Mitochondrial Dysfunction: A Quick Test

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
  • seizures
  • 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 🙂

mitochondrial dysfunction test

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!



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Comments 29

  1. Hi.
    Thankyou good information. I would be interested to know what your thoughts are on ketones eg. Keto is supplements for energy.

    1. Post

      I’m not a fan at all of exogenous ketones – not at all. If going to go ketogenic – then do it right and as nature intended – not by force. It’s going to backfire.

  2. I have been struggling with fatigue for the past five years. I’ve been taking NADH for the better part of the last year. I can’t say I notice any real energy surge, Nor do I get tired from it. I am MTHFR compound heterozygous… Just sent in a bunch of labs to look at what’s going on. I have been looking into this nutritigenomic info for the past few months. Started with Amy Yasko and found my way to you. Methyl B’s make me feel worse, so I backed off, waiting for my test results and continuing to educate myself before moving forward. I will be doing your courses shortly. Thanks for trail blazing Ben!

    1. Post

      Excellent on the additional testing. Do try the vision test as well – fast and effective.

      If not feel much energy from the NADH, then you may need other nutrients such as the electrolytes, carnitine, biotin, PQQ first – and possibly glutathione (liposomal)

    2. For energy, 200 mg of magnesium glycinate balanced with 250 mg calcium lactate and 30 mg zinc gluconate have made a difference for me.

  3. I went to a nutritional optometrist and he suggested that 40mg of zinc is necessary for me because of premacular degeneration, it protects the eyes. Also, I use serrapeptase to get rid of floaters, recommended by the Juice Lady. I also use 200mg grape seed extract for night vision improvement.

  4. Mitochondria dysfunction is the first time I have ever heard of any thing fitting what is going on with me. I got macular degeneration at age 28 a month after my daughter was born. I have battled insomnia, fatigue, wide spread pain in body in elbows, wrists, knees and legs. Had disc degeneration and had to have a back fusion in 2011. Got cancer and had to have a hysterectomy in 2010. A few years ago I got diagnosed with LYME, probably had it for decades. I had DNA testing done and have the mthfr mutations. It is hard to know where to start and what to do. I have alot of stress and anxiety. I have seen a NP Dr. whch helped some but I still feel horrible and my body hurts and inhibits me from doing the things I still want to do. Like ride my horse. Anyways I appreciated your article. Do you know any Dr.s in Eastern WA that are knowledgeable with your wisdom to treat me and all my conditions especially Lyme?

    1. Post
  5. Dr Lynch, why not do NAC instead of NADH+? I need to look over your map again for CoQ10 in the pathways. I was taking CoQ10 before bed. No trouble sleeping. My supplement may not be working – bought at Costco, the liquid gold ubiquinol. I’m 55 and recovering from sad diet a year now. Energy is still up and down. Thought it was mold toxins. May be combo … too much to say here.

  6. Great resource! I’m curious – is this also a useful tool for easy potential detection and/or tracking of diabetic retinopathy? Obviously no substitute for proper medical care – but would diabetic retinopathy produce lower scores?

    Thanks again,

    1. Post

      Absolutely would be useful to monitor progression (and regression! 🙂 ) of diabetic retinopathy. Benfotiamine, alpha R lipoic acid, acetyl-l-carnitine, biotin, l-carnosine are all very useful to support eye health – along with other things mentioned in the article.

  7. Hi Dr. Lynch,

    Thanks so much for mentioning in your article! We’re happy to be able to help those who are dealing with health issues investigate and (hopefully) uncover some of the source(s) of their problems. As you well know, finding out what underlies the conditions many of us eventually suffer from can be both challenging and frustrating.

    Indeed, I created our contrast sensitivity test as I struggled with my own health issues because I saw a need for an accessible, by-donation contrast sensitivity test that would give accurate and reliable results and that could be taken by anyone, anywhere, and on (nearly) any device. My health issues were primarily caused by hydrocarbon/petrochemical poisoning, biotoxins (mold, possibly Lyme), my genetics (e.g., MTHFR), and the resulting nutritional deficiencies and inflammation that affected nearly every system in my body; trying to identify and deal with the problems I had was quite challenging and improvements often came from trial-and-error and sometimes at great financial (and emotional) cost.

