Are you tired all the time? Are you having sleep issues? Are you not losing weight despite an optimal diet? If so, you like have a dysfunctional metabolism

Metabolism is the process of converting calories (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) into cellular energy, which we call ATP.

The proper way by which we metabolize energy (aerobic metabolism) is through the following pathway. Energy (preferably glucose) goes into the Krebs Cycle, which then reduces NAD+ to NADH and emits CO2. Then through a series of step-wise redox reactions called the electron transport chain, the electron is transferred through a series of reactions, ultimately to oxygen, and in the process generating about 34 molecules of ATP.

When our metabolism is sluggish or if our metabolic demands exceed the supply of oxygen, then we default to inefficient metabolism, which is also called anaerobic respiration, which only produces 4 molecules of ATP per molecular of glucose and produces lactic acid as a byproduct.

Diagnosis of Dysfunctional Metabolism

Basal body temperature. A cold basal body temperature, particularly anything less than 98.0F is highly indicative of metabolic dysfunction.

Resting pulse. The resting pulse of someone who has an optimal metabolism is 75-85. A resting pulse lower than this may indicate metabolic dysfunction

Elevated cholesterol. The metabolic rate correlates with the rate of conversion of cholesterol into pregnenolone (the sex hormone system). Thus one who has a sluggish metabolism will have a block at this step and this results in elevated cholesterol and low anti-stress hormones (progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and pregnenolone).

Low serum carbon dioxide. A byproduct of aerobic respiration is carbon dioxide and it is for this reason that we breathe out carbon dioxide. The serum carbon dioxide level on the basic metabolic panel should be about 30, and a low level is indicative of metabolic dysfunction.

Elevation of urinary lactic acid. This is suggestive of a high level of anaerobic glycolysis, which is a strong indicator of metabolic dysfunction. Other urinary organic acids may also be elevated.

Elevation of citric acid cycle intermediates (organic acids). Any elevation of citric acid cycle intermediates (tested via an Organic Acids Profile), is a strong indicator of metabolic dysfunction.

Causes of Dysfunctional Metabolism

  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

  • Restriction of certain macronutrients or calories for prolonged periods (i.e. dieting)

  • Salt deficiency

  • Gastrointestinal dysfunction

  • Stress

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Overconsumption of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (processed foods, vegetable oils, etc)


Healing the Metabolism Through Nutrition

The overarching principle of healing your metabolism is balance. Every meal should contain a balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

One of the most difficult parts of a balanced metabolic to conceptualize for some is the idea that you should not restrict your carbohydrates. The theory is that carbohydrates stimulate insulin, which stimulates increase in fat tissue and obesity; therefore, a healthy diet involves restriction of carbs. While some people may do well on this type of nutritional plan, it is not ideal for those with a dysfunction metabolism because glucose is the preferred fuel source of metabolism. In the absence of glucose, the body will go into starvation mode and be forced to burn protein and fat for energy. The body will sense this as stress and stimulate cortisol in order to raise the the serum glucose.

Another important principle for healing the metabolism is maintaining appropriate salt concentrations in the body. Most health-conscious people are drinking a lot of water and minimizing their salt intake. However, this will further damage a dysfunctional metabolism because this will dilute the salt concentration in the body. Salt is necessary for a healthy metabolism, so in order to heal the metabolism, we need to eat plenty of salt and drink water only to thirst.

So remember, we need to balance carbohydrates, fat, and protein.


– Fruit

– Fruit juice (no added or artificial sugar, not from concentrate, no added chemicals)

– Tubers: Potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes

– Vegetables: Particularly carrots, leafy greens, and broccoli (well-cooked only)

– Natural Sugar: Organic cane sugar, raw honey, real maple syrup

– Chocolate: High quality (avoid brands with soy ingredients)


– Starches and Grains in moderation: Bread, pasta, rice, oats, wheat, corn

** Avoid processed carbs: Candy, sugar-sweetened beverages; favor naturally-occurring sugars

** Try to eat your carbohydrates with salt


– Dairy: Milk (best raw, organic whole milk OK, coconut milk also OK)

– Yogurt

– Cheese

– Saturated Fats: Coconut oil, butter, tallow, cocao butter, bacon (cook in coconut oil, nitrate/preservative-free)

– Monounsatured Fatty Acids (MUFAs) in moderation: Macademia nut oil, olive oil

** Avoid Polyunsatured Fatty Acids (PUFAs): Seeds, nuts, vegetable oils


– Gelatin

– Bone broth

– Ruminant meats: Beef, lamb

– Seafood: Oysters, crab, clams, white fish (non-fatty), shrimp, mussels

– Liver

– Shanks, oxtail

– Eggs

– Dairy protein

– Chicken

** Consume approximately 80-100g of protein per day. All meats should be organic, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, free range

In addition to a balanced, metabolically-optimized diet, your Functional Medicine physician may add nutritional supplements to help boost your metabolism directly or indirectly by balancing your hormones, stress, and vitamins/mineral levels.