Have you ever considered that your mitochondria, small factories inside almost every one of your cells that make energy, may be the hidden factor in why you have chronic fatigue? You might work out, eat the cleanest foods, but still you feel tired, can’t lose weight and are really unsure why.
If this sounds like you then read on to discover how one of the smallest parts of your body may be having a huge impact on your health!
WHAT ARE MITOCHONDRIA?
Mitochondria are little factories that exist in almost every one of your cells. They take in your nutrients and provide you with energy. Everything you eat, that gets broken down in your digestive system, eventually makes its way to your mitochondria. These little factories should be working all the time to keep us energized and detoxified versus stuck in a chronic fatigue state.
Unfortunately, a lot of people are neglecting their mitochondria! What’s worse is that it’s not a matter of how healthy your lifestyle is, it’s a matter of how well you treat your body, relative to your lifestyle.
What we eat, how hard we push ourselves, how well we rest and provide our bodies with proper nutrition after workouts. These are all key factors that determine the health of our mitochondria.
CAN WORKING OUT BE A PROBLEM FOR THOSE WITH CHRONIC FATIGUE?
In my practice I’m starting to notice a lot of folks who are super fit but really fatigued.
We have folks who can lift a ton of weight, but are themselves not able to lose weight. They often struggle with low energy levels and muscle tissue recovery.
When I work on some people’s muscles to release tension, their tissue feels like beef jerky. It’s dried out. I’ve had a lot of experience working in cadaver labs studying anatomy. Their tissue almost feels like the tissue of a dead person.
What this means is the mitochondria are not receiving adequate nutrients as well as hydration and are not able to keep the cells healthy. This results in unhealthy cells because they are not able to repair, detoxify and produce energy.
A fancy medical term for cells that have unhealthy factories is mitochondrial fatigue. Mitochondria being your little factories in every almost every cell and fatigue being that they’re pooped out!
HOW TO MAINTAIN HEALTHY MITOCHONDRIA
In regard to the health of our mitochondria, there are things we can control and there are things that we can’t.
One big thing we can control is what we’re eating. Two big things are to balance our diet and not eat junk food. This ensures our mitochondria are not getting overwhelmed with the same kinds of nutrients, and that those nutrients are actually healthy!
Imagine you are at work, steadily filing paperwork and all of a sudden in intern walks in the door and drops two boxes of documents on your desk. You might feel a little overwhelmed!
This is what happens to our bodies when we overeat. We overload our digestive system, which in turn dumps a whole bunch of molecules into the bloodstream. The molecules make their way to the mitochondria. The mitochondria can only take on so much work, and they do not like being overwhelmed. Eventually they may close up shop and leave those molecules hanging out in your bloodstream, left to cause all kinds of havoc.
OVEREATING HEALTHY FOOD CAN BE A PROBLEM TOO
You may think that junk food is the only culprit when it comes to overeating, however anything in excess is going to overload our mitochondria. It’s much like a conveyor belt. The capacity of the conveyor belt is only as good as the receiving end. Eventually things get backed up.
CARBOHYDRATES AND INSULIN
Carbohydrates — whether from sugars, fats or proteins — inherently raises the blood sugar/glucose levels in your bloodstream. Insulin is what our bodies use to process the glucose and transfer it into our cells.
When we overload the system with carbohydrates, that little conveyor belt of glucose being moved into the mitochondria for energy get’s backed up, and eventually the mitochondria say they’ve had enough!
It’s like hearing the same song on the radio over and over again. You get sick of it. Your cells eventually stop responding to the insulin. Your glucose / blood sugar levels remain too high which can cause a host of different issues such as nerve damage and storage of excessive amounts of glucose as fat.
One of the big problems is inflammation. Too many glucose molecules can rip the sides of our arteries causing irritation. Our body then releases platelets to plug up those irritations, resulting in an inflammatory reaction.
While inflammation is a natural part of our body’s healing process, we are learning more and more that their are negative side effects to inflammation. Getting control of how your cells process glucose is crucial for long term health, as well as prevention and management of diabetes.
FOOD IS DESIGNED TO MAKE US OVEREAT
Food scientists know exactly how to trick you into eating more of a particular item. Junk food has natural flavors, hidden sugars and fats, and unfortunately if you can’t pronounce them chemicals in the ingredient list you never truly know what you are eating. If you see a label that has natural flavors or ingredients you can’t pronounce it’s best to leave it on the shelf and find a better alternative.
These chemicals and flavorings are highly researched to basically hijack your brain, convincing you that you need more. Sounds a little insane and a bit like a conspiracy theory, but it definitely does happen – how do you think they get the biscuits and gravy or maple syrup and bacon potato chips to taste that way?
One of the best ways to assess what’s going on with your mitochondria is to do a urine and a blood test called the NutrEval by Genova Diagnostics. This test gives you an idea of how your body takes in certain kinds of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and what it does with them. In addition to assessing your vitamin, nutrient and mineral status.
In some cases, people are consuming protein powders to boost their protein intake only to find out that their body is not actually absorbing the protein! What a waste of money. The same goes with supplementing vitamins and nutrients.
For a healthy metabolism we need minerals such as magnesium and iron. We need the water soluble B vitamins and vitamin C as well as the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These are critical vitamins. All of your B vitamins have a job in your mitochondrial energy production factory.
The NutrEval will also determine if you have sufficient amounts of good gut bugs versus an imbalance that could be affecting your health.
FASTING AND RESTING THE GUT
Three days a week, three days a month. The key component here is if you don’t put any food in the gut for three days it actually helps the body re-balance its gut bacteria. It also has the ability to reset insulin resistance.
With smaller portions and occasional fasting, we find that we don’t wear out our little mitochondria factories like we used to. We actually let them catch up on their work, and in turn keep our cells healthy and energetic!
I hope this article has been helpful in opening your eyes to the tiny factories in your cells working for you every day. So often we get so caught up in the fast paced lives we lead and forget to rest. Try moderating your exercise and consumption levels. Eat less junk food, and fast a few times a month. See if this helps your energy levels, and feel free to let me know the results!
This blog post is a summary of my podcast on this topic. Click here to listen to the podcast!