What are mitochondria?
Mitochondria are organelles found in most cells where energy production occurs. It is here, that the air we breathe meets with nutrients we consume to form energy. This is a massively complex process involving the electron transport chain and the Krebs cycle that I won’t bore you with. Yea, you could say it’s a vital process in the body that everyone should have some general knowledge of because it involves 2 things we are constantly doing, breathing and eating. Anyone who is fatigued pay attention to this chapter.
As we all learned in high school, the mitochondria is the power house of the cell! What in the world does that mean? Well the mitochondria generate most of the cell’s supply of ATP which is a source of chemical energy. If dysfunction is occurring inside the mitochondria, we generate less ATP resulting in fatigue and a wide range of other health problems. The mitochondria have numerous other roles in the body such as cell signaling, cellular differentiation, and programmed cell death, but that’s a different story for a different day. Let’s focus mostly on the energy producing effects of the mitochondria and it’s role with chronic disease and fatigue.
The simplest explanation I’ve come up with for mitochondrial dysfunction; we consume macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats) and micronutrients, (vitamins and minerals) which are broken down (metabolized), which eventually leads to energy production (ATP production) from the mitochondria. If this process is inhibited, then we have less energy production.
Of courses it really isn’t that simple. Mitochondrial dysfunction results in a reduced ability of mitochondria to produce ATP which is a naturally occurring process of aging but is also involved in chronic disease. There are numerous causes for this to occur but the top three are listed below.
- This can occur because of an inadequate number of mitochondria.
- An inability to provide necessary nutrients to the mitochondria.
- Dysfunction in the ATP production pathway.
Loss of function in mitochondria,the key organelle responsible for cellular energy production, can result in fatigue and other symptoms that are common complaints in numerous chronic diseases. (33) At the molecular level, a reduction in mitochondrial function is linked to chronic disease including neurodegenerative diseases, such as alzheimer’s disease, parkinson’s disease, and ALS, as well as heart disease, diabetes, mood disorders, digestive disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Supporting Mitochondrial dysfunction
Fatigue can be a result of dozen of different health issues and is usually described as a loss of overall energy and inability to perform even the simplest tasks without exertion. Moderate to severe fatigue is always related to mitochondrial dysfunction in some capacity. You need to seek medical care for a full explanation of your fatigue and one question you need to ask your doctor is how can you improve mitochondrial function. A few natural options include CoQ10, L-carnitine, and A-lipoic acid. (33)
- a-lipoic acid acts as an important cofactor for certain chemical reactions involving the mitochondria. Studies have shown a-lipoic acid combats oxidative stress of mitochondria as well as increasing electron transport function aka producing more chemical energy.
- L-carnitine: directly involved in transport of fatty acids into mitochondrial matrix. Carnitine deficiency is linked to reduced mitochondrial function.
- coQ10: cofactor and vitally important part of the electron transport chain and a potent anti-oxidant. Very common nutrient deficiency in a number of different chronic diseases.