Why our mitochondria matter and how to optimise them

Experts are saying our cellular mitochondria are as essential and influential as the gut biome. Here’s why we need to nurture, feed and repair these intracellular organelles that turn food and oxygen into vital energy.

First things first: What are mitochondria?

Mitochondria are tiny but powerful organelles that occur within the body’s cells. Their function is to convert food and oxygen into energy. Some cells in the more complex organs have more (thousands more) mitochondria than others.

How do we look after our mitochondria?

Daily cellular functioning cannot take place without our mitochondria functioning optimally. If our mitochondria don’t work properly our brains and bodies will suffer from a range of symptoms including fatigue and premature ageing. Poorly functioning mitochondria are also thought to be related to chronic age-related diseases including heart disease, diabetes and a host of neurodegenerative conditions.

Mitochondrial age matters

What many people suffering from diseases don’t realise is that poorly functioning mitochondria may be playing a role in their ailment – in fact an astonishing 48% of people under the age of 40 have some form of early onset mitochondrial issue or dysfunction. It’s inevitable that our mitochondria numbers decrease as we age but keeping them functioning optimally is key to longevity and for ultimately slowing down ageing on a molecular level.

How do we support our mitochondria?

Tests to measure and determine the health and functionality of our mitochondria are not yet available but what we can do is create an environment that promotes optimal performance for these essential organelles. Recent research suggests that the gut microbiome influences mitochondria significantly – this means that the healthier our biome, the healthier our mitochondria – they are both areas where function decreases dramatically as we age and if not nourished and respected, they will not function well.

Optimising your mitochondria


Can we eat our way to good health on a cellular level?


High-fat and low-carb food choices are ideal since they use fatty acids or carbohydrates to create the primary energy currency in cells (known as ATP). If you eat high carb and high fat – mitochondria will access carbs first, which leaves you with excess fats in your system

  • Ditch the sugar and starch. These convert to sugar in the bloodstream – one of the major causes of  premature mitochondrial ageing and muscle loss (our muscle cells have the most mitochondria)
  • Eat optimal amounts of protein – As we age, we need more protein, and we need to ensure that it’s good quality protein – organic, pasture-raised and hormone free. Click here to find out how much protein your body needs.
  • Healthy fats – fatty fish, nuts, avocados and coconut oil are all great source.
  • MCT oil – medium-chain glycerides are a fatty acid derived from coconut oil, and MCT oil is an excellent fuel for your mitochondria.
  • Phytonutrients nourish mitochondria. Eat more green and colourful veggies and go organic where possible.
  • Sulphur-rich veggies (such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage) produce glutathione which is a powerful antioxidant, great for mitochondria
  • Supplements can be really helpful too – PQQ combined with CoQ10, Glutathione, Magnesium and  Omega 3 are all useful in the quest for healthy, happy mitochondria.
    In particular, the combination of PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline Quinone) with CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) promotes the spontaneous production of new mitochondria. support optimal mitochondrial function. While CoQ10 optimises mitochondrial function, PQQ activates genes that govern mitochondrial reproduction, protection, and repair.


There are so many ways to improve mitochondria quality and functioning

  • Sleep enough. Our brain’s glymphatic or waste removal system only works when we sleep. Sleeping too little? You can expect a mitochondrial toxin buildup – a state where the mitochondria slow down and function less well.
  • Intermittent fasting and autophagy. These states of cellular deprivation have been proven to remove poorly functioning mitochondria and to replace them with new ones.
  • Exercise and strength training in particular have been shown to increase mitochondrial numbers and energy. The more you train, the more you can train.
  • Meditation improves mitochondrial functioning.
  • Exposure to sunlight kicks off the body’s natural circadian rhythms and promotes healthy mitochondrial function. Try and adapt your sleep cycle so that you wake naturally to sunlight.
  • Cold therapy be it in the form of cold swims or showers causes mitochondrial biogenesis – the creation of new mitochondrial cells. So take that icy dip, it could give you a mitochondrial boost!

Work towards a long-term plan

Creating new healthy habits isn’t something that happens overnight. But building a new framework of health for yourself CAN be done; try introducing a new habit every two weeks. I really recommend getting as much support as you can, be it with a nutritionist, accountability partner, through technology and tracking apps and devices, the correct supplements, getting more sleep and investing time in yourself. When you commit to new lifestyle changes and tweaks, you’ll start to notice the difference, I promise. Your mitochondria and your body will love you for your commitment.



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