The Mitochondria Manual

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You may not be in the mood for a new wellness vocabulary word, but trust us when we say “mitochondria” is one that definitely belongs in your lexicon. 

You likely learned about this microscopic body part in science class way back when, but over the last few years these little guys have been trending hard in wellness circles. Here’s functional medicine doctor, Dr. Mark Hyman, on why…

I love telling people about mitochondria. Discovering the importance of mitochondria and how to optimize their function was a huge part of my personal healing journey.

Mitochondria are key energy sources for our bodies. They are tiny factories housed within our cells that take the foods we eat and the oxygen we breathe and convert them into energy. That energy is called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, and it is used to support every function in our bodies. Each cell holds hundreds or thousands of mitochondria; they are found in greater concentrations in active organs and tissues like the heart, brain and muscles.

In fact, we have more than 100,000 trillion mitochondria in our bodies, and each one contains 17,000 little assembly lines for making ATP.

Mitochondria are where metabolism happens. So, when your mitochondria aren’t working properly, your metabolism runs less efficiently and can even practically shut down. Problems occur because these powerful energy producers are very sensitive and easily damaged. When they are damaged, we suffer from low energy, fatigue, memory loss, pain, rapid aging and more.

Fatigue is the most common symptom of poorly functioning mitochondria, and it is the reason we tend to feel pooped as we age. Mitochondria are really important, but unfortunately many things can damage them, mainly through uncontrolled oxidative stress. That may sound complicated, but in reality we are all familiar with “oxidative stress,” even if some of us don’t know what the term means.

Oxidation is the rust on our cars, the brown color that appears on an apple when cut and exposed to air, the rancid vegetable oil in our cupboards, even the wrinkles that form on our skin. What most of us don’t realize is that our own tissues are rusting, our own fats are going rancid and our brains are melting as we go about our daily lives.

What starts this process is some sort of insult — things like too many calories, smoking, a sunburn, exposure to toxins, anti-nutrients and sugar. The insult leads to injury by tipping the balance and starting a chain reaction of damage to cells and tissues, that leads us down the path to weight gain and chronic illness.

So how do we care for our mitochondria? There are several easy steps to follow.

Here's how to care for your mitochondria:

1. Set the Scene

Provide the mitochondria with the correct environment to thrive in. To do this we need to practice the following:

+ Eat less processed food, junk food, sugar and empty calories. In fact, you should really avoid these things altogether.
+ Detoxify your body by getting rid of environmental and internal toxins.
+ Cool off the inflammation in your body.
+ Balance your hormones.

2. Get Moving

Try interval training, which increases the efficiency and function of your mitochondria, and strength training, which increases the amount of muscle and the number of mitochondria.

3. Eat Real

Add real, whole, colorful plant foods to your daily diet. These foods are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which nourish your mitochondria. Aim for 8 to 12 servings of fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, every single day.

4. Supplement

Incorporate the following nutrients into your daily regimen by including the following, to support your mitochondria and boost energy:

+ acetyl-L-carnitin
+ alpha-lipoic acid
+ magnesium aspartate
+ resveratrol
+ D-ribose
+ NADH
+ coenzyme Q10
+ N-acetyl-cysteine

5. Up the Fats

Increase your intake of omega-3 fats to help build your mitochondrial membranes. Be sure to include things like salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and egg yolks.

Taking care of your mitochondria can make you leaner and smarter. It can help prevent aging and increase your energy.

Original article published by The Chalkboard Mag.

The above is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.