The Mitochondria – the energy factories of the cell

Posted by Melissa Callaghan on

The Cell is the building block of all living things.

Cells get together in a group to function as tissue and then tissues get together to function as organs to perform specific functions of the body eg heart, liver etc. It can be hard to imagine how many cells there are in the body. There are trillions. Most cells have mitochondria inside them and the mitochondria’s function is to produce energy. Even though the organisation and structure of the body can be seen easily, the ability for body to operate boils down to something we can’t see. The function of the cells and the components inside the cell. Which is why they need to be taken care of.

The easiest way to understand the importance of the mitochondria is to think of it like the digestive system of the cell. It takes in nutrients…breaks it down…and creates energy rich molecules for the cell to use so it can do its job. When something goes wrong with the mitochondria it effects the production of energy for the cells.

Some cells have thousands of mitochondria and some have none. Muscle cells need a lot of energy and therefore have lots of mitochondria whereas neurons don’t need any.

When something goes wrong with the Mitochondria it is called mitochondrial dysfunction and it can happen at any age and at a young age effecting development.

Signs of early onset mitochondrial dysfunction include:

- Delays in movement that uses the large muscles eg arms, legs & torso (crawling, walking, running, climbing, jumping)
- Delays in growth and failure to thrive
- Low muscle tone
- Extreme fatigue
- Inability to regulate temperature
- Autistic symptoms

As we grow it can be seen in other signs including:

- Muscle weakness
- Exercise intolerance
- Breathlessness
- Headaches
- Heart failure or rhythm disturbances
- Dementia
- Movement disorders
- Deafness
- Blindness
- Droopy eyelids
- Limited mobility of the eyes
- Vomiting
- Seizures

Most of these signs are usually occurring prior to the age of 20.
The biggest questions is? How easy is it for the mitochondria to malfunction?

In this day and age…VERY EASY

Environmental toxins:

- Pollution
- Industrial chemicals
- Cigarette smoke
- UV radiation


- Deficiency in vitamins
- Deficiency in minerals
- High trans fats
- High sugars
- Burnt or processed meats

In the beginning the damage may only be small, however, mitochondria are self-replicating therefore if one is damaged it replicates a damaged one which then gets damaged and then it replicates another more damaged one which then gets damaged and then… you get what I mean.

There are several related conditions that are now beginning to be connected with mitochondrial dysfunction. There is not enough evidence as yet to say that it causes these conditions, there is just a high prevalence of this dysfunction associated with these conditions.

They include:

- Chronic fatigue
- Fibromyalgia
- Autism spectrum
- Mental health conditions
- Parkinson’s
- Alzheimer’s
- Type 2 diabetes
- Insulin resistance
- Cancer
- Heart disease

There are certainly steps that can be taken to take care and support the mitochondria and this can begin no matter how far along the damage is, starting with improving gut health, nutrient absorption, and reducing inflammation.

Who am I?

I am a Bachelor qualified Naturopath who specialises in improving metabolic processes in the body. Major areas for improvement include gut, thyroid, kidney, skin and liver health. Conditions such as hypothyroidism, fatty liver, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, & irritable bowel conditions. I help my patients by giving them symptomatic relief while working on repairing the underlying causes of metabolic stress and waste accumulation. Patients experience amazing results which are seen in their blood tests with improved thyroid markers, cholesterol, and liver markers.  As well as lower blood pressure and see relief from improved gastrointestinal symptoms like the ones that mean you need to know where every single toilet is before you leave the house.

Melissa Callaghan ND, BHSc, BTeach
Clinical Naturopath


To book an appointment click here 


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