Mitochondria are known as the battery packs of the cell. They are organelles that act like a digestive system which takes in nutrients, breaks them down, and creates energy rich molecules for the cell. The biochemical processes of the cell are known as cellular respiration. Many of the reactions involved in cellular respiration happen in the mitochondria. Mitochondria have their own ribosomes and DNA. They’re typically round or oval in shape and range from 0.5-10 microns in size, so we can’t physically see them, but they affect everything we do. There can be as few as 1-2 mitochondria per cell or as many as thousands, it all depends on the energy needed for that cell to function.
Natural Light/Sun Exposure
The sun is one of the most powerful mitochondrial boosters for optimal health and wellbeing. Plus it has the added benefit of being free! Natural or visible can have wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometers (nm), between the infrared (with longer wavelengths) and the ultraviolet (with shorter wavelengths).
Sunlight produces a beneficial negative charge inside our cells and activates our mitochondria. This negative charge increases the mitochondrial membrane potential, thereby improving mitochondrial function.
Another way to trigger new mitochondrial production is to expose yourself to quick bursts of cold temperatures, either by going outdoors, or through cold plunges (discussed in another post). Doing so will, in essence, trick your body into survival mode, and kick mitochondria production. So get out into the sunlight as much as you. If you live in a place that the sun is very strong, please use common sense and go out in the sun early morning or late afternoon when the sun is not the strongest as you want to get it’s benefits without suffering from sunburn.
There are other light forms that can give us benefits. If you have the interest you can look into purchasing a sauna, or light for in home therapy sessions. Below is a short discussion on red and near infrared light. The near infrared and red lights have two key properties:
They penetrate into the body, through skin, fat, muscle and even bone, other wavelengths can’t do this. The other property is that every cell in our body can respond to the pulse of red or near infrared light. In the mitochondrial wall, there are specific proteins that react to red and near infrared light. When red and near infrared light shines, the protein’s responses set off a series of chemical changes within and outside the cell. These changes are good ones, they all make the cell work better in a variety of ways.
The implications of these two properties are profound, as the red and near infrared light can directly affect cells, even those two centimetres below the skin surface, it can penetrate quite a way. This means that every mitochondrion gets an energy boost. This also means that all the cells suddenly get very active.
When the mitochondrial proteins are given a dose of light, a series of chemical reactions start. These chemical reactions do the following:
- They make the cell active and able to do whatever it is supposed to do. This battery recharge protects the cell and makes it function normally for a while. In the brain, the effect is called neuroprotection.
- They stimulate the cell to begin the process of making new cells. It is good, as new cells mean more action. In the brain, this is called neurogenesis.
- They change the chemical composition outside the cells.
- Makes the blood vessels form new blood vessels, in a process called angiogenesis.
- Stops the inflammatory response, and stops the release of chemicals that cause pain and do damage to the tissue, this process is called the anti-inflammatory effect.
As we can see, their effects are very powerful. Sunlight, red and near infrared wavelengths of light result in “better” working cells. They can also generate new blood vessels as well as increasing the amount of oxygen to the cells and acting to reduce inflammation.