If you feel sluggish, heavy, constipated, mentally foggy and mildly depressed, you may be suffering from the effects of a slow metabolism. Your body’s ability to create and use energy depends on many physical and chemical processes, which can be compromised for a variety of reasons.

    “There are the typical dysfunctions that create a slow metabolism, such as primary and secondary hypothyroidism, and then there are many other causes, such as leptin resistance, elevated cortisol, Hashimoto’s disease, catecholamine resistance, elevated estrogen levels and pharmaceutical side effects,” says Jim McDaniel, a chiropractic physician with The Wellness Center.

    “In addition, there is a common myth that if the morning basal body temperature is low, this means there is a thyroid issue. As it turns out, most hormones that are deviated from their ideal levels will cause low basal temperature, not just thyroid hormones.”

    McDaniel begins the diagnostic process with a complete patient history and blood tests. “The history and blood work then lead to development of a treatment plan,” he explains. “Treatment may include dietary supplements, a protocol for the supplements and explanation of why each is being taken, and a therapeutic diet plan. The problem didn’t arise over night, nor is it going to go away overnight.”

Because the causes can be so varied, determining the reason for a slow metabolism can be tricky. “I view health as a functional model. In this model, the question is asked: What must occur in a person’s body to have a slow metabolism?” says David Peterson, a chiropractic physician with Wellness Alternatives. “We see many women eating healthy, working out with a trainer and still having a slow metabolism. We look for health issues like anemia and dysglycemia causing certain failure of any medication, supplement, dietary or exercise program.”

    Peterson emphasizes that slow metabolism is the symptom, not the true problem, and it is the underlying condition that needs to be addressed. “We use lab testing and assessment to determine proper nutritional support to restore cellular health, thus allowing the restoration of overall health,” he says.

    Robert Elder, D.C., of Metro Chiropractic and Nutritional Wellness Centre, agrees that nutrition is an important treatment component. “Through a procedure called nutrition response testing, we can see exactly which organs or systems are involved, what exactly is creating the problem, like a specific food allergy, and then which nutritional products will help correct the underlying deficiency,” he says.

    “We’re not trying to ‘speed up’ the metabolism, but to create balance in the system,” he continues, “which is a very different, but much healthier and safer goal. Through lifestyle, dietary and specific organic, whole-food supplements which have been tested for that patient, we can achieve a balanced system.” Elder notes that “all the commercials and ‘experts’ continue to push the same thing, which are stimulants. Too many people are taking potentially dangerous supplements to ‘speed up’ a ‘sluggish’ metabolism and they will speed up, but then, sometimes years later, they ‘crash and burn.’ These products can be very hard on the adrenals and the digestive system,” he says.

    It’s important to keep in mind that a complex problem such as a slow metabolism typically doesn’t get resolved with a simple answer. Elder urges patients to remember that everyone is unique, “and there is no simple, one-size-fits-all answer.”