The Pain Exchange

Fatigue: Metabolism and supporting your immune system

By Fleur Borelli

Supporting your metabolism to support your immune system

Your body is an incredible living, breathing human organism created according to your unique genetic blueprint.  And one of the systems in your body that is important to support is your metabolic system.  

In a nutshell, your metabolism is the sum total of all the activities that take place in your cells that produce energy for your body to function.  And like other systems, this one does not always work efficiently if we do not treat it correctly.  One of the main reasons people visit their doctor is because they are tired-all-the-time.  

By supporting your metabolism in the right way you will improve your energy levels.  And the great news is by supporting your energy levels, you will be supporting your immune system too.  More energy for the immune system means you are producing more immune cells to protect you against infection.

So why does our metabolic system stop producing the energy we need? One of the reasons is that we do not burn fat easily.  Your body is like a hybrid motor car and can use carbohydrate and fat as fuel.  The more dependent we are on eating little and often and the more we eat simple refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and other baked goods the less likely we are to burn fat. 

Burning fat has an advantage that it produces much more energy for your body to function.  But if we don’t use our fat burning system we lose it and become dependent on constant top-ups of energy through snacking, particularly on sugar-rich foods.

And being in lockdown currently may make matters a little worse as we may also be stressed, not sleeping properly or sitting for too long during the day.  Then we start to crave snacks and eat more often and this means we store fat around the body, in particular around the middle.  This can predispose us to chronic low grade inflammation which can compromise the immune system.

Supporting your metabolism to use carbohydrate and fat as an energy source:

  • Try to avoid snacks between meals, especially ones that are rich in sugar such as biscuits and cakes.  

  • Maintain at least a 12-hour overnight fast on at least 5 days a week.  This means that if you finish eating by 8pm in the evening, you should have your breakfast at 8am or later the next morning.

  • Leave at least 5 hours between meals or any form of food intake to allow the body to fast and avoid pushing it into low grade inflammation. If you feel this is leaving it too long between meals then you can try a gap that you are comfortable with e.g. three hours and then gradually increase the gap.

  • Engage in at least half an hour of activity per day and as much as you are comfortable with.  Try not to sit for too long in your day. Get up and stretch as often as you can as this can kickstart your metabolism and help you burn fat.You would not believe it but the short movements that you typically do through your day…

  • Stretching up to get something
  • Reaching over to pick something up
  • Bending down to do your shoe laces up
  • Turning round to look back at something …can shift a load of calories and this is often more effective than a session in the gym or a cycle ride. 
  • Eat plenty of vegetables at mealtimes as these are a great carbohydrate source with plenty of vitamins and minerals to keep you well.  Keep your root vegetables for your evening meal as research shows the energy is burned off the next day by the muscles.

  • Eat a good portion of healthy protein at each meal to keep your blood sugar levels stable e.g. eggs, chicken, fish, occasional red meat, nuts, tofu and tempeh.

  • Also have a good portion of healthy fat with your meal as this will also keep your blood sugar levels stable.  Healthy fats include extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter, avocados and avocado oil and avocados.

  • To get a better sleep, turn off screens and electronic equipment at least an hour before bed. Think about your lighting and dim the lights as you move towards bed. Let your evening activities gently wind you down as you head towards sleep.  You burn fat whilst you sleep.

  • Stress can impair fat burn and so bring in some appreciation sessions during your day, where you just spend 1-3 mins focusing on something/someone you feel grateful for.

Sometimes big changes use up a lot of your energy.  Why not try with the smaller changes first.  Start to implement a few of the recommendations above.  When your energy levels start to improve a little you will develop more immune resilience.