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The importance of recharging your batteries

health main swimming will help your mitochondris stay fighting fit
Swimming will help your mitochondris stay fighting fit

If you look after these tiny things, they will look after you

By Dina Gavarieva

Mitochondria is the buzzword in wellness circles right now, and for good reason because these tiny organelles are hugely important for our health, especially as we grow older.

To keep things simple, mitochondria are like miniature batteries located inside cells that help keep everything running smoothly by producing energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

Our bodies need this energy for pretty much everything we do, from breathing to moving to thinking, and every cell, except red blood cells, contains mitochondria.

Unfortunately for us, mitochondria are also easily damaged, especially as we age or if we don’t take care of ourselves.

When that happens, it can lead to a multitude of problems, with mitochondrial dysfunction linked to conditions such as multiple sclerosis, autism, bipolar disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, type-2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Among the many, many symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction are: fatigue; poor stamina; memory loss; loss of coordination, or balance; trouble talking or walking; digestive; muscle aches, pains, and weakness; cardiovascular problems; liver disease or dysfunction; kidney disease; neurological problems; and much more.

Major reasons for mitochondrial dysfunction include:

  • a lack of essential substrates for energy production (d-ribose, carnitine, minerals such as magnesium, selenium, zinc, copper and manganese, Coenzyme CoQ10, B vitamins, antioxidants, among others)
  • toxins and pathogens that prevent cells from receiving energy from the mitochondria
  • infections
  • too many carbs and sugars in your diet that ferment in the gut
  • high stress
  • a lack of sleep

A good way to check for mitochondrial dysfunction is to take a comprehensive Organic Acid Test (OAT). It is a simple urine test that looks at different signs in your body’s chemical processes.

There are also a number of ways you can help mitochondria stay fighting fit:

Eat a nutrient-rich diet. Your mitochondria need a steady supply of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to function properly. So, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, and avoid processed foods and sugary snacks. Avocados, leafy greens, and wild-caught fish are particularly good for your mitochondria.

Get regular exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Walking, swimming, and cycling are all excellent choices.

Reduce stress and improve sleep. Find ways to relax and unwind each day, whether it’s through meditation, yoga, or just taking a few deep breaths. And make sure you get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Try intermittent fasting. Fasting has been shown to boost mitochondrial health by promoting a process called autophagy, where damaged mitochondria are cleared away and replaced with new ones. You don’t have to fast for days on end – even just skipping breakfast a few times a week can have benefits.

Consider supplementing. Supplements such as CoQ10, L-carnitine, and B vitamins are known to support mitochondrial function.

As we go about our daily lives, it’s often easy to forget the little things that matter, but make sure that your mitochondria aren’t among those little things. Mitochondria are incredibly important for your overall health and energy levels and, if you look after them, they will look after you.


A nightmare in a can

Energy drinks have been a worry for a number of years, mainly due to excessive caffeine intake and high sugar content, but scientists have found they also increase the risk of insomnia.

A Norwegian study involving more than 53,000 people aged between 18 and 35 showed that consuming even one can a month can mess with your sleep patterns.

In findings published in BMJ Open Journal, men who had two or three drinks a week were 35 per cent more likely to go to bed after midnight, 52 per cent more likely to sleep less than six hours, and 60 per cent more likely to wake in the night than those who abstained or rarely drank them.

Women were 20 per cent more likely to go to bed after midnight, 58 per cent more likely to sleep less than six hours, and 24 per cent more likely to wake in the night.

When it came to insomnia, 37 per cent of men who drank energy drinks daily reported problems, compared with 22 per cent of those who rarely or never consumed the drinks.

For women, a massive 51 per cent reported insomnia, compared with 33 per cent of women who drank the drinks occasionally or never.

Energy drinks tend to contain a combination of caffeine, sugar, vitamins, amino acid derivatives and herbal extracts, and they are designed to increase energy and mental performance.

People with diabetes are also advised to opt for no-sugar versions of energy drinks to avoid harmful elevations in blood sugar.

Of course, an even better alternative is to swap your high-caffeine drink for a natural energy boost, such as: Matcha latte with coconut milk, Coconut water, Green smoothies with a pinch of guarana powder, Kombucha – a fermented, sweetened black tea drink, Yerba Mate – a herbal drink from South America.

While energy drinks are a convenient way to increase your va-va-voom, they can be a car crash at bedtime, which could cause a Catch-22 type of dependency whereby you need them to function following a restless night.


Dina Gavarieva is a qualified naturopath practising at Neomed Institute and Medical Centre, Limassol

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