Metabolism and Digestion: How Does Your Metabolism Affect Gut Health?

I shared a while ago in this post how to heal leaky gut and eczema.  I also shared in this post how that eczema is connected to gut health.  It is very much an outward sign of what’s going on in the inside.  And fixing it involves mostly inside work.  However, healing leaky gut and improving your digestion is about more than just cutting out inflammatory foods or foods you’re sensitive to and taking different supplements and herbs to heal the gut lining.  We have to look at why the gut is damaged in the first place and correct that.   We’re taking it back here and looking at the root cause of many digestive problems – leaky gut, SIBO, candida overgrowth, bloating, constipation, eczema, and more.  And that’s the METABOLISM.  Metabolism and digestion are so intertwined, but most of us don’t think of healing our metabolism to heal our gut.

Metabolism and Digestion

You probably know already that gut health is pretty important.  If you’re not digesting your food well, you’re not able to absorb the nutrients in it, and that affects the function of your whole body.

But there’s more to the story than just working on improving digestion and healing the gut lining.  We have to take it back further and look at metabolism.

What is the Metabolism?

When you hear metabolism, you probably think of how well someone is able to lose weight.  The faster the metabolism, the easier it is to lose weight, right?  That is part of it.  But there’s so much more to the metabolism than that.

Metabolism is the process of converting food into energy.  It involves all the chemical reactions in every one of your body’s cells.  It is the process of breaking down all the components of food – glucose, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals – and converting them into energy, or heat.  That energy is not just energy you need to be able to run around.  It’s energy for EVERY single cell in your body.  Energy for your body to do all it needs to do to keep you alive and keep your organs functioning like they’re supposed to.  It’s involved in breathing, digestion, detoxification, immune function, hormone production, reproduction, the menstrual cycle, and literally everything else going on in your body.

Metabolism involves two different processes – catabolism and anabolism processes.

  1. Catabolism is the process of breaking things down into their smaller components.  This includes digestion. 
  2. Anabolism is the process of using those smaller components to build things up.

Digestion is a metabolic process.  But the difference between the two is that metabolism happens in every cell of the body.  Digestion is just one metabolic process that occurs in the gut, which is actually the whole digestive system from the mouth to the anus.

metabolism and digestion

One reason I became a holistic nutritionist and I love learning about holistic health and wellness is because everything in the body is connected.  It is a whole.  You may have eczema and you may have fatigue and think that those are two totally different things that you just happen to have.  But in reality, they are connected.  Eczema, fatigue, leaky gut, sibo, hypothyroidism – all of those are SYMPTOMS.

It All Comes Down to Stress

Healing is like peeling back the layers of an onion.  When i started my healing journey I uncovered that I had food sensitivities that triggered my eczema, then I uncovered leaky gut and SIBO.  Then I was able to learn that my metabolism, which was tanked, was under it all.  But what even led to a slow metabolism?  STRESS!

Stress comes in different forms and it’s way more than just emotional stress.  To break it down simply, really stress is when the body is giving more than it’s receiving.  You’re expending more energy than you are taking in.  

Some examples of stress can be:

  1. having too much on your plate and trying to get it all done in a day,
  2. high expectations for yourself,
  3. perfectionism,
  4. too much high intensity exercise,
  5. not eating enough in general,
  6. not eating often enough (fasting),
  7. not getting enough of certain nutrients (macro or micronutrients),
  8. or not eating a good balance of nutrients to support blood sugar (a diet too low in carbs is a common stressor).

So when you’re not getting in adequate nutrition and you’re experiencing stress, your cortisol goes up.  And cortisol keeps the thyroid from producing thyroid hormones, T3 and T4 like it’s supposed to.  The thyroid runs metabolism.  When it slows down, metabolism slows down.

If you’d rather watch, check out my YouTube video on the connection between metabolism and digestion here!

What Does the Metabolism Have to Do With Digestion?

And how does that affect digestion?

Metabolism is completely related to digestion.  When metabolism slows down, digestion slows down and problems like leaky gut and sibo can occur.

You might take all the gut healing supplements in the world and still not totally recover if your metabolism is slow.  

A slow metabolism leads to digestive issues for a few reasons.

1.  Slow Digestion

When your stress is high, and you’re in fight-or-flight mode, which means you’re operating in your sympathetic nervous system, your body is concerned about SURVIVAL – not proper digestion.  Blood flow to the digestive system is reduced and digestion slows.  Your heart rate speeds up and more blood is pumped to your muscles to allow you to run from the danger faster. 

So all that’s involved in digestion slows down.  Stomach acid and digestive enzyme production, bile production and secretion to break down fats,  the speed at which food is broken down and nutrients are absorbed, the rate at which toxins are filtered out, and the rate at which waste is excreted. Everything slows down!

2.  Low Stomach Acid

You have less stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile – so food is not broken down properly.  It can leave your stomach and enter your intestines more intact than it should be.  And large food particles can irritate the lining of the gut and lead to leaky gut.

3.  Nutrient Absorption

Also, when you’re not able to break down food properly, you’re not able to get all the nutrients you need from it.  So that can lead to blood sugar imbalance and nutrient deficiencies.  

4. Overgrowth of Bacteria

That food that passes through your stomach to your intestines sits in your intestines longer than it should.  So bacteria is able to digest and ferment it more than it should.  And that leads to more bacterial overgrowth and bloating.

5.  Overgrowth of Other Pathogens

When you have low stomach acid, pathogens, like bacteria, yeast, and parasites, that should have been killed from the highly acid environment are able to survive and grow.  An overgrowth of those pathogens can lead to leaky gut.

6.  Poor Thyroid Hormone Conversion

The thyroid hormone T4 is converted into it’s active from T3 partly in the gut.  So when digestion is slow, the conversion of T4 to T3 slows, leading to an even slower metabolism.  It’s basically a circle.  

How to Heal Your Metabolism

So, to break that cycle it’s important to heal your metabolism.  I’ll share more later on how to do that.  But here’s some quick tips to get you started:

  1. Try to reduce your stress.  I have a few posts to help you with that – 7 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and 8 Tips to Help You Manage Your Stress.  I also have a free Stress-Relieving Protocol you can download with 5 steps to help you relieve stress and start healing that metabolism!
  2. Make sure you are nourishing your body well.  Eat real, whole foods full of the nutrients your body needs.
  3. Eat often enough.  Shoot for breakfast within an hour of waking and food every 3-4 hours after that.
  4. Prepare your foods well so that they’re easier to digest and not as much work for your gut to break down.  Soak, sprout, and cook your grains, beans, nuts, and seeds and cook your veggies.  Breaking down hard-to-digest foods is a stressor on your gut.  While you’re healing your metabolism, it’s important to be really conscious on reducing stress and making things easier on your body.  So you may need to actually eat less fiber-rich foods like celery and kale and more juicy foods like oranges, strawberries, honey, and maple syrup.  
  5. Take some deep breaths and relax before you eat.  Deep breathing helps your body switch into it’s parasympathetic nervous system, or rest-and-digest mode.  Being in a relaxed state allows your body to focus on digestion, instead of running from an angry bear!


I hope you found these tips helpful and you find success with healing your metabolism and, therefore, your gut health!  Follow me on Instagram for more metabolism-healing content.

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