Do you feel your energy zapped after running a few errands? Even a light workout leaves you feeling exhausted. You find yourself needing a nap just to keep up with the day. These are all signs your energy reserves are depleted. They’re also signs your mitochondrial health may be at risk.

You might not realize it, but your body is constantly using energy. It takes energy to digest your food, move your body, concentrate, and even process information! Almost every cell in your body needs energy to survive, and energy is made in the mitochondria. In fact, the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell!

You may have heard about mitochondrial health, or maybe you haven’t. Either way, it’s critical to nourish our bodies properly to have the energy we need to enjoy a healthy life.

Why are mitochondria called the powerhouse of the cell? In this article, I will dive deep into the mitochondria and reveal the answer to this question. Keep reading to find out the different ways you can support mitochondrial health and enjoy optimal energy levels. First, let’s discuss what the mitochondria are and what they do.

What Is the Function of the Mitochondria?

Mitochondria are unique and complex organelles. They consist of two membranes, an inner matrix, cristae, and their own DNA. The main job of mitochondria is to create energy. Mitochondria also play a role in cell signaling, producing heat, storing calcium, and cellular death. Here’s how mitochondria help produce energy in the body. When you eat or drink, your cells take sugars, ketones, and other substances and break them down. From there, the cells take what they need and use oxygen to convert these substances into energy. This process is called aerobic respiration.

Think of mitochondria as tiny factories or power plants. Food goes in and energy comes out. During the aerobic respiration process, mitochondria generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP gives cells their energy. Energy production also releases free radicals, which can be problematic. I’ll get into that more in a minute.

Mitochondria exist in almost every cell in the human body. In fact, they produce 90% of the energy our bodies need to function! It’s no wonder that the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondrial health involves caring for the whole organelle. When mitochondria are not functioning properly, it can affect the rest of your body.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Unlike most cells in your body, mitochondria are more susceptible to damage. One reason is they lack the outer protection found in different cells in your body. Additionally, the free radicals produced during ATP synthesis increase their risk for DNA damage. DNA mutations are usually either genetic or spontaneous, but both affect mitochondrial health.

When mitochondria slow down or stop working altogether, things go south quickly. The cell they are in no longer has the energy it needs to function. This leads to symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction and in some cases mitochondrial disease. Some of the most common symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction include:

Common symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction - Infographic - Amy Myers MD®
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nerve pain
  • Thyroid problems
  • Constipation, Diarrhea, or other digestive issues
  • Vision problems
  • Exercise intolerance

In addition to mitochondrial dysfunction, there are certain types of mitochondrial disease. These can affect people of all ages. These include primary and secondary mitochondrial disease. Primary is usually inherited, while secondary can be either inherited or acquired. Primary directly affects how the mitochondria produce energy. Secondary may not directly impact the energy production pathway. Still, it does affect the mitochondria in one way or another.

A recent study found that 1 in 4,000 people in the US have mitochondrial disease. Let’s take a closer look at what this can look like, as well as contributing factors.

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is when there is an imbalance between free radical damage and your body’s ability to repair itself. In other words, not enough antioxidants in your bod allows free radicals to run rampant. This causes damage to tissues and DNA. Prolific oxidative stress can be a precursor to mitochondrial dysfunction. This can play a role in neurodegenerative diseases and other illnesses.1

Metabolic Syndrome

Digestion and metabolism have a direct connection to mitochondrial health. Metabolic syndrome is a growing health crisis that affects roughly 25% of people. This is when your body isn’t metabolizing sugars and carbohydrates like it should.2 Obesity, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol are all examples of this.

Long-Haul Covid

Many people who contracted the Covid virus continue to experience “Long-Haul Covid”. This can produce a variety of chronic symptoms. Some examples include brain fog, digestive issues, and altered immunity. Other examples include shortness of breath and blood clotting problems.3 Focusing on supporting mitochondrial health may alleviate the severity of these symptoms. It may also help you regain your energy and overall health.

Premature Aging

Today’s world is full of environmental toxins, inflammatory foods, and radiation exposure. All of these contribute to damaged DNA. When mitochondrial DNA is constantly attacked, it can get bogged down. This can increase oxidative stress in the body. Body functions become fatigued, and premature aging can set in.4

How To Improve Mitochondrial Health

Why are mitochondria called the powerhouse of the cell? As you can see, it plays a vital role in almost every body function we have! Now that you understand its role and some of the ways it gets damaged. Next, let’s discuss ways you can best support mitochondrial health.


