Some people seem to have endless energy. Others struggle through the day, exhausted the whole time.
What could be causing the difference? The answer may lie in the health of your mitochondria.
We have all heard the overused phrase “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.” Well, it is, but it is also so much more than that.
For a quick review, mitochondria are responsible for creating the energy we need to be active. Mitochondria are found in most cells, and their primary role is to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the primary source of energy used by your cells so you can think, walk, and talk.
Further, according to the Harvard Medical School, mitochondria are also involved in:
– Healthy aging
– Regulating how nutrients get into your cells
– Regulating immune function
– Function as metabolic waste management centers
These multifaceted organelles are astounding and extremely important to keep healthy. Healthy mitochondria will allow you to have energy to live your life to the fullest.
In this blog, you will learn about how mitochondria contribute to your metabolism and energy levels as well as critical factors that affect your mitochondrial health.
Mitochondria, Metabolism, and Making Energy
For anything we do, we need energy. As mentioned earlier, ATP is the primary form of energy that we need.
Most ATP production occurs in the mitochondria. Mitochondria create ATP by metabolizing sugars, amino acids, ketones, and fatty acids.
Because your body cannot store ATP, it has been reported that your mitochondria must function all the time. This is why you need fat. Fatty acids from your fat stores are used by mitochondria when the sugars from your meals run out.
Further, when you exercise, your mitochondria have been found to increase the rate of ATP synthesis. This is needed to match the increased energy demands of cells.
This is just one example of how flexible your mitochondria can be.
Depending on where the mitochondria are in the body, they may have different metabolic activity according to one review.
In your heart muscle cells, the primary role of mitochondria is to produce ATP. Your heart muscle primarily contracts and does not need a lot of other byproducts that other organs need.
In contrast, the mitochondria in the liver play many different roles. In addition to creating ATP, mitochondria metabolize proteins to get specific molecules needed for biosynthesis of other factors. They also regulate signaling pathways in the liver.
As you can see, your body demands a lot from your mitochondria, and they can deliver.
But what happens if there are issues with your mitochondria?
Keeping Your Mitochondria Healthy
Clearly, your mitochondria are essential for your well-being.
Their ability to produce energy to meet the demands of your day-to-day tasks needs to be effective. Otherwise, you may suffer from chronic fatigue and be unable to do everything you want or need to do.
If you are suffering from chronic fatigue, you may have unhealthy mitochondria. If you suffer from chronic fatigue and you are living a healthy lifestyle, consult your doctor. You may have a mitochondrial disorder.
So, what are some ways that you can optimize your mitochondrial health?
1) Regular Exercise
Mitochondrial health has been found to be optimized by regular exercise.
When you exercise, your mitochondria are more active. Over time, this can increase the number of mitochondria, improve their ability to produce ATP, and improve their overall function.
Regular exercise also reduces the amount of inflammation in your body, which limits the amount of stress that your mitochondria experience.
2) Healthy Diet
One study indicates that a diet high in processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats can cause mitochondrial dysfunction. Limiting these can reduce the effects of inflammation on your mitochondria.
A diet high in vegetables, healthy fats, and healthy proteins allow your body to obtain the nutrients that are essential for healthy mitochondria.
To optimize your mitochondrial health, one report recommends that your diet includes foods that are high in nutrients like:
· Antioxidants –broccoli, leafy greens, and blueberries
· B vitamins – salmon, leafy greens, tofu, legumes
· Omega-3 fatty acids – salmon, flaxseed, soy, nuts
3) Get Good Sleep
It has been reported that poor sleep can cause mitochondrial dysfunction. This was shown to decrease ATP production and increased oxidative stress.
The CDC recommends that you get 7 or more hours of sleep each night.
4) Effectively Manage Your Stress
A systematic review reported several key findings:
· Chronic stress decreases the amount of energy your mitochondria can produce
· Chronic, unpredictable stress increases inflammation that can cause damage to the mitochondrial DNA
Manage your stress through meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and engaging in healthy coping mechanisms like exercise or spending time with loved ones.
5) Avoiding Toxins
Environmental toxins like pesticides, smoke, air pollution, and heavy metals have been found to cause significant issues with mitochondrial function.
· Reduce your number of mitochondria
· Disrupt the mitochondria’s energy production pathways
· Reduce the effects of antioxidants
· Increase inflammation
One report indicates that dysfunction in your mitochondria due to toxins can increase the risk of developing dementia.
Purifying your air and water, limiting use of pesticides, and reducing your exposure to smoke can limit the impact of toxins on your mitochondria.
In summary, your mitochondria are arguably the most essential part of your body. They produce the energy your body needs to perform any task. They also regulate other bodily processes.
Ensuring that you keep your mitochondria healthy will allow you to have the energy to keep up with anyone and live a healthy life.
Daniel Chantigian, MS, is exploring mitochondria. This blog is the first of a three part series.
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