Gut Health Gurus Blog

How to Optimise Your Mitochondrial Health

How to Optimise Your Mitochondrial Health
mitochondrial health

Have you ever wondered why your diet isn't helping to improve your brain fog and restless nights struggling to get to sleep? Mitochondrial health could be the missing link that you have not thought about. I had the pleasure of talking with health/life coach Nathan Walz today. He had a corporate IT Consulting career for 20 years and about 10 years into it, his health took a downward spiral. Read on to learn about what the symptoms of poor mitochondrial health are, what may be causing your poor mitochondrial health, how walking into the cold ocean can help improve it, and why you should get blue light blocking glasses to help your overall well-being.

What Were The First Signs of Your Mitochondrial Health Going Downhill?

 It started with occasional:


-Unrestful nights sleep


Over these 10 years this became my new normal, my health was trickling downhill. I took care of myself but there were a lot of things I didn't do.... I thought that if I just ate good food and exercised then I’ll be fine. I was wrong. I was not thinking about sleep at all, I drank too much on the weekends, and I neglected stress management. 

Over the years I:

-Felt tired all of the time, dragging through the day

-Drank a lot of coffee and energy drinks

-After I ate lunch, I would be in a food coma

-I started having brain fog and anxiety

The brain fog was my wake up call. For years I could get by on coffee and energy drinks but once I started having brain fog it made it hard to function in my role. I ended up going to my doctor because I knew something wasn't right. I was hoping he would give me a sleeping pill since I could NEVER sleep. Looking back now, I am grateful that he didn't and I’m grateful that I never went down that road. He chalked it up to stress and this ended up going on for a few more years….

After a few years, my friend recommended me to her integrative medicine doctor. She told me that when she went, he tested:




I was shocked that they had doctors like this. I made an appointment and he spent an hour asking me many questions. He thought I had Lyme disease. I knew that you got it from ticks but I never found a tick on me so I would have never guessed that.... My test came back and I:

-Tested positive for Lyme disease

-Had Candida (fungal overgrowth in my intestines)

-I had mercury toxicity

-My hormones (testosterone) was low

-My minerals and vitamins were low

I was REALLY happy after this news because I now knew what was wrong. I figured I would take some antibiotics for Lyme disease, I would take supplements for the other stuff and in a couple of months, I’ll be better…..

Except 6 months down the road, I was doing much worse. My psychological symptoms were completed out of whack. I was having very bad:



-It was hard for me to focus

I started to do a lot of research after this. I ended up trying different diets such as going vegetarian because I thought I was eating too much meat. That didn't work, I just lost a lot of weight. Eventually, I bumped into Dr. Jack Kruse. I came across one of his blog posts and I thought that he was different from anyone else (you can read the interview with him here.) I started following his protocols and within two weeks I started feeling better than I had in a very long time. I stayed on this path and I haven't looked back since. I went through a bad divorce and decided that my job wasn’t helping me either because I wasn't passionate about it. I had a great income and benefits but I wasn't happy….

As you move up the chain in the corporate world the stress level rises exponentially. The expectation of work hours goes up with the salary. There is a price to pay for making more money...your health suffers. I went through a lot of anxiety and depression which lead to me almost taking my life. Fortunately for me, I was able to patch up my marriage but I was eventually bullied out of the workplace.-Kriben Govender

I decided that other people could greatly benefit from the help I could give them. This is how I became a health coach. My goal is to educate people and to help them take back their power when it comes to their health. Your health is in YOUR hands, not in a doctors. If you break a bone then a doctor is great, but if you are dealing with a chronic issue, doctors can’t do a lot. It is up to you to create a new lifestyle that is going to improve your health for the rest of your life.

I have a similar story and I believe that a lot of men are going through what you went through.-Kriben Govender

Getting Lyme disease and having my wife cheat on me were two of the best things to ever happen to me. They got me to where I am today. If I didn't have this big push then I don’t believe I would have gone on this health journey. I believe that the universe is always giving us signs on whether we are on the right track or not. The universe gave me a lot of signs but I was blind to them, so it gave me a huge sign with my health and my marriage. I could only see that and react to it one way or another. I am grateful that things worked out in the end. Life is very interesting on how we deal with the challenges ….

In those moments it's dark and it's hard to find a way out. BUT the signs are all there and the pathways to get out of the darkness are there as well. The right people coming at the right moment and the right information coming at the right moment helps as well.-Kriben Govender

oysters and mitochondrial health

What Early Protocols From Jack Kruse Did You Adopt In Your Life?

The first thing I did was make dietary changes because at that time that was my mindset. I thought it was all diet. I thought it was my diet causing all of these issues. I looked up what he recommended eating and it was:

A seafood-based diet, The Epipaleo Rx.

