Episode 44 of the Long Covid Podcast welcomes back Moira Newiss, Nutritional Therapist, to talk a bit more in depth about how we make our energy. If you haven't already, I highly recommend listening to episode 21 where Moira talks a lot about different foods. In this episode we dive a little deeper into some of the mechanisms as well as what we can do to support them and journey back towards health.
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Jackie Baxter 0:00
Welcome to the long COVID podcast with me, Jackie Baxter. I'm really excited to bring you today's episode. Please check out the podcast website, longCOVIDpodcast.com, where there's a collection of resources, as well as a link to the Facebook support group. If you're able to, please consider supporting the show using the link in the show notes. If social media is your thing, you can follow me on Facebook @LongCOVIDpodcast, or on Twitter and Instagram, both @LongCOVIDpod. I'm really keen to hear from you. If there's anyone you'd like to hear on the podcast, or if you've got any other feedback, please do get in touch through any of the social media channels, or email LongCOVIDpodcast@gmail.com. I really hope you enjoyed this episode. So here we go.
Hello, and welcome to this episode of the long COVID Podcast. I am really excited to welcome Moria Newiss to the podcast. So if you haven't already, I can totally recommend going back and checking out Episode 21, where we talk about all sorts of really useful stuff around nutrition and long COVID. So today, we're going to dig a little bit deeper into the mitochondria and energy production. So welcome back to the podcast.
Moira Newiss 1:34
Thank you, Jackie. It was a pleasure being on last time, and it's really nice to be back again.
Jackie Baxter 1:38
Awesome. It's lovely to see you back. So to start with, would you mind just very quickly recapping what it is that you do and how it might be able to help people with long COVID?
Moira Newiss 1:49
Yeah, sure. So I'm a registered nutritional therapist. And I specialize in helping people who either have a diagnosis or don't have a diagnosis of burnout, chronic fatigue and long COVID. And I help them to get their energy back and their life on track again. And I do that through using a variety of different lifestyle and dietary advice, really, and coaching people towards healthier lifestyle in many ways.
Jackie Baxter 2:16
Awesome. Thank you so much. So yeah, we're going to talk a bit about energy production today. So how do we make our energy?
Moira Newiss 2:26
Okay, so great question, how do we make her energy? I think we all kind of know when our energy is not good. And we can probably all think back to, you know, it might be quite a long time for some people, because I quite often ask people, you know, when did you last feel you had 100% of your energy? And certainly, you know, my experience in the past before I got my energy 100% back again, was I had to go back to being a teenager. So you know, from being about 20 years old to being about 40 years old, I don't think I had 100% of my energy. So the question, I like to think about that to begin with, you know, when did you last have 100% of your energy?
And so how we make our energy really is how we use the nutrients that are in our bloodstream from the food that we eat and digest and it gets into our bloodstream, and the oxygen that we breathe in through our lungs that it gets into the bloodstream too. And we we use both the nutrients and the oxygen to make something called adenosine triphosphate. It's a molecule, often abbreviated to ATP. And that is actually our energy supply for the body. And we use these nutrients to make ATP through kind of various chemical reactions that happen in the individual cells of the body, so every single cell in your body pretty much. There are a couple of exceptions, but pretty much all of them and we've got trillions of them, are making energy all the time.
In fact, the interesting thing about ATP is that you will make your body weight in ATP in a day, it's, you know, it's a vast amount of energy being produced in the body. So it's it's happening, you know, 1000s of times a second, this kind of chemical processes is going on and repeating itself. And we're using, you know, so want to talk about the nutrients that we're eating. So I'm talking about carbohydrates that break down into, you know, sugars and starches, and also fats that we eat and and also we can use protein, the body prefers not to use protein. And we don't really want to be certainly breaking down our muscle, which are the protein source to make energy, you know, unless it's really, we're in dire circumstances, like we're starving or something like that. So that's the kind of very basics of the process.
Jackie Baxter 4:33
Amazing. I don't know about anyone else. But this is certainly taking me back to my A Level Biology which was quite a long time ago. But it's really interesting to kind of, you know, what we all hear about, you know, you got to eat healthy because, you know, that's good for your body, but to kind of understand a bit more about why that is important.
So yeah, you're talking about the energy being produced in every single one of our cells. Can we maybe talk a little bit more about how that happens?
