Your body’s metabolic process is what keeps you alive, turning food into energy. It’s constantly building molecules to produce energy and breaking them down to use up that energy.
It’s probably not news that you need energy for everything, from thinking to sleeping. Even when you’re sitting around or dozing off, metabolic reactions are happening inside you to deliver energy to your brain, nerves, and muscles.
How exactly does this process work? Your body contains trillions — yes, trillions — of mitochondria. Mitochondria are like batteries for your cells, giving power to the process that turns the nutrients you consume and the oxygen you breathe into ATP, the cellular energy that powers your whole body.
When that process is interrupted or negatively impacted, it can lead to signs like fatigue, trouble sleeping, and issues with thinking clearly — all signs of slow metabolism.
Let’s take a closer look at how to know if you have a slow metabolism.
One of the most common symptoms of slow metabolism is fatigue. Having persistent fatigue, despite getting enough sleep and maintaining other healthy habits, is a major metabolism red flag and may indicate an underlying health problem.
Metabolism is the process your body uses to create energy. When that process slows down, so do you. Think of it like this: You’re the car, and your metabolism is the engine. An empty tank won’t get you far. If you are suffering from a sluggish metabolism, pay close attention to see if you are also suffering from some of these other symptoms below.
2. Brain Fog
A common cause of brain fog is a slow metabolic rate. Your brain needs an impressive amount of energy to function. Slow metabolism causes a lull in energy production that can impact the amount of glucose available for brain cell function, leading to cognitive issues like brain fog and trouble focusing.
A slow metabolism can also negatively affect your body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients, leaving your brain starved of essential brain-boosting nutrients like fatty acids.
3. Low Mood
A low metabolism can also put a damper on your mood. Here’s how:
Low energy levels can make you feel more tired — and, therefore, more prone to irritation.
Difficulty with cognitive processes can also lead to feelings of frustration.
A slow metabolism can affect hormone production, sometimes even making you feel more down than usual.
If you think a hormonal imbalance is causing unexpected weight gain or mood swings, talk to your doctor about getting your thyroid hormone levels checked.
Digestive issues are another sign your metabolism is out of sorts. Aside from constipation, slower metabolism can cause bloating and irregular bowel movements.
Because metabolism issues can slow down the transit of food in your system, also known as reduced motility, food may sit longer in your intestinal tract, making you constipated.
Additionally, a slower metabolism influences the production of enzymes responsible for breaking down food. Fewer enzymes means your body will have a harder time digesting food and may lead to unexplained weight gain.
5. Sleep Disruption
It makes sense that a sluggish metabolism can make you feel more tired because it may mean your body and brain are energy-starved.
But did you know that a slower metabolism can also interrupt your sleep?
That’s because your metabolism can influence hormone production, including the hormones cortisol (aka the stress hormone) and melatonin. An imbalance in hormone levels can make it harder to fall and stay asleep, compounding any fatigue you’re already feeling.
Plus, metabolism issues can impact your body’s ability to regulate body temperature. For example, Being too hot or cold can make it tougher to get a good night’s sleep.
6. Dry Skin
If your body is struggling to absorb nutrients, including skin-friendly ones like Vitamin E, from food because of slow metabolism, you may experience skin issues like excess dry skin.
Problems with low metabolism can also shift the lipid balance in your system. Since healthy fats make up a large portion of your skin’s lipid barrier, an imbalance can impact the skin’s ability to retain moisture and stay hydrated.
And since sluggish metabolism = sluggish body…your blood circulation may be compromised, which can also show up as skin issues.
Slow cell turnover, which can happen with a low metabolism, can also contribute to skin hydration issues and make skin look duller than usual.
7. Hair Loss
You need a few key ingredients for healthy hair:
- Nutrients like Biotin (Vitamin B7) and Vitamin D
- Adequate blood flow
- Cell regeneration
A slow metabolism can impact nutrient absorption, leading to deficiencies in hair-healthy vitamins like Biotin and Vitamin D.
Thinning hair can also result from blood flow issues. Lack of blood flow means oxygen and nutrients can get to the hair follicles, causing hair to look dull and unhealthy and slowing hair growth altogether.
And slow cell turnover that can happen when you have a slow metabolic rate can impact your strands, too.
Metabolism-related hormone issues can also trigger hair thinning and shedding. If you’re experiencing hair thinning, or shedding, consider taking adaptogenic herbs to support hair growth.
