Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are two conditions that are as fixable as they are debilitating. Most of us don’t learn how to manage our energy and bodies well. We use drugs – sugar, caffeine, alcohol, adrenalin, or worse – to manage our energy and moods. Most of us don’t connect our behaviors and choices with how we feel every day. We don’t connect what we eat, how much we rest and sleep, how much we exercise, how much time we make for connecting with friends and community, or the kinds of media and news we watch with how we feel every day. But the truth is that all these things are all intimately related.
It all starts with your mitochondria.
Mitochondria are like tiny factories that turn food and oxygen into energy. In each cell, there are hundreds to thousands of these little energy factories. They exist in greater numbers in active organs and tissues, like the muscles, heart and brain. Simply put, the mitochondria are where metabolism happens. The role of your metabolism is to take the oxygen you breathe and the food you eat and process it to make energy, the fuel for life. Along the way, many things can go wrong that may impede your metabolism, making it run less efficiently or practically shutting it down.
The problem? Mitochondria are very sensitive to damage. And when they aren’t working properly, you suffer all the symptoms of low energy — fatigue, memory loss, pain, rapid aging and more. Fatigue is the most common symptom of poorly functioning mitochondria. In fact, the reason we tire more easily as we age is the constant insult and injury we inflict on our mitochondria. But this doesn’t have to happen! We can protect our mitochondria.
The first order of business is to find the things that damage your mitochondria — things like toxins, infections, allergens and stress. The biggest insult over time is eating too much high-calorie, low-nutrient food — in short, too many “empty calories.”
When food is burned or metabolized with oxygen in the mitochondria, your body produces waste in the form of free radicals, which create a chain reaction of rusting, or oxidation. Unless you have enough antioxidants in your diet or you make enough in your body, you can’t protect yourself from the damage to your mitochondria. So when you eat empty calories — such as sugar, flour and processed foods that don’t have the high antioxidant levels of fruits and vegetables — you produce too many free radicals that tip the balance and start a chain reaction of cellular and tissue damage that destroys your mitochondria and, thus, your life force. In short, oxidative stress is a slow, progressive process of deterioration that contributes to practically every known disease. It is part of the inevitable entropy, or chaotic breakdown, that is the basic principle of life.
Mitochondrial damage is not something that is generally identified or addressed by conventional medicine. To find out if you could be dealing with mitochondrial damage, we suggest seeing a certified functional medicine practitioner. Your practitioner will be able to identify any damage you may have to your mitochondria and come up with a plan to undo the damage and to boost and protect your mitochondria going forward.
If you would like more information regarding any of the treatments, therapies, or services offered at The Institute of Natural Health, please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit us at the theinstituteofnaturalhealth.com. Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 2:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.