Coming up on this episode of the Doctor’s Pharmacy
Dr. Mark Hyman:
Key to Understanding Longevity. The key to understanding health is understanding how the mitochondria work, how they get harmed, what you can do to optimize them, and how you can actually even improve the number and function.
Welcome to Doctor’s Pharmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s pharmacy bap place for conversations that matter. And today I’m bringing you a health bite which are little bites of health information to improve your health by taking small steps every day that can make big changes over time. Alright, so let’s talk about something really important today that I love to talk about, which is energy and particularly how we get energy in our bodies through something called our mitochondria, which are the little energy factories in our cells. Now we are dealing with a massive epidemic of disease and dysfunction. Today we are seeing so many people who are suffering with all sorts of symptoms of fatigue and achiness and poor sleep and brain fog, basically what I call F L C syndrome. That’s when you feel like crap. So this is a number of features, most of which are caused by our modern lifestyle, our environmental toxins by our diet.
And one of the things that drives the problem is trouble with our mitochondria. When we have a poor diet, when we are overstressed, when we’re exposed to toxins, when we have a bad microbiome, when we’re inflamed for any reason, we end up having trouble with our mitochondria, which are the things that make energy in our body. When they don’t make energy, we are not feeling good. It’s basically the key to feeling good healthy mitochondria. And we see as we age is a diminishment and a decline in the number and the function of our mitochondria and the health of our mitochondria. And that’s why one of the hallmarks of aging that I talked about in Young Forever is dysfunctional mitochondria. And so key to understanding longevity, the key to understanding health, the key to understanding basically every disease is understanding how the mitochondria work, how they get harmed, what you can do to optimize them, and how you can actually even improve the number and function.
So let’s kind of deep dive into mitochondria. What are they? Well, they look like little tiny bacteria that are in your cells and they actually come from bacteria and their D n A is actually only from your mother. It’s kind of cool. And they have kind of taking up resonance in our cells in this ancient evolutionary biology and they figured out how to convert food and calories into energy by combining with oxygen and basically it’s like a car’s engine. You bring in the air intake and the gasoline and you combust them and you get energy that moves your car. Same thing with your mitochondria. You take oxygen and food and you burn it and you get something called a T P, which is the body’s gasoline let’s say, and that stands for adenosine Tri phosphate. Phosphate is that bright sparkler kind of color you see on the 4th of July that actually is releasing heat, energy, and power to drive every cell in your body, every function in your body, every chemical reaction in your body.
And so you need to really understand how to optimize your mitochondrial health. Now sometimes what happens is when you produce energy is you get a byproduct. So you get food and calories in and oxygen in and outcomes a t P. But also also you produce water which you pee out. You produce carbon dioxide, which you breathe out, and you also produce a little bit of what we call reactive oxygen species. These are basically molecules that are a little bit damaged in the process of making energy. We call them like the exhaust that comes from your car, let’s say. And they’re called reactive oxygen species or free radicals, but they’re not terrible. They actually do have this process of regulating our cells of stimulating antioxidant systems, but it’s really important to not get them to be too much and have them just in the right balance.
Now what happens as we age is our mitochondrial quality and number go down. They don’t function as well. We don’t have as much of them. We end up having less a t p and more reactive oxygen species and free radicals. And that causes more damage, more decline, more inflammation. It’s like a snowball effect throughout the body. So besides aging, what causes their mitochondria to kind of become dysfunctional? What causes them to decline in their number and ability? One is a lot of lifestyle habits, right? Overeating, too much food, too many calories, too much sugar. That’s the main reason we have damaged mitochondria. And then the list gets even more concerning with the environmental toxins. They’re very sensitive to environmental toxins, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, phthalates, plastics, everything we’re exposed to is damaging in some way or mitochondria. Smoking is a terrible thing for mitochondria. Stress, chronic stress of any kind, lack of sleep, all these things drive mitochondrial dysfunction.
