What do we Mean by Metabolism
Metabolism is a big subject but I’m going to narrow it down a bit. Essentially metabolism means delivering sufficient energy to keep you and your organs functioning normally and ideally optimally. So breathing, heart function, immunity, digesting food, repairing and renewing cells etc. But what if our metabolism is sluggish and generally underactive or overwhelmed, then many issues can arise.
The term Metabolic Syndrome describes having a combination of either all or some of the following; high blood pressure, diabetes, overweight or obese (tummy fat), plus high bad fat and low good fat levels.
It will also include those with post-illness ‘low metabolism’, in other words, those who need to re-ignite metabolism safely and gently who have been ill. Bearing in mind they can be left with extreme tiredness and fatigue.
Thermogenic Foods & Plants
Everyday spices are in this line up like black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, ginger and of course chillie. Ginger is perhaps one of the most interesting thermogenic plants. It is in fact called a thermo-regulator as it is just as capable of cooling down an overly hot body if necessary (so useful with fevers). It also increases the feeling of satiety, in other words, it makes you feel fuller.
Two Clever Herbs – Hawthorn & Barberry
The hedgerow shrub Hawthorn is used for breaking down fats, stimulating circulation and helping digestion also naturally increases metabolism. As an excellent heart and blood pressure support it naturally helps create more heat in the body and will reduce LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. And it is critically able to reduce inflammation and increase your metabolic rate. [Able to do almost exactly the same things as Hawthorn is Rosemary but do be aware you need to be careful if you have high blood pressure with Rosemary.]
Barberry (Berberis) for Blood Sugar Balance, Weight Loss & more
Berberis is a firm favourite of mine for metabolism enhancement overall. For blood sugar support, cholesterol/triglyceride improvement, premier liver herb, good digestive, indeed an all organ/systems balancer. Studies also show that berberine (from Berberis species) enhances the effects of exercise! Going back to my introduction and the findings that over 60 years of age it appears (in yet more studies) that Berberine can have an anti-ageing effect on skin cells, not only this but it increases lifespan and health overall. In some detail another study found that it improved several aspects of ageing in the lungs, essentially the lung fibroblasts were motivated to increase growth cycles and replication. Berberine is capable of so much overall and one due to its plethora of abilities lies in its ability to activate P38, an enzyme that participates in the body’s stress response. It can help replace stress with healthful action in other words. It also provides a biochemical safety valve for any exhaustion caused by over-exercising! Berberine overall is pretty much a premier ‘Metabolic Syndrome’ plant. This is why it’s in both our bowel formula ColoClear Capsules and GutRest Powder. Its use as a premier anti-microbial, anti-viral and antibacterial etc. is equally important and as a gut herb, capable of reducing bad bacterial overload and promoting gut microbial balance overall. Equally, it can help heal ‘leaky gut’ where the gut has small leaking ‘holes’ in need of healing and tightening up. I could go on but I’ll stop! Yet lastly to say it is highly bitter making it an excellent digestive herb.
Good Digestion is Vital
Appetite, food choices, controlling dietary choices and curbing food addictions all play an enormous role in our metabolic state. Food sitting around partially or poorly digested causes many things but definitely a sluggish metabolism and lowered energy. Whilst surges in overeating fats and sugar speak for themselves. This is where all the thermogenic spices and herbs really help. But specifics that are handy are the time-old ‘bitters’ that are perhaps the very best for ensuring good digestion. Quite often they are traditionally based in Apple Cider Vinegar which in itself can aid weight loss partly by helping prevent the body from making fat deposits. All this from apples that have been crushed, distilled and then fermented! Into the apple cider vinegar is steeped herbs and vegetables and of the bitters, artichoke leaves are one of the most bitter (our Lemon & Artichoke Concentrate) and really gets the metabolism going! The reason ‘bitters’ are indispensable for motivating metabolism is their ability to activate most cells, systems and organs. Bitter herbs and foods can trigger immune responses and the release of certain hormones that control appetite regulation and in particular whether we feel full or not and how hungry we ‘feel’. Other metabolic functions that ‘bitter flavours’ enable is the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates but in fact digestion in general, as bitters relax digestive muscles, helping the gut relax, easing cramping and bloating. Added to this, bitter flavours also stimulate the metabolic processes. Additionally, bitters help the brain, heart, circulation and blood flow and the respiratory system (they dilate the bronchioles).
Bitters & Taste Receptors
Bitters first ignite taste receptors on the tongue and then signal to the brain to produce increased oral and gastric secretions in as little time as five minutes! All this allows the optimal breakdown of foods (nutrients) and a slowed delivery of nutrients to the bloodstream which helps balance and control insulin sensitivity. Bitters are often taken before a meal but if also taken after food they help reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes or glycemia.
Some bitters also help reduce acid reflux but they are best used on their own and not soaked in Apple Cider Vinegar for this, as in our PolliTox Capsules e.g. the dandelion and burdock specifically. These same ‘nutritive’ type bitters overall help the gut work more efficiently assisting the microbiome naturally create pre-biotics and probiotics. Perhaps the most important ‘take home’ about bitters is that the fewer bitters (and sour flavours) we eat the sweeter, sugary foods we’re attracted to. Bitter flavours literally ‘train’ the pancreas, so constant incoming bitters are vital. Culturally the world is forgetting about bitters and turning more and more to sugar. Add to this that sugar/sweet flavours repress some immune responses and also that bad invasive bacteria flourish on sugar! My colleagues, the American Herbalists James Green and Professor Christopher Hobbs repeatedly warn us all that in the absence of ‘bitters’ (the modern American diet) our bitter receptors decrease to a below-normal level called ‘bitter deficiency syndrome’, further encouraging addictive sugar needs. But happily, this can be easily re-instated by reintroducing bitter flavours.
Getting Rid of Excess Fat
Herbs are good at helping reduce excess fat, so again do remember Hawthorn, (Hawthorn Tincture and PumpBeet Capsules). To remind you, Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycantha and other species) berries, leaves and flowers are able to reduce levels of undesirable blood fats and help increase levels of desirable ones.
Also already mentioned is Burdock and Dandelion PolliTox Capsules. Burdock root (Arctium lappa) improves fat metabolism overall and will also reduce cravings and hunger and help stabilise blood sugar levels. It also removes toxins from the bloodstream promoting speedier metabolism – so promoting ‘detoxing’.
Dandelion leaf & root (Taraxacum officinals) – a new Korean study suggests that Dandelion could have similar effects to the weight loss drug ‘Orlistat’. This drug inhibits pancreatic lipase, an enzyme released during digestion to break down fats and absorb them. It appears that Dandelion leaf showed strong pancreatic lipase inhibitory activity, making it an alternative with no side effects and many many other useful biochemical outcomes. Additionally, it is of course a brilliant de-tox herb and helpful for stabilising blood sugar issues (a bitter).
Some daily Life Tips
Try a morning drink of fresh lemon juice and water (lukewarm).
Try and make a salad with some bitter leaves or foods added in eg sorrel, olives, lemon juice, more bitter lettuce leaves, dandelion leaves. Eat before your main meal.
By Jill Davies