Eating foods rich in polyphenols is your best defense against oxidative stress. Look for foods that contain bright or deep reds, oranges, and blue hues. Organic Reds is one of the best ways to get your daily intake of polyphenols. These organic, non-GMO superfoods support energy and mitochondrial health.

Healthy fats are another great way to give you a natural boost of energy. Coconut oil is one of my favorites, along with avocado and extra virgin olive oil. Wild-caught salmon is full of healthy fats. It also contains high levels of omega 3s. These fatty acids help promote a healthy inflammatory response in the body.

Sometimes, your cells need a break, which is where intermittent fasting comes in to play. Studies show that abstaining from foods for a certain amount of time can help protect cells against the effects of premature aging.


Moving your body does wonders for mitochondrial health. Thankfully, you don’t have to run a marathon in order to benefit from regular exercise. Going for regular walks, doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT), or stretching it out with Pilates are all wonderful ways to increase circulation and improve mitochondrial function.5


Not getting enough sleep is detrimental to your health, especially your mitochondria. In fact, poor sleep has been specifically associated with diminished mitochondrial function.6

No matter your lifestyle, it’s important to get quality sleep every night. Adult men and women should aim for between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Children and teenagers should try to get between eight to ten hours of sleep.


Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep go a long way in keeping you healthy. Taking high-quality supplements also protects against oxidative stress and supports mitochondrial health.

Resveratrol is a powerful free radical scavenger that assists in healthy immune function. It’s the same kind of antioxidant you find in a glass of red wine but without the alcoholic aftereffects! Glutathione is another antioxidant warrior. It helps your body detoxify and eliminate toxins. NAC is a dynamic cognitive support supplement. NeuroLive™ blends NAC with Bacopa, Ginkgo, and other proprietary ingredients. Together, they help maintain healthy memory and focus. 

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is a co-enzyme that helps mitochondria produce energy. It also helps regulate healthy metabolism, and repair DNA. My Omega 3s support joint, mood, vision, and cognitive health in the most bioavailable way.

CoQ10 is a naturally occurring compound that acts as an antioxidant. It also carries a variety of health benefits. For example, in addition to cognitive support, CoQ10 may support healthy energy levels. I also recommend Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA). This organic compound acts as an antioxidant. Also, it has neuroprotective properties that help maintain mitochondria integrity and function.

The Mitochondria Are the Powerhouse of the Cell

Your body is an incredible creation with an ecosystem of cells, tissue, organs, and more. Nearly all the cells in your body require energy to survive, and this energy is created in the mitochondria. Why are mitochondria called the powerhouse of the cell? Well, it’s because these little power plants fuel everything you do!

Mitochondria dysfunction can happen for many reasons. Sometimes it happens through genetics, while other causes can come from outside factors. If you’re feeling sluggish, tired, or weak, it’s a good idea to consider mitochondrial health. Taking care of your mitochondria is critical to enjoying great health. Eating polyphenol-rich foods, exercising, and getting enough sleep supports healthy energy levels and overall vitality.

When it comes to taking care of mitochondria, it’s best to cover all your bases. Adding nutrients like glutathione helps assist detoxification. NAD can help with metabolism and DNA repair. Lastly, resveratrol boosts antioxidant levels and protects against oxidative stress.

Article Sources

  1. Oxidative stress, mitochondrial damage and neurodegenerative diseases. Chunyan Guo, Xueping Chen, et al.. Neural Regen Res. 2013.
  2. Mitochondrial dysfunction in metabolic syndrome. Pankaj Prasun. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2020.
  3. Understanding Long COVID; Mitochondrial Health and Adaptation—Old Pathways, New Problems. Alistair V. W. Nunn, Geoffrey W. Guy. Biomedicines. 2022.
  4. Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Chronic Disease: Treatment With Natural Supplements. Garth Nicholson. Integr Med. 2014.
  5. Physical exercise and mitochondrial function: New therapeutic interventions for psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Lina Sun, Tianbiao Liu, et al. Front Neurol. 2022.
  6. Association of sleep quality and mitochondrial DNA copy number in healthy middle-aged adults. Seolbin Han, Dae-Kwong Kim, et al. Sleep Medicine Volume 113. 2024.