The mitochondria theory of disease is a hot topic today. A number of books have recently come out on the subject. While these books and their programs to build mitochondria health have a lot of great insights, I think that they are completely missing the big picture.
Mitochondria are bacteria-like organelles inside the cell.
Their job is to make ATP, the fuel that your cells use. If you have dysfunctional mitochondria, your cells don’t get enough energy, leading to disease. It isn’t rocket science. A lot of these mitochondria programs focus on diet, exercise, and mitochondria enhancing supplements. Diet and supplements have a moderate impact at best, but they don’t solve the problem. We need to be asking, WHY ARE THE MITOCHONDIA DYSFUNCTIONAL IN THE FIRST PLACE.
The reason why mitochondria dysfunction is so prevalent today can be summed up in two words: they’re poisoned. Let’s look at some of the main mitochondria poisons that we are constantly being exposed to.
- Heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, thallium, and tin, as well as toxic metals like aluminum are direct mitochondria toxins. They destroy enzymes need to bring nutrients into the mitochondria.
- Many intracellular infections can infect the mitochondria. A common example is mycoplasma, a bacteria associated with gulf war syndrome. Infections disrupt the electron transport chain, leading to decreased ATP production.
- Glyphosate: The most heavily sprayed agrochemical. Even if you eat all organic, glyphosate is in the rain, soil and air. While glyphosate is not directly toxic to human cells, it is an antibiotic, and our mitochondria are essentially bacteria.
- Prescription drugs: Many drugs are mitochondria toxins. Fluoroquinolones like Cipro are common triggers for chronic fatigue.
- EMF: The frequency and pulse rate of microwave radiation disrupts mitochondria signaling, and decreases ATP production.
- Excessive blue light: Too much blue light from screens and artificial indoor lighting cause mitochondria dysfunction. Red and near infrared light enhance mitochondria. The sun is almost half red and near infrared.
- Water damaged buildings: The biotoxins produced from microbes in water-damaged buildings are mitochondria toxins. EMFs also cause a danger response in mold, causing them to create more toxins.
Many of the books on mitochondria mention these things, but don’t address what to do about them at all. Instead, they jump right into a ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic diets have a number of different benefits, including neuroprotection.
However, for mitochondria health, I think it is overrated. Let’s look into this deeper. The argument for ketones is that one molecule of a fatty acid creates more ATP than a molecule of glucose. Your mitochondria make ATP through the electron transport chain. It is not called the ketone transport chain, or the glucose transport chain. Whether you are using glucose or ketones as energy, they both have to be broken down into electrons. If your mitochondria have an infection that is disrupting the electron transport chain, you will create less ATP. It doesn’t matter where the electrons come from. Think about this: why does sugar taste so damn good? Would our brains be so hardwired to get pleasure from sweet foods if they were inherently dangerous? In no way am I advocating a high sugar diet, but carbohydrates are not the devil, and a ketogenic diet is not the holy grail of health.
Environmental toxins are the main cause of mitochondrial dysfunction, not diet.
The same thing goes for supplements. I don’t care if you have the greatest mito enhancing supplement on earth, if the mitochondria is poisoned with lead or mercury, the nutrients won’t even get into the mitochondria. Even worse, a lot of these supplements will just feed the infections. This is why all of the popular mito enhancing supplements and cocktails ultimately fail. If you have something that is decreasing mitochondria function by 200%, and add in something that enhances function by 10% (arbitrary numbers), the patient still feels like crap. When the mitochondria are not poisoned, they work well on their own.
Exercise is the main way that we can grow new mitochondria (More muscle= more mitochondria. This is why typical “mito” patients are thin with little muscle). The way that this works is through hormesis. You have to add stress to break down muscle tissue, and it grows back stronger than before. This is what happens in a healthy person. In someone with severe chronic fatigue, this doesn’t work. You can break down the muscles with exercise, but the mitochondria are too poisoned that they can’t repair afterwards. This is why exercise makes chronic fatigue worse. Exercise intolerance is a signal from the body telling you not to exercise because it is too much stress.
As someone who has gotten worse from ketogenic diets and over exercising, and wasted thousands of dollars on mitochondria enhancing supplements, here is my best advice. The focus on mitochondria health should be first, reducing exposure to mitochondria toxins, then getting rid of the body burden of toxic build up and infections, and lastly repairing any damage if needed.
By Bryant Rubright