I was psyched at the time because I was eating a plant-based diet and I was constantly hungry. Psychologically that was huge for me because you know how important food is with making you feel great. It was satisfying for me to start gaining weight back. 

The next thing I started doing was Cold Thermogenesis. I started with full-body cold submersion in my bathtub. I had a lot of constant pain due to the inflammation from Lyme. The cold offered relief for me and I started feeling better. I could tell that:

-My hormones were getting better

-My testosterone was getting better

-I started having muscle tone again

Those were the first two things I started with on my mitochondrial health journey.

The big realization for me as a food scientist is that Jack simplified the whole thing. You are stripping electrons from food then your mitochondria produces energy from the complex interaction. I had this over-complicated relationship with food and he just simplified it to what food does for us. And it was also learning about cold thermogenesis. This was hard at the start but now I crave the cold. I also go to a gym that is outdoors on the beach so there is no blue light toxicity. After my workout, I jump into the ocean and then go into the sauna. - Kriben Govender

blue light toxicity

What Are Mitochondria and How Can We Optimise Them For Our Health?

The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. They teach us the scientific part of it in school but they don't teach the practical part of it. I never understood that the mitochondria make all of the energy in your body. If you want to be energetic and if you break a bone, then you have to have healthy mitochondria. Jack Kruse's analogy is that it is like the engine in your car. If you have an engine problem then putting a higher octane fuel in it isn't going to make it run any better. You need to fix the engine. Mitochondrial health is the foundation of good health. 

Food can't fix it... you could be eating the best diet in the world but if you have poor mitochondrial health then you are going to have to do other interventions to fix your mitochondria. A big killer today is blue light. All this blue light that we see every day is reducing our melatonin levels. Melatonin plays a VITAL role in our mitochondrial health. If you have lower melatonin you are going to have poorer mitochondrial health. 

One of the first keys is to optimise your melatonin levels. You need to block that blue light. If you work on your computer, especially at night, then you need to get blue-light blocking glasses. You can get them HERE. At night you also have to cover up because you have photoreceptors on your skin. You can have your eyes protected but if you are walking around in shorts and a shirt then you can have a reduction in melatonin. This will impact:

-The quality of your sleep

-Your mitochondria 

Here are 5 steps we can use to optimise our mitochondrial health:

  1. Block Artificial Blue Light: All of our screens are lit using LED lights. This frequency of this light turns off your bodies production of melatonin. You need melatonin to get a good deep sleep because that is when you can turn over and repair your mitochondria. 
  2. Intermittent fasting. 16 hours or more will help you repair and grow new mitochondria
  3. Exercise: Exercise then go into the sauna afterward!
  4. Seafood: This can help your cell membrane because it is high in DHA. You can use DHA to convert the power from the sun (photons) and convert that energy to electrons which feed your mitochondria to create ATP.
  5. Cold: Take a cold shower or go into the ocean. This makes your mitochondria more efficient so they can make more ATP. When they make more ATP you have more energy and your body can do more. 

Those are actionable steps that are easy to follow.

Should We Be Conscience of Heteroplasmy Rates?

Heteroplasmy is your percentage of mutated mitochondria. As you age you increase in heteroplasmy by 10% every decade. We all have different starting points and it all depends on your mother.... 

-If your mother was super healthy then you are at a good starting point with a lot of good mitochondria. 

-If your mother wasn't healthy you will be starting at a higher heteroplasmy rate. 

BUT you can get by with a lot of mutated mitochondria and still function ...Breaking it down on a cell level: You can have 70% mutated mitochondria and still have a healthy cell! The way disease happens is that over time you get higher and higher heteroplasmy rates. 

So as you approach that 70%, let's say at your heart, then that would mean you may develop heart disease. This can go for different parts of your body. It can also happen in different parts of your brain:

Frontal Lobe: Alzheimer's Disease

Substanigra: Parkinson's Disease 

We all have our weak links and it depends on our exposure. For example: If you are talking on your phone all the time your mitochondria are very sensitive. They don't like inflammation and talking on your phone creates this inflammation. If you are always talking on your phone then you can create inflammation in your brain which means you are increasing the heteroplasmy rates in your brain. This can cause a tumor or a neurodegenerative disease and it will manifest faster than it would if you weren't causing that inflammation.

Food can also cause inflammation. Glyphosate is a huge cause of inflammation via food! It is toxic and it is water-soluble so it ends up raining on organic crops as well. Processed food, lead in water, many more chemicals that we are exposed to in the past, EMF from your phone, wifi, and smart meters are all toxic. The body has to deal with all of these things...Here is an analogy:

We all have a bucket, if you eat big macs all day that will add to your bucket, if you have a mean boss that will add to it, and if you are exposed to EMFs that will add to it too. These are all inflammatory. Some of us walk around with an empty bucket but some of us walk around with a full bucket. And it doesn't take a lot for this bucket to overflow. When it does that is when you get these symptoms. For some people it’s:




It depends on what you are contending with…..

