Imagine for a moment that you are a car. Now imagine that you have 100 trillion horsepower. To produce that horsepower, or energy, you produce a lot of exhaust from burning fuel. The horsepower is the equivalent of the power produced in the energy producing “mitochondria” in your cells and the exhaust is the “oxidation” that happens when the fuel you eat is burned with oxygen in the mitochondria. Since oxidation can be harmful, we have a clever way of counteracting oxidation with anti-oxidants.
Now, imagine that you put diluted or contaminated fuel into your car or put the wrong kind of oil in the engine. The engine would become very clogged or “inflamed”. If you don’t put in enough anti-oxidants, the engine might become oxidized, just like a piece of metal that has changed color. That would contribute to sluggish performance or energy production. You could think of it as altered metabolism.
It is turning out that the mitochondria are important in a wide variety of body processes and are involved in a large spectrum of health problems. They play a part in diabetes, cancer, muscle problems, thyroid function, overweight and heart diseases.
The mitochondria work like a relay, using enzymes as the hand-off mechanism . Foods that we eat are digested into carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and many other nutrients. The carbohydrates, fats and proteins are passed thru a set of enzymes that use vitamins , minerals and lipoic acid to feed into the mitochondria where they can then start to be turned into energy. The energy cycle has many steps, all requiring different combinations of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and amino acids. Along the way, energy is produced, and the end product is combined with oxygen. That produces oxidation and that’s why so anti-oxidants are so important. If we think of the energy that the mitochondria produce as currency, it easy to see how important it is to give this system what it needs to keep us healthy. The mitochondria work in combination with our hormone and nervous systems, just to name a few. If there is a lack of currency to use, problems can cascade into different systems. That’s exactly what happens with inflammation, oxidative damage causing DNA damage and aging. and hormonal signaling problems such as diabetes.
The good new is that our bodies are very responsive. They are usually quite happy to keep us healthy if we just treat them right and give them what they need. Luckily, we can keep our systems healthy by eating a whole foods diet, grown organically in good soil, and by following healthy lifestyle habits. Sometimes though, a problem is more stubborn, and that is where the beauty of the functional medicine approach comes in. We can now start to look into many of these body systems using specialized testing so that we can fine tune them to attain more vibrant health. Working with a health care team that combines the best of conventional thinking with progressive thinking and natural supports, you can optimize your health by developing sustainable wellness.