Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. To make them healthier and stronger, you need to work on your lifestyle and diet. Or, you can follow the suggested ways below.
In this article:
- Mitochondria Are the Powerhouse of the Cell
- What Is Mitochondrial Dysfunction?
- How to Keep Your Mitochondria Healthy
Boosting the Mitochondria, the Powerhouse of the Cell
Mitochondria Are the Powerhouse of the Cell
Mitochondria are commonly known as “the powerhouse of the cell”, transforming the food we eat into cellular energy. One mitochondria function is producing about 90% of the energy our cells need to survive. This makes them one of the most essential components of the human body.
As if energy production wasn’t an important enough job, mitochondria are also responsible for the process of triggering cell death, the fundamental mechanism in preventing tumor and cancer growth.
What Is Mitochondrial Dysfunction?
Mitochondrial dysfunction can occur if you don’t have enough mitochondria, if the ones you have aren’t working well, if you have damaged mitochondria, or if you don’t produce them consistently. It is now thought that dysfunctional mitochondria are the cause of most illness and chronic disease, and research suggests that half of the people under the age of 40 have early onset mitochondrial dysfunction.
Poorly functioning mitochondria have been linked to issues like fatigue, excess fat, and declining cognition, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), atherosclerosis, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and mood disorders. So, what can we do to support these essential cellular powerhouses?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Definition: A progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting voluntary muscle movements like walking, running, chewing, and talking
Atherosclerosis Definition: A condition where there is build-up of cholesterol, fats, and other substances in and on the artery walls, restricting blood flow
How to Keep Your Mitochondria Healthy
Here are suggestions to keep your mitochondria happy and healthy:
1. Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
It’s been discovered that the primary reason for mitochondrial burnout is nutritionally deficient diets. Processed, empty-calorie foods cause mitochondria to produce excessive free radicals, prompting an inflammation response from the immune system which damages mitochondrial function.
Experts recommend a diet of primarily plant-based foods, supplemented with small amounts of grass-fed or wild-caught animal protein. Refined sugars, gluten, dairy, and hydrogenated oils and fats should be limited as much as possible to maintain the function of mitochondria.
2. Perform Regular Physical Activity
Physical activity triggers mitochondrial biogenesis, the production of new mitochondria. Demanding more energy from your cells through movement is the only major and effective way to prompt the mitochondria to divide.
There are a lot of simple ways to incorporate more activity into your daily life – take the stairs instead of the elevator or fit a few extra steps into your day by parking farther from your destination than needed. Even everyday activities like gardening and housework can increase your movement and support your mitochondria.
Take it up a notch by trying the workout researchers and scientists have discovered reverses aging at the cellular level – high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
3. Get Enough High-Quality Sleep
Studies have shown getting less than seven hours of sleep can significantly decrease your amount of mitochondria.
Try going to bed at the same every night – getting into the habit of retiring at the same time every evening signals your body it’s time to rest.
Lessen blue light exposure by reducing cell phone, laptop, and tablet use an hour before you go to bed. The blue light produced by these personal electronics suppresses the secretion of melatonin and disrupts our bodies’ natural circadian rhythm which is vitally important for regenerative sleep.
4. Avoid Toxins
Heavy metals, solvents, and pesticides disrupt cellular function. Researchers have found that pesticides induce morphological changes in mitochondria, which can possibly contribute to the pathogenesis of illness, such as Parkinson’s disease.
To avoid exposure to the toxins responsible for mitochondrial detriment, opt for organic foods, personal hygiene products/cosmetics, and cleaning supplies whenever possible. Luckily, there are a number of options available today to make implementing these changes simple.
5. Avoid Stress — Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
Stress is hard on our minds, but it’s equally hard on our bodies. Acute and chronic stressors can have adverse effects on mitochondrial function, particularly in the brain.
Meditation and gentle activity such as yoga have been proven to reduce stress when practiced regularly.
Or, consider forest bathing. Popular in Japan, it’s the mindful practice of observing and communing with nature through all of our senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
It has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
6. Be Mindful About Consuming Fructose
Fructose is fruit sugar. People use it to sweeten foods, but this may not be good for diabetic people as it can negatively affect blood sugar levels.
Aside from that, it also has a negative impact on your mitochondria as it impairs cellular energy production.
Fruits are generally healthy for the body, but always be mindful of eating sweet fruits as they may contain high amounts of fructose. You can ask your dietician how many sweet fruits you should consume per day.
You also need to select whole fruits instead of juices and avoid products with added fructose syrups.
7. Take More Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral which provides many health benefits, including energy production. This mineral aids in activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a complex organic chemical which helps in the overall production of energy in the body.
Your magnesium levels decrease every time you do your daily activities, so you need to keep them at bay. To get more magnesium, you can add these foods to your diet:
- Leafy greens
- Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel
- Whole grains
- Dark chocolate
You may also try taking supplements to boost your magnesium levels.
8. Get the Antioxidants Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Coenzyme Q10
Alpha-lipoic acid is a compound in your cells, and your body creates this in your mitochondria. Coenzyme Q10 is a type of nutrient naturally present in the body and it serves as an antioxidant protecting the cells from oxidative stress damage.
Both antioxidants protect the cells and support mitochondrial biogenesis. This means these antioxidants contribute to the production of mitochondrial cells and the body’s optimal energy.
You can eat foods which contain alpha-lipoic acid and Coenzyme Q10 to increase the levels of these antioxidants in your body. For alpha-lipoic acid, you can try the following:
- Red and organ meat
- Rice bran
- Brussels sprouts
For coenzyme Q10, you can have the following:
- Whole grains
- Fatty fish such as sardines and trout
- Organ meats like liver and kidney
9. Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a type of eating and weight loss plan which involves a cycle of fasting and eating. There are different approaches to this eating plan:
- 16/8 method (fast for 16 hours with an 8-hour eating time each day)
- Spontaneous meal skipping in a day
- Warrior method (fast in the day and eat a large meal at night)
- Fasting every other day
- Eat-stop-eat (fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week)
- 5:2 method (fasting for 2 days each week)
When you do fasting and cut your eating window, you lower the levels of free radical production. Calorie restriction is also a good way to increase longevity and enhance mitochondrial function.
You can try the popular method for intermittent fasting which is the 16/8 approach. When you get used to this fasting approach, you can lessen your eating window and increase your fasting period.
Just make sure to transition to lowering your eating window gradually to give time for your body to adjust.
10. Increase Your Intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients. One great benefit of these acids is they help create and strengthen the protective membrane of your mitochondria, allowing working cell organelles to produce more energy.
You can get these fatty acids by eating foods such as the following:
- Chia seeds
- Cod liver oil
You can also try taking supplements to help meet your daily omega-3 fatty acid needs.
The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. Keeping them healthy should be a priority when you think about your health.
Follow a healthy lifestyle to promote healthy mitochondria production, so you feel good on the inside and look good on the outside.
How do you care for your mitochondrial health? Share tips with us in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 24, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.