What Are Mitochondria and Why It’s Crucial To Take Care Of Them
Have you been seeing the word ‘mitochondria’ thrown around lately? Get ready because you’re going to hear a lot more about it. Research is pouring in showing just how crucial these tiny organelles are to our healthspan and lifespan.
So what are mitochondria? They are the tiny engines within each cell that are the source of your energy and ultimate overall health and in fact, are the place where our metabolism happens. You can look at them as your cellular batteries or fuel and eventually will wear out .. if not charged up. They make energy from the food you eat and oxygen from the air you breathe. They are essentially little factories producing vital cellular energy which is Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) that keeps us alive and supports every function in the human body. Each cell holds hundreds to thousands of mitochondria and are highly concentrated in heart and the brain. In fact, we have over 100,000 trillion in our body!
But here’s the glitch, when our mitochondria are damaged, they not functioning optimally or we lose them, this causes them to break down and stop producing enough energy. We consequently suffer from a whole host of of symptoms from fatigue (the most common symptom), weight gain, low energy, faster-aging, lack of cognitive function, memory loss and chronic pain.
What Causes Damage to our Mitochondria?
Uncontrolled oxidative stress which is just a fancy word for ‘rusting’ – like the rust on your car or the brown color that appears on an apple when we leave it exposed to the air, is the process of oxidation and this happens within our bodies as well. Oxidative stress happens when the amount of free radicals exceeds the amount of antioxidants. That’s when oxidation damages our cells, mitochondria, proteins and our DNA (genes).
Weight gain, smoking, toxins, stress, lack of sleep, chemicals, sugar in all forms (top offender of mitochondrial damage), insults, and damages the mitochondria and why fasting promotes longevity. Inflammation in any form damages the sensitive mitochondria which sets off a chain reaction of weight gain, rapid aging and chronic health conditions down the road. We want to take care of our mitochondria so that are healthy and replicating – so they can thrive.
Eat An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Don’t eat less, eat more of the healthy foods. The care and feeding of your mitochondria every day requires the right foods: colorful fresh veggies (8-12 servings daily) that are packed with polyphenols that promote an optimized boost, as well as fruits (especially berries), nuts, seeds, healthy fats – avocados, MCT oil, omega 3 fats (help to build mitochondrial membranes) such as wild salmon, sardines, herbs, spices such as turmeric and much more – these foods are full of antioxidants, phytonutrients that protect and repair your mitochondria.
Stop Feeding Your Mitochondria Junk Food
The more processed someone’s diet is (high in things like sugar, artificial ingredients, refined carbs and unhealthy inflammatory fats from oils high in omega 6 such as canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil or soy oil, the harder the organs have to work to extract nutrients
Avoid Added Sugar or Other Refined Starches
Sugar and other refined starches such as white flour, white rice, chips, pretzels, desserts etc. are the serious drivers of mitochondrial issues. Always look at nutrition labels for sugars added. Even seemingly innocent foods such as most whole wheat breads can raise your blood sugar as much as two tablespoons of sugar. Sugars and refined starches are serious drivers of mitochondrial issues.
Give Intermittent Fasting a Try
When the cell is able ‘rest’ and to clean itself out via autophagy, cleaning out damaged cells – cellular health occurs including reducing the inflammatory response which translates to a leaner and healthier you. What you eat and the quality of that food determines far more than just your weight – it determines your overall health, metabolism, hormone balance and more.
Intermittent Fasting is a relatively easy action to take in your eating schedule. You will be using fat as your energy source rather than glucose (sugar) and this promotes optimized health, energy and cognitive function.
Here is an excellent video by Dr. Joseph Mercola on the benefits of intermittent fasting:
Get Quality Sleep
Mitochondrial dysfunction is a primary cause of age-related decline and as we age, we tend to lose quality sleep and energy. Simply look at the boundless energy of a child and how deeply they sleep to see optimized mitochondria. Ensure you get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Deep breathing is a highly effective way to deeply relax the body, promoting sleep. One technique I highly recommend is the 4-7-8 Technique that the Armed Forces utilize during combat – it stops the stress response in its tracks and promotes sleep effectively. Use this before sleep or if you awaken during the night.
The 4-7-8 Technique: Breathe in deeply through the nose for 4 seconds; hold for 7 seconds; exhale for 8 seconds completely. Repeat as often as necessary.
Stress, if chronic, can easily become your own worst enemy. Stress is known to affect all systems in the human body by influencing a vast amount of functions. Stress worsens inflammation and fatigue while also hindering immune function..ultimately stress hormones affect our mitochondria.
“Scientists have long known that stressful experiences, on their own, do not cause disease; it’s our responses to stress that have the potential to culminate in disease.” ~Douglas C. Wallace, PhD
Exercise in Bursts
Exercise is one of the most powerful mitochondrial boosters you can take action on. Research clearly shows that bursts of exercise such as interval training or HIIT – > where you go super fast and slow for a few determined amount of intervals, has a marked effect on mitochondrial increase and health on its own and if combined with resistance training, shows superior mitochondrial increase and function which speeds up metabolism.
Utilize Targeted Supplements
Take supplements to help protect and boost your mitochondria for a therapeutic effect. Combining the right diet, exercise and specific supplements will protect your cells, boost energy and overall mitochondrial health. Supplementing the following nutrients has been shown to specifically promote mitochondria function:
Taking care of your mitochondria is not only going to help promote optimal health, energy, weight loss, cognitive function and slow aging. Best of all? You will love how you feel!
Linnane AW, Kovalenko S, Gingold EB. The universality of bioenergetic disease: age-associated cellular bioenergetic degradation and amelioration therapy. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Nov 20;854:202-13.