Moira Newiss 5:06
Yeah, so you might have heard of something called our mitochondria. These are tiny, tiny, little organelles that are inside our cells. And each cell, depending on its function in the body and how much energy it needs to produce, will have a range up to 1000s of mitochondria in every single cell. So cells in your body that use a lot of energy, so we're talking here about things like your brain, your heart, your muscles, they have 1000s and 1000s, of mitochondria. And these little mitochondria are what take the nutrients and the oxygen, and they, through a very complicated series of chemical reactions, eventually produce this fuel called ATP.
And they do that through a couple of different processes. There's one, if you like your A Level Biology and Chemistry, then you've got something called the Krebs cycle. And we also have something called oxidative phosphorylation, and it involves something known as the electron transport chain. So basically, you have a process where different chemicals get produced. And at each stage of this cycle and process, they get converted to another type of chemical. And that's why various enzymes and also cofactors. And the cofactors can often be the vitamins and minerals. And again, that's why our diets so important to help this energy production process kind of keep flowing. And then eventually, we get into this part called electron transport chain. And that's when electrons kind of detach from different molecules. And eventually, amazingly, they actually create what's called a proton gradient, it's actually almost like a buildup of pressure, like you get in a dam, you know, where a dam is holding back all the water, you get this buildup of all these protons that are putting pressure on the system. And eventually, actually, what happens is release the tap, it's almost like a physical tap the way that the cell unlocks itself, well, not the cell, but the other part of the electron transport chain. And then the ATP is made as those protons flow back through the kind of funnel that's created.
So it's amazing. I mean, when you think about that, and that is happening, each mitochondria have this little process that I'm talking about, this complicated process going on hundreds of 1000 times inside each mitochondria. And in each cell, you've got 1000s of mitochondria. So it is truly remarkable when you think about it. And you know, on that kind of scale, really amazing.
Jackie Baxter 7:24
Yeah, that's amazing. And yeah, this is happening, like, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times over in every little part of our body. Yeah, it's amazing to think about, isn't it? I certainly I had never really thought about what was going on in my body before long COVID. You know, you just take it for granted, don't you?
Moira Newiss 7:44
You know, you just think oh, well, you know, when you need a bit of energy, I'll go and get something to eat, and you'll eat it. And amazingly enough, you know, you might feel more energized again, or you have a sleep and you might feel more energized. But you don't, you know, it's hard to get your head around the complexity of that actually happening. And oh, you know, for most of time, we don't really need to, to be honest. But I think when you're not well, for some reason, beginning to understand some of these things just a little bit can kind of help you make the changes that you might need to make to feel good again. And in this case, get your energy back. So yeah,
Jackie Baxter 8:18
yeah, totally. Yeah, you're absolutely right. So what can go wrong? You know, what could cause these little mitochondria and all their little amazing little processes to stop working? So well, I guess.
Moira Newiss 8:32
So when we get a fatigue. And obviously people on this podcast know, I'm not just talking about feeling tired, which you might get, you know, at the end of a busy day, or you've been out for a long run or something, you're tired. I'm talking about fatigue, where, you know, you can't do the same thing tomorrow, because you just absolutely shattered. And it's an ongoing thing, then that, you know, that's a sign that there's something gone wrong with that energy making process.
And the mitochondria are amazing, in that they are kind of key sensors for things in the body. And what they're kind of sensing all the time is they're sensing at the cell level the kind of total amount of stress. And I'm talking about cellular stress here. And what they're kind of sensing is, is there anything wrong in my environment? So they're looking at, you know, are there any toxins around, is there any mental stress? Are we hydrated enough? You know, are they sensing problems due to medications? Are they sensing blood sugar levels aren't good? Are they sensing that we sit all day and we don't do any exercise or we do too much exercise. So what they're doing is that all this environmental information is kind of processed down to chemical messages and the mitochondria read those chemical messages. So when we talk about cellular stress, it's any type of stress - I don't mean mental or emotional stress only, that is one form of stress which your body will have a chemical response to, but all these other physical, you know, even temperature changes. And environmental changes - do you live somewhere with a lot of air pollution is another example of environmental stress. At the cellular level, those mitochondria are sensing all that.
