This blog is gonna get a bit ‘sciencey’…bear with me…

It’s about cells, or more precisely, the mitochondria – the powerhouse of our cells, providing most of our cellular energy requirements. They have bacterial origins that have become normal constituents of the cells in our body that produce the energy needed for cell growth and repair.

Increasing evidence, however, points to a role for alterations in mitochondrial function as a potential central regulator of the ageing process.

Some theories propose that the primary cause of ageing is mitochondrial production of free radicals and the mitochondrial damage that subsequently ensues (Free radicals explanation – oxygen in the body splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons. Electrons like to be in pairs, so these atoms, called free radicals, scavenge the body to seek out other electrons so they can become a pair. This causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA).

Mitochondria are responsible for many cellular processes including:

  • calcium balance
  • controlled (and required) cell death
  • cell signalling
  • production of cellular energy (via oxidative phosphorylation – the biochemical process)

The largest number of mitochondria are found in metabolically active cells in the liver, brain, skeletal and cardiac muscle. Mitochondria produce approximately 90% of our cellular energy by oxidative phosphorylation, and it is this process that can cause mitochondrial dysfunction. This is recognised as a feature of ageing, and many diseases are thought to be because of it, such as:

  • metabolic conditions and insulin dysregulation
  • psychiatric conditions e.g. schizophrenia
  • neurodegenerative diseases e.g. Parkinson’s disease
  • functional pain conditions e.g fibromyalgia
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • cardiovascular disease
  • age-related cancers
  • gut dysfunction

Stimulating mitochondrial function and improving energy

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Stimulates mitochondrial production in skeletal muscle. A sedentary lifestyle leads to reduced muscle aerobic capacity and mitochondrial death which leads to muscle atrophy. An active lifestyle can reverse this.

Swim in the ocean

Sea water stimulates mitochondrial function and production.

Funky fact: mitochondria have bacterial origins and to this day maintain their own DNA – it is thought that the mitochondria came from the ocean.

Yoga

Intense muscle stretching and conditioning stimulates mitochondrial production.

Turn of the a/c in your home and car

Exposure to heat and cold is known as hormesis which also stimulates our mitochondria. Alternatively, try an Infra-red sauna.

Watch what you eat

Make sure you eat plenty of protein such as meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans/lentils and eggs to support amino acids like glutathione that protect the mitochondria.

Also ensure a good intake of antioxidants – think bright and colourful vegetables and fruit. Two particular antioxidants support and protect the mitochondria and the renewal of mitochondria – alpha lipoic acid (available in: spinach, broccoli, yams, potatoes, yeast, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, and rice bran, red meat and particularly organ meat), and Coenzyme Q10 (available in: organ meats, pork, beef and chicken, trout, herring, mackerel and sardines, as well as spinach, cauliflower and broccoli). The more mitochondria we have, the less they are ‘overworked’ and the more we gain from them. This all supports optimal energy levels.

And then there’s healthy fats – more fuel for the mitochondria. Ensure a good consumption of oily fish, avocados, coconut oil, olive & flaxseed oil, nuts and seeds. Healthy fats also protect the mitochondria by providing anti-inflammatory support.

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