Overweight and tired
Weight gain and low energy are two of the top symptoms that women struggle with, especially in perimenopause / menopause years (approximately age 35 – 55).
You may ‘do all the right things’ yet still have fatigue or extra abdominal weight. You may be aware of factors that contribute, such as low thyroid function or stress. Perhaps you’ve tried to fix these causes on your own, yet haven’t gotten your trim self or your energy back.
When we tackle this together, I play Functional Medicine detective and assess the typical suspects for weight gain, weight loss resistance, and fatigue:
- Poor sleep hygiene
- Blood sugar and insulin dysregulation
- Too much stress
- Perimenopause and menopause
- Low thyroid function
- Food intake, including the wrong macronutrient balance, hidden sugars, or food intolerances
- Exercise imbalance – usually not enough, but can be too much or the wrong kind
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Adrenal dysfunction
- Gut bugs out of balance
When we explore these potential causes, we usually find one or more reasons for your fatigue or weight gain. But sometimes even this exhaustive list is not enough. That’s when we want to check out your mitochondrial structure and function.
You can read more about mitochondria in this post. Our mitochondria is where we make energy for our body to function in every way. This energy is called ATP, short for for adenosine triphosphate.
Think of your mitochondria as your body’s batteries, and ATP as the electrical energy your batteries make. What if your batteries cannot make enough energy? What if you don’t have enough batteries? You will feel tired, and your metabolism will be low. We call this a hypo-metabolic state.
If your adrenal and thyroid function are top-notch, yet you are still fat or tired, it’s highly possible you are in a hypo-metabolic state.
Specifically, in a hypo-metabolic state, you may have enough hormones and nutrients, but your mitochondria are not able to burn carbohydrates and fats efficiently. Or your mitochondria energy-producing mechanism called the Krebs cycle may be subpar. Also, you may not be able to use B vitamins effectively.
Hypo-metabolism does not mean you are missing mitochondria fuel (although you may be, we don’t know without testing). It means that your mitochondria are damaged, or too few are left!”
Mitochondria are susceptible to damage
When you are hypo-metabolic, your mitochondria are damaged, or there’s too few them. The only things that will resolve this, are to repair the damage and to build more mitochondria.
Where does the damage come from?
Toxins and aging.
Where do the toxins come from?
From your environment, diet, infections like gut bugs, and emotional stress. Toxins are unavoidable! As one of my teachers says, “you don’t have to be special to be toxic.“
There are physiological mechanisms at play in all these situations. In a nutshell, toxins create free radicals → free radicals cause oxidative damage, and your mitochondria are particularly susceptible to oxidative damage.
Damaged batteries can’t produce electrical energy, and damaged mitochondria cannot create sufficient ATP. The result is hypo-metabolism, fatigue and weight loss resistance.
A work at home mom gets up, makes breakfast for her kids, get some off to school, comes home, and barely has the energy to get up the stairs to her home office. Instead she collapses on the couch, depressed about her low energy.
A woman, frustrated about her abdominal “tire,” exercises like crazy, watches her diet religiously, takes her thyroid hormones, and can’t figure out why no weight loss happens.”
What does hypo-metabolism feel like?
Your mitochondria (batteries) make your ATP (energy). 60% of your ATP goes to your body’s energy “hogs:”
- 20% goes to your liver
- 20% goes to your brain
- And, 20% goes to your muscle tissue
With low ATP production you can have liver problems, cognitive problems, and muscular problems. That doesn’t include the 40% that goes to the rest of your body! Hypo-metabolism symptoms include:
- Poor recovery from exercise
- Inability to exercise
- Feeling run-down
- Relentless fatigue
- Sore muscles
- Sluggish metabolism
- Weight gain
- Sluggish liver detoxification – general feeling of malaise
- Aches, pains, inflammation
- Brain fog
- Poor memory and concentration
These symptoms are very similar to hypothyroidism and also to adrenal fatigue (HPA dysfunction is the proper term).
Hypo-metabolism vs hypothyroid vs adrenals
How do you know if your fat/fatigue/brain fog symptoms are due to a hypo-metabolic state from mitochondrial damage, and not due to a thyroid or adrenal problem?
- You are hypothyroid, your thyroid labs are perfect, yet you are symptomatic. Medication is not working.
- You undergo treatment for adrenal fatigue (HPA-D), and you don’t improve.
- When you suspect a thyroid conversion problem, meaning T4 doesn’t convert well to T3, explained in this post. Usually T4 is normal, free T3 is low, and reverse T3 is often relatively high.
- If you are inflamed or swollen – hypo-metabolism and inflammation go hand-in-hand.
- When it shows up on the Organix® test!
Hypo-metabolism caused by mitochondrial damage
How do you diagnose this? Start with taking the Organix® test to confirm the diagnosis. This organic acids test is a simple urine test. You collect your first sample in the morning, send it off to the lab, and voilà! The information you receive is rich. You’ll find out:
- Are you hypo-metabolic?
- Do you simply need more fuel for your mitochondria, and if so, what kind? Help to burn fats or carbohydrates? Nutrients for your ATP-producing citric acid (Kreb’s) cycle? Specific B vitamins?
- Do you need more antioxidants or are you good?
- How is your detoxification capability?
Fix mitochondrial damage
You need amino acids to rebuild your mitochondria. Specifically, you need a high enough dose of free amino acids to fill your muscular needs and have left over amounts that can feed your mitochondria. The specific dose is 10-15 g of free form amino acids taken at once. 1500 mg must come from tryptophan. Tryptophan is the rate limiting factor for protein synthesis.
You can up your intake of phosphatidylcholine (PC), a fat that makes up mitochondrial membranes. This naturally occurs in lecithin, which is in egg yolks. You can take PC as a supplement, in which case liposomal forms are the best. 1 teaspoon three times per day is ideal. You can also take lecithin as a supplement, in granules or capsules. Lecithin is made from soy or sunflower. With lecithin, take the equivalent of 1-2 tablespoons three times per day.
Lastly, a supplement called PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline Quinone) is shown to create new mitochondria. PQQ is a co-enzyme, like co-Q10. It’s fairly new on the supplement front, and exciting research shows that in addition to being a powerful antioxidant, it has the ability to generate new mitochondria. PQQ is linked to neuron regeneration, and the prevention of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Here’s a nice synopsis of PQQ.
Mitochondria rebuilding formula
This is my go-to favorite protocol for mitochondrial damage. The links take you to my password-protected dispensary. If interested, please email for the password.
• 500 mg tryptophan capsules (open 3 and mix with the BAM, or just take the capsules).
During the day:
• Liposomal PC (1-3 tsp per day)
• PQQ (2 per day)