Mitochondrial dysfunction is a big term for ‘I’m feeling tired all the time.’
Testing for mitochondrial dysfunction is what many want to do but do not know how to accomplish it. What if I told you there is a way to do it online using your eyes? I am telling you that. Before I get there, let’s address a few things.
What are mitochondria?
They are what produce energy and live within your cell. Mitochondria produce your ATP which then gets burned by cells of your eyes, heart, muscles, kidneys and more. As you exercise, use your eyes for work, lift heavy things or think hard throughout the day, your mitochondria are there helping you out by giving your cells ATP.
The issue is in order to make ATP, your mitochondria have to be healthy and get the nutrients – and components – they need. They also are very fragile and susceptible to damage.
Which cells are most susceptible to mitochondrial dysfunction?
Some cells have more mitochondria than others. Why would that be?
Some cells work harder than others. A red blood cell has no mitochondria at all. On the flip side, your heart cells work very hard and have a ton of mitochondria. Your liver is also working extremely hard processing ammonia, filtering chemicals, producing bile and breaking down excessive hormones. The bigger demand you put on your muscles, heart, liver, eyes and other organs, the harder you are working your mitochondria.
A key question to ask is: Which cell has the most mitochondrial density? The retina.
“Progressive accumulation of age related mitochondrial DNA mutations reduce ATP production and increase reactive oxygen species output, leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and degradation. The pace of this is linked to metabolic demand. The retina has the greatest metabolic demand and mitochondrial density in the body and displays progressive age related inflammation and marked cell loss.”
What does this mean in English?
Your eye has the most mitochondria and is also very susceptible to damage. We all know that our vision declines as we age. We also know that those with diabetes tend to have more vision problems than those without. Also smokers, those who drink alcohol or who have chronic disease also struggle with weaker vision.
What are mitochondrial dysfunction symptoms?
- poor night vision
- persistent fatigue
- brain fog
- muscle pain
- progressively worse vision in general
- inability to exercise
- significant post-workout soreness which lasts for days despite light exercise
- slow growth in children
- speech delay
What causes mitochondrial dysfunction?
There are various degrees of mitochondrial dysfunction. Some individuals are born with significant mitochondrial diseases due to inherited genetic defects passed on from the mother. These can be life-threatening or quite severe a bit later in life.
These have to be diagnosed in the hospital and quite quickly – and typically are.
The type of mitochondrial dysfunction that I am referring to is gradual onset over a longer period of time. You were feeling fine and then you got ill from Lyme, mold, mycotoxins, viral infections, various medications such as fluoroquinolone antibiotics and statins, or overtraining. These are common causes of mitochondrial dysfunction.
A quick mitochondrial dysfunction test
Ideally, you go to a skilled health professional who can identify mitochondrial dysfunction via history, physical exam, organic acid testing and a few other lab tests.
One that I want to share with you is not common and it is a fantastic way to monitor disease progression or treatment efficacy.
This test is called the VCS Test which stands for Visual Contrast Sensitivity Test.
What can cause a contrast sensitivity deficit?
“Many things can affect the ability to perceive contrast. These include nutritional deficiencies, the consumption of alcohol, drug/medication use, and exposure to endogenous or exogenous neurotoxins and/or biotoxins, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), venom from animal or insect stings or bites, certain species of mold and the mycotoxins and microbial VOCs they produce, cyanobacteria, dinoflagellates (particularly Pfiesteria and Ciguatera), apicomplexans, parasites, heavy metals like mercury and lead, and the pathogens responsible for Lyme disease and its common co-infections.”
I learned about this test years ago from Dr William Rea, one of the world’s foremost environmental medicine doctors. When I learned about it, it was a clunky stick you held out in front of you with a card at the end.
Now you can do this on your cell phone, laptop or desktop.
I just took it.
Here are my visual contrast sensitivity results – which I’m quite proud of 🙂
RESULTS – OVERALL: NEGATIVE
Your test results indicate that you were able to discern the tilt of the bars in the test images 84 times out of 90, for a ‘Total Score’ of 84, or 93%.
As indicated above, your right visual system generally performed better than your left visual system.
Your results do not suggest that you are suffering from a health condition that affects your visual system, but if you have other signs, symptoms, or concerns, you should see your healthcare provider.