And if they sense that things are not good, they will begin to turn down your energy supply because they go, they moved from what's kind of commonly called the powerhouse, which is your energy making function, they've got a second role, which is in cellular defense, and that's sometimes called the battleship mode. So when we experience fatigue, it's because some of our mitochondria are beginning to move into battleship mode and go on defense. And they will do that because they see that as more important for our survival. So it kind of brings us into a more dormant type of human condition. You know, like, you know, if you've got chronic fatigue, you might well kind of feel that you've gone a bit dormant or that you're almost hibernating, you can't seem to get out of it again, it's that, you know, something's kind of holding you back. And it's hard to work out what it is, well, at a cell level, it is complicated, but basically, you know, these mitochondria, they're really sensitive to changes in your environment.
Jackie Baxter 11:12
Yeah, so it's like, they've sensed that there's something wrong and they've shut down everything that they don't need. Is this like a cellular level of the fight and flight kind of idea that we talk about?
Moira Newiss 11:24
So one of the interesting things is that the mitochondria actually produce your stress hormones in the adrenal glands, for example. So they have lots of amazingly important roles in the body, they produce many of our different steroid hormones, which are related to our stress response. So yeah, there's gonna be constantly sensing, you know, the stress response. And I think the key thing about the kind of stress response is that, you know, it doesn't really matter, again, whether it's a mental or emotional stress - that the stress response in the body, in terms of the chemicals that get produced, is the same. It doesn't vary.
And I think it's one of the kind of misconceptions in a way is that, an example being if you have raised blood sugar, blood sugar has an effect on your stress levels. And that can be caused by what you're eating. I mean, emotional stress can also increase your blood sugar levels. So it would have an added effect. But you know, so it's, there's a lot going on at that cellular level, and those mitochondria, they are sensing and they are also signaling. So not only are they sensing, they are sending out a signal. So they will help produce that that stress response to those hormones in the body.
So they - I kind of like to think of them a bit as a command and control center. Because they really are kind of listening out all the time, 1000s of times a second, to those chemical messages. And then they are deciding what to do and what to signal to the body to say, is everything good? Or have we got a problem here, do we need to move into battleship mode?
Jackie Baxter 12:57
Yeah, so the the messages and they're going both ways as well, aren't they.
Moira Newiss 13:01
Jackie Baxter 13:01
So all they're sort of the stresses are causing the mitochondria to go into their battleship mode. But the battleship mode is also causing external stresses as well, isn't it in some ways, because you know, when it won't do the processes that you want it to do that's causing,
Moira Newiss 13:19
I don't know, it's about the shipment itself is causing us it's kind of it's kind of, it's causing us to have the symptoms associated with fatigue, like brain fog, you know, fatigue being the two classic ones. And if you think about the fact that, you know, when you get ill with a virus to begin with, that you get those symptoms, everybody who gets ill with a virus gets those symptoms, to try and help the body recover. And that is also the same process that is the battleship mode happening. You know, because it's sensing things aren't good. But the problem with chronic fatigue, and long COVID is we're getting stuck in that scenario, we're not getting out of it again. And it should be a complete process.
I've got a good blog on my website at the minute that talks about, there's a great US doctor called Dr. Navajo, and he's written a great paper, which is all about this kind of move from powership to battleship mode, and he talks about the healing cycle, it has to be completed. And ideally, you know, when you get ill you complete it relatively quickly, mainly with sleep, you know, sleep is so rejuvenative. But if that doesn't happen, and we end up going further down the road into illness, then there's a process that we have to go through. And we may end up with some of our cells being damaged through this process, and we're having to repair our cells and then, you know, even create new cells and having to re-educate their cells about what their function is in the body. You know, so there's a complete process to go through to get back to full health again.
Jackie Baxter 14:40
Right. So these things like sleep and good nutrition, as two examples, but that's why they are so important to this healing, I guess.
Moira Newiss 14:51
Yeah, absolutely. And I think you know, when we talk about, you know, obviously we're talking here about long COVID specifically. So, we talked about all these kind of different stresses like, I kind of like to think of it a bit like an iceberg. You know, you know, you've got what you see above the water, you know, and you've got what is hidden below. And we all have these kind of cellular stresses in the body that are all hidden away, because, you know, I can look at you and you know, I might think, Well, you look perfectly healthy, and you know, smiling and, you know, and certainly when I fell ill myself in the past, I don't think anybody knew there was anything wrong with me, I looked perfectly fine on the outside.
