation. It’s the last stop on the continuum. To an even greater extent than in Phase III, your cells do not respond well to proper habits, or to hormone signals. At this stage, essential metabolic functions no longer occur adequately to keep you healthy. Sadly, years of poor habits have dug you into a deep “metabolic hole.”
You are now in the advanced stages of insulin resistance, adrenal compromise, or both, and have entered the world of degenerative disease such as type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s dementia.
Though you can’t change the fact that you have diabetes, have had a heart attack or a stroke, it’s never too late to be healthier. While you cannot fully heal a Damaged metabolism, you can make significant improvements and enhance your quality of life.
The journey through the four main phases of the Metabolic Continuum is a life-long process. As is the case with any continuum, there is no distinct beginning or end to each phase. Rather, you seamlessly transition from one phase to the next.
What I want you to understand is that “natural aging,” the progression from a healthy to an unhealthy state, is inevitable. You have no control over whether it happens. What you do control is how quickly and aggressively it happens. In other words, you control the rate of your metabolic aging process.
To do so, you first need to know which of your habits are accelerating your aging process and then change those habits. When you do, you can slow your progression through the Metabolic Continuum. In fact, you can often reverse it!
It’s all about maximizing Building and optimizing Using. So, in our next session, we are going to explore the Using side of your metabolism and how to optimize it. After that, we’ll talk about the Building side.