How to Restore Your Metabolism to Healthy Levels Using the Timeless Wisdom of Chinese Medicine

HJ: When our metabolism is out of balance, our health suffers. It is quite a common occurrence nowadays and results from a number of lifestyle factors.  However, modern Western nutritional/dietary approaches to treating disorders of the metabolism are largely focused on the symptoms, rather than the root causes of the imbalance. Therefore, while they may offer temporary relief, the metabolic imbalance is never actually removed and may, in fact, become aggravated and worsen over time.

Ancient medical systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine take a different approach and seek to bring the body back into balance by addressing the underlying deficiencies and imbalances which give rise to the metabolic issues in the first place.  Furthermore, what are typically thought of as diet foods — smoothies, salads, juices and fruits, actually worsen the problem by burning out digestion due to their cold, damp nature.  These are the foods that those with metabolic imbalances often gravitate towards as they seek to lose weight, which only compounds the problem.

Deborah’s article below gives a great background understanding of the fundamental issues faced by those with metabolic imbalances as well as ways to address them through simple dietary and lifestyle changes.

– Truth

Restoring Healthy Metabolism

By Deborah Barr | Whole Health Resources

Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories, and simply means change or transformation. It relates to processes that convert food and other substances into energy and other metabolic byproducts used by the body. It is a necessary function that allows your body to use food and other resources to maintain the working parts, repair damage, heal injury and rid the body of toxins.

Within the TCM Health System, kidneys are responsible for the healthy function of thyroid gland (which regulates metabolism), bones and bone marrow, teeth, hormonal system, hearing, body temperature, lower back, knees, head hair, bladder, urinary tract, and sexual organs.  When the kidneys are energetically weak, cold, or deficient, you will experience the symptoms of low thyroid.

The digestive organs play a role in regulating metabolism by converting food into Qi (chee) energy and transforming food into blood and tissue.  If you are not digesting, assimilating and eliminating properly you will have difficulty losing weight and experience many of the symptoms of low thyroid.

What are the signs?

Some signs of slow metabolism and sluggish thyroid include:

  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Feeling cold; craving warmth
  • Physical stiffness and inflexibility
  • Weak adrenals
  • Inability to sweat
  • General weakness – malaise
  • Pale urine
  • Frequent fatigue – apathy
  • Soft, fleshy muscles
  • Certain kidney and bladder problems
  • Weak digestion
  • Headaches
  • Loss of libido
  • Ringing in the ears

This is not a comprehensive list and these symptoms may also be the result of other health problems.

What are the Causes?

Slow metabolism has little to do with aging as some would like to believe.  When you diet and limit the number of calories consumed, your body reacts by lowering the basil metabolic rate, thus making it difficult to lose weight.  Eating denatured, frozen, microwaved foods has the same effect.  Many of the foods in the American diet are not real food, but pseudo fare concocted with chemicals in flavor factories.  These artificial foods not only decrease metabolism, but also are toxic to health.

Decreased metabolism causes your body to burn fewer calories and less fat.  It can even cause your body to store excess fat in reserve. It is not advisable to skip meals or to eat extremely low calorie foods.

Years of eating congesting foods such as cow’s milk products and meat, cause sluggish metabolism.

Inadequate intake of minerals from food and poor assimilation of minerals greatly contributes to slow metabolism.  Ingesting foods and substances on a regular basis that deplete minerals contribute as well.  These include refined sugar, alcohol, coffee (even decaf), and some medications.

Too many raw foods, smoothies, cold foods (including ice water), juice, and fruit, especially in the winter, make metabolism sluggish.

Sedentary living and  lack of movement, activity, and exercise on a regular basis also contribute.


To successfully and permanently improve metabolism and lose weight, it’s important to change your diet rather than going on a diet.  Starvation diets, too much fasting, liquid diets, and many fad diets are akin to dietary “terrorism”.  They are an assault to the body and damage the digestive system,  metabolic processes, and other functions.  As weight goes up and down, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain normal metabolism.  Therapeutic foods (real foods) provide metabolic efficiency without extra mass.  A few of these foods are:

Whole, unprocessed grains are complex carbohydrates and are naturally low in calories.  A gram contains 4 calories compared to a gram of fat which has 9 calories.  Complex carbohydrates readjust your hormones which, in turn, boost your metabolism and speed the burning of calories. 

The whole, unprocessed grains, basmati rice, hulled barley, brown rice and millet  are especially helpful for weight loss. Buckwheat groats are warming and stimulate metabolism; high in vitamin E; blood-building; and benefit the kidneys. Steel cut oat groats and whole oats will benefit those with a sluggish thyroid. 