But what happens was kind of accumulate these stresses, and then there's a tipping point in which that iceberg will flipp over, you know, and so in the case of long COVID, the likelihood is the virus is a tipping point, you know, and that we've had various things going on, we might not have eaten as healthily as we know we kinda should, we might not be sleeping as much as we thought, we might have had stress at work, or, you know, we might have had things like blood sugar problems, you know, for we might be on a route towards diabetes, for example, or we might have gut health problems, or we might have a job where we just sit for eight hours a day, you know, so all those things add up to a tipping point where the body's like, not happy any longer. And that's what can then cause us to kind of move down that road into chronic fatigue.
Jackie Baxter 16:08
Yeah, totally. And I think a lot of people are sort of starting to realize this, and hopefully, will recover and make changes and, well make changes and recover, whichever way around that haopens.
So yeah, we've talked quite a lot about what's sort of going on beneath the surface. What steps could people listening to this take to help them mitochondria to function better?
Moira Newiss 16:35
Yeah. So I mean, the good thing is that there's loads of things that you can do. So it's very positive message. Because all those kinds of things we've talked about as being cellular stressors, they've all got an, you know, an antidote in a way, which is to undo them and try and, you know, do as many things that are positive for our health. And as many positive messages as we send to our mitochondria, they will begin to move back to the powerhouse, the energy creation mode again.
So I mean, the big one for me, obviously, I'm a nutritional therapist, I've got to put this first, but I would say put it first anyway, because when it's just so important to get the right nutrients into the body - is diet. So my philosophy on this is to look at, you know, what we're kind of genetically programmed to eat as human beings, which is what's our ancestral diet. And, for me, it's really about it being about real food. So, you know, I say to people, when you go into supermarket, buy from the fresh food aisles, that's the basic, you know, does it look like a fruit or vegetable? Or can you tell it's from an animal, if you eat animal products, you know, is it obvious? If it comes in a plastic package with 10 ingredients, and you can't tell what the original animal or plant produce was, then it's a processed food basically. So what we really want to be doing is moving away from eating processed foods, and that have lots of additives, you know, things like emulsifiers, colorings, preservatives, sugars, sweeteners, all those things, they're not natural, they're not helpful in this situation at all. And go back to eating real Whole Foods with lots of lots of color involved.
And there are really simple steps you can take to begin to do this, you know, you can go if it's not you that goes shopping, then ask a partner to do this or a friend even, but you know, have a look and try and think about the rainbow and just try and get a different colored fruit or vegetable onto your plate every day. It's a relatively easy starting point. And there are really easy foods that you can add, you know, that don't require cooking like blueberries would be a great example or strawberries, this time of year, we're gonna have rasberries as well. You know, they really good anti inflammatory foods, and they are real foods. And there's also lots of lovely, you know, things like peppers and courgettes and onions, broccoli and cauliflower, and garlic, leeks, you know, there's lots of things that we can begin to add into our diet.
And I'd say just take it one step at a time. Try not to overcomplicate things. If it needs to be a bag of green salad, you know, that's already prepared. That's fantastic. Go with what's easy to add to your plate.
Jackie Baxter 19:07
Yeah, definitely, you've touched on something that I was going to going to mention because you know, we've talked about terrible fatigue that is often associated with long COVID and other chronic conditions as well. And you know, cooking and preparing meals with real food can seem so, it just it seems like a sort of unsurmountable thing to do almost. Yeah. Do you have tips for sort of easy but healthy meals?
Moira Newiss 17:36
Absolutely. And I think we were touched on this a little bit offline this morning, didn't Jackie, I've got a download that's been a bit of a hit recently with people - we'll put the link in the show notes. But basically I've got a download to help people who have severe fatigue, who don't either don't want to or are not able to cook for you know, maybe just need a little bit of help with the shopping but it's something that you can really easily prepare. And it's basically got easy meal ideas for a week in it, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. And it's got a shopping list. And it's got a couple of recipes in there that are easy as well, that don't involve cooking. They're just - one's a chia pot recipe that you just mix up. And the other one is a smoothie recipe as well.
