10 Signs Your Metabolism Is Out Of Whack, Whether It's Too Fast Or Too Slow
When something is wrong with your health, it can be hard to pinpoint the source of your issues, especially when you have multiple symptoms. One area we might neglect to think about is our metabolism, so it's important to pay attention to the signs that your metabolism may be off. It might not be something we think about every day, but our metabolism is an important part of our health, fueling our body's necessary functions such as breathing, circulatory functions, the endocrine system, and more.
"Our metabolism is basically our body converting food into energy," Dr. Candice Seti, psychologist, personal trainer, and nutrition coach, tells Bustle. She explains that oftentimes when people talk about the speed of someone’s metabolism, they’re really talking about how much energy their body is converting into food in order to fuel your body’s needs, which is also called your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Sometimes, for various reasons, our RMR can end up becoming too fast or too slow. This could be a result of an inherited metabolic disorder or of unhealthy habits, such as eating foods that lack nutrients, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, etc. And when your metabolism is off, it affects the rest of your health.
If you suspect that something is not right in your body, consider these ten signs that your metabolism could be out of whack.
1. You're Really Tired
If you're tired, all the time, no matter what, something could be wrong with your metabolism. "This is exhaustion for no reason or feeling a significant energy slump at 3 p.m.," Dr. Caroline Cederquist, MD, metabolism expert, and founder of bistroMD, tells Bustle. "This can be caused by problems with thyroid, blood sugar regulation, or other stress hormones that affect metabolism." When you have issues with your metabolism, it affects how fast your body burns food that gives you energy, especially if your metabolism slows down. When energy in your body isn’t being created fast enough, that’s when you often feel extra fatigued.
2. You Crave A Lot Of Sugar
Everyone needs sugar for their bodies to function properly. But if you find that you’re craving more than the normal amount, this could mean something’s gone awry with your metabolism. "Many people whose metabolism does not function correctly crave sugars and starches," Cederquist says. "This is because their metabolism is not working to move sugar from the bloodstream into cells where we need it for energy. The cells are starved for energy, so the body responds with various chemical signals that can make us crave sugars." This can lead you to believe you aren’t taking in enough sugar, when in reality you might be having too much. If you’re unsure of how much your sugar intake should be, talk to a doctor or nutritionist to find out more about how to consume sugar in the best way for your body.
3. Your Moods Are Up & Down
Many of us have experienced negative moods when our blood sugar gets low, so we know that metabolism can play a role in our mood. Research shows that many neuropsychiatric disorders often co-occur with metabolic disturbances, and manipulating patients’ metabolism via injections of insulin can have striking effects on their mental state, according to The Scientist. If you experience unusual highs or lows, your metabolism could be awry.
Nicola Rinaldi, PhD in computational biology and author of No Period, Now What? tells Bustle, “Metabolic imbalance means that the brain is getting starved of the glucose it needs for fuel from time to time, or potentially all the time. If someone is chronically under-fueling that can lead to difficulty with emotional regulation, which requires energy to control many of our brain's natural impulses.”
4. Your Period Is Irregular
The thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that maintain the body's metabolism, and a symptom of a thyroid problem is irregular periods, according to the NHS. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as excessive exercise, or stress can cause your period to become off and affect your metabolism as well.
“The menstrual cycle is not necessary for survival so it is one of the first functions that the hypothalamus can shut down in order to save energy. This is accomplished by reducing the amount of ‘gonadotropin releasing hormone’ that is produced,” Rinaldi says. “This dysregulation can take the form of complete shutdown of periods, also called amenorrhea, or alterations of the menstrual cycle, like not ovulating (anovulation) or a shortened time between ovulation and when the period starts.”
5. You're Constipated
As you age, your body conducts less intestinal activity and it becomes easier to have constipation, according to Mayo Clinic. This is attributed to the slowing down of the processes that break down the food in your digestive system, or your metabolism. Your digestive system can be affected in the same way at any age if you have issues with your metabolism. "If your bowels are sluggish, it can be sign that other areas of your metabolism are sluggish too," Cederquist says. "This is especially true if your diet is healthy with adequate fiber and adequate water, and constipation is still present. This can indicate low thyroid function or vitamin or mineral deficiency."
6. You're Experiencing Depression
As mentioned earlier, mood and psychiatric disorders are often closely tied to metabolic health, and depression could be a symptom of an affected metabolism. One study from University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences found that identifying and treating metabolic deficiencies in people with treatment-resistant depression can help improve, and sometimes even resolve, their symptoms, implying that there is a link between the two. If your depression becomes difficult to manage and you suspect it is because of irregularities with your metabolism, it is important to see both a general physician and mental health professional in order to figure out the best plan of action to help both issues.
7. You're Losing Hair
Researchers from UCLA found that hair growth has a direct link to metabolism. They determined that when your metabolism is slower or faster than normal, your hair growth is directly affected. This means that the more disrupted your metabolism is, the less hair you’re growing and the less healthy it becomes, possibly leading to the loss of extra hair.
"Hair and nails are essential to our life, so if they stop growing or are brittle, or your hair falls out, it is a sign that something is off in your metabolism and health," Cederquist says. This could be a hormone issue that affects your metabolic rate. Although there is no reason issues with your metabolism should be leading to the loss of more than a few strands than usual, if you find you’re losing an alarming amount of hair it is best to contact your doctor to see if there are any other health problems you might be facing.
8. Your Body Temperature Is Off
The metabolic processes your body uses to convert energy into food are the ones that help your body generate heat, according to the Mayo Clinic. So when there are constant issues with your body temperature, this is usually a sign that points to your metabolism as the issue. A person with a slow metabolism might have a lower body temperature, and someone with a high metabolism will run warmer. “The hypothalamus also controls the body's heat usage and when energy availability is insufficient, can direct constriction of veins to keep the core warm but reduce heat loss to the external environment (extremities often feel cold), reduce heat usage by different types of adipose (fat) tissue, and shut down other processes that typically use energy and give off heat as a byproduct,” Rinaldi says. So if your fingers and toes feel cold, this may be why.
9. You Always Have To Pee
Going to the potty a lot? Blame your metabolism. Oftentimes, the symptoms for an issue with your metabolism will be similar symptoms of other disorders. In this case, metabolic issues can cause the same symptoms as diabetes, and this includes increased urination, according to the Mayo Clinic. A metabolic disorder can even lead to a change in the odor of your urine, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Your hormone levels may also impact whether or not you're peeing a lot. “In women, [metabolism issues] lead to lower levels of estrogen both at baseline and particularly if no menstrual cycles are occurring,” Rinaldi says. “The lowered estrogen levels affect the mucosal membranes in both the uterus/vagina and the urinary tract. In the bladder, the thinned membrane can mean that urine penetrates more easily to urine receptors, activating the need to urinate even when the bladder is not full.”
10. You're Breaking Out
Hormone production is part of metabolism, and so drastic changes in your metabolism can become visible on your skin. And although an energy imbalance would not directly cause acne, acne is often strongly associated with other metabolic issues. One of these is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Rinaldi says that PCOS causes androgens, or male hormones, to increase count within the body and that this can lead to other more serious hormonal issues, which can eventually lead to difficult-to-treat acne. If you believe your metabolism issues are more severe, it’s important to see your doctor or OB/GYN in order to test for possible metabolic issues like PCOS.
If you suspect anything may be wrong with your metabolism, it's best to go see a doctor, who can help you come up with the correct diagnosis and possible treatment.
This post was originally published on October 19, 2016. It was updated on June 12, 2019. Additional reporting by Syeda Saad.