Sea Vegetables are extremely effective for improving metabolism.  This is a food group that most people are unfamiliar with.  There are many varieties including wakame, kombu, nori, arame, hijiki and dulse.  Each one has its specific nutrient profile.  They all increase metabolism of fat and sugar in the body and improve water metabolism.   Sea Vegetables are useful for weight loss, lowering cholesterol and fat in the blood, and are the best lymphatic cleansers.

Sea vegetables benefit the thyroid, detoxify the body, support hormone functions, build bones and teeth, promote healthy hair and nails, and soothe nerves.  They contain 10-20x the minerals of land plants and an abundance of calcium, iron, B vitamins and other elements necessary for healthy metabolism.

Sea vegetables are sold dried and are available at Natural Food Stores.  You may have to acquire a taste for them and it’s worth the effort.  They taste delicious when prepared properly.  Eating small amounts consistently will improve thyroid, metabolism, and weight loss. 

Kombu Powder is a superb mineral tonic and metabolism booster.  Break the kombu into pieces and roast in a dry skillet over the stove until dark and crisp; or you can put them in the oven for about 10-12  minutes at 325 degrees.  Turn as needed so that it roasts evenly.  Crush into a fine  powder in blender or coffee grinder.  Use ½ to 1 tsp. daily as a condiment, or stir into hot water and drink.  To purchase kombu powder, click here.

Hijiki Sea Vegetable benefits the thyroid and improves metabolism.  It is an excellent source of calcium, iron, and iodine; vitamins B2 and niacin; normalizes blood sugar levels; aids in weight loss; builds bones and teeth; soothes nerves; supports hormone functions.  It’s best to cook it with something warming such as ginger, garlic, crushed red pepper, or black pepper. Click here for Hijiki Recipe.

Breathing – Practicing long, slow deep breathing can improve metabolism and overall health.  This can be practiced anywhere anytime.  70% of your body’s wastes are processed through the breath.  Most people get one-quarter to one-fifth of the amount of oxygen the lungs were designed to hold.  That’s a major oxygen deficit for cells that are trying to process food, release toxins and provide energy for bodily functions, including metabolism.  Take 3-6 breath breaks throughout the day.  Practice deep breathing before eating and sleeping and everything will improve.

Sweating is one way you eliminate toxins, fats, and salts that have long been held in the body.   Many people do not sweat even while doing vigorous exercise.  This may indicate you are holding on to fat and toxins.  It’s normal and healthy to sweat with exercise and in hot weather.  If you do not sweat easily you probably have difficulty losing weight.  There are a few things you can do. 

Take very hot baths with 2-3 cups sea salt in the water.  Make the water deep and cover your shoulders with a towel.  Stay in for 20 minutes.  Hot baths can be taken 1-4x a week, preferably before bed.  This is also helpful for some conditions of the reproductive organs.  You may not sweat the first few times you do this.  Be consistent.  Do not take hot baths during menstruation.

Chewing is the first stage of digestion and assimilation.  Saliva contains alkaline digestive enzymes that are essential for digestion and good health.  Chewing your food until liquid will help you digest, assimilate, eliminate and metabolize in healthier ways.  This takes awareness and practice and is an effective practice for weight loss, energy, and good health.

There are many herbs that are useful for restoring healthy metabolism, improving assimilation and elimination; eliminating congestion, breaking down fats and proteins, and lubricating and activating the intestines.  When the appropriate herbs are taken for your overall condition, your body becomes more balanced, and weight loss is an easy, side benefit.

You’ll save a lot of time, money and frustration by consulting a qualified herbalist to determine the appropriate herbs for your Whole Health.  Click here or call 412.361.8600 to schedule an introductory counseling session.   Herbs for adrenals, thyroid, and metabolism are not on my website because herbal products should be matched to your constitution and condition in order to be effective.  Herbal medicine is not one-size-fits all.

Western Medicine separates the aspects of you and simply treats metabolism with pharmaceuticals.  Metabolism is part of a complex organ system within you.  Please consider a Holistic approach that will bring you radiant, balanced health at all levels, and the fit, slender body you desire.

For more detailed information on metabolism and weight loss, I suggest my Creating Healthy Metabolism and Eliminating Belly Fat Home Study Programs.  Click this link for details and money saving discounts.

Deborah Barr, 27-year Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor/Coach, speaker, and author, helps clients reverse health and weight issues; achieve emotional harmony, radiant health, passion, peaceful living, work-life balance, and a life they love. In 1985 she founded Whole Health Resources, the premier Holistic Health Center in Pittsburgh. WHR’s mission is to promote the healing and development of body, mind and spirit, and to teach an understanding of the relationship between diet, attitudes, lifestyle and wellness. She offers free help through her 2 e-newsletters, Natural Weight Loss, and Whole Health Mattersand free articlesSubscribe to newsletters

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