I have mentioned Mitochondria before, in previous posts, but I have not focused on this area of health as it is a very complex subject.
That, of course, is no reason to shy away from the topic. Many of us have never heard of mitochondria but our health relies, completely, on these energy-producing little organelles of life.
All living organisms are comprised of cells. In the case of humans, our bodies contain trillions of cells, all doing specific functions.
These biological cells need nutrients to work properly and keep you healthy and alive. Without the correct nutrition, cells begin to malfunction, even die. The nutrients your bodily cells need come from, and only from, the foods that you eat.
What is Mitochondria?
All mammalian, humans included, cells are comprised of a nucleus containing the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid, the pattern of life) and one or more mitochondria to power the life process.
All cells, excepting adult red blood cells, contain mitochondria. Mitochondria are cell organelles responsible for the production of energy.
I confess that, before I began reading “The Wahls Protocol” by Dr Terry Wahls, I had only heard about mitochondria in the context of Mitochondrial Eve; the African lady to whom all people on Earth can be traced genetically.
Cellular Health is critical to overall well-being
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system is attacking the myelin sheath surrounding the nerve fibres in the CNS (Central Nervous System).
Mitochondria process sugars and oxygen in the blood to produce energy. This energy is essential to all aspects of our lives.
One of the most fundamental and, thereby, one of the most important functions of the mitochondria, is in cell reproduction. Most cells in our bodies have a preset life-span. Cell death and new cell growth is a normal and essential part of good health.
One type of cell that does not regenerate in this way, is the neuron or brain cell. Only in very exceptional circumstances and only in certain parts of the brain will neurons regenerate.
This is of particular concern to me, as it should be for you if you have Multiple Sclerosis or Fibromyalgia. Both of these conditions are characterised by “brain fog” indicating loss of cognitive function.
I know from the MRI scans I have had, that my brain shows areas of shadowing or scarring. This is typical of Multiple Sclerosis but may not be too serious.
I also know that my memory and my lucidity can fade, and re-appear if I look after my health.
The positive I take from this, is that the shadowing, shown by the MRI, is inflammation rather than permanent brain damage.
If this is the case, then the situation can be rectified, simply by fine-tuning my diet. But, how do I know what I should be eating and perhaps equally importantly, what should I not be eating.
We shall return to the diet question later. For now, I wish to talk about exercise. More specifically, brain exercise.
Following discussions with my neurologist or my psychologist, I don’t remember which, we talked about neurological reserve.
Neurological reserve is the spare brain capacity that we all possess but, don’t use fully. I have long considered myself to be an intelligent and intellectual person. However, MS brain fog has somewhat tarnished that opinion.
By stimulating your neurons, you can expand your thinking ability. You can begin to use some of that neurological reserve that is lying idle at the moment.
I digress, talking about brain exercise is detracting from the main thrust of this post which is about mitochondrial health.
Feeding your Mitochondria
To attain optimal health, you must feed your mitochondria. How do you feed your mitochondria? The same way you feed yourself. By eating well and ensuring you give your body a good balance of the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
So, should you be popping all those vitamin pills the TV advertisers are so keen to persuade you to use to maintain your health. Unequivocally not! Vitamin supplements are synthetic vitamins and can’t possibly be as effective as natural vitamins derived from fresh fruit and vegetables.
You can only feed your mitochondria well, if you feed yourself well. Basic food preparation is essential, I know it is easy, too easy to rely on quick ready meals from the supermarket. But, that could be your first mistake.
I have tried to adopt a non-processed food diet as I believe this is part of the solution. Feeding yourself well means not only consuming the right nutrients but also avoiding the wrong nutrients.
It also means avoiding toxins. This may seem self-explanatory but, toxins are all around us. And you are almost certainly ingesting toxins without even knowing it.
Ironically, most foods are toxic, or poisonous, if consumed in sufficient quantity. However, many of those same foods provide essential nutrition. Hence the need for a well-balanced diet.
Many processed foods contain chemicals to add artificial flavour or to preserve them. These chemicals are almost certain to have an adverse effect on the correct functioning of your mitochondria. They are best avoided where ever possible.
Processed food is also high in salt and sugar which is completely unnecessary. Sugars obtained from fruit and vegetables are good sugars. Processed sugars are very bad sugars.
Fresh fruit and vegetables do not need added processed sugar, salt or preservatives. Fresh fruit and vegetables contain natural vitamins and minerals. These are the optimum food source for you and your mitochondria.
The government guidelines that you should consume at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetable every day are one of those government guidelines that appear to have real merit.
Lifting the Brain Fog
Much of this understanding has come from thoroughly studying Dr Terry Wahls book “The Wahls Protocol” and I would strongly urge you to do the same.
Yes, some of the medical explanations are a little difficult to follow, but this book has given me the first real understanding of what might be going on in my multiple sclerosis body.
