happy mitochondria

Mitochondria Need Nutrients

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One of the more common questions I get asked is which nutrients do the mitochondria need to function well? This is really two questions. The first involves which nutrients are involved in the enzymatic processes that allow the mitochondria to convert food to ATP and to manage all of the other tasks that they are responsible for like inflammation, immune function, and steroidogenesis. The second question applies specifically to the individual. It is a question of what he/she needs to be healthy. The answers to both are entirely different. While it is true that there are a set of nutrient co-factors involved in the mitochondrial machinery and these are necessary for mitochondrial function for everyone, which ones and how much of each an individual may need to support his or her health varies significantly. Moreover, although there are baseline minimum nutrient requirements that tell us where insufficiency diseases are likely to develop, what determines an individual’s health or disease is entirely dependent upon genetics, exposures, diet and lifestyle, and even day to day stress. Here, there is no one-size-fits all prescription for nutrient replacement and supplementation or even diet and exercise. This frustrates folks to no end and I think it is one of the reasons both patients and physicians are so reticent to look toward nutrient supplementation seriously as a therapeutic option.

Both the current model of medicine, and to a large degree, the way we approach nutritional therapies, relies very heavily on the silver bullet approach to health. If we’re honest with ourselves, so too do we. It is so much simpler to believe that if we just take X drug or vitamin in Y dose, all of our health issues will disappear and they will disappear at set rate that is linear and predictable. Unfortunately, this is not how the body works. While there is an internal chemistry that requires certain nutrients to function appropriately, that chemistry varies ever so slightly by genetics and is endlessly modified by life itself. There is no one-size-fit-all. There are no magic supplements. There is just your chemistry and your needs.

Since I have written repeatedly on the mitochondria and the reasons why nutrients are required for health, this post will not tackle those topics. Articles on those topics can be found on Hormones Matter with any number of search terms. This information can also be found in the book, Thiamine Deficiency Disease, Dysautonomia, and High Calorie Malnutrition, that I co-authored with Dr. Lonsdale. Here, since many have requested it, I just would like to present a graphic illustrating mitochondrial nutrient requirements. This is from Chapter 3 of our book. Use this as template to understanding your health.

Figure 1. Nutrient requirements for healthy mitochondria.

mitochondrial nutrientsA few things should be pointed out. First, while these nutrients are required by everyone for proper mitochondrial functioning, not everyone needs to supplement with each one, or even sometimes any of them, although that is becoming increasingly rare with modern dietary patterns. Secondly, notice how many times and where vitamin B1 (thiamine) appears in this chart. It is at the entry points of the entire system and at various junctures throughout. This suggests that among all of the nutrients required for healthy mitochondria, thiamine is particularly important. Unfortunately, it is the one nutrient that is so often ignored or missed in testing. Indeed, that is why we wrote the book. Thirdly, notice how many vitamins are required to process the food we eat into ATP. Contrary to popular opinion, we need more than simply empty calories. For the foods we eat to be converted into ATP, there are multitude of vitamins and minerals required that may or may not be included in sufficient density with the macronutrients we consume daily. Finally, not discussed in this chart, but discussed in great detail in the book, synthetic chemicals, whether in form of pharmaceuticals, industrial, environmental, or food production, damage the mitochondria. Some deplete nutrients directly, while others damage aspects of mitochondrial functioning that necessitate increased nutrient density for the enzyme machinery to work. Of course, underlying all of this, are the genetic variables that each of us brings to the table. These influence how well or poorly we metabolize any of these nutrients from the get-go. All of this combines to make nutrient therapies complicated.

What is not complicated, however, is that we need nutrients to function and so, no matter what else we do to improve health, if we do not address nutrient concentrations, we can never be well. Mitochondrial functioning demands nutrients, and thus, health demands the same. Nutrient deficiencies are not something we can override with a pharmaceutical. That being said, addressing nutrient deficiencies holds great promise for those seeking health. If you or someone you love experiences chronic and complicated illnesses that have been treatment refractory, consider healing the mitochondria by tackling nutrient deficiencies. You might be surprised at well this works.

