You’re probably familiar with metabolism — a biochemical process that allows organisms to live, grow, reproduce, heal and adapt to their environment. But you may not know much about two important metabolic processes: anabolism — which builds molecules the body needs and usually requires energy for completion, and catabolism — which breaks down complex molecules into smaller molecules and usually releases energy.
Many factors determine the balance between these processes, including hormones. When you’re young, your anabolic and catabolic hormones are in balance, favoring the anabolic state as the body produces molecules required for growth and development. As you age, many of the anabolic hormones decline and you become more catabolic as your tissues begin to break down.
- The main anabolic hormones are pregnenolone, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, growth hormone, insulin and melatonin.
- The main catabolic hormones are epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, glucagon and excess insulin.
It’s currently believed anabolic/catabolic imbalance favoring catabolism is a key factor of accelerated aging.
What Can You Do?
In addition to age, your anabolic/catabolic balance may be affected by your nutritional status, supplements, emotions, seasons, sleep disorders, exercise, environmental toxins, gene mutations (MTHFR), medications and other factors. It’s well-established that all the anabolic hormones, except insulin, decrease with age, while catabolic hormones increase. The big question is this: what can be done to ensure a proper anabolic/catabolic balance during the aging process?
Bioidentical hormone replacement is one option, but the therapy must be monitored to ensure safety and adequate levels. Proper nutrition is critical to ensure essential nutrients are available for proper hormone metabolism. Gastrointestinal function must be optimal so nutrients may be absorbed to meet the needs of the anabolic state. An anti-inflammatory diet, such as Paleo diet, is highly recommended, as it will decrease your risk of developing insulin resistance. It can be beneficial to have an intracellular nutritional analysis done to determine if your nutrients, antioxidants and immune function are optimal.
Proper balance between aerobic and anaerobic is also critical, since aerobic is catabolic and anaerobic is anabolic. A urine test can be performed to determine your anabolic/catabolic ratio.
If you’re catabolic, have your functional medicine physician to determine the cause, institute the appropriate therapy and repeat the test in three months to determine if it was effective.