Why Does Chronic Disease Manifest in the Brain, Heart, and Gut?

We have our highest density of mitochondria in these places. Most chronic disease is mitochondrial based. These diseases are going to first show up where you have the most mitochondria….

Gut: The reason it manifests in our gut is due to things like glyphosate, processed foods, and everything that causes inflammation in your gut. All of this leads to leaky gut. 

An interesting way to think about the digestive system is to think about it as if it were outside of the body. If you think about your skin, that sits outside. Your gut is technically outside of the body because this is how you allow food to come in then you absorb it. The gut is the biggest interface to the outside, even more than your skin! The exposure to toxicity is high because there is so much interface happening. You are eating three meals a day so there is so much absorption that is happening. Along with the nutrients comes the toxicity.- Kriben Govender

Heart: All the mitochondria in your heart put off a magnetic field due to making ATP. You can pick this field up 12 feet away if you have the right equipment. We have a lot of mitochondria that are keeping that muscle beating constantly. If you think about it, when you go to the gym you can only do so many curls or bench press reps but your heart is constantly beating.

Brain: Then we have our brain which only makes up 3% of your body by mass but it uses 20% of your bodies energy. When you are not making enough energy it is showing up in your body pretty quickly as anxiety, depression, migraines, brain fog, and eventually it can show up as neurodegeneration.

There is a theory that mitochondria evolved from endosymbiotic micro-organisms. Scientists believe they were archaea that embedded themselves in a cell, billions of years ago! Microbiome research is amazing. These mitochondria can be another microbiome but living inside of the cell. The communication between the gut and the mitochondria is also fascinating. It will be many years until we start to understand it fully but we are off to a great start. -Kriben Govender

cold water and deuterium

The Cold and Coupling

There are two mitochondrial haplotypes:

  1. Tightly Coupled: These produce  a lot of energy. People that evolved under the equator are tightly coupled. They don't have to make a lot of heat because it's hot all of the time. They had a lot more predators that they had to run from so they needed the ability to be able to turn on the gas when they need to.
  2. Loosely Coupled: Some of this energy gets converted into heat. This would be for people that evolved further from the equator in northern climates. Instead of their mitochondria making 100% ATP, some of it gets converted into heat to keep you warm in the cold

When you go in the cold, or a cold bath, it causes your mitochondria to release something to warm you up. When you shiver you are releasing infrared heat. Imagine this: You first get to a party and the room isn’t that hot or it may even be cold. Then an hour goes by and it fills up with people and it gets super hot. That is from everyone's infrared heat. Your body is putting off this heat even though you can't see it and that is what heats the room. When your body goes in the cold you start to shiver. That is when your mitochondria release the infrared heat. This is at a microscopic level but you have anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand mitochondria in a cell. And they all release the infrared heat. 

Water in a cell behaves differently than water outside of a cell. Here's an example: What happens when you put water into a freezer? It expands. When you heat the water in the cell it contracts and when it contracts it brings the mitochondria closer together. Your mitochondria have proteins called cytochromes and they tunnel electrons. When you eat food it gets broken down into electrons. The electrons go from one cytochrome to the next and the last one is the ATPase. This ATPase spins and hydrogen protons are passing through it  to make it spin. This creates ATP. Electrons do something called tunneling, this is where they jump from one to the next. They disappear from here and they magically appear there. The further apart they get, the less efficient they tunnel…..

If you increase the distance by one angstrom (1 million nanometers in a millimeter, and there are 10 angstroms in a nanometer!) You just decreased the efficiency by a factor of 10. BUT when you get in the cold you are moving those cytochromes closer together. Even if they move just by one angstrom or two, it will significantly increase the efficiency and you will make more ATP. That is why a lot of athletes have been doing cold thermogenesis for years, it speeds up their muscle recovery. It is rapidly decreasing inflammation but it is making those muscles more efficient. It is making your mitochondria more efficient so you are making more energy. 

How Do We Get The Most Out Of Cold Thermogenesis? Is A Cold Shower Enough?

It all depends on what you're dealing with. If you are relatively healthy then anyone is going to get a benefit from taking a cold shower. They might hate it when they are doing it but they will feel better because you get a dopamine boost. For me, when I was dealing with Lyme disease, I was really sick. I worked my way up to 25 minutes at 14 degrees celsius and I was doing this 5 times a week. If you are dealing with a lot of health issues then cold showers aren't going to be enough. 

