What actually are they and why are they so important?

Mitochondria are known as the ‘powerhouses’ of the cell. They are structures in every cell that make energy (ATP) by using oxygen and nutrients from food. This process is called cellular respiration and many of the reactions involved in cellular respiration occur in the mitochondria.

An unusual fact about mitochondria is that they have their own DNA and ribosomes (ribosomes manufacture proteins) floating in their inner matrix.Mitochondria are critical organelles that enable us to maintain a healthy body by enabling our cells to function optimally.

The cells in the brain, heart, nerves, muscles and organs all have higher concentrations of mitochondria. These parts of the body are also more susceptible to a premature decline in function caused by a host of common insults. Harmful food choices can contribute to this decline, leading to poor health and chronic illness.

Healthy mitochondria are pivotal for cellular survival, overall vitality and graceful aging. When the mitochondria are working well, they help to reduce fatigue, pain and cognitive problems while supporting muscle mass and burning excess fat. This all means that a person feels better, thinks more clearly and has less aches and stiffness, all while improving body composition. Research also shows that eating certain foods can reduce the production of free radicals—molecules that break up bonds between other molecules in a process called oxidative stress. At the same time, cellular energy production is fuelled when a person is eating nutrient-dense, high-quality foods. It is also important to consider how much to eat, how often to eat and how to cook your food.

Damage to the mitochondria can be the result of eating foods that encourage generalised inflammation and pain.

Creation of energy in the mitochondria is dependent on adequate supply of the right macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates), along with a generous supply of B vitamins, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and antioxidants.
Phytonutrient-rich vegetables and fruits supply many of these nutrients, yet few people eat enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis to get adequate levels. Adequate consumption of dietary fats and oils can influence the function and performance of the mitochondria; these fats impact the quality of the inner membrane of the mitochondria, which is where the final steps of cellular energy production involving the coenzyme adenosine triphosphate (ATP) occur.


  • Mitochondria generate and consume the body’s weight in ATP every day
  • A resting human brain goes through nearly 6 kilograms of ATP molecules per day

It is important to understand that when pathogens, such as parasites, viruses or bacteria or toxic matter e.g. mould or amalgam fillings build up in the body, it may lead to chronic illness and it is these burdens that need to be reduced or removed in order to start the healing process.
If we do not have an adequate amount of healthy mitochondria to support our body we will begin to feel tired and may have chronic fatigue symptoms.

So aiming to lower pathogen and toxic loads and increasing the amount of healthy mitochondria are important factors for improving health on a cellular level

What if fatigue goes past just general feelings of tiredness?

  • Perhaps you’ve experienced the following symptoms:
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of memory
  • Unrestful sleep
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue and or extreme exhaustion
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

The above symptoms are those of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This is where you are experienceing excessive fatigue without a known root cause.

If you are suffering from chronic fatigue you do not see an improvement in symptoms with rest, but may see a worsening in your fatigue with activity.

When energy production is decreased within a cell, as happens with ageing, evidence suggests this can lead to chronic disease.

While it is unclear if it is indeed the main cause, mitochondrial dysfunction has been found to be an immediate source of chronic fatigue symptoms.

How can you improve mitochondrial function?

1. Eat a nutrient rich diet
Eating a diet full of processed foods and refined sugars causes inflammation in the body and it is this inflammation that can lead to oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, so improving your diet by eating anti-inflammatory foods will reduce the risk of chronic health problems.

Eat plenty of nutrient rich vegetables, herbs and fruit in multiple colours. (If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you will have seen my posts on ‘Eating the Rainbow’ – there is lots of great advice here). The different colours provide multiple benefits and are also full of important vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.
Include healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oi, MCT oils, grass-fed butter and organic free-range eggs. If you eat meat, choosing grass-fed beef, wild salmon and free -range organic chickens are all advisable.

  • Supportive nutrients include:
  • Co-enzyme Q10
  • B Vitamins
  • Magnesium
  • Essential Fatty Acids
  • Carnitine

Always seek advice from a Health Professional before taking additional supplements

2. Exercise
Regular exercise increases mitochondrial density. Aerobic exercise in particular is advisable and a sedentary lifestyle can be harmful.

3. Sleep
Unfortunately, people suffering with mitochondrial problems will often experience fatigue and therefore addressing how you sleep and aiming for approximately 8 hours a night is crucial. If you do suffer with sleep disorders, don’t ignore it as it must be addressed. Speak to your doctor or health advisor for recommendations.

4. Detoxification
It is important to detoxify in a safe manner in order to not put too much burden on to your body. If appropriate some techniques to open your drainage pathways are dry skin brushing to support the lymphatic system and rebounding – I bought a rebounder (a small trampoline) during lockdown which is not only great fun, it gets the lymphatic system flowing which helps move impurities through your system faster.
Your lymphatic system is part of your immune system and toxins and bacteria etc that gather in lymph fluid need to be flushed out and unlike blood circulation, which has an active pump, the lymphatic system needs help.

How can I help?

I use a heart rate variability machine to test my clients who are suffering from fatigue.
By making nutrition and lifestyle changes I may then offer particular supplement protocols to heal the gut and boost the mitochondria to start the process of repair, recovery and full health.
Check out my Energy page on this website

If this blog has got you thinking more about your general health, weight loss, immunity or gut health I would be delighted to talk to you about how I can help.

Check out the link below for a free 20 minute consultation or send me an email at: info@suzannahjacksonnutrition.co.uk

I am a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist and can work with you to create a plan specific to your body’s needs and your personal health and fitness goals.