Fatigue, Weight & Muscle Weakness: Could It Be Mitochondrial Issues?

May 25, 2022

Happy Natural Medicine Week! Hope you’ve been enjoying the live events, articles and recipes from Natural Medicine Week.


Don’t forget, we have another webinar coming up this Friday (27 May, 12:30-2pm) - The 3 Hidden Causes of Fatigue with Guest Expert Dr Daniel Kalish.  We are so incredibly excited to bring you this webinar. USA-based Dr Kalish is an absolute mountain of knowledge and I know you’ll learn so much from him. He is founder of Kalish Institute of Functional Medicine, and is considered one of the pioneers and world’s best in Functional Medicine. I was lucky enough to be personally mentored by him for four years, learning all his functional medicine secrets!


In the webinar, Dr Kalish uncovers three hidden causes of fatigue that your GP will rarely speak to you about. We’ll also be joined by our motivational coach Chris Bellette, where he will take you through a practical energy-boosting technique that you can continue using daily to increase your energy flow. I’m too excited! You can register for the webinar here.


The Mitochondria - Your Energy Powerhouse 

Today in my blog post, I want to shed light on the MITOCHONDRIA - something that Dr Kalish and I will chat more about in the webinar on Friday, among other things.

The mitochondria can be a hidden cause of fatigue, and it’s something GP’s or medical specialists never address. And actually, many other natural therapists don’t know how to test, assess and address the mitochondria properly. So if you’ve seen your fair share of practitioners and you’re still struggling with energy issues, you’ll want to read on!


The mitochondria are tiny organelles that live in your muscle tissue, and their role is to convert food - fats, proteins and carbs - into Adenosine 5’-triphosphate (ATP) energy. 

If your mitochondria aren’t doing so well, and therefore aren’t producing energy effectively, you could be left feeling very fatigued. Other symptoms I commonly see in clients with mitochondrial issues are post-exercise fatigue (you feel worse and more exhausted after physical exercise, as opposed to brighter and more energised),  weight gain (if you’re not converting food into energy effectively, where does it go? Yep, it gets stored as fat), and a general feeling of weakness and/or achiness.  


Two Major Ways The Mitochondria Become Imbalanced

The mitochondria can become imbalanced in two major ways. The first way is co-enzyme deficiencies, which in layman terms means that the nutrients you need to convert fats, proteins and carbs into energy (see the Citric Acid Cycle graph below), are deficient. When this happens you can’t convert foods into energy very effectively. 

Common causes for this are genetic issues, nutrition or gut issues (you’re not eating enough of the important mitochondria micronutrients, or you’re not digesting them very well), or there is a lot of inflammation in your body and you’re burning up micronutrients trying to protect yourself from further damage. 

The second imbalance is when the mitochondria organelles actually become damaged.  When doing lab testing, we can see exactly how burned-out the mitochondria organelles have become. Often you see half or more markers very low. I liken this to cylinders in a car. If half the mitochondria are damaged, you only have two cylinders working in your four cylinder car. Any car enthusiast would know that your car can’t go as fast or as powerfully with only half its cylinders. When your mitochondria are 50% damaged, you can only create 50% energy. Sometimes, the mitochondria are 75% damaged, which of course means you are only able to produce a quarter of ATP energy. 

The main things that cause the mitochondria to become damaged are inflammation and oxidative damage which often comes from environmental toxins, mould and pathogens, especially viral pathogens like Epstein barr virus and COVID-19. Over-exercising can also cause further mitochondrial damage, if the mitochondria are already struggling.


How Do You Test For The Mitochondria

Wee! Can you believe it? You can look at the health of your mitochondria via your urine. We use a functional medicine lab test: the Organix Acids Profile. From your wee, we can see all the different pathways in the citric acid cycle, and where the cycle has broken down. We can also detect if your mitochondria are depleted - and how depleted. 

My motto is always to test, don’t guess. It’s incredible that we have this technology at our finger-tips, to be able to discover where exactly your energy, weight, or body weakness issues come from. 


A Case Study

We’ve worked with many clients to restore their mitochondria, and as a result their energy, weight and chronic pain/weakness issues. 

One client was really struggling with post-exercise fatigue. Prior to kids, she had been very active. But after her first baby six years previous, the family moved to an old country home in Tasmania (which they later discovered had mould), and around the same time she also caught glandular fever. She claimed she had been fatigued and not as physically resilient since. She also worked as a remedial therapist, and was struggling to keep up with the physical demands of her work. 

Initially we helped her restore her brain function, which helped with brain fog and energy levels. But her energy still wasn’t optimal, and she continued to crash after exercise. Even a slow jog or 10km hike caused her to burn and crash. And a whole day of massaging clients left her feeling wiped and achy. 

It turned out, via testing, that her mitochondria had become damaged, most likely due to a combination of stressors - having three kids in six years, contracting glandular fever, and moving into a mouldy environment. As we worked on her mitochondria and root causes, her energy increased, and her body became stronger and more resilient. Month by month she was able to slowly increase the intensity of her exercise and work load.


Join our 3 Hidden Causes of Fatigue Webinar 

If you’re keen to dive deeper into the mitochondria, and other hidden causes of fatigue, sign up to our free webinar “3 Hidden Causes of Fatigue with Guest Expert Dr Kalish”, kicking off this Friday 27 May, 12:30-2pm. If you can’t make it live, no worries! All registrants will receive a recording of the webinar and handouts. 


Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.

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