You will get some benefits with the shower but when your body is completed submerged in water then it will cover more surface area. Water conducts heat or lack of heat 24x faster than air. When you are in the shower, there is a combination of water and air. Sometimes the cold is being transferred to you but you have air so it will not be as much as submerging. An easy way to get started is these three steps:

  1. Ice Water Face Plunge- You fill up a bowl of ice water and you hold your breath and dunk it in there as long as you can stand it. Rest 45-60 seconds and do that 5 times. When you keep your face in there as long as you can hold your breath then you are ready for the next step….
  2. Putting an Icepack on Your Torso- Get a compression shirt this will bring your blood capillaries closer to the surface and it will help you adapt a little quicker. Start with 5 minutes then work your way up to an hour and when you can do that you can go to the next step….
  3. Full Body Submersion- Ideally you want to go in the ocean but if you can't do that then you can go in a cold lake, fill your tub with water, buy bags of ice or ice blocks. 

Start off wherever you feel comfortable. If you are scared of the cold then use semi-cold water and dunk your face in it. You don't have to have the water in the single digits to start! But if you want to go all-in then you can do that as well. Experiment with it and see how you feel. If you still have a health condition after a while then you are going to have to do more and stick with it. If you feel good and want to feel better than you won't have to do as much

Taking a cold shower also helps to build mental toughness! I know you won't want to do it but if you push yourself to do it then you will be more successful in life. Because in life we all have to do things that we don't want to do. The cold builds up this mental toughness. If you can submerge your body in cold water then you can bring yourself to do a lot of other things.

It's never easy to face the ocean or to turn off the hot water and stand in a cold shower but you do build tolerance after a while. I find that after maybe 30 seconds the body adjusts and it doesn't feel that bad and then you feel amazing. It lifts you up in a short amount of time.-Kriben Govender

Is There A Risk Of Hypothermia?

Build up your tolerance to cold and be smart about it! If you have never done anything in the cold, you don't want to jump in an icy lake that is over your head. The shock of the cold could cause drowning, you can actually go unconscious. Listen to your body. When I first started, I lived in the DC area and I didn't have any options, I could only do it in my tub. I started at 5 minutes. Then the next time I went up a few more minutes. Every time I pushed myself as hard as I could. Some of us will push more than others but if you listen to your body you're not going to get frostbite or hypothermia. If you go to the super cold place be smart about it, go in a shallow lake and lower yourself down. Walk-in instead of jumping in! Be mindful of the upper body and your head when you are first starting. No breathwork in the ocean or tub if you are just starting!

light bubs

Tips For Mitochondrial Health?

Historically most of us used incandescent bulbs to light our homes. Over the last couple of years, there has been a switch to more energy-efficient bulbs including fluorescent and LED. These bulbs don't have any infrared light in them. If you are still able to purchase halogen or incandescent bulbs then get them! You may spend more money on your electricity bill but you are getting a great health benefit with the infrared light. Infrared light is now absent from a lot of people's lives. 

We need to incorporate a lot of holistic techniques that can translate to optimal health right throughout the body including the gut. Most cells in the body have mitochondria and they are so important to get your gut functioning properly. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell and it produces deuterium depleted water. -Kriben Govender

Many people with gut issues build up deuterium in their cells. Your cells are supposed to turn over every 2-3 days but if you have a lot of deuterium in there, they won’t turn over. That is why gut problems have exploded. Having your cell phone close to your gut causes a leaky gut! You are constantly putting that stress on your gut and it never has a chance to heal. It never depleted the deuterium and that gets trapped in your gut lining. Don't use your laptop on your lap, make sure you have distance. When you are around appliances such as a blender, you don't want to be very close to it. For a lot of us, it is at our gut level. You are trying to do something healthy like making a smoothie but you are opening up your gut lining from the EMF exposure…..Be mindful of the appliances around you. 

What Is One Thing That You Can Do For Your Gut Health?

One of the best things you can do is to get sun exposure on your gut! Infrared light penetrates up to 30 centimeters into your body. All of the bacteria in your gut like this light. Molecular hydrogen is a popular supplement but when you get sunlight on your gut this makes natural molecular hydrogen. You won't have to spend a lot of money on supplements. You can also use a red-light machine, like this one. It won't take the place of sunlight but if you are trapped in a gloomy cold place then it is great to use! You can also turn it on when you’re inside because it can penetrate your clothing as well. Remember that your gut goes from your mouth to your butt so get that sunlight on your entire front. Watching the sunrise sets your circadian rhythm as well. These tips help to maintain great gut health.

Mitochondrial health may be the link that you need to focus on in your life. Luckily you can make these changes and have a great outcome just like Nathan did. Remember all of these tips the next time you are trying to figure out what is going on with your health. Make sure to get blue light blocking glasses if you are exposed to LED lights after dark (Hint: Most of us are!) If you are in a gloomy area of the world you can purchase a Red Light Machine to help get that infrared light, go out in the sun daily, and try out cold thermogenesis and Deuterium Depleted Water (DDW) . Share this with a friend that would benefit from these tips!

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