The mitochondria are specialized structures—also known as organelles—located inside our cells. They act as tiny energy powerhouses and produce the vast majority of energy, in the form of ATP, that each cell needs to function.
If you are wondering why you should be concerned about your mitochondrial health, dysfunction in these important organelles has been implicated1 in health concerns ranging from dementia to migraine headaches to chronic fatigue. And it's suspected that many common medications, like acetaminophen and antibiotics, can cause damage to the mitochondria.
As a holistic neurologist, I provide full neurological care and also utilize acupuncture, neurofeedback, and herbal and nutritional guidance to help my patients heal. Our mitochondrial health is a crucial piece of the puzzle of our overall well-being, and we want to keep them happy. Each organ in our body is made up of millions of cells and without effective mitochondria in our cells, our organs will lack the energy to do their jobs.
Optimizing mitochondrial health
Mitochondria contain five enzymes (referred to as complexes I to V) arranged in a chain, and a weak link in the chain can mean trouble for your body. Each individual enzyme requires cofactors to work, and cofactors are frequently found in the form of vitamins and minerals.
I regularly recommend this special cocktail, rich in necessary cofactors, to support and boost our mitochondrial health—your energy levels with thank you.
This is a mainstay of any mitochondrial support treatment. Coenzyme Q10 carries the electrons that are needed to make the complex chain of enzymes work.
This amino acid derivative plays a critical role in transporting fatty acids to the mitochondria for the production of energy. It also plays an important role in producing a neurotransmitter key to our brain function.
NAC is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight the effects of free radicals formed by inefficient mitochondrial enzymes.
Mg is an essential cofactor in energy-producing and energy-consuming reactions. Poor utilization of magnesium by the mitochondria results in an imbalance of energy and potential cerebral excitability.
B12 and B1
Deficiencies of these important B vitamins can cause neurological problems, and someone with mitochondrial inefficiency may have a lower threshold for these neurological symptoms.
When I see my patients in person, I tailor this list to meet their specific needs and concerns, but following the above recommendations can do us all some good. Our modern lifestyle—which can't help but put stress on our body and mind—forces us to rely heavily on our mitochondria, and eventually, they will also need our attention and support.
Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D., is a board-certified neurologist practicing integrative pediatric and adult neurology in Seattle. She is the owner and founder of the Center for Healing Neurology and is on the faculty of Seattle Children’s Hospital. Her holistic approach includes full neurological care with the addition of acupuncture, neurofeedback, and herbal and nutritional guidance. She received her M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and completed her neurology training at the University of Washington in Seattle. In addition to becoming a certified medical acupuncturist, she has also completed the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona. Her Ph.D. doctoral dissertation studied the effects of environmental toxins on our nation’s water systems.