8. Cold Sensitivity
Trouble regulating your body temperature might signal low metabolism issues that impact your body’s ability to create its own heat.
When a fire doesn’t have enough fuel, it burns out and goes cold. The same goes for your body. Without energy, the body has a harder time generating heat.
And blood flow problems don’t help. Lack of blood flow to the skin can make it tough to warm up and get comfortable, especially in very cold conditions.
9. Irregular Menstrual Cycle
Hormone imbalances that cause changes to your typical menstrual cycle may also be metabolism-related. So if you’re experiencing a shift in your usual menstrual cycle, your metabolism may be the issue.
In severe cases, hormone shifts can lead to a condition called amenorrhea, also known as the complete loss of a period. Things like stress and nutrient deficiencies can impact metabolism and make you lose your period.
Sign Up, Nerd Out
Get wellness tips, education, and recipes
delivered straight to your inbox.
Get wellness tips, education,
and recipes delivered
straight to your inbox.
What To Do If You Have Slow Metabolism
A slow metabolism can also be a sign that your mitochondria need a recharge. Here’s what you can do to kickstart the energy production cycle and boost metabolism:
- Eat a healthy diet: Supply your body with the nutrients it needs to support ATP production, the energy currency that powers your cells. You should talk to your doctor about what foods give you the most energy and which ones will be best for your diet.
- Try an adaptogenic supplement: It can be hard to get all your essential nutrients from food alone. Because of monocropping and other modern agricultural practices, crops today have fewer nutrients. Supplementing with adaptogens for energy can help you fill the nutrient gap. Ting,TM a natural energy supplement, contains methylated B Vitamins and Ginseng that support metabolism by helping convert food into energy. Perk: no jitters or crashes, like energy from caffeine.
- Exercise regularly: Try moderate to high-intensity exercise to jumpstart your metabolism and increase your basal metabolic rate.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep is a key way to support a healthy metabolism. A slow metabolism can have a negative effect on sleep, but the reverse is also true.
- Control your stress levels: Whether your end-of-day unwind session involves yoga or journaling, managing your day-to-day stress can help balance your metabolism and prevent hormonal shifts.
- Avoid extremes: Fad diets and too much exercise are poor ways to boost metabolism. They can actually have the opposite effect. Overexercising, for example, can lead to burnout. And calorie restriction puts your body into starvation mode, which can further slow your metabolism.
Keep in mind that many signs of slow metabolism can also be symptoms of an underlying health problem, like thyroid disease. If you notice any of these signs and they don’t go away, consider consulting a medical professional for a diagnosis.
- A study indicates that hair loss might be prevented by regulating stem cell metabolism. (2020). https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/715391
- Carvallo C, et al. (2022). Changes in brain metabolism induced by metabolic challenges and their beneficial roles for brain aging. https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/82489
- Concerned about constipation? (2022). https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/concerned-about-constipation
- Dovom MR, et al. (2016). Menstrual cycle irregularity and metabolic disorders: A population-based prospective study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5161370
- Filippi M, et al. (2022). The link between energy-related sensations and metabolism: Implications for treating fatigue. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.920556/full
- Introduction to the digestive system. (n.d.). https://training.seer.cancer.gov/anatomy/digestive/
- Kumar KCD, et al. (2018). Association of androgenetic alopecia with metabolic syndrome: A case-control study on 100 patients in a tertiary care hospital in south india. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5972473/
- Lutter M, et al. (2009). Depression and metabolism: Linking changes in leptin and ghrelin to mood. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2948264/
- Mitochondria. (2023). https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Mitochondria
- Moghetti P, et al. (2016). Metabolic effects of exercise. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27348753/
- Naviaux RK, et al. (2016). Metabolic features of chronic fatigue syndrome. https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.1607571113
- Physiology, metabolism. (2022). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546690/
- Qiu W, et al. (2021). Update on the relationship between depression and neuroendocrine metabolism. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2021.728810/full
- Seematter G, et al. (2005). Stress and metabolism. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18370704/
- Sharma S, et al. (2010). Sleep and metabolism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929498/
- Solano F, et al. (2020). Metabolism and functions of amino acids in the skin. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32761577/
- Yates KF, et al. (2013). Impact of metabolic syndrome on cognition and brain: A selected review of the literature. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3442257/