And it's really about using things that are easy. So easy go to salads, easy things like berries, but also things like eggs, you can actually buy boiled eggs in the supermarket, you know. Obviously, if you want to go budget then you do some of these things yourself or ask your partner to help but you know, you can buy lots of prepared stuff now. And you know, nuts is another great thing. And things like tins of oily fish that you can just open and eat, you know, with salad and things so that - it's totally packed with great ideas for nutrition, that is absolutely what you should be eating, if you want to try and get your energy back again. So I'm totally happy for you to share that.
And I think what I always say to people is, you know, try and make sure you've got some protein on your plate. So by protein would mean either some meat, or some dairy, things like cheese, for example, or other plant protein. So things like things, maybe chickpeas will be a good example, like houmous, or beans and lentils, that kind of thing. And then you want to be adding healthy fats onto your plate, which is quite often something we overlook I think. But really, that's one of the easiest things to do is just to get some olive oil onto whatever you're eating really, so cooked vegetables or salads. And oily fish is another great healthy fat, and eggs, egg yolks have lots of healthy fats in as well. You're gonna get your fiber from your plant foods. So if you're eating plenty of plant food you'll get that anyway. And yeah, that's where I would say to start.
Jackie Baxter 21:38
Yeah, that's really helpful actually. Because like you say, you know, things like, a tin of oily tuna or something, you know, that's actually doesn't really require any preparation. Yeah, there are easy, easy options for healthy stuff, I think. Certainly I tend to forget things like that. And that actually, that you can get protein from lots of very, very easy options that don't really require a lot of cooking, if any. So yeah, that's really, really helpful.
Moira Newiss 22:04
I think the other thing is, if you begin to add these things in, what you'll find is some of the slightly more unhelpful foods will drop off. And so ideally, what we don't want to be eating is the inflammatory stuff, because that will be sending the wrong messages to your mitochondria, which we started this whole conversation on, you know, so things that are ultra processed, or processed foods, you know, because of all these additives, particularly because they've often got high amounts of sugar, and what we call refined carbohydrates, so very processed carbohydrates, which is really just like sugar into the bloodstream, really. And they also tend to have quite a lot of seed oil, like vegetable oil, like sunflower oil, that kind of thing. And then that's quite inflammatory, too. So.
So what happens if we kind of swap things over, we end up dropping out those foods. And also you will feel full for longer because you're eating a diet that is going to be have protein and fiber and will you know, you won't feel the need so much to go and snack on biscuits or sugary snacks or sweets and that kind of thing. So it begins to, you know, you can you can begin to quite, more easily anyway, swap over to an anti inflammatory approach to the diet.
Jackie Baxter 23:08
Yeah, I mean, I've definitely noticed since I spoke to you, I think it was earlier this year when we did the first nutrition episode. And I sort of after that thought, oh, I need to do some of this. So I started eating more vegetables and adding in more healthy stuff. And you're absolutely right, you know, if you if you pack it out with more of the healthy stuff, you do find yourself less wanting to eat the stuff that you shouldn't be eating. I mean, I'm not perfect. I still eat chocolate, and all sorts of things I shouldn't, but I definitely eat a lot less of them than I did before.
So I don't know, I certainly think that, you know, you think about food and you think oh my goodness, I have to change everything all at once. And that just seems such a big thing, doesn't it? Whereas swapping a few things out at a time is a little bit more manageable.
Moira Newiss 24:32
Absolutely, you know, a good way of doing it is just to think at the start of the week, what do I want to change this week. Just keep it simple, even if it's one or two things and you do those changes and you embed them and you do them every day. Then another next week, you start to over a few weeks you'll start to make significant change and that's often much better than saying tomorrow I'm going to completely empty my cupboards, do a massive new shop because it's overwhelming and people waste food that way and it's not as easy to kind of, you know, adapt and change. It's just it's too much to do all at once.
So just you know make a start stick with it. Get some accountability with somebody you know - that's a good technique is to say to somebody you know, if you live with them great, that's easy, or a friend that you say well I'm gonna do this, I'm you know, and you know what you to ask me at the end of the week Did I did I do it? That's a good way of making change.
