Got mitochondria? Of course you do. In fact, you’re loaded (think trillions) with these miniature power plants in your cells. They convert the food you eat and the oxygen you breathe into the energy you need to live, a process we call metabolism. As you go through your day, your mitochondria are hard at work, producing the energy molecule ATP, And, they also play a key role in how well your heart, brain and the rest of you functions. They even influence how fast or slowly you age, so taking good care of your mitochondria is a major wellness win for your body.
Because mitochondria power the biochemical reactions in most of your cells, when you don’t care for them, your body just isn’t going to work very well. If you’ve noticed that your energy isn’t what it used to be, or maybe you’re struggling more frequently with brain fog, that’s a clear signal to pay your mitochondria more attention. The more you do to boost mitochondrial quality and quantity, the better you’ll feel and the more gracefully you’ll age, so don’t delay. Start by ditching the unhealthy habits that can impede mitochondrial function and replace them with healthy ones to get your energy factory back up and running at full capacity. You’re the factory manager here so get production humming with my simple, 4-point prescription for better mitochondrial health so you can do more and age less:
Move it for your mitochondrial health
Sure, exercise is great for your muscles and keeping your mind sharp, but several studies have shown that the benefits of exercise extend right down to the cellular level. Interestingly, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) plus strength training cause cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes, effectively stopping the aging clock at the cellular level – so get moving!
Chill your mitochondria
Winter’s arrived, so make the chill work to your advantage by exposing yourself to the cold in short bursts, which helps trigger mitochondria production. A few times a week, leave your parka behind and step out lightly dressed for few 30-second sessions. Or if that sounds unappealing, opt for a cold shower to help stimulate a similar mitochondrial uptick.
Give your mitochondria — and your mind – regular breaks
Need one more reason to meditate? Meditation supports mitochondrial health. Research suggests that changes in the cellular environment can lead to changes in the structure and function of the mitochondria. So, the thinking goes, if you’re in a perpetual state of stress, your mitochondria won’t fare much better. That is, unless you take steps to break the cycle, and for that, I strongly recommend meditation. Add to that good, restful sleep, a yoga practice, a weekly sauna session or two and some acupuncture or massages, and you’ll be giving your mitochondria the TLC they need to thrive.
Feed your mitochondria what they love
It should come as no surprise that good, clean, healthy food will keep your mitochondria functioning optimally, so be conscious of feeding them, and yourself, well. Remember, poorly functioning mitochondria are thought to have a hand in the development of age-related illnesses, like heart disease, diabetes, and neurogenerative diseases. The more you can protect yourself, and your mitochondria, through diet, the better. A few points to keep in mind as you make your daily food choices:
- DO eliminate sweet stuff and grains as they turn to sugar too quickly in the bloodstream, not good for you or your mitochondria.
- DO ditch processed foods, which give your mitochondria too few extractible nutrients to help them convert food into energy.
- DO dig into good fats, like sardines, walnuts, avocado, coconut oil, and MCT oil – high-quality materials your mitochondria love to work with.
- DO practice intermittent fasting or time restricted eating.
- DO add more sulphur-rich veggies to your plate (think cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) to encourage glutathione production, an antioxidant which also supports mitochondrial health.
- DON’T forget to load up on colorful (preferably organic), phytonutrient-rich veggies to fully nourish your body and your mitochondria.
- DON’T hesitate to add a few supportive supplements which can really help the mitochondria do their job. I like coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid, glutathione, magnesium, fish oil or krill oil, and PQQ, a more recent addition to the supplement armamentarium that’s showing promise stimulating new mitochondrial growth.