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Mitochondrial Health: The Real MVP of Metabolic Boost

Mitochondrial health and metabolism are such hot topics these days. We live in a culture where we are exposed to these subjects in relation to anti-aging and weight loss, but there is so much more to it!  In order to boost your metabolism, you need to address your biggest barriers to wellness. I will touch on how metabolism affects your body, different testing for mitochondrial dysfunction, and how you can identify your own health obstacles. 

What is metabolism?

Metabolism is the summation of all the chemical reactions in the body’s cells that converts food into energy. Your body needs energy to do everything from growing, to thinking, to healing. The chemical reactions are regulated by specific proteins that keep the cells in the body functioning and keep us healthy. The metabolic pathways that produce energy, known as the Krebs Cycle, take place within the mitochondria of the cell. If your mitochondria and the proteins within the mitochondria aren’t functioning optimally then the body will not fuel it’s cells appropriately.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia states that depending on which cells have dysfunctional mitochondria you can see a vast array of health concerns including: 

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Neurological disorders, like seizures
  • Cardiovascular disorders, like arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy
  • Developmental and cognitive delays in children
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Poor growth 
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid and/or adrenal dysfunction 
  • Decreased gastrointestinal function
  • Frequently sick
  • And many more 

Looking at this list I am sure that it is now very clear that metabolism affects EVERY aspect of our bodies ability to function.

Testing for Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Annual labs can tell you a lot about the status of your mitochondria by assessing for some of the above disorders. Here is a list of testing for Mitochondrial Dysfunction: 

  • Complete Metabolic Panel (CMP) - Kidney and liver function, electrolyte balance, fasting blood sugar
  • Thyroid Panel (TSH, T3, T4) - Thyroid function 
  • HgA1c - Average blood sugar

Results for these tests can tell you a lot about your disease state but they do not tell you about the functionality of the proteins and enzymes in your mitochondria. Knowing how these enzymes are functioning is especially important in younger individuals where the prevention of disease and optimization of health is vital.

There is specialty testing beyond annual testing that is called “functional testing”. It can be done on any individual over the age of 2 and will give you a much more comprehensive look into the body’s inner workings. Functional testing examines specific metabolic pathways to determine if there are specific micronutrient deficiencies that are inhibiting the mitochondria from living up to their fullest potential. If you are interested in functional testing, schedule an appointment with me here. Testing will vary based on your individual health history. 

Nutrients for Mitochondrial Health and Boosting Your Metabolism

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Every protein and enzyme in the body requires different cofactors (or micronutrients) to function optimally. Making sure you have the right food and supplements on board is necessary for repairing the damage created from inflammation, toxins, and infection. 

  • B vitamins - Major cofactor in most mitochondrial enzymes. 
    • Sources: Beef, nutritional yeast, leafy greens, fortified grains, eggs.
  • Magnesium - Deficiency is becoming more common due to how our food is grown. The mitochondria need magnesium to make energy!
    • Sources: Leafy greens, beans, seeds. 
  • Antioxidants - Soak up free radicals that cause damage to our cells and mitochondria.
    • Sources: Berries (strawberries, blueberries, goji berries, raspberries), highly colored veggies (carrots, pumpkin, beets), green tea, dark chocolate. 
  • Fats - Every cell in our body is protected by a layer of fats. Children need high quality fats for brain development and cellular nourishment for growth. Barleans’ makes an amazingly delicious Omega Swirl that won’t give you fishy burps!
    • Sources: Olive oil, fatty fish, avocado, nuts.

Identifying barriers to wellness

It would be really nice if you could pop a pill that would reverse mitochondrial damage and boost your metabolism but it is a little more work than that. Clinically, I approach mitochondrial dysfunction by saturating the system with specific micronutrients that have been identified as deficient while also removing obstacles to wellness.

These obstacles fall into 3 categories: 

  1. What you put in your body - Focus on a clean, organic diet with minimal to no processed foods for optimal nutrition. The Environmental Working Group has an amazing resource for pesticide free shopping called the Dirty Dozen. The produce on this list have the highest probability of multiple pesticides used through the growing process.Full disclosure: I don’t always buy organic but I always buy organic strawberries for my son because they are #1 on the Dirty Dozen.
  2. What you put on your body - Your skin absorbs EVERYTHING you put on it. I discuss what products to avoid in my previous article “What is causing your itchy skin?”.
  3. The environment in which you live - This is multi-faceted because your environment is not only physical but mental/emotional. Mold and environmental allergies can increase inflammation, while stress can reduce your immune system leading to infection. These both create mitochondrial dysfunction.  

Understanding your full health history is crucial to developing an individualized treatment plan for boosting your metabolism. Your mitochondria fuel every cell in your body and those little power houses deserve more than some self proclaimed “miracle pill” or instagram influencer’s quick fix. Schedule with me today! Let’s improve your mitochondrial health and boost your metabolism starting with the root cause.

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