The Magic Of Our Mitochondria
Let me remind you of my description of phytonutrients because it helps our understanding of what follows:. There is also a video on my site here.
Phytonutrients can be thought of as tiny super-heroes that we get from eating plants. Imagine these super-heroes all with different superpowers scooting around fixing, supporting and tuning things. Some even transform themselves into different forms in order to do more stuff for us or some create or wake up our inbuilt superheroes to amplify and broaden their actions.
Have you heard of Lymph (no relation to nymphs)?
Lymph (from Latin, lympha, meaning "water") is the fluid that flows through the lymphatic system, a system composed of lymph vessels (channels) and intervening lymph nodes whose function, like the venous system, is to return fluid from the tissues to the central circulation. At the origin of the fluid-return process, interstitial fluid (the fluid between the cells in all body tissues) enters the lymph capillaries. This lymphatic fluid is then transported via progressively larger lymphatic vessels through lymph nodes, where substances are removed by tissue lymphocytes and circulating lymphocytes are added to the fluid, before emptying ultimately into the right or the left subclavian vein, where it mixes with central venous blood.
Because it is derived from interstitial fluid, with which blood and surrounding cells continually exchange substances, lymph undergoes continual change in composition. It is generally similar to blood plasma, which is the fluid component of blood. Lymph returns proteins and excess interstitial fluid to the bloodstream. Lymph also transports fats from the digestive system (beginning in the lacteals) to the blood via chylomicrons.
Bacteria may enter the lymph channels and be transported to lymph nodes, where the bacteria are destroyed. Metastatic cancer cells can also be transported via lymph.
... from the Wikipedia entry which I recommend visiting if any of the words above are meaningless to you but you want to know more.
Phytonutrients, Super-Heroes and their Super Powers
So when we eat phytonutrient-rich foods (wild foods, particularly), the super-heroes get from our digestive system into our bloodstream, lymph channels, our cells even into the mitochondria inside most of our cells.
Mitochondria are cellular organelles and there might be a few hundred to a few hundred thousand in some cells. You might remember learning about our mitochondria in science classes in high school.
Their claim to fame is that their origin in our evolution was as separate micro-organisms that our early cells 'swallowed' whole and kept them that way. Mitochondria have their own independent DNA and are effectively an organism living within another organism for mutual advantage (symbiosis).
I know. Knowing all about your mitochondria is a little like being grateful that you learned all about algebra or trigonometry in school instead of how to make a relationship really work long term; or how to run a business; or fill in your tax return. But stick with me. More will be revealed.
I do recommend that you check out the Wiki entry for mitochondria which will give you an understanding and appreciation of just how good nutrition translates into real health and how important our mitochondria are for us.
In addition to supplying cellular energy, mitochondria are involved in other tasks, such as cellular communication, cellular differentiation, and cell death, as well as maintaining control of the cell cycle and cell growth. They also regulate the storage and release of calcium within our cells (not the calculi or deposited calcium we see in our soft tissues from too much calcium in our diet or from supplements) as calcium is way more than just a structural element in our teeth and bones.
So let me ask you: How are your mitochondria doing?
Did you know that no pharmaceutical of synthetic vitamin or mineral supplement gets screened for its negative effects on our mitochondria? Even drugs that are prescribed long term like aspirin, statins and Metformin are all damaging to our mission-critical, cellular organelles.
Or that apoptosis (the 2nd 'p' is silent) which is programmed cell death or cell suicide is governed by our mitochondria?
Apoptosis is when individual cells die for the greater good of the body as a whole. Cancer cells are non-apoptopic like those politicians in parties who just don't care about what's right and won't move on when they should.
If anyone has ever mentioned chronic fatigue as a possible condition that you or they are suffering, it is probably due to poorly functioning or badly stimulated mitochondria.
Before I discovered the root cause of the problems I suffered, I would often feel low on energy and the battle with fatigue was constant and frustrating. I presumed it was over-working and the long hours my business demanded when I started out. It seemed like there were too many tasks still to do at the end of every day. I had a saying back then; "If you can work 24 hours a day, why not 25?" Yep. Burning the candle at both ends and in the middle too, just wasn't smart.
This was made even worse because of the fog in my head. It was like living in ham and pea soup where every task was backed by an infinite number of inputs and possibilities. You might know the feeling.
It seemed as though my whole life was in overwhelm and I just couldn't nail those tasks I had on my to-do list. And the list just kept on growing.
I thought I was eating well and cooked dinner at home with fresh, organically grown produce. Breakfast was the (so-called) healthy muesli and cow's milk; or eggs and toast; or pancakes I'd make and top with butter and jam or honey and sour cream (yum!). Lunch was more often a takeaway and cost around $10 a day for a very tasty mix of Maillard products (toasted roasted notes), fats, empty calories and not much else. Addictive but nutritionally worthless.
It wasn't obvious to me back then (this is the 2 decades up to late 2020) that dieticians and nutritionists and doctors and pharmaceutical companies had even less awareness of the falling qualities of modern foods and the equally worthless nature of the chemical supplements they all recommended.
I was part of a small group of nutritional scientists across the planet who maintained that modern foods were not the answer to good nutrition and the attributes of seemingly healthy fats, proteins, carbs and fibre, along with a handful of vitamins were not cutting the mustard. And it gets even more basic than this. As atmospheric CO2 rises, every plant leaf makes more sugars and other carbs at the expense of proteins, minerals and other phytonutrients. In the developing world where plant-based diets are a crucial source of protein, it has been estimated that by 2050, 150 million people could be at risk of protein deficiency. A loss of zinc could put 138 million people at risk and more than a billion mothers and 354 million children live in countries where dietary iron is predicted to drop significantly with anemia becoming more of a public health problem.
In the developed world, metabolic syndrome conditions eg obesity, gout, hypertension, fatty liver and cardiovascular diseases would become more common. These and other problems are a result of Hidden Hunger.
It becomes more insidious when we look to our important plant pollinators.
As bee pollen falls in protein content as the bees feed on nectars that are getting sweeter from more bad sugar and lower in amino acids, we can add a nutritional threat to the already rampant problem of toxic agrichemicals against the bee pollinators of our major plant crops.
This all makes warm and fuzzy, plant-based processed foods just more modern luxuries that are potentially not worth eating.
Oddly, I am still a lone voice in using the terms good and bad sugars in similar ways to which good and bad fats are promoted. We should not vilify all sugars as bad for us when so many are core elements in antioxidants, cell wall coatings, our skin and the way skin cells communicate to stay hydrated, soft and flexible; in Maillard products (which make food desirable); and in other functional compounds.
Glucose is a good sugar that fuels of mitochondria to do their thing in terms of the energy molecule (ATP) production and this means tissues with high concentrations of mitochondria depend on the glucose supply from food we eat. This can be glucose directly consumed of glucose we make ourselves from non-carbohydrate food components (gluconeogenesis).
Want to know why I call fructose or fruit sugar a bad sugar? Check out this post on the intimate details about this natural super-sweet card. It's not all sweetness and light.
Let me know if I am writing about issues that matter to you or if you would like more of any specific topic to do with health, nutrition or weight loss.
I really wanted to present more on mitochondria because according to one theory of ageing, growing old and suffering the many diseases that come with ageing is caused by a slow deterioration in the quality and number of our mitochondria. It has much to do with the free radicals formed as our organelles do their things and is an explanation as to why consistent consumption of wild foods and their phytonutrients help to slow ageing so well.