What Are Mitochondria and Why Are They So Important?

holistic medicine tulsa

Lately, there has been a big focus on mitochondria in the functional medicine community. As holistic medicine and nutrition practitioners in Tulsa, OK, we wanted to talk about what they are and how you can optimize their function in your body.

So what exactly are mitochondria?

Mitochondria are essential energy sources within our bodies. They are located within our cells that take the food we eat and the oxygen we breathe and turn them into energy. Clever little things, no? This energy is called “adenosine triphosphate,” commonly referred to as “ATP,” and this supports all functions within our bodies. Every cell within our bodies hold hundreds if not thousands of mitochondria. Each one has 17,000 small assembly lines that produce ATP. Mitochondria is also where metabolism happens.

Mitochondria and Metabolism

If your mitochondria aren’t functioning correctly, this affects how effectively your metabolism runs, and it can even stop working altogether. Problems can quickly occur because the energy powerhouses are extremely sensitive and can easily be damaged. If damage occurs, it can have adverse side effects such as low energy, memory loss, pain, fatigue, and rapid aging.

The most common side effect of poorly functioning mitochondria is fatigue, which is why we start to feel low energy as we age. Although mitochondria are so important, they can very easily be damaged, and the main component that damages them is uncontrolled oxidative stress.

What is Oxidative Stress?

Oxidative stress can happen when we have too many calories, sunburn, smoking, sugar, infections or viruses, exposure to toxins, environmental pollution like mold and smog, and a bad diet, to name but a few. Any of these things can tip your body’s balance and start a chain reaction of damage to the cells and tissue within the body, resulting in weight gain and chronic illness.

How Can We Look After our Mitochondria?

We need to let our mitochondria thrive in the right environment, and we can do this by following these handy tips:

  1. Eat a healthy diet

Try to limit the number of processed foods you eat and cut back on sugar, junk food, and empty calories. Removing these from your diet will reduce inflammation, detoxify your body of harmful toxins, and rebalance your hormones.

2. Practice intermittent fasting and/or calorie restriction.

These help build stronger mitochondria by ensuring you eat within your calorie allowance and fast for at least 10-14 hours per day.

 3. Get your body moving.

Interval training can increase the efficiency and function of your mitochondria, and strength training increases your muscle amount and the number of mitochondria within your body, so get moving!

4. Pack your diet with more plants.

Vegetables, beans, fruits, seeds, and nuts are full of excellent antioxidants and phytonutrients which nourish your mitochondria. We recommend aiming for 8 – 12 servings of these every day.

Make sure you add these nutrients into your daily routine as not only will they support your mitochondria, but they will also give you a significant boost in energy levels day-to-day:

  • D-ribose
  • Acetyl-L-carnitine
  • NADH
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • Resveratrol
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • N-acetyl-cysteine

5. Increase your daily intake of omega-3 fats.

Omega-3 fats are a great addition to your nutrient intake as they help to build your mitochondrial membranes. Foods high in omega-3 include chia seeds, hemp seeds, anchovies, salmon, egg yolks, and mackerel.

Taking care of your mitochondria is essential because it can make you leaner and smarter, prevent aging, and increase energy levels. If you would like more information about mitochondria and what you can do to keep yours healthy, get in touch with our holistic medicine and nutrition practitioners in Tulsa, OK, and we can work towards your journey back to health.

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