I've written before about the importance of mitochondria to your energy levels and overall health. In fact, I think mitochondrial function is so important that I made it the basis of my Bio-Energy Testing strategy. This test helps you determine how quickly you're aging and what you can do to slow or even reverse the aging process. A number of factors influence our mitochondrial function, from the food we eat to how active we are. But one factor that's often overlooked is our stress levels. While you may know intuitively that you have less energy when you're stressed, you probably didn't realize that fatigue was actually a result of stress's impact on your mitochondria.
Believe it or not, mitochondria can actually regenerate themselves, in a process called mitochondrial biogenesis. However, chronic stress makes it harder for them to do so. And, over time, this gives you fewer and less robust mitochondria producing energy for you. Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol can also put systems such as your thyroid and your immune response into overdrive, creating additional demands on your mitochondria.
Moreover, regular stress will affect your glucose and insulin levels and kick-start a process that tells the liver to break stored glycogen down into glucose. Mitochondrial have to help with this as well. As they do, they generate reactive oxidative species, which have to be mopped up by free radical scavengers like antioxidants. If you don't have sufficient antioxidant levels, the free radicals can begin to damage your mitochondria.
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If you don't want this to happen to you, you need to address both sides of the equation: reduce stress as much as possible and ensure your body has sufficient resources to handle stress, since encountering some is inevitable. You can take steps to reduce your cortisol levels by taking a hard look at your commitments and reducing them where possible as well as by getting sufficient sleep. Tackling nagging items on your to-do list can help as well. These small items that we just don't want to deal with can add up to large amounts of stress in the long run. Exercising regularly will also help release stress (and may be one of those nagging items on your to-do list that you can check off!).
Regardless of our best efforts, we will find ourselves in stressful situations from time to time. When this is the case, we can best support our mitochondria through rest and a healthful diet. Rather than contributing to the load on our mitochondria by eating processed, unhealthy foods, we can shore up our antioxidant reserves by eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In particular, try to keep your sugar intake low. You can also further bolster your antioxidant reserves by taking a supplement such as Advanced Polyphenol Formula. This formula can help keep you healthy even during stressful times.
Stress wears you out, and now you know why. Fortunately, since we understand so much about mitochondrial function already, we know exactly what we can do to help support these powerhouses while we work to cut out the stress that's such a drain on our vitality.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD