Metabolism — it’s what keeps us alive!

Metabolism is defined as the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. Basically, it’s the combination of all the actions of all the chemicals in your body that keep us functioning on a day-to-day basis.

We have heard concepts referred to for many years such as fast or slow metabolism, but most people really don’t know what this actually means. Our metabolism is driven by the combination of genetic & environmental factors, with a variety of essential chemicals within the body determining efficiency.

One great example here is that of the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is the key hormone produced by the thyroid gland which basically regulates our metabolism. To give the example of three groups, each containing five people asked to dig a large hole. The first five are somewhat lazy and slow, the next five work normally and the last five are super-efficient and work very quickly. This is a good analogy to how the thyroid works. If your thyroid is underactive your body is basically lazy and slow because your metabolism is working at a much slower pace. Thus, in the example given above, it takes longer to dig the hole. If your thyroid is working normally, your metabolism works at the expected rate and the job is done at the expected time. But, if your thyroid is overactive and therefore hyper-efficient, the job is done quicker but doing things too quickly can lead to burnout because your metabolism (to use the same analogy) is working too fast.

But, this is far too simplistic to just focus on the thyroid gland as the only key to healthy metabolism. There are many complex metabolic pathways that work together to ensure our metabolism keeps our bodies functioning normally. Genetics aside, how we manage our life is vitally important to a healthy metabolism. Practising the five keys to being healthy to ensuring a healthy metabolic function.

These five keys include:

1) Quitting all addictions

2) Generating a healthy sleep pattern

3) High quality nutrition-which is basically eating less and eating more naturally

4) 3 to 5 hours weekly of moderate exercise

5) Cultivating peace and happiness in your life

Focusing on two of these key points, a recent trial demonstrated that eating your evening meal earlier leads to a lower cancer risk. This trial looked at just over 620 men with prostate cancer and just over 1200 women with breast cancer and compared these with 870 men and 1320 women who did not have these diseases. The study reviewed the meal times, sleeping habits and whether the participants were larks or night owls (a lark is someone who goes to bed early and wakes up early whereas a night owl is someone who goes to be late and wakes up late).

It is also important to note that the body works on a 24-hour cycle, otherwise known as circadian rhythm. Any genetic abnormality or environmental aberration that affects this 24-hour cycle has the propensity to induce disease.

This study demonstrated that those people who consume the evening meal before 9 PM or at least two hours before bed had 20% reduction in breast cancer and prostate cancer compared with those who consumed food after 10 PM or went to bed soon after eating.

This is a very good example of how maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm or in other words the body’s 24-hour cycle is an important aspect of ensuring healthy metabolism and thus less risk for disease.

The best treatment for any modern killer such as cardiovascular disease or cancer is surely prevention and clearly following healthy preventative lifestyle principles and maintaining a healthy 24-hour cycle is a vital step to staying healthy and free of disease.