Mitochondria are called the powerhouse of the cell.
They are the part of the cell that generates energy. They produce almost 90% of the energy needed for the body to function. Mitochondria take food/nutrients and use it to manufacture energy for the cell. They are responsible for most of the useful energy derived from the breakdown of carbohydrates and fatty acids.
Mitochondria are implicated in issues with low energy and fatigue, specifically with chronic health issues like Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
When it comes to Lyme, there are a number of reasons why people with Lyme feel fatigued. Fighting a chronic infection is hard on the body and can be exhausting as the immune system is always engaged. Thyroid and other hormones become unbalanced and cause fatigue. Disruptions in sleep leave people feeling tired and exhausted. Nutrition, or the lack of adequate nutrition, in relation to the Standard American Diet could lead to fatigue due to lack of iron, B vitamins, and a number of other issues.
But mitochondrial damage is one reason that many people with Lyme, or other chronic illness, feel exhaustion. The type of exhaustion associated with mitochondrial damage is long term, with little relief. It is worsened with exercise that elevates the heart rate.
How do mitochondria become damaged?
Mitochondria become damaged by a number of things such as:
- nutritional deficiencies (like iron, zinc, CoQ10, Vitamins A & C)
- hormonal imbalances
- toxins (including those from the environment, certain medications like anti-anxiety and depression meds, and lifestyle products including parabens that are found in many health and beauty products)
- infections (like Lyme and co-infection and viruses like Epstein Barr virus)
Many people with Lyme have more than one of these issues. When damage occurs, the mitochondria don’t function properly. When mitochondria don’t function properly, cells don’t get the energy they need to function properly. This causes a number of issues but most common is fatigue. This is the kind of exhausting fatigue associated with chronic fatigue syndrome but is very common in Lyme patients.
What can you do to help your mito?
Actively detoxing will help remove some of the causes of mitochondrial damage from things like toxins.
Your diet can greatly impact your mitochondria, and subsequently your energy levels:
- Antioxidants – get ample antioxidants to help repair and protect mitochondria.
- Healthy fats are necessary; try eggs, sunflower seeds, and supplements like phosphatidylcholine.
- Foods high in B vitamins – fish, poultry, eggs, liver
- Magnesium – almonds, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, avocado
- CoQ10 – liver, beef, sardine, broccoli, spinach
- D-Ribose – poultry, eggs, mushrooms
Moving your body is really good for overall health and especially for mitochondria. Unfortunately, if your mitochondria are damaged, having the energy for exercise is difficult, and overdoing it isn’t good for mitochondria. Slow and steady movement is a good place to start. Try things like tai chi, yoga, swimming, or slow walking. This will help your body from deconditioning but remember to not get your heart rate up or do any cardio exercise.
Lastly, supplements can support your mitochondria, providing a boost in your energy, while you address the issues causing mitochondrial dysfunction. I suggest these energy supporting products I created for Return Healthy:
- Bio-CoQ10 – great for supplementing what you can’t get from food