Energy! The life-force, get-up-and-go. You either have it or you don’t. But where does it come from? And where do we get more of it, right?
If food is your fuel, the engine using it is your mitochondria. The long, complicated process by which the body takes food, digests it to smaller and smaller pieces, filters in the good and out the bad, shuttles nutrients to where they need to go, and provides the entire body with the “spark” to do everything from pick up a pencil to run a mile to digest a steak to think thoughts and dream dreams, ends in the mighty mitochondria.
Mitochondria are organelles, meaning it is one of the little organs every cell needs to survive. And it is responsible for the final conversion of nutrients into the body’s primary energy source – ATP. It’s a fascinating piece of our anatomy, not just because it gives us energy, but because it has its own DNA, and it helps “decide” when a cell has had enough and should die.
So you can imagine how things go downhill once the mitochondria aren’t being taken care of. No energy is a big problem, but the least of them. If the mitochondria aren’t working, damaged cells aren’t being told to die and they just keep growing and reproducing and then… cancer.
Problem is, our modern world is wreaking havoc on our mitochondria. The two main culprits are the standard American diet (high carb, moderate protein, low fat) and glyphosate, more commonly known as RoundUp.
How Carbs Damage Mitochondria
Carbs are a great source of immediate energy, as they quickly turn to sugar in the body that is then easily converted to glucose (the body’s favorite sugar), then sent to the mitochondria and in combination with oxygen, energy comes out.
But have you ever heard the old saying, “you get what you pay for”? Quick and easy energy comes with a price, and in this case, that price is something called reactive oxygen species (ROS). These “species” of molecules contain oxygen, therefore causing oxidization to the things around them, which damages DNA, causes cancer, contributes to aging and more. That’s why getting enough antioxidants is so important.
These ROS are particularly damaging to the membranes of our mitochondria, which are quite susceptible to the effects of oxidization.
How glyphosate damages mitochondria
Glyphosate, an active ingredient in RoundUp and a major component of our national agricultural strategy of producing as much of the most crap possible food we can muster, has a much more complex effect on mitochondria.
See, for mitochondria to do their job, they need a mineral called manganese. You can get it from nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables and some teas. Glyphosate binds to manganese and pulls it out of the cells. When our liver metabolizes and ultimately rejects the glyphosate in our system, the manganese goes with it.
How do I protect my mitochondria?
The first one is easy: avoid glyphosate. And avoiding glyphosate is as easy as ONLY eating organic fruits and vegetables. Of course, some will sneak in here and there–maybe the wind blows it into an organic farm, or it rubs off on the grocery store shelves, or you go out to eat with friends where you can’t control every facet of your meal. It happens.
The number one defense against that is to ensure you don’t have a leaky gut–and if you do, fix it. That’s way too big a topic to discuss right now, but you are free to see quite a bit of material I’ve posted on leaky gut already.
Secondly, you’ve got to turn the Standard American Diet (SAD – apt, isn’t it?) completely on its head. Rather than high carb – moderate protein – low fat, you want to do the opposite: high fat – moderate protein – low carb.
When your body is lacking carbs and sugars, it has to turn elsewhere for the raw materials for energy. What happens is your body starts using fat (either stored or consumed) and turning it into an energy source called ketones. There are so many benefits to being in ketosis, but as far as mitochondria are concerned, there are primarily two:
- Ketones mitigate the effects of glyphosate and oxidization in the body in general. They inhibit oxidization, even when glyphosate is involved, and since metabolizing sugars and carbs produces oxidative stress, the lack of sugar and carbs pretty much eliminates that problem.
- Ketones actually encourage the production of mitochondria. It’s unclear why or how, but studies are confirming the presence of more mitochondria AND activated genes for the production of more mitochondria in animals using ketones for energy rather than sugar.
There are more ways to protect your mitochondria. Dr. Joseph Mercola has just released a book on the subject, called Fat for Fuel. Highly recommended. Although, “Mind Your Mighty Mitochondria” is a pretty good title as well, in my humble opinion.