I’m not talking about esoteric energy here, but actual, physical energy that enables our body to do the things it needs to do.
The empirical evidence here was that I had no energy. Plus, I had seen many people struggling with their energy levels both during and post Covid.
Just as when you have The Flu or a bad cold, when you contract a virus like Covid, all the body wants is rest. Most of the time, you find you cannot move or get out of bed. There is a very clear and logical explanation for why this happens.
In my case, it was after I contracted Covid, especially after I arrived back to Canada, that I had days when I had no energy at all. Making a simple meal was too much. Some days I’d be in bed for 10 or 12 hours, unable to get up.
I know that bodily energy, ATP, is produced in the mitochondria of our cells. So, therefore, I also knew that something was going on in this particular part of my body. But what, I needed to find out.
Then I heard someone mention how viruses affect our mitochondria. Infections cause oxidation. The high level of toxicity in the virus floods our cells. I wanted to know more.
A few weeks later, there was an online summit focusing only on The Mitochondria. What were the chances? I was hooked!
As we know, our cells have mitochondria in them which are where we produce cellular and bodily energy. When we have a virus, the mitochondria get burnt out and oxidised/toxic. This causes us to have a lack of energy.
For those who are interested, I’m going to do a deep dive in to the mitochondria because I think it’s so fascinating. For those who just want a remedy, skip down to ‘How to Heal the Mitochondria and re-gain Energy?’
Is a key driver of our metabolism – one of the tests I did to check the status of my health was basal body temperature test first thing in the morning. Anything below 36.6C meant my metabolism was slow. My first result before trying anything was 35.5. What did this mean? My metabolism was slow and my body was in a stress state. So my ‘burnt out mitochondria was putting my body in to a ‘stress state’ and driving down my metabolism.
So, what are the factors that have a direct impact on mitochondrial health?
- Chronic infections. Virus’s such as Epstein Barr, Influenza, chronic mould exposure and now Covid 19. When one is suffering from a chronic infection you cannot activate NRF2, this is the body’s antioxidant defence system, or our immune response to chronic infections. People with infections rarely have any energy.
- Your psychology can affect the mitochondria. There is a whole field of study dedicated to this area called Mitochondria Psychobiology. I intend to do a larger blog on this area. Suffice to say for now, when we experience psychological stress, the mitochondria DNA gets released in to the blood stream, because the stress cause the mitochondria to get so heavily damaged (this is called oxidation). The cell decides that the damage is irreversible and lets it self-destruct to protect the greater organism, the human body. It causes damage to the mitochondria and causes them to shut down.
When I heard this, I was blown away. Who knew that the way we think could have such a profound impact on our cellular energy! I’d heard it, many times, and experienced, but to understand the extent to which stress and thinking affect our health was possibly the big push I needed to work harder on my mind set and the desire to break a lot of the negative conditioning that was already in place.
I was highly stressed not knowing what was happening to me and if I was ever going to get better. I was making my situation worse with my mind. I received a few signals on this and since then it has seemed so obvious to me. It shines a light on the power of prayer and some of the rituals performed in yoga, and the value of how we communicate with ourselves on a daily basis. (Read my blog on Mind-set)
- Exposure to environmental toxins. This is another big subject area and deserves its own blog but we are talking toxins in the everyday products we use in our homes including soaps, detergents, cosmetics and make-up; heavy metal toxicity like mercury, lead, arsenic. People who have overgrowth of certain yeasts or bacteria in the gut, parasites (cause severe toxicity) have a hard time removing heavy metals. This toxicity gets leaked back in to the blood stream and cause the mitochondria to shut down or die off.
- Inflammation. If we have uncontrollable inflammation in the body caused by gut permeability, the food we eat does not get properly absorbed and do not produce nutrients which the mitochondria need to function. Chronic inflammation a big mitochondrial killer!
- Sleep deprivation/ Poor adherence to the Circadian Rhythm – refer to my blog on this subject.
