Curebiome Naturopathic

Mitochondrial Impairment and Rescuers

Mitochondrial Impairment and Rescuers

Stressors and Inhibitors of Mitochondria

If we want to understand how to improve things then it’s important to understand what’s holding the mitochondria back from functioning optimally. These inhibitors range from nutrient deficiencies, chemical toxins, lifestyle, physical and emotional stress and more. Each of these inhibitors can play a role in how you feel and most importantly how your cells and mitochondria are able to function.


Nutrient deficiencies are extremely common, for a number of reasons. First, processed foods pull all nutrients and vitamins that can degrade out to trade for a long shelf life. Processed foods might be fortified again with some nutrients, but  typically these are low quality nutrients not well utilized on top of being not enough and there are still many missing nutrients which are not fortified due to cost or their lack of stability (which is why they were removed in the first place). Other causes of nutrient deficiencies are low variety in diet, mainly a lack of plant based foods and essential fatty acid deficiencies. Refined sugar is another major stressor, which causes loss of nutrients like minerals to compensate the pure sugar and leads to other problems like insulin resistance, oxidative damage and roller coaster effects on blood sugar levels.
There are many chemical toxins that inhibit mitochondrial function, each of which comes with a range of other negative effects. A common class of mitochondrial toxin are pesticides that are found on non-organic or conventionally raised produce, in many rivers and waterways and especially near any agricultural areas. Pesticides interrupt normal function of the electron transport chain (the mitochondrial lifeblood) leading to inhibited function and a decreased energy output if not full on mitochondrial death. Different herbicides also have similar effects, herbicides are common contaminants in certain grain products like wheat and are inherent in the way some of these crops are grown. Outside of pesticides and herbicides there are multiple heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium that harm and inhibit mitochondrial function. These are found in sources ranging from high fructose corn syrup (mercury), fish (mercury), plants or animals grown or raised in polluted areas (lead/arsenic), cigarettes (arsenic) and many other places. Finally, and you might find this surprising, many pharmaceuticals are also mitochondrial toxins. Antibiotics are a specific class of medication which have negative impact on mitochondria (as well as the microbiome), this is because mitochondria are an ancient form of bacteria which basically teamed up with our more complex cells for a safe place to live and free food to provide us extra energy output. Chemical toxins are far and away a major inhibitor of mitochondrial and overall health, and always important to reduce our exposures to.

Certain personal lifestyle habits can also decrease mitochondrial function. Specifically, a sedentary lifestyle removes all signals to mitochondria to increase efficiency and produce more mitochondria. This is because when we stress our muscles enough, aka exercise, there are signals to the mitochondria to reproduce in order to provide more energy to prepare for more intense efforts. Without any sort of physical stimulus our body and mitochondria will go into conservation mode, which means less energy production overall.



Lack of sleep will also decrease mitochondrial function, among other problems. Sleep is where our body releases a number of hormones and antioxidants to signal repair and growth, without it there we miss out on that downtime for mitochondria to reproduce and repair as well. The last stress we’ll mention is emotional stress from a lack of stress management, or intense periods in life, this will also affect how well your mitochondria and cells in general can function. Emotional stress signals cortisol and a cascade of hormones which lock the body into a mode of “hold on tight until we get through this,” whether it’s a life threatening problem like a lion or not, like an angry boss or loss of a loved one. Finding ways to process and manage stress is a major improvement because lets the body move past survival mode and get back into relax and repair mode.

These are just a few of the many things that cause major decreases in mitochondrial function. The good news is each of these are able to be addressed and minimized to preserve and support mitochondria health, and your health and energy overall.

Mitochondrial Support and Rescue

Fortunately for all of us there are a lot of strategies to support our mitochondria. To know where to start we of course have to consider and decide what the most likely causes of mitochondrial inhibition are for us. We’ll cover a general approach right now, beginning with supporting deficiencies then removing the other problem makers.
It’s generally best to begin by addressing any deficiencies, as this will support all of the other forms of support. I like this strategy because giving a deficient system what it needs is almost always a good place to start, as it feeds the cell pathways that help manage the harmful excesses like toxins or stress which burn up many nutrients and lead to more deficiency. Some of the things to consider first are essential fatty acids and nutrient dense foods. Specific foods to consider are colorful plant based foods, wild caught fish and natural/organic meats, nuts and seeds. Specific nutrients are omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants like Coenzyme Q10, resveratrol, Alpha Lipoic Acid, N-acetyl cysteine and others. The goal here is to restore the basics and mitochondrial antioxidants as we eliminate major stressors, this means doses usually start out low and ramp up for a period then drop back to a maintenance dose.