    VCS testing was very important for me in learning (and accepting!) that mold and biotoxins can significantly affect our health and our lives, and I wanted others to be able to more easily discover or confirm this for themselves so that they, too, could make the lifestyle changes necessary for their recovery.

    I would be happy to answer any questions about my experiences and/or contrast sensitivity testing if you think that would be helpful for your readers; just let me know!


    1. Post

      Great to have you comment, Brian! I greatly appreciate you creating such an-effective, safe and easy way to evaluate otherwise hidden illnesses. Fantastic tool which all should be using to monitor progression – and regression – of potential problems.

      1. No problem, and thank you for all that you do, too! Your work has been a great help to me personally.

        Yes, the test absolutely can be (and is) used to monitor progression and regression during treatment/recovery, can help characterize the effects of new biotoxin and chemical exposures, and the like. It’s a very useful tool for those who understand what it is and how to use it.

  8. NADH, CoQ10, PQQ, Carnitine etc…..I and other people I know (all Hashimoto) tried these supplements, without any relief of symptoms. I think that hypothyroidism and estrogen dominance are a big problem with mitochondria.
    Thyroid hormones work in two pathways :
    – genomic actions, that need intracellular thyroid hormone receptors
    – non genomic actions that don’t need thyroid hormone receptors, situated in the mitochondria (non only).
    I experienced that if mitochondria are “closed” because of estrogen dominance, then we are in genomic hyperthyroidism and non genomic (mitochondrial) hypothyroidism. Because all the thyroid hormone go on to the receptors (genomic action).
    For me natural progesterone “opened” the doors of the mitochondria and thyroid hormones could enter again. I felt it immediately after have swollened my thyroid hormone supplementation, I felt all my body get alive again, from my head to my feet, in only a few seconds, I felt like a wonderful wave in all my head and body. A miracle, unfortunately only for 2 days. But I give my testimonial in hope it can help some women. I am looking for a solution to reduce my estrogen levels, but perimenopause + fibroids + CBS up + COMT down…..complicate my situation.

    1. Post

      Agreed. Taking mitochondrial support products for mitochondrial dysfunction mainly caused by hypothyroidism is going to be a trick.

      Issue is hypothyroidism is compensatory – to protect oneself from injury. So – if one has infection or a strong cell danger reponse. the thyroid gland may slow down in order to increase reactive oxygen species. If this is the case, mitochondrial supplements won’t work well – not until the main cause is identified and dealt with.

      1. Thanks Dr Lynch for your reply.
        In the case of Hashimoto, I don’t think the hypothyroid state is to protect us. As said Richard Von Konynenburg, it seems to be a lack of glutathione inside the thyroid, that damage the TPO. The damaged TPO is destroyed by antibodies. So Hashimoto is typically an environmental illness. And not a survival adaptation, like a bear in hibernation. That is for the thyroid itself.
        The other problem for most Hashimoto people is that thyroid hormone supplementation don’t work. Even T3 don’t work, even with hydrocortisone because of adrenal fatigue. I believe it is because of mitochondrial issue and especially estrogen dominance. But how reduce estrogen levels whit CBS upregulation and COMT downregulation ? Natural progesterone is not strong enough in premenopause age when fibroids are present, and progestins don’t have the same effect to “open the doors of mitochondria” and allow thyroid hormones to work inside.

        1. Post

          Any autoimmune condition is a result of an upregulated immune response typically caused by a pathogen or environmental insult. In this instance – yes the hypothyroid state is not designed to protect us. Rather it is a result of a maladapted system.

          Regardless, the initial trigger is for the body to adapt to its environment in order to protect us.

          The longer we stay maladapted, the sicker we become.

