Author: Kristina Mitts
Mitochondria have to be one of the most interesting areas in health related research. For every bit of confirmed knowledge we have on mitochondria, there seems to be 10x that of unknown. We know enough that we can use to improve health, particularly pertaining to conditions such as Chronic Fatigue/ME, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer, Fibromyalgia, Adrenal Dysfunction and Thyroid Disorders. Each of these conditions have been tied to mitochondrial dysfunction. Keep reading to learn more about preventing mitochondrial dysfunction and supporting mitochondrial health for your body.
What do the Mitochondria do for us?
1. First and foremost, we know that the mitochondria are the creators of ATP (adenosine triphosphate); our body’s energy currency. There is no activity in the body that can occur in the body without ATP.
2. Buffering of calcium ion flux and maintenance of ion gradients. This sounds bland, but if you’ve been following Dr. Bill Code’s talks you’ll know that this has relevance for multiple sclerosis, blood pressure and blood flow, among other things.
3. Regulation of cell growth, cell cycle and metabolism
4. Stimulation of immune cells and the immune response
5. Neurotransmitter function
6. Contributing to thyroid and adrenal balance
7. Mitochondria even have roles to play in gut and microbiome health. We need ATP and healthy mitochondria for nutrient uptake by intestinal cells, mucous production and lubrication of the gut by goblet cells and fending off pathogens by our immune cells.
To help you really grasp how mitochondria work in the body use the analogy of a body being like a car:
•Fuel……………………………diet and gut function
• Fuel and oxygen delivery…….. heart and circulation • Accelerator pedal………………thyroid gland
• Gear box……………………….adrenal gland
• Service and repair ……………..sleep
• Tool kit ………………………. methylation cycle
• Cleaning – oil …………………antioxidants
• Catalytic converter…………….detoxification
• A driver………………………..the brain in a fit state
Now that you’ve got the picture, let’s talk about what events or actions make our mitochondria malfunction. Mitochondrial Dysfunction occurs mainly due to:
- Environmental or pharmacologic toxins
- Nutrient deficiencies. All 20 of the mitochondrial nutritional cofactors are listed on page 86 of “Solving the Brain Puzzle,” but for now you’ll want to know that these include CoQ19, ribose, carnitine, magnesium, specific B vitamins and certain minerals.
- Secondary risk factors include blood sugar imbalance, cardiovascular disease and use of certain medications.
Mitochondrial malfunction might appear as fatigue and chronic fatigue, poor brain function, poor detoxification, exercise intolerance, lower tolerance to pain or any of the conditions I listed above.
Studies comparing chronic fatigue patients with a control group have found that those with chronic fatigue tend to have deficiencies in CoQ10, carnitine and antioxidants while levels of reactive oxygen species were increased. Supplementing with just l-carnitine alone improved symptoms in the chronic fatigue group. [Potgieter et al, Plioplys et al, Kurup et al]
Studies evaluating Fibromyalgia patients have found that they tend to have decreased levels of CoQ10 and several minerals such as zinc, copper, magnesium and manganese. Taking CoQ10 had positive effects on headache symptoms, tender points and other symptoms. [Cordero et al, Kim YS et al]
Studies published in the Journal of American Nutrition, John Wiley Press and Carcinogenesis have found mitochondrial abnormalities in cancer patients and cancer cells. Several of the researchers argue that the cancer mutation theory is outdated. One study found that a ketogenic diet provided a means to manage cancer in two patients with inoperable tumors.
Immunity can improve by providing our mitochondria with specific antioxidants such as sulforaphane in raw broccoli sprouts, resveratrol, in grapes or berries, carnosol in rosemary, and additional antioxidants from green tea, turmeric, ginkgo and garlic. [Mills et al, Chen et al, Nguyen et al, Liu J et al, Brown RH et al, Yang L. et al, Mckercher et al]
Dr. Myhill, mitochondrial expert, has found that specific toxins will disrupt mitochondria through a number of pathways: bottlenecking the krebs cycle and thus reducing ATP production, promoting mitochondrial membrane hyperpermeability, breaking down the membrane and blocking protein receptor sites. These compounds include hair and food dye, parabens, fire retardants, pesticides, nickel, mercury and other metals.
To support mitochondrial health you can do the following:
Reduce toxic exposures
o Replace body and dental care products with healthy non-toxic versions. Visit www.ewg.org for further suggestions
o Avoid toxins in food by eating a non-processed whole foods diet
o Consider your exposure to fire retardants and off gassing pollutants from furniture, carpets and cars
o Metals is a broad topic, but at the least, reduce your exposure to metals by choosing healthy non-toxic third party reviewed products, choosing organic/chemical-free foods and by eating lower on the food chain (seafood)
o Eat a nutrient dense diet, rich with plants and organ meats. CoQ10 and a number of the required B vitamins can be found in organ meats such as liver or heart.
o Carnitine can be found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy [concerned about TMAO/Trimethylamine-N-oxide? The conversion is dependent upon microbial balance and other nutritional factors]
o Magnesium is found in dark chocolate, squash and pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado and brown rice
o Ribose is best supplemented with as there is no formal dietary source.
o If you have any of the aforementioned conditions, you may wish to try a Ketogenic Diet. Just make sure you work with a professional who can help you maintain balance and diversity.
o Try using Hyperbaric Oxygen or regular use of an oxygen concentrator
o Certain breathing techniques can increase oxygen levels
o Spending time outdoors will increase your oxygen status
Avoid unnecessary use of SSRI’s and anti-psychotics, which inhibit mitochondria
Investigate genetic variations. For example, those that impact methylation can impair mitochondrial function.
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