Does this Visual Contrast Sensitivity Test actually diagnose something?
Why is VCS testing diagnostic?
“VCS testing, by itself, is generally not diagnostic for any specific condition (including either mold or neurotoxin exposure), but a positive result may suggest the existence of a health and life-affecting subclinical process. If your results are positive, you could have a number of different conditions and should see your healthcare provider.”
How much does it cost?
It’s a donation. As a health professional, I opened an account and bought 5 tests so I can run them on myself and my family. A pack of 5 cost me $45 so $9 each. That’s quite affordable and a great way to monitor treatment – and also identify if you do have something going on.
Years ago my night vision was horrible and I had really bad floaters as well. Now I am part feline and have no floaters. What changed? My lifestyle, diet, supplements and environment. I cleaned it all up.
What do I do to support my mitochondria?
- Eat three meals a day vs snacking all day. Huge gains.
- Eat well vs processed tasty garbage food. Healthy food still tastes great – just takes effort to make.
- Have a smoothie about 5 times a week with a comprehensive vitamin / mineral profile, carnosine, carnitine, frozen blueberries, raspberries, flax seeds, flax seed milk or almond milk. (I’m still not yet pregnant though for some odd reason.)
- If I feel I cannot skip meals easily, then it is a sign that I need further mitochondrial support and I turn to two things: biotin and acetyl-l-carnitine. Given that my smoothie above has both of these nutrients, I’m usually fine. It commonly happens on the day I don’t get my smoothie so I take these nutrients separately. I use these two nutrients as they allow me to burn fat as fuel. Side note: since I’ve reduced my eating to three times a day and can burn my fat as fuel efficiently, I’ve lost 17 pounds since November. I am 200 lbs now and 6’5″. 217 is the heaviest I’ve ever been.
- Sleep and sleep well.
- Check my stress and when stressed, chill out faster and breathe.
- Breathe (something I’m still working on how to do better)
- PQQ at times if I overtrain but this rarely happens. My wife, though, must take PQQ post-exercise or she struggles with post-workout soreness for days even though we did a simple bike ride or hike. She is struggling with mitochondrial dysfunction caused by bile stagnation, leaky gut and gut microbiome needing support. She’s working on it. I’m not her doctor 🙂 as that doesn’t work well when your husband suggests what you should do! We’re making gains which is awesome. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was 17. Given that she is on no meds and essentially pain free is remarkable.
- Before exercising or post-exercise – and commonly both – I will use a comprehensive electrolyte blend which also contains mitochondrial support (D-Ribose, creatine, niacin).
- If I am absolutely trashed in the morning – meaning I grunt, groan and don’t want to get up at all – I use NADH + CoQ10 to pop me out of bed. It works within 5 minutes – or faster. These two nutrients are what your mitochondria use for fuel in order to make ATP. This is direct fuel for them. Simply place the NADH + CoQ10 lozenge under your tongue or simply in your mouth and in about 5 minutes, you’ll WANT to get up as you feel more energy. Seriously. If you’re trying to get off caffeine or stimulants, this is your ticket. I have never used caffeine despite all the work and long days I put in. Not even in med school did I use caffeine. DO NOT USE NADH + CoQ10 near meals. It must be away from food by at least one hour or before exercise. If you get more fatigued from NADH + CoQ10, it means you already have too much NADH in your system. This is common in diabetics or those who snack all the time. If you get tired from it, the best thing you can do to overcome the fatigue is to not eat and go for a walk or exercise a bit even though the first few minutes of exercise will not be fun at all due to your fatigue. This is why it is best to take first thing upon waking. Keep it on your bed stand. Take it while still horizontal – immediately upon waking – if you’re not going to eat within one hour or exercise right away.
What do you do to support your mitochondria?
If you are struggling with mitochondrial dysfunction, I highly recommend doing the VCS Test along with looking for infections, stressors, environmental exposures and improving your digestion and sleep.
Comment below sharing what you do along with what has worked and what hasn’t. If you’ve tried any of the above supplements, have they worked well for you? Your family?
Hope this information serves you well and helps you reach your genetic potential!
- Recharging mitochondrial batteries in old eyes. Near infra-red increases ATP
- Mitochondrial syndrome symptoms
- Visual Contrast Sensitivity Test