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This article was originally published on November 11, 2019.

Chandler Marrs MS, MA, PhD spent the last dozen years in women’s health research with a focus on steroid neuroendocrinology and mental health. She has published and presented several articles on her findings. As a graduate student, she founded and directed the UNLV Maternal Health Lab, mentoring dozens of students while directing clinical and Internet-based research. Post graduate, she continued at UNLV as an adjunct faculty member, teaching advanced undergraduate psychopharmacology and health psychology (stress endocrinology). Dr. Marrs received her BA in philosophy from the University of Redlands; MS in Clinical Psychology from California Lutheran University; and, MA and PhD in Experimental Psychology/ Neuroendocrinology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.


  1. If we can’t — as a Western Colonized Know-it-all-society that bows to MDs and to techies and scientists — “get” coral reef collapses, or forest decay, species extinctions … or put two and two together (two inches more ocean expansion/rise and two more hundred million human lives put in peril), HOW can we expect those smart people to understand biochemistry and the sophisticated and elegant orchestrations of life inside the human gut, glands, brain.

    We are in a sort of multiple phase rapture, in Western Industrial Society. Trillions to bomb countries, and now, retreat and defeat and, well, more trillions for more ways to bomb countries, from space. We have audacious mentality throughout the land, so equating nutrient health and the lack of robust mitochondria virility to a suite of common diseases and chronic illnesses is Symphyses pushing the boulder up the hill, having it tumble back down in a gravity of stupidity and hubris.

    I have MDs who laugh at the regimen I have for my own health — like 40 years of these supplements/herbs and dietary habits. They scoff at Naturopaths, even though most MDs couldn’t last a half hour talking about the things someone Ben Lynch or others have studied. I’ve seen them try. [https://www.drbenlynch.com/ ]

    Now, ecosystems, the entire ranch, that is, we say, Mother Earth, is cooked . . . if we can’t put four and four together, here. With that, what sort of expectation would we have in a world that throws billions at the Vioxx drug thug company, and billions at the multiple felony Pfizer Company, but can’t even get what it means to have a world without ICE? Imagine, Phillip Morris is telling the world when to ban cigarettes, by 2030 so it can colonize the world with vaped nicotine, since they also own all of that merchandise. It is an upside down world to some of us who are NOT colonized by systems of stupidity, oppression and fascistic propaganda.

    Off topic? Not really!!

    Quoting —

    Diana Six, an entomologist for 30 years who teaches at the University of Montana, took her students to Glacier National Park on a field trip and reported the following:

    “Life doesn’t just deal with this. When I went up Glacier with my students a few weeks ago, the flowers were curling up. At some of the lower elevations, glacier lilies were shriveled, lupins didn’t even open. The flowers should extend for another three weeks and they’re already gone. Any insects or birds that depend upon them, like bees or hummingbirds, are in trouble, their food is gone. Bird populations have just baked… People seem to think of extinctions as some silent, painless statistic. It’s not. You look at birds that can no longer find fish because they’ve moved too far off shore. They’re emaciated; they’re starving to death. We are at the point that there’s nothing untouched. ”

    It is instructive, as well as extremely troublesome, to note that her experience took place in a “protected national park.” Referencing how climate change impacts life, Diana said:

    “Somewhere along the way, I had gone from being an ecologist to a coroner. I am no longer documenting life. I’m describing loss, decline, death.”


    As a teacher, journalist, environmentalist and social worker, the same holds true for me — loss, decline, death and an afterlife of pure Huxley-Orwell-Postman-Atwood insanity!

