Mitochondria – Drugs that Injure and What Mitochondria Injury Looks Like

Monday, December 12, 2016
By: Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

Mitochondrial damage caused by drugs, toxins, and nutrients deficiencies is an expanding issue and something that everyone needs to be aware of. The list of drugs inhibiting and damaging mitochondria function continues to expand. Many age-related and seemingly unrelated disorders occur because of cumulative damage to mitochondria.  This is often attributed to aging or stress, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Recognizing the causes and effects of mitochondrial damage and then doing something about it puts you in the driver’s seat to keep your mitochondria healthy and prevent many diseases of aging.

[Jump to: Nutritional Options]

Acquired Mitochondrial Disorders

Mitochondria are the power producers of your body.  Trillions exist throughout the body, with each cell, other than red blood cells, having many.  As these power producers become less efficient or fail, you lose the ability to produce efficient energy and this leads to many health issues.

Mitochondrial difficulties can happen due to a primary problem like a genetic defect or an inherited condition. These genetic disorders frequently appear during infancy or childhood, but may manifest into early adulthood and often cause severe disability or even threaten life. There is another more common type of mitochondrial disorder, acquired mitochondrial disorders, which has recently received increased understanding and recognition. Acquired mitochondrial disorders occur more commonly during adulthood due to insufficient nutrients, drug-induced toxicity, high levels of inflammation and oxidative stress, environmental toxins like mercury and arsenic, and poorly managed blood sugar.

Many symptoms are related to diminished mitochondria function. These symptoms often seem unrelated and can occur throughout the body. In addition, symptoms may wax and wane, based on levels of oxidative stress, inflammation, and the total stress burden on the body.

Symptoms Associated with Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Muscles: muscle weakness, cramping, muscle pain, poor muscle tone, eye lid drooping, double vision or trouble focusing due to eye muscle weakness.

Brain: developmental delay, mental retardation, autism, dementia, seizures, anxiety, depression, and other neuropsychiatric disorders, atypical cerebral palsy, atypical migraines, stroke, learning disabilities, and stroke-like events.

Nerves: neuropathy (burning, pains, pins and needles), acute and chronic inflammatory demyelinating disorders affecting multiple nerves, loss of reflexes, neurologically induced digestive problems like GERD, constipation, and pseudo-bowel obstruction, absent or excessive sweating, and difficulty with body temperature regulation.

Gastrointestinal: vomiting, constipation, irritable bowel, trouble swallowing foods or liquids.

Kidneys: loss of protein/amino acids, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, and other electrolytes, proximal renal tubular dysfunction.

Heart: cardiomyopathy, heart failure, rhythm problems

Liver: low blood sugar, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease/non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and difficulties with blood sugar regulation, liver failure

Lungs: apnea

Eyes:  visual loss and blindness, eye lid drooping, acquired strabismus/eye misalignment, optic neuropathy, and retinitis pigmentosa

Ears: certain types of hearing loss, aminoglycoside sensitivity

Endocrine: diabetes and exocrine pancreatic failure/pancreatic insufficiency, parathyroid failure, adrenal insufficiency, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism

Systemic: fatigue, failure to gain weight, poor growth, respiratory problems. Fatigue is unrelieved by rest. Exercise intolerance may occur. This may be seen as diminished endurance, lack of energy, mental and/or physical tiredness, with increased recovery time after physical activity.

Acquired conditions related to mitochondria dysfunction

• Diabetes
• Huntington’s disease
• Cancer
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Parkinson’s disease
• Bipolar disorder
• Schizophrenia
• Aging
• Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
• Fibromyalgia
• Myofascial Pain
• Cardiovascular disease including atherosclerosis, elevated lipids, and coronary artery disease
• Sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass)
• Migraine headaches
• Strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
• Hepatitis C
• Primary biliary cirrhosis

Nutrients Essential for Mitochondrial Function

For mitochondria to work effectively, they require several key nutrients. Each one of these nutrients plays a specific role in the mitochondria and several nutrients are needed in more than one job. Nutrients required for mitochondrial function are iron, sulfur, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantethine (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), vitamin C, cysteine/N-acetyl-cysteine, manganese, lipoic acid, copper, zinc, carnitine/acetyl-l-carnitine, selenium, and coenzyme Q10. The major enzyme antioxidant system, glutathione, is also included in this list. Glutathione is made up of three different amino acids, glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. Depleted glutathione levels leave mitochondria unprotected and are considered a hallmark of mitochondrial damage.

Mitochondrial Damaging Medications

Medications are known as a major cause of mitochondrial damage. Take a look at the medications that you or your loved ones use and compare to the long list below. Be on the lookout and address any mitochondrial concerns.  It may just save you from problematic and even deadly adverse effects induced by these medications.

