Are you ready to start balancing your hormones by moving up the branches of the wellness tree?
The first step to beat back PMS and make your femininity work for you is to optimize your mitochondria, and this is actually the most important foundation for overall health, no matter what health issue you need to improve – especially if you feel fatigued, low on energy, stressed out, have digestive issues or feel like you get sick all the time (with normal germs).
Many modalities of healing, including allopathic medicine and even holistic nutrition and herbalism, ignore the mitochondria. However, biologically speaking, if your mitochondria aren’t functioning, then none of your body is functioning.
I’ve never had fertility issues (see 4 kids, exhibit A) but I’ve had cycles as long as 54 days, super long menstruation (9 days!), breakthrough bleeding, and some other signs that make NFP symptom tracking TOUGH. I firmly believe NFP is the best family planning method for couples, both from a faith and health perspective, and my hope is that this series can not only help ME be a healthier person and better wife, but that it’s something to share far and wide with NFP couples everywhere.
Thank you so much, Lori, for sharing your wisdom and experience with us all!! I’m printing up the info to best figure out how to apply it to my life, week by week, and month by month.
Why are Mitochondria Important to Overall Health?
The mitochondria have the job of turning your food into the body’s energy source: ATP.
ATP is the fuel that allows all other processes in your body to occur, including
- your heart beating
- your liver detoxing
- your immune system fighting and healing
- and your hormones balancing
Without the mitochondria’s ATP, the rest of your body just can’t perform optimally. In fact, your mitochondria need to produce about 60% of your body weight in ATP EVERY DAY in order to avoid fatigue and disease!
All those processes mean that mitochondria could be the root source of grief in all these areas:
- fatigue/stressed out
- digestive issues (because you need mitochondria to make enzymes)
- immune system strength (get sick all the time)
- estrogen dominance
- build-up of toxins, allergens, excess hormones, waste products (because you need mitochondria to detox)
How to Improve your Mitochondria for Overall Health
Even though it sounds really out of reach like just another vocabulary word you had to memorize in high school, you can have an impact on your mitochondrial health.
Not only can you ensure that your mitochondria are functioning the most efficiently, but you can also INCREASE the number of mitochondria your body has working for it! How cool is that?!
Let’s break this down into two steps:
- Making the mitochondria you do have function more efficiently.
- Increasing the number of mitochondria in your body.
Step 1: More efficient Mitochondria
For this first step, we need to address both
- what decreases the function of your mitochondria and
- what we can do to increase mitochondrial function
We will of course want to do less of the former while focusing on the latter.
Now, this is where you, being readers of Kitchen Stewardship, are going to really be ahead of the game (but it’s not a competition, y’all).
Don’t Harm Your Mitochondria
Negative mitochondrial habits that you need to avoid/decrease include:
- Additives in processed food
- Pesticides and herbicides in conventionally raised vegetables
- Antibiotics and hormones in conventionally raised animals
- Gut flora imbalance
- Trans-fats from fried and processed foods
You guys have got this already!
If you’re more of a rookie, still baby-stepping along, that’s ok! For a little leg up, try these resources:
- Better Than a Box to avoid processed food
- Our favorite “unprocessed” recipe – Dad’s Cheeseburger Helper
- What does it mean to heal your gut?
- How to avoid pesticides in produce
- Finding consciously raised meat and fish and cheese and butter
- Key steps to gut healing (getting your gut flora in balance)
- Cutting trans fats (although hallelujah, the FDA is finally getting rid of them completely! But there are still other yucky processed fats to watch out for, like interesterified fats and industrially processed high-omega-6 fats.)
Other things to try to avoid because they actually turn OFF the function of your mitochondria, and therefore your healing and hormone balance, include:
- Calorie-cutting and meal skipping (that’s right! No more restrictive eating!)
- Statins and red yeast rice (both decrease CoQ10, an antioxidant required for mitochondria to work)
- Stress (Whoops! Stress turns Vitamin B5 into cortisol instead of mitochondrial CoQ10)
- Lack of sleep (Uh oh!)
- Negative thoughts (Can you believe this?! Our bodies actually decrease mitochondria in response to negativity!).
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (they stop the proton pumps used to make energy in the mitochondria)
- Heavy metals
- PAHs from burned protein (no more blackened meat)
- Chemotherapy (disclaimer: if you have to have chemo, make sure and work all of the other mitochondrial supporting activities into your healing plan to off-set the negative effects of chemo on mitochondria)
What to Eat to Help Your Mitochondria
Now for the ingredients to ADD in the first step.
Mitochondria require certain key nutrients to complete the lengthy process of turning our food into energy. Luckily, we know what these nutrients are, and there is a list of foods that you can eat every day in order to get them:
- Vitamin B1: asparagus, sunflower seeds, green peas, flaxseeds, brussels sprouts, beet greens, spinach, cabbage, eggplant, mushrooms, sesame seeds, peanuts, tuna
- Vitamin B2: spinach, beet greens, mushrooms, asparagus, sea veggies, eggs, broccoli, swiss chard, green beans, bok choy, turnip greens, kale, mustard greens, bell peppers, yogurt, , turkey, green peas
- Vitamin B3: tuna, chicken, turkey, mushrooms, salmon, beef, asparagus, tomatoes, bell peppers, shrimp, sunflower seeds, peas, carrots, cantaloupe, collard greens
- Vitamin B5: mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, beet greens, asparagus, turnip greens, bell peppers, cucumber, celery, avocado, peas, chicken, turkey, yogurt, salmon, beef, eggs, shrimp
- Vitamin B6: tuna, spinach, cabbage, bok choy, bell peppers, turnip greens, garlic, cauliflowers, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, banana, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collard greens, beet greens, kale, carrots, swiss chard, asparagus, mustard greens
- Vitamin B12: clean, grass-fed, pastured animal products (if you are vegan or vegetarian, make sure that the first thing you do is get on a B12 supplement!)