  2. Magnesium is key because the output of this whole proces is NOT ATP alone, rather, it is Mg-ATP, which is the true energy molecule of the human cell. ATP is a misleading name for the Mg-ATP molecule.
    Magnesium in Biology — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnesium_in_biology
    I searched this post for the word “copper” — the only element on Earth that can manage oxygen in the human body. Cytochrome c oxidases is completely dependent on bio-copper deliver by ceruloplasmin-bound copper. Without copper, oxygen will not be split into and create H2O and ADP in complex 4 of the electron transport chain. NONE of the other nutrients will matter much if bio-copper is low here. And since this isn’t widely known, this copper depletion goes unchecked.
    In addition, the enzyme that manage the oxidative stress created by this process are bio-copper activated. And if that weren’t enough, ceruloplasmin-bound copper acts as ferro-oxidase and safely manages otherwise toxic iron in the human body.
    Search Morley Robbins on Youtube and Google. He gives his protocol to renutrify biocopper, renutrify magnesium, and to detox inorganic, toxic iron stuck in the macrophages and tissues where the doctors typically don’t even look for it.
    Even worse, this elevated tissue iron status creates oxidative stress which can produce anemia due to chronic inflammation caused by iron overload in the macrophages and tissues! Have fun wrapping your mind around that one!

  3. In 1987 I was told by Dr. Jonathan Wright (WA state) after testing that I and all 4 of my children have an under-functioning hypothalamus gland which of course results in secondary hormonal issues. Also my family was part of a study at Clayton Biochemical Institute at the UofTX in Austin and was told that myself and all 4 of our children could process only a small amt. of B2, B3, and biotin and our cells suck up 4 times the normal amount of calcium. Does the book cover metabolic problems with processing thiamine? I know that and lipoic acid have worked wonders for us. In fact an IV of thiamine was miraculous for about 24 hours. i have had periodic paralysis and several family members seizures.

  4. And what would you suggest as the best way to begin to tackle nutrient deficiencies? My doctors only check D, b12 and sometimes iron.

    Since July I’ve been struggling with acid reflux, gastritis
    Upper endoscopy showed damage to esophagus but no Barrett’s or cancer
    Prescribed nexium then protonix which somehow made asthma symptoms disappear. So stopped using Dulera (inhaler with steroid).
    The only other med I take is levoxyl plus hrt (patch and oral progesterone).
    Continued with the ppi per dr instruction. But over time had trouble with gas and digesting food easily. I was very fatigued.

    Then my finger joints began hurting off and on. Sometimes I could barely move them in the morning. I started to notice increased hair shedding which got alarmingly worse over the 3-4 months I was taking the protonix. Told the gastro who told me to tell the ending to check for adrenal suppression (because I had stopped dulera suddenly).

    Adrenal tests came back normal. My endo told me I was getting old and just had to expect these things. I’m 60 year old female btw. I’m not overweight (115lbs), never smoked, have a couple glasses of wine maybe once every 6 months.

    I could be wrong but I wonder if the ppi or stopping the dulera caused these issues. I stopped taking the protonix in October. My hair loss has continued but just this past week my hands seem to be getting a little better. I feel like everything got out of balance in July when this whole stomach issue began, if that makes sense. I know ppis can cause deficiencies but…I was told only if on long term a year or more.

    I have to say, for the first time in my life I feel brushed aside by my doctors. I guess they don’t take my hand pain, hair loss and fatigue seriously…since I’m “old”. I don’t want to give up. Any direction or suggestions would be welcome. Than you.

    • Firstly, you need to get and read the book, so that you have an understanding of how mitochondria influence health. You should also read everything you can on the topic. You will have to become the expert in your own health. This is not something most physicians, unless you get lucky, will help with. Start with thiamine and magnesium and a good multi and go from there. But you really need to read up so that you understand the process.
      I would note also, the PPIs deplete many nutrients and actually make reflux worse over time. The cause of reflux is not too much acid but too little. We have an article on that as well. HRT depletes nutrients also.

    • Hi Christine,

      As people age, the absorption rate of potassium (check your blood level) decrease and lacking it can cause various symptoms that you describe. Youtube potassium deficiency symptoms to verify and try adding potassium citrate and turmeric (for inflammation) to your daily protocols in addition to what Dr. Marrs recommends.
      You’re actually lucky and must have good genetics to have your issues start at 60 years old, because for many the symptoms start much earlier especially with more frequent drinking habits.

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