“The powerhouse of the cell.” Most of us remember this phrase from biology class. The mitochondria produce the energy in the form of ATP needed for each cell to operate. They produce the fuel for the proper functioning of every cell in your body, each heartbeat, and each muscle contraction. 10% of our total body weight consists of mitochondria! When they aren’t healthy, we aren’t healthy, it’s as simple as that.
In the brain, they’re primarily necessary for creating an electrical gradient that makes it possible for each nerve cell to fire. When brain cell mitochondria are less healthy, this gradient isn’t as strong, and nerve cells can fire more easily, thus get fatigued more quickly!
Are you more sensitive to noise and light than others? Does sustained concentration make you more tired than it used to? Is it more difficult to focus or read than it used to be? Do you find yourself trying to think through a fog? If so, your mitochondria are involved!
Factors Leading To Mitochondrial Problems
Possible factors leading to mitochondrial problems can be:
- Exposure to Lead, Mercury, Arsenic, and other heavy metals
- Cigarette Smoking
- Environmental Toxins (BPA, Atrazine)
- Insulin Resistance
- Micronutrient deficiencies (B vitamins, Zinc)
- Medications (especially statins, Tylenol)
- Calorie overload
- Genetic inefficiencies
Mitochondria And The Brain
Care to guess what organ tends to be most sensitive to mitochondrial damage? That’s right, the brain! The brain has a unique vulnerability as it has the greatest energy need, while having one of the lowest concentrations of mitochondria per cell. Depression, Bipolar Disorder and schizophrenia, Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and migraines all can present due in part or whole to mitochondrial dysfunction.
The main message here is that if we take care of our mitochondria, they will take care of us! How do we do this? It’s the same formula that we’ve been talking about: 1) Take out what may be causing damage like toxins, inflammation. 2) Put in what helps them function better like B vitamins, Magnesium, and glutathione.
The Wahls Protocol
Dr. Flagel and Dr. Wahls
If you think mitochondrial dysfunction may be something relevant to you, I highly recommend “The Wahls Protocol” by one of my teachers and personal heroes, Dr. Terry Wahls. Her story of recovery from multiple sclerosis is astounding and her program gives an easy to understand path towards healing your own mitochondria.
P.S. If you are like me and can’t get enough of how amazing our bodies’ mechanisms are, check out this great animation of the final step of ATP production. Fair warning, it’s a bit hypnotizing!