- Magnesium: spinach, swiss chard, beet greens, pumpkin seeds, squash, turnip greens, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, Perfect Supplements with the code KS10 for 10% off or at Amazon.) , almonds (also can be helpful, found at
- Iron: clean animal products, spinach, swiss chard, cumin, parsley, turmeric, beet greens, collard greens, bok choy, asparagus, mustard greens, turnip greens, leeks, chili peppers, sesame seeds, olives
- Chlorophyll: anything green, spirulina powder, chlorella powder
- Sulfur: grass-fed meat, pastured chicken, turkey, buffalo, turkey, organ meats, eggs, grass-fed dairy, almonds, coconut, walnut, pistachio, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sea food, cashews, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, onions, garlic, cauliflower, cabbage
- Copper: sesame, cashews, mushrooms, beet greens, turnip greens, spinach, asparagus, swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, squash, sunflower seeds, , pumpkin seeds, olives
- Phosphorus: scallops, cod, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, salmon, tuna, shrimp, turkey, chicken, beef, yogurt, peas, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, beet greens, mustard greens, brussels sprouts
- Co-Q-10: clean meats, nuts, seeds, oils, sulfurous vegetables from above, orange, strawberry
Antioxidants like Vitamin C help preserve the antioxidants required for the mitochondria to function. Colorful berries every day, and adding herbs and spices to every meal is another great way to get those anti-oxidant levels up to mitochondrial levels!
Essential fatty acids provide the nutrients needed to make the membrane of the mitochondria where all the energy magic happens. If you have been following the flawed low-fat diet recommendations, you can start adding some whole-food fats back in!
Healthy fat includes whole fat raw grass fed organic dairy and meat, avocado, nuts, seeds, unheated oils-olive, almond, walnut, coconut and coconut oil, olives, and nut butters with no sugar added. Try to decrease anything with vegetable oil, corn oil, soy oil, canola oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil in the ingredients.
PS. – In case you’re on mobile, I know viewing PDFs can be a pain and printing them doesn’t work, so I’ll send it to your inbox as well for later.
Step 2: Increasing the Number of Mitochondria
The following have been shown to increase the number of mitochondria in the body:
- Exercise: when we move, it tells our bodies that we need to make energy and so our bodies start creating more of those ATP making machines! However, more exercise isn’t better as I explain here.
- Amino acids arginine, carnitine, and lysine: from clean, grass-fed, pastured protein products (Natural protein powder reviews here and if you don’t have a local source for grassfed/pastured meats, try ButcherBox)
- Resveratrol: red grapes, Japanese knotweed herb, blueberries, peanuts, dark chocolate, mulberries (in supplement form at Perfect Supplements, use KS10 for 10% off)
- Quercetin: capers, onion (including the peels…leave those babies in when you make bone broth!), apples (in the peels), leafy greens, tomatoes, berries, broccoli
- Biotin (B7): almonds, sweet potatoes, eggs, almonds, oats, tomatoes, peanuts, carrots, walnuts, salmon
Is Food Enough?
Unfortunately, a lot of these nutrients can’t be obtained in the required amounts for healing from food alone.
The modern way we grow our food has depleted many trace minerals from the soil, and our overly busy lives have put more of an antioxidant demand on our bodies than ever before.
Therefore, there are certain nutrients that it helps to obtain from supplements in addition to a whole-food approach that incorporates the above foods.
In my opinion the supplements really are necessary to optimize your mitochondria and I take them myself. Some of the mitochondrial support supplements are practitioner-only grade, so you won’t be able to find them without working with an herbalist or certified nutrition counselor. I have set up a discount for KS readers; find instructions for ordering here.
Legal Disclaimer: many medical conditions and medications interfere with supplements and herbs in a strange way. Always consult your physician before adding herbs and supplements to your daily routine, especially if you are already on a medication, if you are pregnant, or if you are nursing.
My friend Wardee over at Traditional Cooking School is offering a new resource for women’s health that you can claim for FREE.
You’ll get lots of info about the superfoods, essential oils, and simple, natural remedies that can heal urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections… naturally!
One More Ingredient to Improving Health
I just think that it’s so amazing that with the right lifestyle changes (stress management, sleep, and positive thoughts), proper food (including the above foods as much as possible), and supplements we can give our body what it needs to create the most energy possible to heal as efficiently as possible. I just love biology!
If you are excited about the possibility of feeling better but you still doubt that it will work, read this to see how hope and belief are really the most important ingredients to any healing process!
And now that you have started the first step for hormone balancing, don’t forget to watch next Tuesday for step #2: blood sugar balance.
Lori Valentine Rose, PhD, is a college biology and nutrition instructor, board certified nutrition professional and holistic nutrition consultant, clinical herbalist, wife, mother, organic vegetable, fruit, and medicinal herb gardener, school garden planter, city class teacher, and passionate Zumba dancer! She loves spreading love and light, and helping others feel awesome on the inside and out so they can live their dreams and make this world more awesome! Lori Rose Holistic does not replace medical advice or working with your doctor, and she does not diagnose, treat, or cure disease. Her goal is to educate, and any actions you take are voluntary and of your own free will. Check out her blog or follow her on Facebook to learn more about holistic ways to support your body’s healing from chronic health issues! You can also take her FREE Simple Healthy Choices Course to learn simple steps that have a huge impact on your health!
LET’S GET YOU FEELING AWESOME SO YOU CAN DO AWESOME!!!