The Second Force of Illness: Impaired Metabolism or Burnout

The First Force of Illness is inadequate digestion and absorption of foods (or “sludging” – as we mentioned in the previous blog) and endothelial dysfunction.  The Second Force of Illness is “burnout” due to impaired metabolic/cellular processes creating an overall lack of energy.  How many of you suffer from being “tired”.    Metabolism is the term used to describe the creation of usable energy from food – and fatigue is an indicator that you may have an impaired metabolic ability to generate this “food energy”. The main factors in impaired metabolism are:  insulin resistance, mitochondrial dysfunction and thyroid dysfunction.

A major player in “burnout” is glucose regulation and control.  There is a saying that you chargercan have “too much of a good thing” – and this applies to carbohydrates – especially glucose and sugars.  Insulin, secreted by the pancreas in response to carbohydrates in the blood, regulates the uptake of glucose into the cells.  In the current North American diet, insulin secretion is virtually constant due to the almost continual intake of sugar and carbohydrates.  The only thing the body can do is to continue to secrete insulin in the attempt to lower the blood sugar level.  The cells can only take in a certain amount of glucose at a time, so the cells, under the stress of too much insulin, will do the logical thing – change the receptors for insulin making them inactive.  The scientific term for this is Insulin Resistance.

When a cell is unresponsive to insulin, our cells become unable to get energy from the food we eat – despite the fact that we have eaten enough – and our insulin blood levels become chronically elevated.   We become tired and hungry.   The cells are crying out for energy and we crave the quickest energy source (sugar) – which only compounds the problem when we eat them.   For our ancestors, food availability was always in question, so the body adapted by being able to store away the energy that we didn’t immediately need in the moment for use later – as fat tissue.  In today’s society, however, food (especially carbohydrates) is plentiful for most of us, so the “rainy day” never comes – but we still eat as if it could.  This is the crux of our obesity epidemic.  .  High insulin levels in the blood and Insulin Resistance have not only been linked to obesity, but also to arteriosclerosis and heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction is the second major part of burnout. Mitochondria are the energy producers of the cell.  They do this by taking sugar, fatty acids or amino acids from your food and, in the presence of oxygen, burn them to create energy.  Mitochondrial dysfunction is caused by a number of factors.  Overproduction of free radicals (also known as “reactive oxygen species” or RburnoutOS) can cause mitochondrial damage.  This is why you take antioxidants like vitamin A and E.  Poisoning from heavy metals, petroleum products, pesticides and trans fats also contribute.  At the cellular level, we find mitochondrial damage or dysfunction occurring in almost every type of major illness e.g., heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

The third major factor in impaired metabolism is thyroid dysfunction.  The thyroid is like the gas pedal in your car and determines your rate of speed.  Too little thyroid hormone and your metabolism slows.  Too much and your metabolism “red-lines”.  A low-functioning thyroid – especially in women – is becoming the norm.  Symptoms of hypothyroid include:  being cold all the time, weight gain, constipation, oily skin, coarse hair, increased cholesterol and depression.  There are many possible causes which include allergic reactions (wheat allergy/celiac disease has a well-known association with autoimmune thyroid disease), toxins, infections, hormonal disturbances and low selenium or iodine levels.

In the next blog, we will explore the ways you can test for “sludge” and “burnout”.  Until then……

Dr. Gatis