But the good news is that there’s a lot you can do to optimize your mitochondria, to make more mitochondria, to make them work better. And it’s critical to understand how to take care of your mitochondria. It’s one of the seven key physiological systems in functional medicine. So when we look at the body, there are root processes that affect everything. So when you look at mitochondria, unless you have some genetic inherited mitochondrial dysfunction or disorder, most of us haven’t acquired mitochondrial dysfunction. And the good news is that it’s fixable. But the bad news is that it contributes to almost all the known diseases like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, it’s dysfunctional cancer in so many diseases, depression, autism, you name it. Mitochondria a huge role. And so we have to understand that there are some real non-negotiables when it comes to mitochondrial health. And there are four key things that I recommend, and there’s obviously more, but these are the four key ones.
First is your diet. Get rid of all the sugar starch, processed food or dramatically limited and get rid of things. Quite a lot of oxidation like fried foods. Make sure you’re increasing your intake of polyphenols and phytochemicals in plants that are anti-inflammatory, that boost mitochondria. You have to eat real food, don’t eat processed food and have foods that are close to their original form as you can. I just came back from a bike trip in Greece and I ate fruits and vegetables there that tasted phenomenally different. They were so rich in flavor and that’s because of the way they grow them, because of the soils, because of the lack of chemicals in their agriculture. And it was like an explosion of flavor. Now what’s contained in that flavor or the phytochemicals are the medicines and those are the things that help regulate mitochondria. That’s why you see these blue zones where they’re eating all these foods.
Like I was in Greece, they had all these wild greens every time at the restaurant, so they literally collected wild greens and served it up. And those wild greens are full of phytochemicals and it’s one of the things that I think contributes to longevity in some of the blue zones. So really important. Now exercise is also critical is the way we stimulate our body. We stress our body and that stress makes us create more energy. We want to stress our body and exercising and what’s happening, it’s increasing the demand for energy. So when you run or when you jog or when you do interval training or when you sprint, you’re actually stressing your mitochondria and that little bit of stress causes them to become more resilient. It causes them to make more mitochondria to become more efficient. So exercise is so critical to optimizing mitochondrial function.
You need to do both cardio, right? Like zone two training, which is sort of low long-term exercise, half an hour, hour of jogging and so forth or something similar. Also, interval training, which is VO two max training that train your mitochondria by stressing will be more like sprinting those severe exertions where you run as fast as you can for 30, 60 seconds. That increases something called VO two max, which is actually your ability of your mitochondria to burn energy. It increases it. So even when you’re sitting still doing nothing, you’re burning more energy if you do that type of exercise three or four times a week. And then there’s strength training, which is so important because that recruits more mitochondria, builds more muscle, activates mitochondrial. Biogenesis makes your mitochondria more efficient. So really important to optimize your mitochondria. The third thing is make sure you get the right kind of light and not any kind of light.
But what’s happened is our mitochondria are very sensitive to light and they are stimulated by the right kind of light and they’re harmed by the wrong kind of light. So we’re now flooded with artificial light from tv, electricity buildings, computers, tablets, phones, alarm clocks, everything. And we don’t have enough natural sunlight, which helps our mitochondria. So all the blue light from our devices really screws up our circadian rhythms, especially when we use them at night. And that affects our mitochondrial function. So making sure our circadian rhythms are regulated by waking up and getting morning sun by not using your devices at night. Really important. The other thing you need to know about is that you need to sleep for your mitochondria. It really helps to reset your mitochondrial function. It requires deep restful sleep. That’s why you feel tired, you don’t sleep enough, your mitochondria are not doing well.
The next thing that’s really important, and I think this is unfortunate, we need this now, but I think we do because of our horrible diet and our lack of nutrients in this sort of food because of the way we grow them and all the stresses we’re exposed to and all the tox in the environment, all the depletion of our soils, all the foods that are packaged and processed and shipped across the country. And the average apple you eat is probably a year old in a storehouse. We don’t need your heirloom vegetables anymore. We monocrop. We have genetic modifications. Basically even if you have a perfect diet, you’re not getting enough nutrients. So we really need the right supplements and mitochondrial supplements are really important. I make these a foundation for me. I had chronic fatigue syndrome, so I know my mitochondria or little bit needed a little extra love, but there’s some really important mitochondrial superstars that we’ll talk about in a minute.
