Say yes if you’d like to slow down the ageing process! Mitochondria therapy just may be your answer.
We recently caught up with Allison Sheppard, Naturopath and Founder of Naturopathy For Living in our Feel Great Look Good podcast. One of the innovative therapeutic interventions we discuss is mitochondrial therapy, which is said to increase energy levels and slow the process of cellular ageing. Read on to find out how.
Wellbeing and health is such an important topic for us, and I think it’d be great if we just dived straight in and talked about you really and who you are and what you do.
Allison I’m a naturopath. I’m trained in both the medical and the naturopathic model of healthcare which focusses more on nutrition, lifestyle and self-care practices. In my practice, I take a systems-based approach to health, and that means looking at the systems of the body, for example looking at the digestive system, the immune system, the endocrine system. And ultimately how they all work together so nothing works in a silo. I’m guided by the principle that giving the opportunity the body knows what it needs to get well. I say it’s my job to get you 51% better and your body will take over and do the rest. It’s about creating the right internal and external environment to help. I guess naturopathy can be described as a lifestyle choice, it’s providing you with tools and techniques to restore your health and wellbeing. And it’s not just about sitting in front of a practitioner like myself, it’s really about empowering you to make those everyday choices as part of your self-care.
I think you’re right because if the long-lasting sustainable changes are the ones people make when they take responsibility for their health and wellbeing. Is that what you see in your practice as well?
Allison Absolutely, I might be putting the programme together and setting it out in an achievable way, but they’re the ones who do the hard work and it’s wonderful to see the change in someone.
How do diagnostics and functional testing help you to take that approach which means that everyone is unique, and everyone gets something personalised to their needs?
Allison You know you might think that there’s one thing going and then you run a test like a clinical test like a hormone test or a gut test, a stool test, and it’ll be quite different and take me down a different path. So it is individualised, and I have a different set of protocols, but we are individuals and it’s about celebrating that. Just because one person might respond to something doesn’t mean another will.
What kind of diagnostics do you do at Naturopathy For Living that you’ve found helpful?
Allison, I don’t always run clinical or functional testing, I think the first diagnostics is a very detailed case history and developing a practitioner/client relationship. I might run specific hormone tests, sex hormones, stress hormones, adrenal, cortisol. And more recently I’m running a test looking at our mitochondria, so mitochondria therapy, which is looking really at the energy delivery in the body and you know, we are nothing without a good energy delivery. It’s putting a client on a specific protocol to help with that, which is fascinating stuff.
I thought it would be really interesting for people to know about mitochondrial therapy as it’s something you’ve trained and specialised in.
Allison Well mitochondria are commonly referred to as powerhouses or the engine of a car, and they produce 95% of our energy. And as every bodily function requires energy, we need to take care of them. An obvious way to do this is through a really good diet. Diet is seen as the petrol for the engine of the car and is one of our biggest health allies, but it’s also about managing avenues of stress. So the mitochondria, I guess like many things in our body or health, are highly strung and they’re constantly sensing our internal and external environment in that they’re sensing stressors and if there is a stressor or a trigger, they’ll slow down because it’s called cell danger. They slow down because they want to conserve the energy in the cell and protect it from dying. And when they slow down, we feel that we become energy deficient. It can lead to several different health complaints which are why when you’re looking at health, it’s vital to look at the health of our mitochondria and protect our energy because we’re not going to get well or feel well if we have a compromised energy delivery.
You’ve talked about that sort of tired all the time feeling, the “TATT” on your website.
Allison Yes, there’s that acronym now, TATT, but fatigue and tiredness I guess are one of the most common presenting complaints I see. It is an indication that the body is struggling, and it needs more power essentially to be able to get well.
Because you were talking about that kind of stress, and we always feel like we're running away from the tiger! I think you said the mitochondria therapy can help with that as well can’t it?
