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Low on Energy? Time to Support Your Mighty Mitochondria {Women’s Wellness GUEST Series}

Low on Energy? Fix Your Mitochondria to Fix Your Health

This post is from guest writer Lori Valentine Rose, PhD, CNP, BCHN, FDN-P, RH (AHG), NBC-HWC of Lori Rose Holistic

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.

Katie here, popping in with some personal notes! I’m sooooo excited about this series because I have a lot of learning to do. I’ve used Natural Family Planning (NFP) for almost 15 years now, so I know a lot more about my cycles than many women. And I know they’re messed up! Tracking my period, however, has helped me figure out why I have continuous and sometimes yellow, sticky mucus.

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 eliminating and draining toxins
  • 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 support drainage pathways)

How to Improve your Mitochondria for Overall Health

getting healthy by laying the foundation for balancing hormones

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:

  1. Making the mitochondria you do have function more efficiently.
  2. 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:

getting up early to go to work used 1 13

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
  • Barbiturates
  • PAHs from burned protein (no more blackened meat)
  • Cyanide
  • 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)
Need some help balancing your hormones so you can have glowing skin, deeper sleep, and healthy digestion? Get into this course by my friends at mindbodygreen and start your journey to balanced hormones today!

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:

add in
  • 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, almonds (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!), 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, cashews (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!), almonds (also topical magnesium (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!) can be helpful, found at Perfect Supplements with the code KS10 for 10% off or at Amazon.)
  • 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, walnuts (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!), 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.


Want to download and print all our women’s health support lists?

We have printable resources for:

  • how to align with your monthly cycle
  • best foods to balance your blood sugar
  • increase energy by supporting your mitochondria and balancing your hormones
  • support your adrenals
  • how to gently detox your liver

We’ll send all these resources to you right away so you can achieve better health and well-being!

Step 2: Increasing the Number of Mitochondria

Blueberries for mitochondrial health

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?

Farm Fresh Eggs

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.

Natural Remedies to Common Female Infections

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.

Are you ready to get those hormones balanced?!

See all the posts in this series HERE.

Lori Valentine Rose, PhD, is a college biology and nutrition instructor, board certified nutrition professional and holistic nutrition consultant, and clinical herbalist.NANP Member - Lori Rose, Women's Wellness SeriesLori Valentine Rose, PhD, CNP, BCHN, FDN-P, RH (AHG), NBC-HWC 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!


NANP Member - Lori Rose, Women's Wellness Series


Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

6 thoughts on “Low on Energy? Time to Support Your Mighty Mitochondria {Women’s Wellness GUEST Series}”

  1. Katie, I’m very excited about your posts on hormone rebalancing! I was just talking to a friend at lunch about the one week train wreck I experience every month when I’m having my period. I’ve been on a long journey with gut issues, then adrenal, then thyroid. Right now my hormones are out of wack & I have heart palpitations that are driving me nuts! My solution, which is not possible, is to put myself into a self induced coma for 5 days until it’s all over. I’m so glad you are giving my a real alternative! Looking forward to taking care of my mitochondria! This is one link I have yet to explore. I’ve worked on detox, liver, gut, etc. but not this. Thank you!!!!!

    1. That’s great Tracy! I hope this helps for you. I just had all my hormone levels tested and will take progesterone pills for just the part of my cycle between ovulation + 3 days and menstruation; it’s supposed to even out PMS symptoms and period weirdness. I’m hoping it helps – that might be something to ask your doc about too, getting your actual levels checked to see what’s going nuts on you.

  2. I love this series! However, laundry lists of healthy foods like this drive me nuts. I think I’ll skip to step four and focus on shorter lists during each phase.

    1. Hi Andrea, I’m glad you’re going to focus on the shorter lists that will work for you! Those long lists of healthy foods can be kind of overwhelming, but as long as we’re eating a varied diet full of vegetables and nutrient dense foods hopefully we’re getting enough of what we need. I usually skim through those long lists and make note of anything that I don’t have regularly and try to work it in more often.
      -Laura @Kitchen Stewardship

      1. Lori Rose Holistic

        That’s great advice. Another reason for the long lists is sometimes people feel like eating healthy is restrictive, and I want everyone to know that healthy eating is really ABUNDANT! =)

  3. Great advice–easier said than done for me!

    I was a little distracted when reading it because with all the talk about mitochondria, I kept thinking about Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time :).

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