Taking Care of Your Mitochondria
What are Mitochondria and Why Should I Take Care of Them?
Mitochondria are the organelles inside each of our cells that produce energy. These tiny structures take the oxygen we breathe and use it to make more than 95% of our body’s energy. This is a truly impressive feat since mitochondria only make up 10% of our body’s weight. Their complex process is governed by over 1,000 genes and has far reaching implications for many other processes in our body. When our mitochondria are damaged we experience an increase in fatigue and exercise intolerance, worsening blood sugar control, excess fat gains, premature aging, increased cancer risk, and many neurological diseases including chronic migraines, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
Given the level of negative impact that these disorders have on lifespan and quality of life, it is important to protect and repair these tiny power producing organelles to help prevent and treat these health conditions. Treating the cause of illness has always be my philosophy in medicine and there are a few steps that can help you keep your mitochondria healthy and happy—a key aspect of both day-to-day health and healthy aging!
Here are some of my tips to take care of your mitochondria:
Avoid products that damage your mitochondria:
It is now widely known that heavy metals like lead, mercury, and aluminum damage our mitochondria and lead to a variety of diseases. You should limit your exposure to these heavy metals through diet and lifestyle changes. Smaller fish like anchovies and sardines contain less mercury and other toxins than larger fish. Old pipes and lead containing paint are two common sources of lead exposure that American’s get regularly. Remove peeling paint or paint that may contain lead to avoid accidental exposure. At home, it is wise to use a water filter for all of your drinking and cooking water.
There are hidden sources of heavy metals in every day household and beauty products. The Environmental Working Group has a wonderful resource called Skin Deep that evaluates the safety of each product for heavy metals and pesticides which also cause mitochondrial damage.
Another easy way to avoid heavy metals is to avoid cooking in non-stick and aluminum pans. If you must use non-stick pans use low to medium heat to avoid the leaching of heavy metals and polytetrafluoroetheylene into your food. Consider using cast iron or stainless steel pots and pans which do not leach heavy metals into your food.
Avoid food from crops that are heavily sprayed with pesticides when feeding your family. Buy organic fruits and vegetables when possible or at least follow the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen shopping rules—buy only organic for the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables. The Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen is a list of most/least pesticide sprayed fruits and vegetables which I advise all my patients to reference when shopping. The dirty dozen fruits and vegetables include strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes. The list is updated every year.
Feed and repair your mitochondria:
Sometimes the best way to heal our mitochondria is by feeding them the nutrients they need to produce energy for body and brain. Another strategy is to quench the excessive free radicals which damage our mitochondria, cells, and DNA. A few of my favorite ways to support and repair our mitochondria to help treat and prevent chronic illnesses like cancer, fatigue, Alzheimer’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis are:
- ATP Fuel by Researched Nutritional, a supplement that is designed to support cellular energy production. This product is full of antioxidants to neutralize free radical damage, support immediate energy production and fuel every stage of our cells’ energy production. It is ideal for most people who have dealt with long term illness and chronic fatigue to help repair and renew damaged mitochondria and increase energy.
- Mitocore by Orthomolecular, a high quality multivitamin that “recharges Cellular Energy Production” and thus boosts our immune system to fight illness. It also increases our cells’ ability to detox cellular waste which can contribute to mitochondrial damage. This is a great multivitamin for adults who need a little extra energy to get through their day.
- Mitochondrial Renewal Kit by Xymogen is a convenient packet of antioxidants and botanicals that safely and effectively mimic the protective effects of exercise and caloric restriction on mitochondrial growth, metabolic fitness, and aging. It is a good solution for the weekend warrior or elite athlete looking for an edge in training and performance.
- Poly MVA IVs are one of the hottest health trends in medicine right now. The Poly MVA IV is a superior blend of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants prized for its ability to repair mitochondrial and neurological damage and fight fatigue. It boosts energy production at a cellular level and fortifies the immune system. It also slows aging of our cells by quenching free radical damage which prematurely ages our DNA. We offer this intravenous therapy at NaturoMedica and suggest it for patients with fatigue due to life stress or illness. It only takes 45 minutes to administer but the positive effects can last all week long.
Exercise/intermittent calorie restriction:
Aerobic exercise and caloric restriction are the two most compelling approaches to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis. Exercise and calorie restriction induces our bodies to activate the “master regulator” gene called PGC1α, whose main function is mitochondrial biogenesis. Mitochondrial biogenesis is the process of making new mitochondria to replace our old or damaged ones. This process is the reason why after consistently exercising for several weeks we have more energy and focus. Simply stated, when we put a demand on our bodies like exercising and tax our muscles, our body responds by making more mitochondria and repairing our old mitochondria thus improving our mitochondrial health.
Reducing calories a few days a week can increase mitochondrial health. Just like exercise, caloric restriction increases expression of endothelial nitric oxide system which is a key regulator of cardiac fitness, blood sugar control, GI tract movement and is involved in birth of new blood vessels and brain and nerve cells (improved brain health). It also increases the PGC1α activity. I suggest that patients aim to eat fewer calories several days a week or alternate cycles of eating balanced meals and abstaining from food, a concept known as intermittent fasting.
More than ever people are looking for solutions to prevent chronic illnesses like diabetes, obesity, premature aging, cancer, chronic headaches, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke with diet and lifestyle changes. With the overload of information on the internet, they are uncertain what information is valid and where to start in their efforts to work on disease prevention. The physicians at NaturoMedica have dedicated their careers to helping patients just like you get on the road to optimal health. Whether your focus is on prevention or treatment of illness, we are here to provide you with tools for achieving your health goals.