I hope you enjoyed the previous two posts looking at detoxification.
Myself and my husband (Ben) are buying our very first home. We move in this week. EEK!
It is exciting to finally have somewhere to call our own. However, I love the flat we rent at the moment. It really feels like the first place I’ve truly been able to call “home” since leaving South Africa almost 9 years ago.
The good news is, I will no longer have a kitchen the size of a shoe box and there should be some scope to film some cooking videos to help you.
It does feel really unsettling to think about all the changes. And as much as I hate to admit it, I like change just as much as the next person.
Which is not very much.
One of the things I speak about a lot is the need to be flexible. A lot of people don’t realise how their mindset and approach to things is linked with their health.
Health is about metabolic flexibility – for the body to be able to use the right fuels at the right time. Loss of metabolic flexibility causes us to become sugar dominant and not able to burn fat as fuel (which means it gets stored around our belly).
Health is about immunological flexibility – we want the immune system to react when it’s appropriate.
At times this can be life saving!
But we do not want the immune system to be chronically active or attacking tissues as we may see in low grade inflammation which underpins all chronic disease – including female hormone issues like PCOS, Uterine Fibroids or Endometriosis.
If we are metabolically flexible we are more likely to immunologically flexible – so improving metabolic flexibility improves immunological balance and therefore hormonal balance.
And we can improve metabolic flexibility by being my psychologically flexible and this means…
Getting comfortable with change.
So as I prepare for a period of time where I am expecting to be completely ungrounded, I keep reassuring myself that I am improving my metabolism and immune system 😉
All jokes aside.
Let’s talk metabolic flexibility today and female hormones.
I’ve summarised what it means to be metabolically flexible in a nut shell, but let’s look at this a little more closely.
Sugar and Fat two of our three primary fuel sources. The third is phosphocreatine which is an immediate and very short term energy source, but I want to keep it simple so let’s stay focused on sugars and fats.
[disclaimer: I will oversimplify to keep it understandable]
One molecule of sugar gives us less energy but it produces energy very quickly. One molecule of fat gives us lots more energy, but it takes a little more time to create.
When we need energy to be supplied quickly (for example a 400m sprint) we rely mostly on sugars. When we need large amounts of energy but more long term (for example a marathon or a long hike) we rely more so on fats.
Being able to burn sugar for short duration high intensity activities and being able to go for a long time without food (and therefore burning body fat), represent good metabolic flexibility.
Being able to use both fuel as and when is appropriate.
Have you ever exercised first thing in the morning before you ate or drank anything and felt really low in energy or maybe your muscles felt sore, stiff and sluggish, maybe you even felt light headed or nauseous? Or…
Maybe you are ready to kill someone by the time lunch time appears in the office.
You need to have “snacks” available in case you get too hungry or should I say “hangry”.
Maybe you also…
Carry excess weight around your midsection, have skin tags, suffer from acne, low energy, fatigue after eating or PCOS.
All of these are signs of loss of metabolic flexibility.
And what causes this? There can be many causes, some of which may relate to activation of your immune system, and I’ll be telling you about this later in the week.
For now let’s look at food causes.
Quite simply, over consumption of carbohydrates, particularly refined and processed.
Too much of the following:
- Confectionery items
- Bread, pasta, cereals and other refined grains
- Fruit juices and high sugar fruit consumption
- Fizzy drinks
Eat too many of these and your body is so busy trying to deal with all the sugar, it forgets to use all the fat.
If you have all this easy to use energy lying around (albeit low yield) why bother spending the extra time burning fat. What this can lead to is what most people may be familiar with as insulin resistance, the pre-cursor to diabetes.
Simply explained this means that the hormone (insulin) responsible for getting energy into cells, need to be produced in higher amounts to do the same job.
When insulin is high, we aren’t burning fat’s. When we aren’t able to burn fats we lose metabolic flexibility as our fat burning enzymes and mitochondria down-regulate (use it or lose it!).
And yes, this will cause weight gain and a whole host of symptoms listed above, but it can also upset female hormone balance for several reasons.
- One of the reasons is that with increased insulin we can get an increase in testosterone levels and this is typically one of the underlying imbalances in PCOS.
- Additionally, more fat may increase oestrogen levels and therefore play into oestrogen dominance.
- Higher insulin levels also reduce sex hormone binding globulin, the binding protein that binds hormones and keeps them inactive.
- This means that we potentially have more free circulating hormones in the blood stream which are able to bind to receptors.
The final reason, is the reason I find THE most interesting and you will have to wait until the next post to find out about that…
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