- Over exercise. Over exercising actually slows down the body’s metabolism, and can be a hindrance to losing weight.
- Poor nutrition (a cause of inflammation) – eating processed foods fuels inflammation within hours.
How the Cells Respond
- Either the cells keep pumping energy, or,
- They activate the ‘Cell Danger Response’. When a threat is detected, the mitochondria shut down. They start defending against those threats. E.g. chronic stress wears you out in a day, sleep deprivation causes fatigue.
Low energy at a cellular level will cause you to have low physical energy. The amount of physical energy we have, directly affects the state of our mitochondria and therefore our cellular energy.
So here was the obvious connection between Covid 19 and my extreme fatigue.
This is why when we get sick; the only thing the body wants is rest. Our cells activate a cell danger response and get prepared to defend against attack. In the case of Covid 19, a very lethal virus, the response, can, in some people, be very extreme depending on other factors, such as gut health at the time. However, this is not uncommon in other viruses too including Lyme disease and Epstein Barr. People often have symptoms that last years after having Epstein Barr and never make the connection.
By this point I had two avenues I wanted to understand better:
- How does one heal the mitochondria?
- How do I shift my body from a ‘fight or flight’ (sympathetic nervous system) to one of ‘rest and digest’ (parasympathetic nervous system)?
How to Heal the Mitochondria and re-gain my Energy
- Nutrition – A healthy diet, without processed and inflammatory foods. Processed foods cause inflammation, when inflammation increases the mitochondria shut down and our energy production decreases. It happens within minutes.
- Eliminate Toxins from the Environment – fluoride from water and toothpaste, mercury, arsenic, lead and mould are damaging to the mitochondria. Think about the purity of the water you’re drinking, exposure where you live, mould at home.
- Heal Gut Permeability – ‘leaky gut’ as it is commonly known, causes an increase in the production of lipopolysaccharides, an endotoxin which leaks from the gut in to the blood stream and is linked to many chronic diseases. It damages mitochondria and causes an autoimmune response in the body which causes cells to shut down.
‘Leaky gut’ causes malabsorption of nutrients which are critical for mitochondrial function. Food particles pass through the intestinal wall straight in to the blood stream and become toxins. These then travel to other parts of the body. The body’s systems receive toxins instead of nutrients and this leads to disease over time.
‘Leaky gut’ can be a tough one to treat and may require the help of a trained physician. The modalities I am using are naturopathy and Ayurveda. My naturopath has sent me for quite extensive testing to test the microbiome (bacteria) in the gut and for any parasites.
My Ayurvedic doctor is putting me on a 2 week cleanse to draw and eliminate the toxins from my body and then will continue with a protocol to seal the gut and support liver and adrenal function.
There are certain foods that are particularly aggravating for leaky gut including gluten, sugar, dairy, soy. For a more comprehensive case study, it is best to speak to a practitioner directly.
- Adhere to the Circadian Rhythm of the Body – when we eat and when we sleep is directly linked to melatonin production in the body. Melatonin is the hormone that we produce at night time in order for us to be able to sleep. It is, in affect the ‘sleep hormone’.
Melatonin is also the most potent antioxidant for the mitochondria. Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent, reverse or delay some types of cell damage. Melatonin penetrates and protects the mitochondria; it interacts with the mitochondrial system.
In the modern world, we produce 50% less melatonin than what we should be. So, how do you enhance/increase melatonin production?
- Block out artificial light at least an hour before bed.
- Wear blue/green light blocker glasses in the evening and when using a computer or mobile phone close to bed time.
- Have good sleep habits (see separate blog on sleep)
- Maintain optimal circadian rhythm habits like eating and sleeping at the right times.
- Supplement with NAD Plus.
