A disruption in your mitochondrial DNA is not something to take lightly. Why? Well, it can lead to severe medical conditions such as strokes, seizures, swallowing difficulties, gastro-intestinal problems, heart and kidney complications, diabetes, immune system problems and even the C - word, cancer!
What are Mitochondria?
No matter who you are, where you are or what you do, mitochondria is running through your body as you read this. However, before you freak out and run to your family doctor, keep reading. That’s because having mitochondria is a good thing. Mitochondria are these very specific structures that are in the cells of humans, animals, plants and fungi. It uses the sugars, proteins and fats that we consume to turn them into energy, which they provide to the cell. So, think of mitochondria as the batteries that power every cell in your body.
What Do Mitochondria Do?
However, mitochondria are more than just energy producers. They have the massive responsibility of producing chemicals that the body requires for other bodily purposes. For instance, breaking down waste products so they are less damaging, as well as reusing some of the same waste products to use later. Besides giving energy to cells to help them survive, thrive and live, mitochondria have the job of making cells die.
This process is called apoptosis. It does sound weird that something that is responsible for making a cell live is also the same cause for making it die, but hear me out. Cell death (apoptosis) is just as important as helping cells live, because cell death is essential for the processes of growth and development. When cells don’t die at the time they should and grow without bounds or limits, tumors start to grow. That’s how cancer begins and that’s the reason medical professionals target mitochondria when treating a tumor with anti-cancer medications.
Mitochondria Have DNA
Every mitochondria has its own DNA that is around 16,000 bases long and has 37 genes (in humans). If you compared that with the DNA in the nucleus it is very small, since the nucleus carries 3,000,000,000 bases long and 25,000 genes. Therefore, when you do the math, only 0.1% of your genes are found in your mitochondria. Although mitochondrion have only 37 genes, they need more than that to work. They roughly require 1,500 genes and they can be easily sourced from the nuclear genome.
Here’s another weird and wonderful fact for you! You get your mitochondria from your mother. Yup, that’s because when the sperm fertilizes an egg, only the DNA from the nucleus is transferred not the mitochondria. The embryo gets all of its mitochondria from the mother’s egg.
This is concrete evidence to suggest that mitochondrial diseases that arise form mutations on the mitochondrial DNA are inherited from the mother and affect her sons and daughters. However, it will only be the affected daughters who will then continue to pass the disease onto their own children. On the other hand, if the mutations are located on the nuclear DNA rather than the mitochondria DNA, then they can be inherited from both the mother as well as the father.
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Metabolic Disease and Cells
Therefore, it goes without saying that inherited mitochondrial diseases are just one of the many causes of metabolic disorders. This happens when a mutated gene creates an enzyme deficiency. There are many different subtypes of metabolic disorders and are referred to as inborn errors of metabolism. In some cases, metabolic diseases can develop when the liver or pancreas are not working properly.
The main types of metabolic disorders are:
- Acid-base imbalance
- Metabolic brain diseases
- Calcium metabolism disorders
- DNA repair-deficiency disorders
- Glucose metabolism disorders
- Iron metabolism disorders
- Lipid metabolism disorders
- Malabsorption syndromes
- Metabolic syndrome X
- Inborn error of metabolism
- Mitochondrial diseases
- Phosphorus metabolism disorders
- Proteostasis deficiency
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Metabolic Disease
The million-dollar question is, “How do I know if I have a metabolic disorder”? Some of the symptoms that can happen with metabolic disorders are weight loss, seizures, jaundice and lethargy. Obviously, this depends on the type of metabolic disorder that affects you. Also, there are four groups of symptoms:
- Acute symptoms
- Late-onset acute symptoms
- Progressive general symptoms
- Permanent symptoms
You might know of a metabolic disorder at birth, or during a routine screening. If you miss to get a diagnosis early, then it may be pinpointed later on in life, when the symptoms start to show up. There are specific blood and DNA tests that can be carried out to diagnose genetic metabolic disorders. In the human digestive system, lives the gut microbiota, which is basically a community of microorganisms. They have a vital and positive role in metabolism for its host. You know the saying, “Good health starts with your gut”. That is very true, and you must think of your digestive system as an ecosystem. When this ecosystem is impaired with imbalances, you are at higher risk of developing diseases. Hence the fact that most people who suffer from obesity, are much more likely to be diagnosed with a metabolic disorder.
A Good Diet for Metabolic Disorders
You are what you eat, and metabolic disease is no exception regardless the specific diagnosis. As you read earlier, mitochondria use the food you eat as an energy source. When there is confusion in this energy metabolism process, then it causes symptoms that are found in the group of metabolic disorders we refer to as mitochondrial disease. Therefore, nutrition and choosing the right supplements for you are the way to go to keep any metabolic disease you are prone to at bay.
The best way to start your good diet programme is to create a food diary and do a 24-hour recall of what you ate during that day. You may surprise yourself that you don’t really eat as healthy as you think you do. You might also realise that your carbohydrate level is higher than your protein level.
Protein is important, because it is stored in the muscles and is needed for strength. Furthermore, protein helps to keep your sugar levels stable and in harmony with carbohydrates. If you don’t get enough protein, this could make your blood sugar levels out of whack. Leading you to eat more than you need to, which in turn leads to excess weight gain. This wreaks havoc on your gut and eventually bringing on any mitochondrial diseases through metabolic disorder.
