If you have even heard of the mitochondria then you are already ahead of the game! Often when I speak to my patients about the mitochondria they look at me like I have two heads but I am on a mission to teach people more about this MAJOR energy influencer!
The mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of the cell. In fact, if you think all the way back to your grade school science classes, talk of the Krebs Cycle (or TCA cycle, and the works ATP and pyruvate may be hidden in the back of your mind as faint memories. Whether you can conjure up these memories or not is not the point here though. What does matter is that if you do not have happy, properly functioning mitochondria, then you do not have energy.
Your mitochondria are not just involved in your feelings of vitality (or lack there of), but they are also a key component in aging, metabolic issues, poor cognitive performance (think brain fog!) and virtually all chronic disease. I first became aware of the immense power of the mitochondria while working on a focus shift for people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Myalgic encephalomyeltitis) and Fibromyalgia. In these sensitive populations we witnessed the power of many Naturopathic interventions, but there were arguable none more powerful then interventions targeted at improving mitochondrial health.
What are the factors involved in Mitochondrial demise?
Many people believe that if they haven’t heard of this tiny little organelle then it cannot be a critical key to their health and longevity. Wrong! Just because your doctor hasn’t mentioned it doesn’t mean that this is some rare disease. In fact, test yourself, check out the quiz below to see how your mitochondrial health scores!
I bet for many of you, you will be surprised to find out that your every day functions are contributing to the demise of your cellular health.
- Nutrient deficiencies. This applies to micronutrients such as carnitine, ribose, CoQ10, B Vitamins etc. As well as macronutrients, with fat being a very critical one. Many people fear fat, or eat poor quality sources of fat. Additionally, the ratios of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids are fat from optimal in the diets of most people.
- We are toxic. We live in a toxic world filled with pesticides, chemical additives, heavy metals and pollution of all sorts. We just aren’t built to deal with this on our own, and our livers attempts to deal with them can leave us with nutrient deficiencies, increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) and we still have left over toxins that can damage the mitochondrial membrane.
- ROS and other oxidative damage. Aside from liver produced reactive oxygen species there are also many other sources of ROS that can damage the mitochondria, these include frank infections, sleath infection, poor nutrition and also over nutrition. Each of these can decrease mitochondrial function and whatsmore, decreasing your health and energy!
So now what can you do for these mysterious little organelles?
- Exercise. Although I didn’t mention exercise in the major factors involved in mitochondrial demise both under exercise and over exercise can be a detriment to mitochondrial health. Over exercise is a stress to the body, and it produces large amounts of oxidative stress. Additionally though, under exercise leads to a decreased number of mitochondria per cell, and therefore decreases the amount of energy we can produce. Work to find your sweet spot with exercise!
- Eat good fats! This one gets an exclamation mark, eating good quality fats, that are not oxidized or over heated, is critical for our cellular membranes, hormone synthesis, and also critical to the proper regulation of our digestive function. Also work to optimize omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid intake ratios. Omega 3 fatty acids, from fish, fish oils and algae, provide a needed source of anti inflammatory fats that are critical to cellular health.
- Focus on green leafys and brassica vegetables. These vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, kale and bok choy, are sulfur containing vegetables that help to detoxify the body. They are a critical component of our liver health, and gastrointestinal health.
- Correct nutrient deficiencies. Many people cannot fully recover their mitochondria without correcting their nutrient deficiencies. This does not always mean pumping your body full of supplements though. Many people who focus on eating a very nutrient dense diet, including organ meats such as liver and heart, can feel a difference in their energy and vitality.
If you are interested in exploring how to optimize your mitochondrial health through functional testing then check out my post on the Organic Acids Test.