Your nervous system can be thought of like an electrical network, with your brain as a computer and your nerve fibers like signal wires. If the computer doesn’t have enough power, or the wires get damaged, the signals don’t get through and the whole system stops working properly.
There are a large number of different conditions that can affect the health of your nervous system, and these are known as “neurological disorders”. Neurological disorders and their consequences affect as many as one billion people worldwide. Many of these conditions can reduce your control over your muscles and organs, or they can affect your memories and cognitive ability.
Neurological disorders can be caused by your genes, by other diseases or by injuries and toxins.
They can damage the neurons themselves or the insulating myelin layer around your nerve fibers. This results in proper nerve pulses either not being sent, or not getting through to where they are needed.
When your mitochondria produce energy for your cells, “free radicals” are produced as a by-product.
It’s a lot like the exhaust produced by an engine. When your mitochondria are functioning properly, your energy-hungry neurons are able to protect themselves from the damage that can be caused by excess free radicals. They do this by using your body’s antioxidant system to “mop up” the excess free radicals, thereby rendering them harmless.
However, when your mitochondrial function declines due to illness or aging, your neurons don’t get the energy they need to work properly or to defend themselves against free radical damage. As the natural levels of antioxidants in your mitochondria decline, the free radicals begin to damage the mitochondria, and can also leak out of the weakened mitochondria into our cells. When this happens other cell components, including your DNA, can be damaged.
A large number of neurological disorders have now been linked to the oxidative stress that is seen when our mitochondria start to decline.
Over time we experience a slow breakdown of our cellular machinery.
This starts to impact on how well our neurons work and affects our strength, our cognitive function and our control over our bodies. The ongoing cycle of more and more damage can eventually develop into various neurological disorders, and our neurons might stop working properly or even start to die. This process is known as neurodegeneration.
Fortunately, however, there are some steps we can take to prevent, slow, or even reverse the damage caused by oxidative stress.
Part three: 'Empowering Our Mitochondria'