But you can take them. I take all of them personally to charge on my mitochondria and to keep them functioning well. So one of the top ways to fuel your mitochondria. Let’s sort of recap a little bit. What are the activities you can do to build on these four non-negotiables that we just discussed? Well, there’s a lot of things you can do to support your mitochondria, but there’s about five practices I think are a good start. First, we discussed a little bit focus on eating real food, healthy diet, lots of phytochemicals, lots of good fats, your mitochondria love, fats like avocados, olive oil, mc T oil, have the right amount of protein, plenty of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. All these are important. Bruce Ames talked about how to get a metabolic tuneup by using micronutrients that drive so many of these chemical reactions because making energy in your mitochondria requires all the B vitamins that requires cocuten, it requires lipoic acid, ceal, cysteine in so many different compounds.
Ribose, carnitine, the list goes on. So you need to actually in the assembly line to turn food and oxygen into energy. You need all these helpers to go along the way. So this is what nutrients are and you need to get them from your diet and from supplements. The next is you can try things that actually stress your mitochondria a little bit. Time-restricted, eating, fasting. These are great ways to improve your mitochondrial number and function and clean out the old ones. So maybe don’t eat for at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, ideally up to 16, or even do a longer fast once a week, and that can really help your mitochondria. The next is make sure your light exposure is right. Get rid of the screens and device it at night, at least two or three before bed. Get light exposure in the morning, sunlight in the morning, 20 minutes.
Really important. It also helps your vitamin D, which is good for you as well. Also exercise, get your exercise routine sorted because you need to make sure you do both cardio and also interval training, the high intensity interval training and strength training and start slow. But I am 63, I’m going to be 64 this year, and I keep increasing my activity, increasing the challenges I put myself through. And I’m finding at any age it’s possible to get fit and healthy. So start slow. But if you need work with someone as a trainer to learn what to do. If you have limitations and I have things that I got my knee thing and my back thing and my shoulder thing and this and that, but you find a way to work around it and do something, it’s really important. And lastly is eating the right supplements.
And there’s a number out there and we can talk about all of ’em. I’ve written a lot about mitochondria. You can kind of see in the show notes. We’ll link to some articles I’ve written, but there’s something I want talk about particularly. One is coq 10, and I think at least a hundred milligrams a day is really important. And I take ubiquinol, which is a special form of coq 10. Lipoic acid is a superstar. It’s one of the most powerful antioxidants, critical for mitochondrial function, at least 300 up to 600 milligrams a day. If you’re diabetic, I’d recommend 1200 milligrams a day. Resveratrol also really important for mitochondrial function. It’s a phytochemical. You can take 50 to 200 milligrams a day. Also green tea extract. We call it E G C G or epi doca and gallate. And you can take two to 500 milligrams of that really important carnitine also is important in metabolizing fats.
And you can take acetyl L carnitine or L carnitine about 500 to 2000 milligrams a day can be powerful depending on what’s going on with you. But usually 500 once or twice a day is fine. So those are the basic supplements I recommend. There’s many more. There’s ribose and acetyl cysteine, all the B vitamins and more that help the mitochondria function better. And it’s important to see what you need, what your particular body requires, do some testing and figure it out. So you may need more or less, but you can also work with a functional medicine doctor to figure out what your numbers look like, do some testing and see where you’re at. But taking care of your mitochondria is probably one of the most important things you can learn how to do. I mean, there’s key things we do in functional medicine that are foundational.
Optimizing your microbiome and your gut, your immune system, your mitochondria, your detox system, your hormonal system. These are all the physiologic systems that drive all disease. So really important to understand your mitochondria, what they are, how they work, and how to optimize them. They’re key for your survival. You can’t live without ’em. When they stop working, you die. I mean, how does cyanide work? For example, cyanide poisons your mitochondria. You’re dead within minutes. That’s how important they are. So how well you live, how much energy you have, how well your cells work and communicate how your organs function, all depend on your mitochondria and how they work and how they’re functioning. So make sure you optimize your mitochondria, learn about them and take care of them because they’re going to take care of you if you take care of them. Okay, that’s it for today’s health bite. Be shared, the shares with your friends and family. Leave a comment. How have you learned how to optimize your mitochondria? We’d love to hear from you and we’ll see you next week on the Doctor’s Pharmacy.
Hi everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.