Dr Terry Wahls teachings along with a number of other educational sources have allowed me to realise the severity of this horrible autoimmune disease. However, it has given me hope that my destiny is very much in my own hands.
As with many moments of awakening, and sudden realisations you are beset with more questions than answers.
I had long known that Multiple Sclerosis was an autoimmune disease. I had long known it was a neurological condition. So, why had I not seen that my cognitive function was going to be so impaired?
The realisation was that the MS brain fog must have been active far earlier than I had been aware. I could not see what Multiple Sclerosis was doing to my brain because of the brain fog. Effectively, I could not see the wood for the trees.
I had not made the connection between a neurological condition and brain impairment. It should have been a glaringly obvious connection. But an MS-addled brain can easily miss the obvious.
What are the Consequences of Dysfunctional Mitochondria
From my perspective, gaining an understanding of the role of mitochondria as the energy source for optimum life was an awakening.
The cellular health of your body is absolutely critical to your overall fitness, happiness and success. Without the energy from your cells, you will not have that vim and vigour you so desperately need for a full and active life.
When I think of all the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis that I have had to contend with, over the years. The mitochondrial explanation suddenly made all the pieces fall into place.
Constant fatigue, brain fog, optic neuritis and bowel and bladder problems. The list is almost endless. It certainly feels that way at times. If your cells cannot produce enough energy, you will not have enough energy.
The moment of realisation was that each and every one of these symptoms could easily be attributed to dysfunctional mitochondria. If you are interested, I have compiled a list of Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms that I am aware of, most first-hand, so that you can decided for yourself.
The unspoken Implications
When I first started posting about the Wahls Protocol, I received a number of angry tweets from people who felt that Dr Wahls was trying to suggest that anyone with MS only had themselves to blame.
This got me thinking; A difficult proposition when you have brain fog. Perhaps my MS was self-inflicted. Perhaps I had been starving my mitochondria, unwittingly, of the essential nutrients that were so vital.
I know that in my misspent youth, I smoked, I drank too much and thought I had the constitution of an Ox. Not the signs of a health-conscious lifestyle. But, despite all the ill-treatment I was forcing my body to endure, I ate fairly well. Or thought I did.
However, Dr Wahls believes that by adopting a Paleo-type diet you can reverse the damage you have done. You can rectify your health if you change your lifestyle.
Being an MS Warrior
What does it mean to be “An MS Warrior”?
How do you fight something you cannot see?
First of all, you do NOT accept that fate has dealt you a lousy hand and that is that. Yes, you have been very unfortunate to develop a chronic illness, but that does not mean you are powerless to change your own prognosis.
Your destiny is in your own hands. It is never too late to take action. You CAN make a difference to your own life.
Roughly two years ago, I was in a dark place. I was in constant pain. With no energy and zero motivation. I had become couch potato, doing absolutely nothing but watching TV and feeling sorry for myself.
I was dabbling on Twitter, when I received a tweet from a lady, somewhere in England. “Had I tried the Wahls Protocol?”
At this stage, I had never heard of it, but somehow, it got me interested. I immediately ordered the book and when I received it, I read it voraciously from cover to cover.
It was like having a light switched on in my dingy world. The book gave me the most elucidating insight of the importance of cellular health. This gave me hope that this could be the answer to all my problems.
Just as the decline into mental murk has been a gradual and imperceptible process. So the awakening from chronic illness will be a slow and determined path to claim your life back.
But, you can do it. I am doing it. It does make a difference.
I began, as Dr Wahls suggests, by cutting out dairy and gluten. It is not easy, I love bread AND cheese. Both are good foodstuffs, but not if you have Multiple Sclerosis.
I then began to make my own smoothies to try and up my intake of vegetables and fruit. I quickly discovered that certain smoothie mixes left me feeling batter and more invigorated than others.
The Health Diet
I have not managed to remove dairy and gluten entirely from my diet. It is very difficult. You find yourself studying the labels of foods very carefully in the supermarket.
While I try to avoid buying any prepared foods, certain ingredients are unavoidable in our modern society.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are fairly easy to find. And it can be a great adventure trying out new foods that I have never heard of before. Especially, when they turn out to be delicious.
I now, regularly buy frozen spinach and frozen green cabbage because these are the foods that seem to invigorate me most. And these, liquidised with fresh pear, make a very tolerable smoothie.
But, if you are going to follow the Wahls Protocol to the last letter, you have to question your butcher about the husbandry of the farm animals to ensure the beef and the lamb are solely grass-fed. It is highly unlikely that your butcher knows about animal welfare.
Remember, you are not only feeding yourself, you are feeding your mitochondria. Think of then as very precious children who must be protected at all times.
Eventually, I will reach a point where I am entirely gluten-free and dairy-free. I look forward to that day because I am confident my health will have improved beyond all measure.