Avoidance and detoxification of harmful compounds is required for healthy mitochondrial function, as well as whole body health. The first place to start is identifying exposures to harmful compounds and systematically decreasing these exposures as much as possible. I discuss this in detail in other places (TK link to avoidance). Once avoidance measures are in place, beginning mild detoxification support is the next step. Nutrients that support glutathione production and recycling like N-acetyl cysteine and more of the same nutrients that support mitochondrial function, many of which are found in a good multivitamin. Sometimes we will pull in more intensive detox approaches, including things like sauna therapies, heavy metal chelation, IV nutrients like glutathione and more. Generally the more exposures a person has had the more important it is to start slow with these approaches, too much too fast will trigger an attempt from the cells and tissues to release more toxins than the body can actually eliminate – which is an unpleasant experience to say the least.

Beyond basic nutrient support, there is very good research and clinical results to support a ketogenic diet and fasting as aids in mitochondrial health. Ketogenic diets involve very low carbohydrates, moderate proteins and high fat intake. This balance of macronutrients leads to body to produce ketones, which are energy dense antioxidant molecules that our brain, muscles and most of our tissues use as energy. There is lots of information about ketogenic diets available, so I won’t go into details right now but it’s very helpful in addressing blood sugar problems, insulin resistance, weight problems and more. Fasting will similarly produce ketones, and is more commonly used intermittently by skipping breakfast or one or more days of water only depending on the person.

Finally there is a more potent nutrient based compound which produces dramatic improvements in mitochondrial function. It is a lipoic acid mineral complex which can be taken orally or administered intravenously, and alongside these other supportive therapies helps to further augment and improve mitochondrial function. It is sold as Poly-MVA and is best taken alongside certain other nutrients to improve its efficiency. While the average person will likely notice benefits, we rely even more on it for support in various chronic illnesses which have a mitochondrial component ranging from cancer, lyme, fluoroquinolone injury and more.

This is just a brief intro into some of the therapies we have found to be most effective to improve both mitochondrial function and health. All of these are not required to be used together or at all and it’s not unusual for any of these therapies to disagree with people which is why it’s nice to have options. There is more than one path to health, and while it might be tempting to jump right in it is extremely important to work with a knowledgeable health practitioner who can guide you towards the most beneficial therapies and away from those which are potentially harmful in your situation.

10 Toxins That Are Messing With Your Hormones

10 Toxins That Are Messing With Your Hormones

Common hormone disruptors affecting your weight, sex drive and health


#1 BPA (BPS and BPF)

BPA has been around for a long time, and one of its properties is that it mimics estrogen. For that reason it was even researched at one time for use as an artificial estrogen replacement, though wasn’t found suitable. The main concerns around BPA are the increased risk of certain cancers (estrogen linked), it negatively impacts thyroid and cognitive function, creates an increased risk of obesity and has even been shown to inhibit testosterone production (and more). BPS and BPF are sister molecules to BPA and have very similar impacts on disrupting hormones.

How to avoid

While it might seem like “BPA free” plastics are safe, they generally aren’t since these plastics commonly contain BPS and BPF, molecular brother and sister to BPA, which also disrupts hormone function.

  1. Avoid Canned foods
  2. Caution with receipts (thermal paper is often coated with BPA)
  3. Specific plastics marked “PC” and #7 are much more likely to carry BPA, BPS or BPF. (Though no plastic is guaranteed “safe”)

#2 Dioxins

Dioxins are a class of hormone disrupting toxin we are commonly exposed to. They are a by-product of many industrial processes, they last a long time and bio-accumulate in the food chain and in our body. Food products with high dioxins levels are dairy products like milk and butter, and animal sources like meat, eggs and fish.

How to avoid

  1. Avoid the status quo for these high risk foods. Always choose organic and when possible go for the cleanest local sources you can find.
  2. Bump up your plant based food intake – increasing foods like beans and legumes will both balance out your diet, help bind and eliminate toxins with fiber and decrease consumption of these other foods.

#3 PCBs

PCB stands for polychlorinate biphenyls, which is a mouthful for a chemical that is carcinogenic and known to disrupt immune function, hormones, the nervous system and more. PCBs are a persistent pollutant that were banned for production in the US back in the 1970s. They are commonly found in electrical devices as a coolant – things like transformers, they were also used in hydraulics and carbonless copy paper among other applications. The problem being that the persistence of PCBs means it is found commonly everywhere as it has invaded the ecosystem, including food products – particularly animals and dairy.

How to avoid

  1. Similar to dioxins, the goal here is to focus on the cleanest sources of dairy and animal products and increase plant based foods in the diet


#4 Phthalates

Phthalates are a chemical commonly found in many plastics and cosmetic products. Because of the common use of plastics many of us are exposed on a daily basis, and phthalates have a long list of negative health effects. Studies link phthalates to hormone disruption, decreased sperm count and motility, birth defects, weight gain (aka “obesogen”), diabetes and thyroid problems.

How to avoid

  1. Reduce and eliminate plastic from your life as much as possible
  2. Migrate to glass and stainless steel food containers
  3. Carry a glass or stainless steel water bottle with you
  4. Use phthalate free cosmetic products


#5 Perchlorate

Perchlorate is a common additive in rocket fuel, and also a common contaminant of produce and milk (strange connection, I know). In humans perchlorate is shown to compete with iodine – causing problems in the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism and energy.

How to avoid

  1. Drinking clean water – Reverse Osmosis is the current gold standard, though many other options like carbon block filters are a good choice too
  2. Unfortunately we don’t have any great avoidance tips for foods, but if you’re eating a healthy diet it will help reduce the overall impact of perchlorate in your body

#6 Flame retardants

Flame retardants are a large class of chemicals that are very persistent and very hard on the hormone system. These chemicals have been found in animals around the globe, even those in remote locations like the arctic (another great reason not to eat any polar bears). Flame retardants can look like thyroid hormone in the body and disrupt normal thyroid function, again affecting metabolism and energy among others. There are also associations of negative impact on intelligence and brain function.

How to avoid

  1. Keep your house clean, leave your shoes at the door. Dust is commonly contaminated with this class of chemicals

(House plants, air purifiers, and good vacuums can help with this)

  1. When possible choose furniture untreated with flame retardants, special companies offer mattresses like this. Basic wood furniture is usually safe, reduce any foam filled furniture when possible


#7 Lead

What’s a list of toxins without lead? Well this list is no different, though there are many negative health effects of lead (like decreased brain function and cardiovascular health) it is another hormone disruptor. It’s been linked with miscarriages, premature birth, decreased levels of sex hormones and signalling problems between hormones and the brain.

How to avoid

  1. A good water filter
  2. Taking shoes off at the door (
  3. Have any lead paint, lead pipes or lead soldering replaced by a professional

#8 Arsenic

I’m a fan of the old movie “Arsenic and Old Lace” (Cary Grant is the man), but I’m not a huge fan of actual arsenic. This is another heavy metal which also is a known poison, increases cancer risks and also disrupts hormones. The hormones affected by arsenic are those involved in blood sugar regulation leading to increased weight gain, insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure and a lowered immune system.

How to avoid

  1. The best way to reduce arsenic exposure is keeping it out of your water with a high quality water filter
  2. Also don’t use or eat rat poison (see #3 below)
  3. Thoroughly rinse rice before cooking and avoid rice milks. Many rice storage facilities use rat poison (arsenic) to manage rodent problems

#9 Mercury

Mercury, like lead, seems to always make an appearance when we talk about environmental toxins. Mercury affects the nervous system, immune system, the pancreas increasing diabetes risk and the female hormone cycle. Higher mercury levels can disrupt normal ovulation and menstruation cycles, among other problems. Most common sources of mercury exposure are fish and dental amalgams. It’s also recently come to my attention that the processing of High Fructose Corn Syrup involves a mercury heavy ingredient in many cases, which leads to contamination of most HFCS – which on it’s own can be considered a hormone disruptor.

How to avoid

  1. Eat clean, sustainable seafood . My favorite choice is wild-caught salmon
  2. Opt for resins over mercury amalgams for fillings
  3. Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup containing foods


#10 Organophosphates

Organophosphates are one of the more commonly used pesticides with roots from World War II. They kill insects through disrupting the nervous system and for this reason negatively affect our brain function, too. They also disrupt hormones through lowering testosterone, disrupting its normal function and interferes with thyroid hormone levels. It’s more common in non-organic produce.

How to avoid

  1. Choose organic, or at least choose organic for the fruits and vegetable most sprayed with pesticides

Make a big difference in your hormones and your health by reducing your exposure to these ten toxins. Remember that it’s not about being 100% clean, it’s about taking your current exposures and lowering them by 5-10% or more when and where you can. Every little bit counts and a detox lifestyle means both avoidance and elimination (who tracks muddy shoes through the room they just cleaned?).


Worried about your exposure to hormone disrupting toxins? Call 415-385-2621 or contact us today to schedule a consultation!