Mitochondria

The below information was referenced by Tim Jackson.  The goal of this mitochondria resource page is to briefly review the basics of energy production, potential disruptions to this process, and how you can correct them.  He is an expert on this subject; he has taught me a great deal about the importance of mitochondria and I asked him to share his knowledge here with all of you.

            Mitochondria are relatively small cellular organelles with both an inner and outer membrane, as well as its’ own DNA.  The mitochondrial DNA comes only from one’s mother.  The number of these cellular powerhouses varies from tissue to tissue.  In humans, our heart, liver and brain are all extremely dependent on mitochondrial function.  While the mitochondria are responsible for several functions, we will limit our discussion to the production of ATP, or the ‘energy currency of the cell’.  Economic currency comes in the form of money; cellular energy comes in the form of ATP.  When we hear energy, we tend to think of a ‘caffeine high’ or ‘bouncing off the walls energy’.  But what we forget is that every function in every tissue of our body requires energy.  Without energy, we can’t make hormones, neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), digest our food, or supply fuel to our muscles for exercise.  So, what blocks our energy production, you ask?

            It turns out that the process of energy production actually generates free radicals that in turn can damage the mitochondria.  Because it is often challenging to get antioxidant enzymes into the mitochondria, they are very susceptible to free radical damage.  In fact, anything that creates chronic inflammation in the body will cause significant damage to these cellular sparkplugs.  One of the most common culprits is elevated blood sugar.  High blood sugar will cause high insulin levels, resulting in large amounts of inflammation and premature aging.  Other causes of mitochondrial damage include chronic infections—viruses, mycoplasma, bacteria, Lyme, etc.  Remember that infections create a Cytokine Storm from the constant immune activation.  Clearly, the long-term solution is to address any blood sugar issues, as well as the chronic infections.  But there are other short-term options that can prove helpful.

            One multi-purpose supplement that has protective properties for the mitochondria is alpha lipoic acid.  Alpha lipoic acid, or ALA, consists of two chemical forms—the R form and the S form.  The S version is biologically worthless.  The highest quality supplements will contain only the R isomer.  It is a potent anti-oxidant and is a precursor to glutathione, our body’s strongest antioxidant.  As an added bonus, it helps to improve our body’s sensitivity to insulin and balance our blood sugar levels.  In short, it possesses strong anti-aging properties. One must proceed with caution if you have a significant amount of heavy metals, since ALA will chelate metals.  Lastly, ALA should always be taken with biotin.

            Another unique and powerful supplement that supports mitochondrial energy production is acetyl L-carnitine.  Acetyl L-carnitine, or ALCAR, is an amino acid that transports fatty acids into the mitochondria for beta oxidation.  L-carnitine is synthesized naturally in the body from another amino acid, l-lysine.  The difference between l-carnitine and ALCAR is that ALCAR can cross the blood-brain barrier and may help improve memory and nervous system function.  As an added benefit, it may also raise levels of an important brain chemical called acetylcholine.  Much like ALA, ALCAR can help to improve levels of glutathione in the body.

It is essential to work with a nutritionist and an Integrative M.D. because I am sharing general information that is not intended to be medical advice. This information is only given for informational purposes.

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