How To Preserve and Grow Functional Mitochondria

How To Preserve and Grow Functional Mitochondria

Mitochondria is a hot topic these days. As a naturopathic physician in Singapore, I learned to look at not just the big picture but the processes that cause aging, both “good aging” and “poor aging.” The health of our organs and other systems in the body keep us functioning optimally, and the feature that keeps these organs and other systems going efficiently is the energy or battery of the cells: mitochondria. These tiny structures inside our cells are responsible for producing energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which powers virtually every cellular process. 

Like an under-filled battery on a cell phone that will not work long or efficiently, our cells will suffer when not charged enough or drained for various reasons. Preserving and growing functional mitochondria is a key strategy to prevent and delay many of the chronic diseases that we face, including dementia, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue and autoimmune diseases.

This blog will discuss mitochondria, how to keep it healthy, and how to keep your cells and organs young. If you would like a consultation with a functional medicine practitioner, please get in touch.

The Role of Mitochondria in Health and Aging

Mitochondria do more than just generate energy; they are involved in a range of vital processes, including cell signaling, cellular differentiation, and even cell death (apoptosis). The health of our organs and bodily systems largely depends on the efficiency of these cellular batteries. A decline in mitochondrial function is linked with various age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune disorders. Just like a cell phone with a depleted battery functions poorly, cells with impaired mitochondria struggle to meet the energy demands, leading to systemic health issues.

Maternal Influence on Mitochondrial Health

An intriguing aspect of mitochondria is their unique genetic makeup. Unlike the rest of our DNA, which is inherited from both parents, mitochondrial DNA comes almost exclusively from the mother. This maternal inheritance pattern suggests that looking into the mother’s lineage can provide insights into an individual’s mitochondrial health. Understanding your family’s health history, especially the energy levels and vitality of your maternal ancestors, can give clues about your mitochondrial potential.

How To Identify Mitochondrial Dysfunction

How can you tell if your mitochondria need support? While some signs might be subtle, certain symptoms can indicate mitochondrial dysfunction:

  • Reliance on stimulants like caffeine
  • Poor recovery after exercise
  • Sugar cravings
  • Inability to fast or go long periods without food
  • Persistent fatigue

However, these symptoms can also be linked to other health issues, so it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a naturopathic doctor, for an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnostic Tests for Mitochondrial Health

Several laboratory tests can help assess mitochondrial function:

  • Coenzyme Q10 levels, essential for mitochondrial energy production
  • Organic acids test (OAT), which evaluates various metabolic byproducts
  • Leptin and insulin levels, as insulin resistance often accompanies mitochondrial dysfunction

These tests can provide valuable information about your mitochondrial health and guide appropriate interventions.

Nourishing the Mitochondria

Gut Health and Dietary Choices

The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in mitochondrial function. A healthy gut supports efficient energy production and vice versa. Therefore, improving gut health, including the integrity of the gut lining, makes a difference. Diet plays a significant role here – incorporating polyphenol-rich foods, omega-3 fatty acids, and maintaining caloric balance are effective strategies. Polyphenols, found in foods like berries, nuts, and green tea, are known for their antioxidant properties, which can protect mitochondria from damage.

Regular Exercise That You Enjoy

Regular physical activity is essential for mitochondrial health. Exercise stimulates the production of new mitochondria, a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis, and improves their efficiency.

Nutrient Supplementation Under a Doctor’s Guidance

Foundational supplements like coenzyme Q10, creatine monohydrate, alpha-lipoic acid, and resveratrol can bolster mitochondrial function. These nutrients help in energy production, provide antioxidant support, and improve overall mitochondrial efficiency.

Avoiding Harmful Medications and Toxins

Certain medications, including psychotropics and statins, can adversely affect mitochondrial function. Similarly, exposure to environmental toxins like phthalates and parabens can impair mitochondrial health. Reducing exposure to these toxins and careful use of medications can help preserve mitochondrial function.

Lifestyle Factors and Mitochondrial Health

In addition to diet and supplementation, lifestyle factors play a crucial role in maintaining healthy mitochondria:

You need to sleep well if you wish to prioritize mitochondrial health. Sleep disturbances can lead to impaired mitochondrial function – so start a new bed time routine, turn off the TV, and go to bed on time. Chronic stress will also hurt mitochondrial function. Practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help manage stress and support mitochondrial health. Poor sleep also causes more stress.

Furthermore, periodic fasting has been shown to improve mitochondrial efficiency and promote the removal of damaged mitochondria. “Grazing,” or snacking throughout the day, can cause other issues as well, and periods of time without food can help most people. If you wish to make a significant lifestyle change regarding your diet, consider consulting with a doctor – everyone’s body reacts differently to significant changes.

If you want to restore your health, get to the root cause of autoimmune diseases, or make dietary changes that will help you with mitochondria or weight loss, contact Dr. Radhika Kamat today. We would be happy to help you.

Sources For Reference

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Saint Georges Chaumet Y, et al. Cell Mol Biol (Noisy le grand). 2015;61:121-4.

Pagano G, et al. Oxid Med Cell Longev. May 4, 2014;2014:541230.

Amer MA, et al. 2011;10:3722-30.

Khan S, et al. Translational Research. 2011;158:344-59.

Di Monte DA, et al. Ann Neurol. 1992;32 Suppl:S111-5. 9. Yu E. Heart. 2014;100 Suppl 3:A128-9.

Cordero MD, et al. Arthritis Res Ther. January 28, 2010;12:R17.

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