When you have a mitochondrial disease, you should make sure that every meal or snack contains a protein and a complex carbohydrate. This allows the carbohydrate to be correctly and sufficiently metabolized into energy. Try to include good sources of calcium and vitamin D, which are readily available in dairy-based protein foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese.
However, you can substitute those dairy choices with broccoli and almonds. Getting at least 10 minutes of sunshine is important too, since calcium can only be absorbed when the body has enough vitamin D. Vitamin D doesn’t get up and do anything until it sees the light, literally! So, make sure you get a few rays of sunshine per day to guarantee your cells’ mitochondria are getting the full benefits of the calcium and vitamin D you are providing for them.
Fatigue or being low on energy is one of the most common issues people suffering from mitochondrial disease have to put up with. You must always be prepared for those bad days, because these are usually the moments you fall weak and are victim to eating unhealthily to try and boost yourself up from your slump, or simply because you are too exhausted to prepare yourself a proper meal.
Make sure you have the right supplements at hand that have the appropriate amount of high-quality nutrients and nootropic ingredients. That way you are certain that your body, and least we forget the brain, feels ready to function and perform. Also, you should have pre-advanced high protein meals waiting for you in your freezer, so you can quickly thaw out and consume when you are having a ‘bad day’. Here is a list of foods suitable for a metabolic syndrome diet.
Fish and Omega 3 Foods
Omega 3 fatty acids are awesome for the body and the brain. Try to get enough wild caught fish, such as salmon as well as mackerel, sardines, anchovies and oysters. Get your hands on walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, grass-fed beef, cod liver oil, high fat plant foods such as avocados as well as coconuts.
Get a good amount of dark green leafy vegetables in your diet like kale, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, collard greens and spinach. Broccoli is a great source of protein as well as fiber. Avocados have been clinically found to be great with lowering metabolic syndrome. Red cabbage, carrots and sweet potatoes have high levels of vitamin A as well as C and are full of deliciousness.
Chowing down on berries, bananas, apples, oranges, pears and prunes will provide the minerals and vitamins your mitochondria need to fight against metabolic disorders.
Whole grains help you to remain fuller for longer and are very heart and diabetic friendly. Try to stick to oatmeal and brown rice. If you want to have bread or pasta, opt for brown rather than the starchy white version.
Now here is a list of foods you really need to stay away from.
Consuming food and beverages with artificial sweeteners has been linked with diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic disorders. It’s amazing to know that a food item with the title ‘DIET’ can actually make you fat and unhealthy!
Fake and Processed Foods
Whenever you buy anything that has been boxed, bagged or frozen it is usually void of any nutritional value and loaded with unhealthy preservatives and additives. The only exceptions are chopped vegetables and fruits that are in their own juice.
Soft drinks marketing themselves with less sugar can be a bit misleading, since these are full of artificial sweeteners which shock the body’s metabolic functions. A 2009 study found that daily consumption of diet soft drinks was linked to a 36% increase in metabolic syndrome as well as a 67% increase in type 2 diabetes.
Hydrogenated vegetable oil is a trans-fat that is found in many fast foods, margarine, cookies, cakes, pies and crackers which are a dietary risk factor for metabolic disease. Trans fats have been linked to inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, and many others.
Refined Carbs and Sugars
We know they taste so good, but they are so bad! Refined carbs and sugars are notorious for metabolic disorders, since they are the culprits of disrupting blood sugar levels. This is because the body digests refined carbs and sugars very quickly and they have a high index level. This is how blood sugar and insulin levels go up fast after a meal. These mood swings in your blood sugar levels are what makes you start to overeat. Also, refined carbs usually lack any source of fiber or micronutrients, which aren’t doing your mitochondria much good anyway.
Limit Your Alcohol
Men can consume two alcoholic drinks per day, whilst women should allow themselves only one. Keep in mind that moderate drinking and wine consumption has been known to help weight loss. Whereas heavy drinking, especially beer, is linked to weight gain. Drinking alcohol moderately has shown to reduce the symptoms of metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, drinking alcohol with your meal has shown to reduce the increase of blood sugar by 16-37% when compared to drinking water.
Many people feel that they cannot do anything when they find out they have inherited a metabolic disorder. That’s not the case at all! If you are properly informed, consumed the right diet and supplements, you can remarkably change your overall health and quality of life.
Momental’s MIND and MEND nootropic supplements can help you get through your day more efficiently, and obtain a more regenerative night’s sleep. The latter is crucial to maintaining metabolic health, as people tend to crave processed carbs and other sugary, unhealthy foods when they are sleep deprived. Overconsumption of these foods contributes to metabolic oversupply and damages mtDNA.
Chronic diseases are on the rise, and current practices clearly have not been successful at hampering their growth. Though often overlooked, focusing on mitochondria could be key to maintaining better health in the present, and avoiding ailments like cancer and diabetes in the future. If you feel like you don’t have any extra time or energy in your current schedule, nootropic supplements like Momental’s MIND and MEND can help you feel better, sleep better, and have more energy throughout the day so that you can focus on what matters to you.