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Gut-Brain Connection

Gut-Brain Connection
There are three things that I believe to be the root causes of metabolic dysfunction or a slow metabolism.
By stress, I am talking about the chronic overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol by our adrenal glands. If we are getting flooded with this hormone minute after minute from tons of small daily stressors, it is going to take a toll on our body over time.

What can too much cortisol do?

Cortisol increases the permeability of the gut lining, allowing undigested food to get into the blood stream and cause weird food sensitivities and immune reactions that we really don’t want.
This article on stress and human immune function states that "cortisol is ordinarily anti-inflammatory and contains the immune response, but chronic elevations can lead to the immune system becoming 'resistant,' an accumulation of stress hormones, and increased production of inflammatory cytokines that further compromise the immune response."
Essentially, over time, your body gets used to having too much cortisol in your blood (the body is always attempting to adapt to stressors), and this opens the door for more inflammation. This long-term inflammation caused by chronic stress, has been linked to many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel conditions.
In addition, cortisol suppresses immune function by decreasing the body’s lymphocytes — the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte level, the more at risk you are for catching viruses.

High cortisol levels impair thyroid function by interfering with the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into active thyroid hormone (T3). This direct affect on thyroid hormone conversion is a clear way that we can see how high levels of cortisol slow down and damage the metabolism.
Cortisol also makes your cells insulin resistant by inhibiting insulin production in an attempt to prevent glucose from being stored. The crazy thing is that we also get strong sugar cravings from high cortisol because our body wants the quick energy. But because our body is having trouble using glucose because of the effects of high cortisol, when we eat high sugary foods in a stressed state, we have poor blood sugar control because of this temporary insulin resistance. This is where we see mood swings and irritable behavior from overly stressed individuals.

Taking all these effects into consideration, we can confidently say that chronically high cortisol levels is one of the root causes of metabolic dysfunction.
Low progesterone
Progesterone supports thyroid function while increasing body temperature and metabolism. If someone has low progesterone, they will have a slower metabolism.

During the second half of our cycle (the luteal phase), we should be making enough progesterone to last about 10-14 days and you should see higher basal body temperatures. 

Making enough progesterone is important because we want to bathe our cells in this pro-metabolic hormone every month.
When we are not making enough progesterone, our body does not balance out estrogen (estrogen dominance) and this can lead to mood swings, weight gain, bad PMS, crampy periods, and bad cravings.

Making enough progesterone has many other metabolic benefits too:

> Helping the thyroid hormones function better - Low progesterone can inhibit thyroid hormones from being properly utilized by your cells.

> Lowering inflammation - This is great news, because we can combat some of the inflammation caused by stress with optimal production of progesterone!

> Balancing blood sugar - When we experience a blood sugar crash, our body raises stress hormones and lowers our metabolism. Progesterone helps to balance our blood sugar so we don’t experience severe blood sugar swings/crashes and we don’t crave super sugary foods as much.

> Getting a good night of sleep - Good sleep is KEY to restoring good metabolic function and progesterone helps you sleep better.

> Reducing fluid retention - Progesterone is a mild diuretic and can help reduce fluid retention and swelling.
Lack of metabolic flexibility
Being metabolically flexible means that our mitochondria are able to use glucose or fatty acids as fuel for cellular energy production seamlessly. Essentially, we want to efficiently use glucose as energy when we eat and we want to efficiently use fatty acids as fuel when we are not eating.
There is a really cool graphic at the end of this article: Metabolic Flexibility in Health and Disease that summarizes metabolism changes within skeletal muscle and adipose tissue during periods of sleeping, fasting, feeding, rest and exercise. You can see that throughout the day, we need to be able to adapt to different fuel sources.
What we typically see in the general population is some type of insulin resistance brought on by chronic cortisol production (which means that we are not using glucose efficiently as fuel), overconsumption of sugary foods in relation to how much glucose their cells can handle, which brings about a larger and larger insulin response, followed by a huge blood sugar crash, and an emergency cortisol response to raise blood sugar after it drops too low.
Check out this image below for a visual:
This blood sugar roller coaster is very, very stressful to the body and contributes to the stress and inflammation that slowly wears away at our metabolism.
One of the first steps to healing our metabolism is to keep blood sugar balanced (in the green space of the graphic), while in a high cortisol state. It is important to eat meals and snacks that combine protein+carbs+fat every 3-4 hours. This is how we can manually manage blood sugar with food while healing.
Once we come out of a stressed state and have sufficient progesterone production that balances out estrogen, we can then begin to work on metabolic flexibility that will allow us to burn fatty acids at rest and while we sleep. This will allow the body to come back into weight balance, if there is extra weight to be lost without damaging the metabolism like most conventional diets or weight loss programs.
I have seen so many clients on the road to metabolic dysfunction through stress, hormonal imbalances, like estrogen dominance, and metabolic inflexibility that I decided to create an entire program designed to restore metabolic function.
Learn more here 


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