Slow Metabolism, Weight Gain & Weakened Immune System

The body is comprised of several individual systems that work in conjunction with one another. For instance your endocrine system is a network that produces, stores and secretes hormones responsible for your appetite and energy level while your immune system protects each of the organs in your endocrine system from harmful infection. Disorders of the endocrine system impacting the thyroid or adrenal glands can result in metabolic changes that cause weight gain or impact the strength of your immune system.

About Metabolism

Digestion begins from the moment you chew and swallow foods or beverages. Your body breaks the nutrients in food into small molecules that are distributed to organs to help you function. Metabolism is the breakdown of food calories into energy. Contrary to popular belief, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause for weight gain. According to MayoClinic.com, your metabolism fluctuates with the changes made in your eating habits. If you deprive your body of food your metabolism compensates by slowing down to conserve calories. Essentially this impacts your energy level, not your weight. Weight gain most commonly results from consistently consuming more calories than you burn. In rare medical conditions of the endocrine system, weight gain from slow metabolism occurs.

Thyroid Disorder

The thyroid glands, located below your voice box in the neck, produce the hormones responsible for metabolism. The pituitary gland located in your brain signals the thyroid glands to produce two hormones. Miscommunication between the pituitary and thyroid glands caused by damage to either gland from autoimmune disease can cause underactive thyroid hormone production. Low thyroid activity from hypothyroidism slows your metabolism and increases your risk of unexpected weight gain in addition to a weakened immune system. The primary treatment for hypothyroidism involves lifelong use of hormone replacement medication.

Adrenal Disorder

The adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and produce hormones like cortisol that convert food to energy and regulate your immune system's response to inflammation. Over production of cortisol can occur from a tumor in the pituitary gland causing a miscommunication to the adrenal glands or from use of oral corticosteroid medications. Cushing's syndrome results from the excess production of cortisol and symptoms include weight gain, poor wound healing from weakened immune system, irritability or depression. The primary treatment for this disorder includes hormone-inhibiting medication or surgical removal of tumors.

Managing Metabolism and Weight

Medical treatment to manage thyroid or adrenal gland disorder can improve your metabolism and weight problems. However, a healthy diet, consuming adequate daily calories and moderate exercise also improve symptoms. Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with a diet low in saturated fat can keep your daily intake of calories manageable. Strengthening your body with healthy foods that contain vitamins improves your immune system health. Consult your physician to determine your calorie needs and the best exercise program for managing weight with your specific health condition.

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