By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
We all remember the mitochondria as the “powerhouse of the cell” from biology class. While most of us haven’t thought about these organelles since high school, the incredible power of the mitochondria has recently been gaining more and more attention. Today we’re going to take a refresher course in mitochondria, and learn how the mitochondria just might be the key to longevity.
What Are The Mitochondria?
Mitochondria are small organelles floating in our cells that produce about 90% of the chemical energy, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), that cells need to survive. Depending on how much energy a cell needs, some cells have thousands of mitochondria while others have none. These tiny organelles turn the electrons in the food we eat into energy our cells can use to power our bodies. Mitochondria are so important that they even have their own DNA, known as mitochondrial DNA (“mtDNA”).
Apoptosis: Cellular Suicide
In addition to creating energy, mitochondria produce other chemicals your body uses for various tasks, like breaking down waste, recycling waste products, and something called “apoptosis.” Apoptosis is programmed cell death and is crucial for a healthy body. When your body senses viruses and gene mutations, it may trigger apoptosis to prevent these from spreading. Cancer and tumors grow when left unchecked; apoptosis is needed to reign them in.
Take Care of your Mitochondria
Healthy functioning mitochondria are essential for many of our life-sustaining metabolic processes. As essential to life as mitochondria are, they are also delicate and quite susceptible to damage. Mitochondrial dysfunction is currently characterized by a variety of metabolic illnesses.
The following conditions are associated with changes in the structure of mitochondrial DNA or are symptoms of mitochondrial damage or malfunctioning include
- Multiple Sclerosis: A neuroimmune disease, multiple sclerosis patients generally have impaired ATP synthesis, which is evidence of malfunctioning mitochondria. Most MS patients also have chronic oxidative stress.
- Autism, Asperger syndrome, ADHD
- Fatigue: One of the most common symptoms of weak mitochondria is chronic fatigue.
- Motor skill problems, including trouble walking, talking or swallowing; loss of motor control; balance and coordination issues.
- Digestive issues: vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, acid reflux.
- Muscle aches, pains, weakness
- Heart, liver, kidney disease or dysfunction.
- Neurological problems,
- Age-related hearing loss
- Cyclic vomiting syndrome
- Cytochrome c oxidase deficiency
- Neuropathy, ataxia, and retinitis pigmentosa: muscle weakness, vision loss
- Stalled growth and development
- Respiratory problems
- Hormonal imbalance
Supporting Your Mitochondria Naturally
>>Healthy Lifestyle Habits: Avoid blue light at night, get full-spectrum sunlight, make conscious choices regarding the products you buy, get enough sleep.
Additionally, it’s important to be conscious of carcinogenic EMFs and minimize your exposure to these man-made electromagnetic frequencies. Healthy mitochondria can protect you from suffering too much damage from acute exposure, but constant bombardment from EMFs including cell phones, computers, Wi-Fi routers, microwaves, etc. will wear down your mitochondria. You can read more about protecting yourself from EMF radiation here.
>>Healthy Nutrition: Eating organic, whole foods is important for everyone. For an extramitochondrial boost, consider supplementation. I recommend Mito Synergy for a packed-punch of antioxidants and mitochondrial supporting nutrients.
- Vitamin B: B vitamins are integral to mitochondrial energy production and proper mitochondrial function. A deficiency in any of the B vitamins disrupts normal energy production, leading to an accumulation of toxic byproducts and increasing oxidative stress.
- Creatine: Creatine is a substance similar to amino acids that you find in muscle cells. It can help increase muscle mass, strength, exercise performance, and protect against neurological diseases.
- L-Carnitine: Carnitine is an amino acid produced by the body, and is also found in red meat! It is involved in transporting compounds and also stimulates glutathione production—the master antioxidant.
- CoQ10: In order for our bodies to make use of the food we eat, our mitochondria has to turn food and oxygen into usable energy in the form of ATP. This conversion process requires the presence of CoQ10. Read more about CoQ10 here.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA): ALA has actually been labeled a “mitochondrial nutrient” by researchers due to its ability to improve the structure and function of mitochondria. ALA has also been studied for its ability to increase antioxidant levels, restore vital enzyme activity, prevent oxidative damage, and protect against cognitive decline.
- Curcumin: Curcumin is anti-inflammatory: it works on a control switch called NF-κB. Genes generally aren’t turned completely on or off, it’s more like adjusting the volume on your stereo. Curcumin helps downregulate or turn down the volume on NF-κB, which results in less inflammatory markers and less inflammatory stress. Curcumin also upregulates glutathione, known as the master antioxidant that also protects mitochondria, by up to 600%!