          1. Thanks, yes the deal is the adaptation to the environment, that means a need for a lot of glutathione because toxicity is everywhere. But how to increase Glutathione for people with CBS up ? I know that testosterone works +++ to decrease CBS activity. When mine climbed 4 times the normal maximum range (because of my many hormonal imbalances), I felt so much better !
            Do you know the “Fondation Lejeune” ? They are looking for a CBS inhibitor in order to help Down Syndrome people, who also have a CBS upregulation (because 2 copies of the gene, not 699). They could help us a lot but they never reply to my messages.

  9. Hi Ben, thank you for your continued pioneering work (I was lying in bed this morning (Cornwall, UK) thinking if the NHS tested all for mthfr and other genetic issues from the start, how much pain and suffering and loss of fullness of life we could spare… I’m Homozygous MTHFR C766T with COMT and other polys. All a bit confused by it tbh. I suffer from PMDD and lots of energy issues. I would like to try thesearching suggestions but I don’t know if it’s good for me to not eat for an hour upon waking. I get a bit hypoglycemic. I’d love to work with someone on my health properly and committedly but haven’t found a suitable practitioner near me in the UK. Do you have a recommend here? Thank you. In hope, Katy

    1. Post

      The NADH is used in replacement of food as food provides NADH. However, some people do not tolerate NADH and get more fatigued. Those that do have significant mitochondrial dysfunction. I am not sure who is great in the UK – there are a couple I know but they are not seeing patients currently. You can try the directory on to find a professional in the UK. Also many professionals work remotely via Skype as well. Best to you.

  10. I had started takeing L-Carnitine (500mg) once a day. I was takeing the product from Nutrabio of which I read about L-Carnitine before purchasing. ( well before I read your article) .I took it for a couple of weeks than had to stop. I have some incontenience going on, and I wear mini pads daily. Well, I noticed my urine was getting stronger, and smelling like fish ( an order no woman wants coming out of her body). In the write up by Nutrabio, under side Effects, it said ” Some people have noticed a fishy body odor when consuming 3 grams per day’. I had to stop taking the product, no matter how good it is for me. Maybe its just this product. I am open to suggestions. I am fatigued to the point of having a hard time getting behind the wheel of a car. I read your article above very informative. To much to say, and not enough energy to write. I am struggling with Osteoarthritis, High BP, on two BP meds, Tramadol for pain, and an antianxiety. I have high stress, living on disibility, with limited income, and each time I read something like this article which talks about whole lifestyle changes, I totally agree, but finances do not allow me to follow through. I was on the High fat, – low carb for months while my Food stamps were $357.00, they then went to $23.00. How do you maintain that kind of life style with such limitations???????? I am sick and tired, very tired, of being and feeling sick and tired.

    1. Post

      Sorry to hear that. By focusing on the basics and making small changes each day which don’t cost money. Walking, breathing, sleeping on time, choosing things which bring joy and avoid those that don’t, etc. Those all make a big difference.

  11. I’m not sure how different Nicotinamide Riboside (Niagen) is compared to Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) but just wanted to say 4 days of taking a high dose of Niagen caused my 4 months dormant Graves disease to come back stronger than ever. I have to say I felt great for the first 3 days, but realized I lost 15 lbs by the 4th day! I recently joined your StrateGene Facebook group looking for answers. I’ve been looking for answers for Graves for 4 years now. Homozygous: MTHFR C677T, COMT V158M & H62H

    1. Post

      Hi Lang –

      Sorry you responded poorly to NAD. Any powerful nutrient like NAD or NADH could worsen your symptoms. These require knowledge and pulsing.

      Graves is more environmental than SNP based. That said, your MTHFR and COMT do predispose you to increased stress and anxiety and insomnia which do increase susceptibility to infections and leaky gut which tie into Graves.

  12. My result from 2 years ago in 2015:
    Your test results indicate that you were able to discern the tilt of the bars in the test images 79 times out of 90, for a ‘Total Score’ of 79, or
    88%. As indicated above, your left visual system generally performed better than your right visual system.
    Your results suggest that you may be suffering from a condition affecting your visual system, and you should consider seeing your
    healthcare provider, or a provider who understands contrast sensitivity testing. Note that those who have or have had cataracts may
    have reduced contrast sensitivity, and should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist or a healthcare provider familiar with contrast sensitivity

    I will retake this and see how things are now.

