What Are Mitochondria and What’s all the Buzz about?

MitochondriaMitochondria are tiny organelles found in almost every cell in the body. They are actually ancient bacteria that were drawn into the human cell and now live in harmony with the ancient bacterial centers within plants called chlorophyll. We exhale the carbon dioxide they need to live and they exhale the oxygen our mitochondria need to live. Both of these cellular centers are known as the "powerhouses of the cell." Our mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of cellular energy and are necessary in the body to sustain life and support growth. Cyanide poisons mitochondria. If a person ingests cyanide they are dead within minutes because we cannot live without our mitochondria. Mitochondria are composed of tiny packages of enzymes that turn nutrients into cellular energy; so mitochondrial failure causes cell injury that leads to cell death. When multiple organ cells die there is organ failure and death. We are living on the planet at a time when we have multiple insults to our mitochondria as evidenced by the increasing rates of cancers, heart disease, autoimmunity and super infections. The generation after mine is expected to have a lower life expectancy than mine…this is unheard of. This is what all the buzz about minding our mitochondria is about.

If you want to see mitochondria in action in a beautiful film clip from Harvard click the link below:


For a longer clip on how mitochondria turn your food into energy and new cells watch this clip…it’s worth the time:


America’s issue with obesity can be traced to multiple factors, but all of them have to do with mitochondria. For example, atrazine (an herbicide used on grain crops like corn). The places in the United States where atrazine is sprayed are the same places with the highest incidence of obesity and diabetes (highest in the corn-belt. See map here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AtrazineUSAMap.png )

Alcohol is another mitochondrial killer. You can find plenty of research elucidating the exact action alcohol has on your mitochondria. Here is one great paper: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1868435/

The New York Times ran an article on obesity in 2011 that points out the current American habit of sitting over eight hours a day is killing us…even if we exercise for an hour of that same day:


So what can be done? Each person is different. That is why some lose weight and have more energy with one intervention and others will not. You really need to know your own genetics and mitochondrial conditioning.

Symptoms of Mitochondrial Dysfunction:

These are as diverse as the number of organs you have in your body. Mitochondria are in every cell (except red blood cells) and therefore affect the energy supply to every organ in your body. Given that they are in charge of energy production fatigue is probably the number one symptom. However, clinicians tend to look for a problem in two to three organ systems before thinking mitochondrial issues.

Diagnosing Mitochondrial Health:

The website above is an informational site dedicated to helping people with “mito” disease. They advocate muscle biopsy and DNA testing to see how healthy your mitochondria are. However, from a functional medicine standpoint this is a little over kill. Functional medicine has been blowing the whistle and advocating mitochondrial health for decades and has formulated easier ways to test for mitochondrial health. Some of the testing that can be easily done (but will be out of pocket):

Testing for mitochondrial function in your body:

  • Urine Organix Acid testing
  • Micronutrient testing

Testing for the causes of mitochondrial dysfunction:

  • Heavy metals
  • Detox screen
  • Food sensitivities
  • Genetics
  • General blood work testing for autoimmunity, thyroid function, CBC, chem panel, GGT, pancreatic function
  • Pathogens (EBV, HSV, Lyme, etc.)
  • Comprehensive stool analysis
  • Adrenal and neurotransmitter testing

Treating Mitochondrial Disease:

  • Far Infrared Sauna at least three times a week
  • Exercise (a must)
  • Eating according to what your body is asking for (see lab data done on you to know what this is)
  • Nutritional and micro nutritional support (again depending on your lab data)
  • Eliminate what doesn’t belong in the body and add what it is deficient in
  • Meditation and other stress reducing techniques
  • eat organic and non GMO
  • support for all organs of detoxification
  • balance adrenals and hormones and neurotransmitters
  • heal leaky gut and leaky mitochondria (there is such a thing)

Remember these are the engines of life, so mind those mitochondria!

Here’s to your health…


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