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Real Life Wellness-Understanding Metabolism

By Dr. Bill Hemmer
I apologize in advance for writing this article. I promised to start talking about digestive health again, but I just can’t help myself. I just read a book called Metabolical by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL and it gave the easiest and most understandable explanation of Metabolism I have ever heard. I have had trouble wrapping my head around what Metabolism really is and how we as health seeking people can control it. So, sorry, but not sorry. I just had to write about this while it was fresh in my mind. 

You have two types of Metabolism (Sugar and Fat). We all need to understand this concept better to get and stay healthy. Next week, I will talk about the basics of Fat Metabolism. I will continue to talk about digestive health soon. 

Here are the basics of how your Sugar Metabolism works. Glucose, which is isolated by the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins, enters your cells by insulin opening the gate. Once inside the cell, Glucose can be used two ways. The first way is it can be broken down to provide the building blocks for you to grow new cells. The second way is Glucose is burned by entering the mitochondria (the power plant of the cell) inside that same cell to produce energy.

When Glucose is being used to build new cells, it is broken down further into different particles to build new cells and two ATP (an energy unit) are also produced. Lactic acid is also produced as a by-product. Lactic acid is what makes your muscles sore after you work out or do strenuous activity. It’s OK to be a little sore after you have increased your activity, but you shouldn’t get too sore. These two ATPs are produced without any oxygen, which can also be a problem if it is not balanced by the second way of Glucose burning.

When Glucose is burned to make energy, oxygen enters the mitochondria with this Glucose. Then, the mitochondria use both the Glucose and the oxygen to produce 28 ATPs and carbon dioxide! This is 14 times the amount of energy produced when Glucose is used to build more cells. Because oxygen is also present, lactic acid is not produced and you exhale the extra carbon dioxide. Therefore, you don’t get sore and stay sore all the time.

Your cells move back and forth between these two types of Glucose burning all day every day depending on what you are doing. Your cells normally adapt to your lifestyle environment to keep things in balance. Of course, if your lifestyle environment isn’t a healthy one, this balance can be altered dramatically. 

There is also one more piece to your Metabolism you need to understand. Every cell has its own internal clock of life or death. If that cell is healthy and young, it will produce energy with the oxygen available and produce plenty of energy. That cell lives to produce energy for another day. But, if a cell is getting tired and old, it can decide to use its Glucose to build new healthy cells and produce only t ATPs with no oxygen and die. Of course, there are also cells in the middle of this spectrum that are mature healthy cells that aren’t too old and can still switch back and forth between burning Glucose both ways. 

There is an enzyme that controls which cells die, live and multiply. If that enzyme is not working correctly, both sides of Metabolism suffer. To keep your Metabolism working at its best, eat real food, exercise, get good sleep and have a strong tribe of people who love you. 

That’s great advice in and of itself!

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