Alcoholism medications – Antabuse

Anti-inflammatory and pain medications – aspirin, acetaminophen/Tylenol, diclofenac, fenoprofen, indomethacin, and Naproxen

Anesthetics and steroids – bupivacaine, lidocaine, and propofol

Angina and Heart Rhythm  – amiodarone (Cordarone), perhexiline, and DEAEH

Antibiotics – Fluoroquinolones (Levaquin, Cipro), tetracycline, minocycline, chloramphenicol, and aminoglycosides, and antimycin A

Antidepressants - amitriptyline (Elavil), fluoxetine (Prozac, etc) and citralopram (Cipramil)

Antipsychotics/Mood Stabilizers - Chlorpromazine, fluphenazine, haloperidol, risperidone, quetiapine, clozapine, olanzapine, and lithium

Antianxiety – Alprazolam, Xanax, diazepam, and valium

Barbiturates – mobarbital (Amytal), aprobarbital, butabarbital, butalbital (Fiorinal, hexobarbital (Sombulex), methylphenobarbital (Mebaral), pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), primidone, propofol, secobarbital (Seconal), Talbutal), and thiobarbital

Cholesterol medicationsstatins, bile acid lowering – cholestyramine (Questran), clofibrate, ciprofibrate, colestipol, colesevelam, and ciprofibrate

Cancer/Chemotherapy – Tamoxifen, doxorubicin (Adriamycin), and cis-platinum

Dementia – Tagnex (Cognex), Galantamine (Reminyl)

DiabetesMetformin, buformin, troglitazone, and rosiglitazone

HIV/AIDs drugs

Epilepsy/Seizure – valproic acid/Depakote

Parkinson’s – Tolcapone

The commonly prescribed antibiotic group, fluoroquinolones (Cipro/Ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/Levofloxacin, and others) are so toxic, that the black box warning on fluoroquinolones needed to be updated. The first black box is because of sudden onset of tendon ruptures that may occur weeks and even months after the drug is discontinued. The updated 2015 revision advises of the toxic effects to the nervous system and mitochondria as it has led to sudden onset of severe disability by various individuals who have used the drug.

In addition to the medications directly impairing mitochondrial function, drugs can rob the body of several different nutrients. If you are taking a drug that depletes any of the essential nutrients required for mitochondrial function, this adds to the burden of damage and increases the need for supplementation. 

Essential Mitochondrial Support

Adequate iron, sulfur, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantethine (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), vitamin C, cysteine/N-acetyl-cysteine, manganese, copper, zinc, carnitine/acetyl-l-carnitine, lipoic acid, selenium, and coenzyme Q10 should be considered. Using a multiple vitamin, a broad-spectrum antioxidant, coenzyme Q 10, and acetyl-l-carnitine can provide much of this necessary foundation. PQQ helps make new mitochondria and protects mitochondria as a super antioxidant. A richly colored diet filled with a variety of organic fruits, vegetables and quality proteins is the foundation to dietary health. Borderline low levels of iron or serum ferritin can stress out the mitochondria. Vegetarian diets, picky eaters, and digestive inflammation are common reasons for inadequate iron.

Most of the time, the drug information sheet that you get from the pharmacy is not going describe or list mitochondrial injury as a side effect. Often the symptoms of acquired mitochondrial injury from drugs and insufficient nutrients are initially very subtle. The complaints of fatigue, migraines, GERD, anxiety, and/or heart palpitation, etc. are often dismissed or attributed to age. Yet, if you are on any of the medications listed above, nutritional needs haven’t been met, or if there is a mouth full of mercury amalgam fillings, it is likely that your mitochondria need extra support.  Check your meds and work with your medical provider to reduce or eliminate toxic drugs. If you must be on the drug, then it is imperative to provide adequate mitochondrial support. Acquired mitochondrial damage usually sneaks up on a person. Is it sneaking up on you?

Nutritional Options

B vitamins – This group of vitamins are at the heart of numerous functions throughout the entire body. The lack of even one B vitamin impairs mitochondrial function. High carb or sugar intake, stress, insomnia, digestive disorders, antibiotics, and numerous other elements deplete B vitamins. Incorporating coenzyme B vitamins is at the core of mitochondrial support.

Coenzyme Q 10 – Coenzyme Q 10 is the spark plug for mitochondria. Wellness Resources offers pharmaceutical grade coenzyme Q10 in a crystal free from for enhanced absorption.

Acetyl L Carnitine – The amino acid carnitine is attached to an acetyl group making acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC). It becomes a fat soluble nutrient able to be used by all tissues in the body, including the brain. ALC provides essential fuel for energy production. It is also well known to help cognitive function and memory, nerves and nerve pain, and even helps to burn fat.

Iron – Mitochondria need iron in order to function. Fatigue, cold intolerance, craving ice, and hair falling out may reflect low iron stores. Iron bisglycinate is an easy to absorb form of iron that is non-irritating to the stomach. It is gentle and non-constipating.

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