Allison The actual protocol the actual therapy itself, it initially when someone comes to see me, I use something called a heartrate variability screening, which is nothing new, there are lots of different versions of HRV testing out there. You can even have them on an app. But this is a very sensitive one, so I screen someone’s heart rate variability and a healthy heart has conversely more variable. You want variability within that heart because your body is changing all the time, it’s a very dynamic process and your heart needs to speak to your immune system to your endocrine system and it needs to respond to the ebb and flow of that, so it needs to be variable. But when that variability is compromised or reduced in some way, the body is not reacting to its internal environment and its external environment as it should be, there’s a reduced variability and that’s a sign that the body is stressed and the sign of a stressed response. So by screening someone’s heartrate variability it enables me to look at their stress response within the body which also gives me indirect information about their how their endocrine system is working, their hormone system and the immune system. And yes, you touched on the tiger, we do have this innate fight or flight response and we do need that. Thankfully we’re not coming into contact with tigers and we’re not running for our lives, but we are, many of us, dealing with stresses. We’re travelling to work, perhaps dealing with a difficult boss at work, we’re maybe dealing with a difficult home life. Unfortunately our body is staying in this stressful response for too long so it’s innovating this sympathetic branch of the nervous system, the fight or flight, rather than the parasympathetic which is the rest, where we should be the majority of the time. So, there’s this imbalance in the autonomic nervous system. So it’s a lovely indication of the stress response in the body and the level of protocol I’d need to suggest to someone. And the protocol yes, it’s always lifestyle, it’s lifestyle first and looking at avenues of stress and how you can change that and going back to the basics. Like time in nature, laughter, play, food as medicine, getting that wonderful anti-inflammatory diet that’s very rich in antioxidants which is incredibly important for the mitochondria because they do produce a lot of their own free radicals. 90% of free radicals that our body produces as part of natural biochemical processes are produced by the mitochondria and a natural process to respiration and energy production. So it’s doubly important to get that nutrient-rich diet to provide the antioxidants to cope with the free radical load from the mitochondria. But also what I suggest is a specific protein called L-carnosine which is in our supplement and it feeds our mitochondria, and it enables antioxidants to do their work better. But primarily it provides us with the energy we need to get well and feel great.
This mitochondrial L-carnosine supplement seems to be something that people could look at to support their systemic healthy lifestyle.
Allison The mitochondrial theory of ageing has been around for a long time, it was discussed as early as 1940, but we know that it contributes to the ageing process itself, as well as being the root cause of many diseases. The L-carnosine I use in my practice is vastly different from ones over the counter. It’s a protein that’s found in our body anyway, our brain, heart and skeletal matter. We get it from food too, but the L-carnosine we use was developed by Russian scientists for cosmonauts. When cosmonauts go to space they age more rapidly, and it was designed to combat that ageing process. The scientists realised that’d have to pack the spaceship to the rafters with this supplement. It essentially helps cell regeneration. By taking the L-carnosine and being on the programme you have the potential to regenerate that your years of age wouldn’t usually allow. The L-carnosine you can buy OTC stays in the body for 1-2 hours, where this stays in the system for 12 hours, which is 10 hours more. People on the programme who have been taking it for 6-12 months look markedly younger, things like wrinkles have improved. It’s also fantastic for wound healing. I had a fall a couple of months ago and bashed my hand, so I immediately put some L-carnosine on the cut, and it was amazing in terms of how it healed. One of the exciting things about L-carnosine in terms of anti-ageing is the relationship it has with our telomeres; they are the holy grail of the anti-ageing industry. They sit at the end of our chromosomes, which carry our genetic information and prevent deterioration of genetic information, like a plastic tip at the end of a shoelace! Telomeres get shorter over time, which is considered the indication of cell age, and L-carnosine has been found to protect telomere length. It’s another indication of how it can protect us from ageing.
If people want to find you, Allison, where can they go?
Allison My website and I’m also on Instagram @naturopathyforliving. I do practice face to face in London, I run a practice in Borough Market and I’m also in Devon, but I frequently work remotely. And mitochondria therapy itself, we do need to meet in person for the screening. I generally repeat the screening every couple of months. In terms of other remote work, it’s easy to do remotely now and I think more of us are getting used to that.Feel Great Look Good