- Work on you mental health – as mentioned above, psychology is key to mitochondrial health. Spend time noticing what kind of thoughts go through your head. What’s the conditioning of your mind? What is at the forefront of your life? What are your struggles/conflicts/anxieties? What are your pressure points at the moment? What is your perception of the world? Take some time to think about these and see how you can best address any negativity and unhelpful conditioning.
- Consider other gut pathology – there may be other bacteria and yeasts which are causing post Covid symptoms which will have an impact on energy and healing. If you are having symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, bloating and gas then you probably want to speak with a Naturopath or Functional Medicine Doctor who can advise or do some tests to see what might be the underlying problem.
A simple remedy to support immunity and bacterial overgrowth in your gut may do. In my case, as I have long standing gut issues, further testing was needed. I await those results.
- Shift the nervous system in to a parasympathetic state – see my post on Stress.
- Actively build mitochondria with Hormetic Stressors – Hormetic stressors (known as ‘good’ stressors) reverse the ageing process. Between the ages of 20-60, we lose half our mitochondrial capacity. This is the ageing process. Hormetic Stressors, combined with eliminating sources of stress, can actively build the mitochondria. How desperate are you to know what they are?!
- Cold exposure – done correctly it rejuvenates the cells. Start slowly and build up. One of the first things I did to try to get my energy back is take a cold shower after my normal shower and build up the time I spent there every day. The premise is that if the mitochondria are functioning properly, they can produce the heat needed to withstand the cold. It also spurs them in to action.
Exercise caution when doing this, as if you are really struggling to produce bodily heat, this may cause added pressure to the system. If the body is stuck in a sympathetic nervous state, work on taking it in to a parasympathetic first.
I found building up the time I spent in a cold shower very helpful. However, whilst I have been detoxing my system (currently on it), my Ayurvedic practitioner said to avoid extreme cold. So I stopped cold showers at this point. Part of the point of my cleanse is to bring my body ‘heat’ down (an ayurvedic concept), and I noticed that my body temperature has started falling during it.
Also, all the bodily energy is now focused on healing, and I imagine that extreme cold would take energy away from healing in to keeping the body warm. In effect, as I’m not doing anything strenuous, my mitochondria are having a complete break.
- Fasting – this is a whole separate area, one I am not an expert in, but the premise is that resting from eating allow the cells to perform autophagy, this is the process by which instead of lingering in the body, the dead cells get eaten up by the good cells, kind of like a clear out, so that there isn’t the negative response created when there are a whole load of toxic mitochondria circulating in the system.
- Phytonutrients – foods that have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties like fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices. Probably the most widely reported of which is the active compound of turmeric, curcumin. But there are many such foods around.
- Saunas – especially Infrared, have an amazing healing effect on the body. Not much chance of me having one right now during the pandemic, but if you can then go for it! I have actually considered building my own.
- Regular exercise – the best time of exercise is high intensity as it increases the body’s natural production of human growth hormone. HGH is important in cell regeneration and production. The exercise should be short intensive spurts to maximum exertion. You should build up to it otherwise you risk injury.
Exercise caution here as you want to be sure there is no other organ damage caused by Covid 19. Get clearance from your physician before getting back on it. And then build it up slowly, noticing how your body responds. For me, I’ve been working on walking so far. I tried doing HIIT workouts at the beginning but I noticed I’d be popped. I have yet to try short spurts. For now the walking keeps my heart rate slightly elevated at times, and that’s enough for the moment until I’ve worked some of the other stuff out like gut issues, massive for me.
So, I think there’s enough there to be getting on with. Making these changes to your life and adopting overall healthy habits will have a huge impact on your mitochondrial, and overall, energy.
One last and very important point. It’s extremely important to listen to your body when doing any of the above. If it doesn’t feel right to you, then listen to that. Stop, and wait until the system is a bit stronger, addressing some of the other points first.
If you need further advice, please email me on Vaneeta@yogalogic.co.uk.
The above is not intended to replace medical advice. Please do your own research and consult with a practitioner where necessary.