Critical role of mitochondrial and microbiome health

Jade Wallis
Written by Jade Wallis

As a functional nutritionist and a seasoned warrior of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) (M.E) and fibromyalgia, I have a keen interest in understanding the underlying causes of these chronic conditions and how they can be managed and even reversed.

The science around CFS has come a long way since my diagnosis, and through my personal experience, I have successfully managed my fibro and achieved complete remission of my CFS. This has given me hope that others can find relief too. My journey took me through functional medicine, root cause analysis, exploring various areas of research, including biohacking, nutritional science, epigenetics, microbiology, and our circadian rhythm. Along the way, I uncovered compelling evidence on the critical role of mitochondrial health and the microbiome in overall longevity and well-being.

In this article, I will share my favourite topics and explain why the latest scientific research on the microbiome and mitochondria could be a significant piece of the complex puzzle of CFS and fibromyalgia, and how nurturing other key aspects of our health, combined with this new research, can be of hope to all who our suffering from these debilitating conditions.

Addressing Cellular Health

The Mitochondria and the Microbiome:

While I believe that every aspect of health must be addressed to pursue recovery and management of these conditions, I find that focusing on the cellular health of our biology can help us understand the contributing factors that lead to mitochondrial dysfunction and the health of the gut microbiome. These factors may play a crucial role in supporting our patients.

Mitochondria, the Powerhouses of Cellular Health:

Mitochondria are known as the powerhouses of our cells due to their ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) production. Mounting evidence suggests that impaired mitochondrial function, including reduced activity of key enzymes involved in energy production and increased oxidative stress, contributes to symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and cognitive dysfunction.

Individuals with CFS have been found to exhibit elevated pro inflammatory cytokines, which are signaling molecules that play a vital role in the immune system’s response.

This leads me to another favourite topic of mine:

The MicrobiomeAn Intricate Ecosystem.

The microbiome is an incredible ecosystem composed of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea. Although these microorganisms are found throughout the human body, the majority reside in our gut. Recent scientific advancements have highlighted the microbiome’s crucial role in maintaining overall health. It aids in digestion, nutrient absorption, modulation of the immune system, and protection against pathogens. When the microbiome is diverse and the gut’s integrity is healthy, it plays a fundamental role in safeguarding our well-being.

Understanding the Interplay Between Mitochondria and the Microbiome:

The interconnections between dysfunctional mitochondria and gut dysbiosis are becoming increasingly evident. Chronic inflammation, often caused by a toxic environment, unhealthy food choices, and stress, are common precursors to many diseases. The microbiome contributes to chronic inflammation through the lack of keystone species, dysbiosis of harmful bacteria and fungi, and the delicate nature of the gut’s epithelial cells and mucosal layer. The microbiome influences our energy metabolism by extracting nutrients from our diet and producing essential compounds like short-chain fatty acids. Recent research suggests that the microbiome also plays a role in pain perception by producing neurotransmitters and neuromodulators that regulate pain signaling in the nervous system.

Harnessing the Power of Mitochondrial Health and the Microbiome:

Understanding the intricate relationship between mitochondrial function and the gut microbiome is vital for effectively managing CFS and fibromyalgia. Integrating strategies that target both mitochondrial health and the gut microbiome can lead to improved symptom relief and overall well-being.

Diet and NutritionNourishing Mitochondria and the Microbiome

A crucial aspect of supporting mitochondrial health and the microbiome lies in our dietary choices. By focusing on nutrient-dense foods, we can provide the necessary building blocks for optimal cellular function and gut microbial diversity.

Here are some key considerations when it comes to nutrition:

Certain foods and nutrients have been shown to support mitochondrial function and protect against oxidative stress. Including these in our diet can aid in energy production and reduce cellular damage.

  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), found in grass-fed organic beef, organic free-range chicken and pork, wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, is a vital nutrient for mitochondrial health.
  • Antioxidants: Additionally, foods rich in antioxidants, such as leafy greens, olive oil, avocados, blackcurrants, grapes, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds, help combat oxidative stress and promote mitochondrial function.
  • Turmeric, with its anti-inflammatory properties, has also shown promise in supporting both the gut bacteria and mitochondrial health.

Please be advised that farmed fish are to be avoided if possible and organic wild caught should be encouraged.

Nurturing the Microbiome:

A diverse and thriving microbiome is essential for overall health. Consuming a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fermented foods, lean organic proteins, nuts, seeds, and good-quality fats can contribute to a diverse and healthy gut microbiota. Polyphenols found in colourful fruits and vegetables, along with fermented foods, provide nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria. Additionally, including prebiotic-rich foods like garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and Jerusalem artichokes can help feed and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Considerations for the integrity of the gut, dysbiosis and food sensitivities will need to be addressed if persistent gut related symptoms occur while eating certain foods. It is important to keep tracking and assessing if symptoms do arise, this is where professional guidance of a practitioner is advised and testing for these issues will be of benefit.

Reducing Sugar Intake:

Excessive sugar consumption can have detrimental effects on both mitochondrial health and the microbiome. Sugar promotes the growth of pathogenic bacteria and disrupts the balance of the gut microbiota, leading to inflammation, compromised immune function, and decreased nutrient absorption. Limiting intake of refined sugars and opting for natural alternatives like stevia, monk fruit, or small amounts of raw honey can be beneficial for overall health.

Main photo by Badulescu Badulescu