Get to know mitochondria
Mitochondrial dysfunction refers to errors in the function of the specialized organelles (mitochondria) present in every cell of our body with the exception of red blood cells. Mitochondria are best known as the “power plants” of the cells and they make our energy molecule known as Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP, however their role in our body is much more complex than once thought. Without mitochondria we cease to exist, but when these specialized structures don’t work right, our life can take a big turn for the worse!
The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation further explains the complexities:
The conventional teaching in biology and medicine is that mitochondria function only as “energy factories” for the cell. This over-simplification is a mistake which has slowed our progress toward understanding the biology underlying mitochondrial disease. It takes about 3000 genes to make a mitochondrion. Mitochondrial DNA encodes just 37 of these genes; the remaining genes are encoded in the cell nucleus and the resultant proteins are transported to the mitochondria. Only about 3% of the genes necessary to make a mitochondrion (100 of the 3000) are allocated for making ATP. More than 95% (2900 of 3000) are involved with other functions tied to the specialized duties of the differentiated cell in which it resides. These duties change as we develop from embryo to adult, and our tissues grow, mature, and adapt to the postnatal environment. These other, non-ATP-related functions are intimately involved with most of the major metabolic pathways used by a cell to build, break down, and recycle its molecular building blocks. Cells cannot even make the RNA and DNA they need to grow and function without mitochondria. The building blocks of RNA and DNA are purines and pyrimidines. Mitochondria contain the rate-limiting enzymes for pyrimidine biosynthesis (dihydroorotate dehydrogenase) and heme synthesis (d-amino levulinic acid synthetase) required to make hemoglobin. In the liver, mitochondria are specialized to detoxify ammonia in the urea cycle. Mitochondria are also required for cholesterol metabolism, for estrogen and testosterone synthesis, for neurotransmitter metabolism, and for free radical production and detoxification. They do all this in addition to breaking down (oxidizing) the fat, protein, and carbohydrates we eat and drink.
Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell. Cell injury and even cell death follow. If this process is repeated throughout the body, whole organ systems begin to fail.
The parts of the body, such as the heart, brain, muscles and lungs, requiring the greatest amounts of energy are the most affected. Mitochondrial disease is difficult to diagnose, because it affects each individual differently. Symptoms can include seizures, strokes, severe developmental delays, inability to walk, talk, see, and digest food combined with a host of other complications. If three or more organ systems are involved, mitochondrial disease should be suspected.
Although mitochondrial disease primarily affects children, adult onset is becoming more common. 
Mitochondrial dysfunction has been linked to many diseases and disorders such as fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, all of which have one thing in common–chronic pain. Managing chronic pain isn’t just about what you can do to lessen its intensity. It’s just as important to know what to avoid if you’re looking to manage chronic pain. Here’s a list of the top things to stay away from.
SAY NO TO FOODS HIGH IN SUGAR
High insulin levels in your body can increase inflammation and pain. It’s important to limit your intake of sugars – and by the same token carbs (which become sugars when processed by your body). Reducing sugar will also have a positive effect on your weight, and managing obesity is the number one way to manage chronic pain.
LAY OFF THE COFFEE (OR AT LEAST GO FOR DECAF)
Caffeine, though vital to many to get through the busy day, can worsen the problems of chronic pain sufferers. The main problem is how it affects sleep patterns. Chronic pain sufferers may have trouble sleeping anyway, and caffeine isn’t going to help. Lack of sleep has been known to heighten chronic pain.
CUT BACK ON BOOZE AND TOBACCO
This is a no-brainer, but alcohol and tobacco are known to exacerbate chronic pain. Cutting back on the beer and cigarettes is good advice for anyone – but it especially holds true for people with chronic pain.
AVOID STRESS AT ALL COSTS
Whether it’s stress from your job, a relationship, or everyday life, one of the best things you can do to help manage chronic pain is to say no the stress. While activities like yoga, meditation, and prayer can help to reduce stress, it’s best to just cut out the elements of your life that cause undue stress. Of course, this is easier said than done – but little changes here and there to eliminate stress go a long way.
GET ALPHA THETA NEUROFEEDBACK TRAINING
At Michigan Brain Health (a division of Johnson Chiropractic Neurology & Nutrition), we use a specialized form of neurofeedback known as Alpha Theta Neurofeedback training that helps you deal with stressors (past and present). This specialized type of neurofeedback helps you train your brainwaves into the Alpha Theta range, which are calmer brainwaves.. When you are able to enter this range more easily the brain begins to recalibrate it’s default set point from a High Beta stress state into a calm Alpha Theta brain wave state. Over time as the brain rewires into this new pattern, it solidifies the long-term benefit, as the saying goes, of “being calm within the storm,” because the brain LITERALLY changes! When you have a higher degree of calm during “storms” you are better able to come up with novel ways of dealing with situations. Alpha Theta Neurofeedback training can help you decrease chronic pain.
DO NOT RELY ON PRESCRIPTION PAIN MEDICATIONS
Chronic pain cannot and will not be healed by popping pills. Prescription pain meds can be highly addictive, and over the course of months and years begin to lose their efficacy.
“High-dose chronic pain medications are questioned by many pain physicians, and so long-term use of pain medications should be done judiciously and with expert supervision due to the risks associated with this form of treatment,” says a report from CNN. “In addition, pain itself is often a protective mechanism that warns you of injury. By dulling the pain response, pain medications can lead to further injury.”
DON’T BLAME YOURSELF
It won’t help to blame yourself for your pain. Once you begin to accept your pain and own it as an unfortunate, but altogether blameless part of you, the faster you can focus on how to manage it. Don’t fall for the trap of comparing yourself to others and how they manage their pain. Everyone is different. Find what works for you.
If you or a loved one would like to schedule a brain map to see if neurofeedback is right for you call us at (586) 731-8840