    1. And results again today (2 years later):
      Your test results indicate that you were able to discern the tilt of the bars in the test images 71 times out of 90, for a ‘Total Score’ of 71, or
      79%. As indicated above, your right visual system generally performed better than your left visual system.
      Your results suggest that you may be suffering from a condition affecting your visual system, and you should consider seeing your
      healthcare provider, or a provider who understands contrast sensitivity testing. Note that those who have or have had cataracts may
      have reduced contrast sensitivity, and should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist or a healthcare provider familiar with contrast sensitivity

  13. I have struggled for years at this point with no doctors able to fix my issue. I have looked into everything you have talked about. I have gotten your book. I have done it all. No one and not even I can figure this out. I was exposed to toxic mold three years ago-as well as my son and husband who are also experiencing symptoms. I have extreme fatigue but it’s up and down. I went to see Dr. Paul Anderson’s clinic in Seattle and they did Glutathione IV’s but I found out quickly the minerals they were supporting my with were turning into glutamate in addition to the high levels of glutathione causing major histamine issues worsening asthma/shortness of breath and heart racing/heart palpitations and then also chronic fatigue. I haven’t been able to hold a job for 2 years and it worsened to the point where I’m hardly capable of taking care of my family. They then tested me for Co-infections and came back with Epstein Barr and other Co-infections all IgG and then Active Mono. They wanted to break open biofilm and put me on 6 different pharmaceutical antibiotics and steroids in addition to thyroid support to get me through it but they had already worsened my condition with everything else they had done I opted to leave the clinic instead. I was scared they would worsen my condition or kill me. I then went to 3 other doctors that told me they knew about genetics but I have only wasted $80,000 in medical expenses and have a closet full of supplements that haven’t worked. I have read your book and applied all these things but nothing. The only time I felt better was for a month when I stopped all supplements and went on herbal infusions and a methylated bcomplex along with your b12 with folate losenge usually intaking 3-4 a day along with a tablet or 2 of adenosycobalamin-I did sauna every other day-and took an “adrenal cocktail” along with Allicin and cistus incanus to knock back Epstein Barr. But then another doctor gave me Calcium and I broke out in cold sores yet again and Epstein Barr rose up and I have yet to recover from that blow. Any amount of histamine bothers me. I have ordered your histamine degrading probiotics along with the DAO supplement but I have yet to try it. I have slow COMT, MTHFR, CBS, DAO, GST/GPX sitting at 10-11 on your scale from your book and the other top genes listed all sit at a 7. I am pretty sure I have leaky gut and avoid sugar and gluten. I take liposomal glutathione but can only do 2 pumps a day or it contributes to breathing issues. DIM helps. And I supplement grace minerals along with cell salts. I drink a smoothie almost everyday-I eat healthy and nothing has changed. I don’t feel well when I take phosphatidylcholine. I do ok with fish oil. I try to take electrolyte supplements but I’m overloaded in Magnesium for some reason-Calcium triggers cold sore outbreaks at more than 1,000 mg and sodium clogs up my lymphs if I take too much and potassium feels great. I tried you electrolyte supplement but I can’t do creatine. I have tried SAMe-backfired. I want my life back and no one can figure this out. Not only that, I want my son to have a life. I want my life back. I don’t know what to do or who to ask anymore to help. Are there other doctors that know this stuff that can help me????

  14. Hi Dr. Lynch so glad I found you through Ari Whitten. I was diagnosed with chronic Epstein Barr, Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue in 2014. CBD oil has helped tremendously with pain but I still have horrible bouts of fatigue and literally cannot exercise because of the symptoms I have afterward which can make me debilitated for a week at a time. Mentally I am still very sharp and energetic but the physical body doesn’t seem to be able to get on board.
    Wondering if a protocol for mitochondrial dysfunction is a solid next step.
    Thank you!

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