Curebiome Naturopathic

Mitochondria, Heart Disease and Diabetes

Mitochondria, Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease

Mitochondria are a part of many diseases but very rarely are they the main component. They play an important role, but they are not always the number one problem – more like they are a side effect of everything going on. In diabetes and cardiovascular disease we see this clearly, the leading cause of these two epidemics are diet and lifestyle but a major way they manifest is through dysfunction of the mitochondria.

Mitochondria are crucial organelles within our cell that produce high amounts of energy for our cells through a process called cellular respiration, which functions through the electron transport chain. We also know that mitochondria are present in high concentrations in all muscle and nerve tissue, because these tissues are in high demand of lots of energy to function.

When we look at type 2 diabetes – one of the major problems we see is the inability of cells to take in glucose from the blood due to insulin resistance. The cell receptors have become damaged, and the cell can literally starve in conditions of excess sugar – nutrient deficiencies abound in this environment due to the excess sugar and lack of balance with minerals and vitamins. Oxidative damage is rampant, quickly using up any antioxidant nutrients present – specifically those antioxidants the support mitochondrial function. Eventually nerve cells start to die, leading to lack of feeling in fingers and toes- because the mitochondria within these cells are so lacking they cannot support the nerve cells.

In the heart – our main muscle which must pump all day everyday to keep our body alive we lose mitochondrial function as well. When the mitochondria can’t support this important muscle, it starts to fail and problems abound left and right. This is what we’re fighting, and this is where knowing about and supporting mitochondria make a major difference.

Some common and seemingly benign signs and symptoms of poor mitochondrial health are fatigue and weakness. Everyday things, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. We mentioned that mitochondria are found in high levels within the muscles, so if too few mitochondria are present or just aren’t working quite right you feel tired and weak. If the problem is more severe it can impact the brain and nervous system, which is experienced as brain fog, trouble concentrating, clumsiness and memory problems or worse.

In diabetes we commonly see that mitochondria are both smaller than normal and that there are just less of them. This might be because of the sedentary lifestyle that leads to diabetes, or possibly environmental toxins. Another important problem is the difficulty diabetic individuals have in making new mitochondria. All of this comes together to further aggravate a system that is already under heavy stress.
So what can we do? The main places to start, as we’ve mentioned before are diet and lifestyle. In this situation intermittent fasting and a plant heavy ketogenic diet can dramatically improve the situation by restoring deficient nutrients, removing excess glucose levels and restoring mitochondrial function. This approach, when implemented properly can correct blood sugar levels many times, and dramatically decrease reliance on insulin. Depending on the situation it has to potential to correct insulin resistance and restore cardiovascular and nerve function. Other therapies that we often include are reduction of environmental toxins, oral and intravenous mitochondrial supportive nutrients, sleep and hormone support.

Mitochondria – the basics

Mitochondria – the basics

What are Mitochondria, what do they do, where are they found?

You might remember mitochondria from science class back in school, where you drew pictures of the anatomy of a cell. The mitochondria looked like little sausages with squiggly lines inside of them (tk image). Most of us don’t remember too much about what they actually do, but you might remember the phrase “power houses of the cell.” This hints at their main function, which is to create energy through production of the molecule ATP.

Mitochondria are really fascinating when you start to understand they are necessary for us to function as an organism made of millions of cells. Mitochondria take our energy output and multiply it by 16 fold. While the base 2 ATP that primitive metabolism extracts from glucose, the mitochondria increases production to 32 ATP! Without this many of our cells would either starve or we would have to eat dramatically higher amounts of food to survive. This is really what lets us be a large, complex organisms with many organs. This includes our muscles and a big energy hungry brain that allows us to think the way we do.

How the mitochondria accomplish this is through the electron transport chain. The electron transport chain is a team of proteins inside the mitochondria which allows the mitochondria to extract multiple times more energy than our cell could otherwise. The process is called cellular respiration and is a highly efficient system. The electron transport chain is important because it’s very sensitive to nutrient deficiencies and chemical toxins, which reduce function and lead to low energy.

Mitochondria enable us to be a large, intelligent person through the enhanced production of energy we’re talking about. When mitochondria function decreases, we function less well, when mitochondrial function stops completely many of our cells will die from starvation. We see this in cases of cyanide poisoning, because cyanide actually binds to part of the electron transport chain and shuts down energy production completely which leads to death within hours to days.

There are a lot of other jobs our mitochondria do, like cell signaling, calcium homeostastis, apoptosis (programmed cell death) and much more. The point is, mitochondria are found in most cells in your body and they help everything work better. They are present in the highest levels within the muscles and brain where we have higher energy needs. Remember this because anytime there is fatigue, low energy or any sort of brain fog or cognitive issues mitochondria are a big part of correcting the issues.

Mitochondria aren’t the only thing to consider, but in a lot of situations they are a big part of the solution. If we don’t think about or even know about mitochondria, then we’re leaving a major part of our health on the table.

The role of mitochondria in health and disease

Mitochondria play a role in many diseases, but very rarely are they the main component. The more common signs and symptoms of poor mitochondrial health is seen in fatigue and weakness. Since mitochondria are found in such high levels within the
muscles, if there are too few or the mitochondria present aren’t working quite right then you’ll feel tired and weak. If the problem is more widespread it may effect the brain and nervous system, which can cause brain fog, trouble concentrating, clumsiness and memory problems.

The more problems the mitochondria have, the more intense symptoms you start to notice. Mitochondrial function is a component in diabetes and heart disease, which often come together. Considering mitochondria help us burn off the energy from sugar, it makes sense. In diabetes we commonly see that mitochondria are both smaller than normal, and there are less of them. Another common problem is that it’s difficult for diabetic individuals to make new mitochondria, all of which comes together to further aggravate a system that is already under heavy stress. In cardiovascular health mitochondria are extremely important. Remember the heart is a muscle that has to function all day every day, so if the mitochondria of the heart are deficient then the heart won’t be able to function well.

A major disease where mitochondria play a role is cancer, as almost every cancerous cell tends to carry abnormal mitochondria. There are a few exceptions, but the exceptions tend to be less severe forms of cancer. There is a lot of interesting research that shows these diseased mitochondria are a major part of cancer cells ability to create more cancerous offspring cells. When mitochondria can be restored, the cell regains the ability to destroy itself for it’s other malfunctions.

The last area we’ll touch on is the health of the nervous system. Mitochondrial dysfunction or inhibition in the brain and nervous system directly correlates with how well our brain can function. There is research directly into how mitochondrial function in the brain relates to Parkinson’s and Alzheimers disease, giving a new target to help slow down progression and even restore function in these diseases.
To sum everything up, mitochondria play a role in most of the major diseases we deal with today – specifically chronic diseases that present later in life. This means there is an enormous opportunity to prevent and improve these diseases by focusing on mitochondrial health. Just as important for those of us not dealing with these problems is that improving mitochondrial
function will ultimately improve our health and functions so that we think, feel and act more optimally.