You want to improve your energy, sharpen mental focus, have less pain and prevent age-related chronic illness. Optimal health and efficient metabolism begins at the cellular level. Let’s start by gaining an understanding of the role mitochondria have in health and disease.
Our cells are composed of hundreds to thousands of tiny powerhouses called mitochondria. They convert food and oxygen into ATP or energy, which gives our cells energy to do their job. They are essential for heart cells to pump blood, muscle cells to contract, brain cells to communicate and liver cells to detoxify.
An increasing number of studies are shedding light on the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, migraines, epilepsy, stoke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Mitochondrial health is thought to play a role in longevity. Damage to these important little engines can lead to DNA damage, cell death and premature aging.
When mitochondria produce energy, free radicals are produced as a by-product. The cell has important built-in antioxidants such as glutathione which neutralize these free radicals to keep the engine running smoothly.
If glutathione becomes depleted, free radicals build up and damage the mitochondria. When mitochondria become inefficient at producing energy you feel fatigue, brain fog, mood changes, and as lactic acid accumulates in tissue you feel pain and stiffness. When damage is severe, cells die.
Fatigue is an aspect of most disease, a phenomenon related to oxidative stress and poor mitochondrial function.
To jump start your mitochondrial health, start with reducing the triggers that cause damage such as stress, infection/inflammation, smoking/alcohol, toxic exposure and processed foods.
The biochemical reactions that take place in the mitochondria are highly dependent on nutrition. Mitochondria function and glutathione production requires B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, calcium, zinc, copper, vitamin C and selenium. The best way to revitalize this process is through a whole foods diet rich in bright colored plant nutrients, quality protein and healthy fats.
Dr. Terry Wahls is a physician who has been successful in reversing her progressive MS through nutritional intervention. She has developed a protocol for improving mitochondrial function which is based on a paleolithic diet, and consists of the following:
- 3 cups of green veggies
- 3 cups of sulfur rich veggies such as onions, garlic, cruciferous veg
- 3 cups of bright colored veggies, fruit and berries
- Omega 3 EFA from wild fish and purified fish oil
- Grass fed meat and organ meat
- Seaweed as a source of iodine and selenium
Supplementation that is helpful in fueling the mitochondria and protecting them from damage includes R+ alpha lipoic acid, CoQ10, acetyl L-carnitine, n-acetyl-cysteine, resveratrol and bioflavonoids.
You can watch a TedX video of Dr. Terry Wahls about Minding Your Mitochondria by clicking here
Dr. Shannon Sarrasin is a naturopathic doctor who is medically trained and naturally focused. Click here to learn more about Dr. Shannon Sarrasin, ND.