Did you know that thyroid hormones act directly on the mitochondria? As a matter of fact, people with hypothyroid conditions consume oxygen more slowly because the mitochondria “breathe” slowly. On the other hand, those with hyperthyroid conditions consume oxygen faster because the mitochondria consume oxygen faster. Mitochondria generate all the energy our body needs and are essential for turning the fat we eat into valuable energy. They also manufacture all of the steroid hormones produced by the adrenals, and act as gatekeepers for pregnenolone production — the “mother hormone” needed to make other adrenal hormones, including cortisol. When our mitochondria are damaged or impaired, it can cause a significant drop off in adrenal hormone production, which can then impact our thyroid, resulting in fatigue, brain fog, and other debilitating symptoms. What can damage the mitochondria? Poor nutrition, chemicals, mycotoxins, infections, lack of sleep, lack of sunshine, and of course — chronic stress. What this means is that when we address the health of our mitochondria, we are supporting our body at the most fundamental level, while also supporting adrenal and thyroid function. Individuals with hypothyroidism often have mitochondrial issues, when we have low T3 or are not converting our T4 to T3 well, our mitochondria slow down.
Here are some ways we can restore our mitochondrial health:
Vitamin C is needed to break down fatty acids and turn them into energy. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize the free radicals that are a by-product of the production of ATP in the mitochondria. Vitamin C can also help the oxidative damage done to the mitochondria themselves, as a result of toxins, disease, chronic stress, and certain medications. This helps maintain a healthy mitochondrial membrane. This is why I incorporate vitamin C IVs for most of my patients experiencing thyroid imbalances.
The mitochondria also benefit from lifestyle changes that support circadian balance. When people hear about the circadian rhythm, they may think about sleep, but daytime exposure to natural outdoor light and darkness at night supports our energy levels in other ways. It allows us to make more of the hormone melatonin, which helps preserve mitochondrial function by maintaining mitochondrial membranes and biogenesis, and increasing production of ATP. Melatonin is not only a hormone necessary for sleep and healthy mitochondria, but also a powerful antioxidant, which can further protect and support mitochondrial function. But making sure to limit your exposure to technology and indoor light is just as important.
B vitamins keep the mitochondria running, acting as cofactors or coenzymes for all of the processes that occur in the mitochondria. Since the activity of mitochondrial enzymes is regulated by a complex of B vitamins, it’s important that we get enough of them, to support the production of ATP, as well as all the other functions of the mitochondria. Most people associate B12 with energy levels, but we need the full spectrum of B vitamins for optimal energy production. Getting an IM shot weekly can quickly help build up your supply of your mitochondrial need for B-vitamins.
Our mitochondria generate most of the chemical energy needed to power the cell’s biochemical reactions which means they’re a source for free radicals. But our cells could avoid or reduce the oxidative damage by making glutathione. This is because glutathione is capable of neutralizing these free radicals. Glutathione is our major antioxidant that is produced within cells, but is also required by our mitochondria. I’ve found that my patients with thyroid imbalances benefit greatly from supplementing with this liposomal form of glutathione. And for a bigger benefit, glutathione IVs take the prize for the most powerful antioxidant in regenerating mitochondrial health, especially for Hashimotos.