Jackie Baxter 24:51
Yeah, definitely. And I've definitely found not beating myself up for the days where I did eat something I shouldn't have done as well because again, we're really bad. We're really horrible to ourselves sometimes, aren't we? You know, when you think, Ah, I ate a bag of crisps today, I shouldn't have done that that's awful. Or it's actually, meh, just don't do it tomorrow.
Moira Newiss 25:11
That's it, I think, you know, just keep in mind where you headed. I think you said this at the beginning, you know, it can, you know, can seem a bit insurmountable, sometimes, like how far we might need to feel we need to move. But, you know, we keep taking each day at a time and making progress. And yeah, if yesterday went badly, that's yesterday, you know, it's in the past, we are only focused on the future, you know, and that is really important. Because, you know, keeping that positive mentality that actually, it doesn't really matter if we had a bad day, everybody gets a bad day, you know, I have bad days.
You know, but the other thing is, I think that, you know, when you start to eat real food much more constantly, your palate does change a little bit, and you actually find it much more enjoyable, perhaps, than you would have done when you were eating very high, highly sugary foods, for example, because, you know, it can take a little while for your body to kind of adjust to that I think both mentally, the kind of response you get in your brain to things like sugar is quite interesting, because there's a big reward mechanism that goes on there. And also, you know, one of my favorite things is strawberries at the moment. You know, I love strawberries, strawberries and a bit of coconut yogurt for me, it's just perfect for a treat or a couple of squares of dark chocolate with a handful of walnuts for me, you know, so I think you'd begin to have different pleasures that you might have not thought about before.
Jackie Baxter 26:23
Yeah, totally, totally. You hear about people talking about different sorts of diets. And one that a lot of people mentioned is keto diet. And what is that? And what are your views on that? And how can it be useful?
Moira Newiss 26:41
So if we go back to what we talked about the beginning, where I said there are different types of sources of nutrients that we use for fuel, for making this ATP, this energy source of the body, so I talked about carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. So if you go on a keto diet, you're moving towards a very low carbohydrate diet. So very, very few, usually under 50 grams, sometimes under 20 grams of carbohydrate per day in the diet, and a move towards more fats. Protein can stay relatively constant, as long as we're getting sufficient protein then our protein needs will be met.
So when that happens, the body kind of pushes itself into something called ketosis. And that is when it's using fats as the main source of fuel, and it kind of overloads the usual energy mechanisms because of that, and actually starts to produce something called ketone bodies. And that's where the word keto comes from. So the keto diet is because you are using fat to make ketone bodies. And there are three different types of ketone bodies, the two that are talked about the most acetyl acetate, and beta hydroxybutyrate. And they are circulated around the body. And they can be used for most of your cells for other fuel to make ATP again, and it's actually a very efficient way of making ATP. And it's also very anti inflammatory.
And it's now being used quite therapeutically to help conditions like epilepsy is the historic one it's been used for, particularly in children and to manage it without medication. But more recently, there's been a lot of work done on things like diabetes, and it's now being looked at seriously for things like Alzheimer's and dementia.
And basically, if you burn carbohydrates as your main fuel, which is what most people in the population are doing. So when we burn carbohydrates in the body, we are creating more inflammatory molecules, alongside that process in the mitochondria, we produce more what are called free radicals, which are high energy molecules, which can create damage. And the easiest way to think about it, another example of this would be the sun. You know, if we sit in the sun too long, we get skin damage, skin burns, and that is the same process. It's high energy molecules in the sun's rays that are damaging the skin. And what happens when the mitochondria make their energy is they produce some of these high energy molecules. It's just a byproduct of the energy making process. But when we go into ketosis, or even very low carbohydrate diet would be better, even if we don't fully get into ketosis is less inflammatory, because we produce less of these free radical, high energy molecules too.
So I've probably forgotten the original question was, what is the keto diet? That was the original question! So sorry, slightly roundabout way of explaining it. But yeah, basically the keto diet is when you're moving towards more high fat content diet and low carbohydrates. It's still a real food diet. And the really important thing is that you can do keto diet healthily or unhealthily. So what you really want to be doing is getting lots of omega three fats into the diet, rather than lots of omega six and Omega six is what we find in those seed oils that we talked about before, the vegetable oils we want to be having. So the Omega threes are more anti inflammatories and we want to be avoiding hydrogenated fats and trans fats and things that are in highly processed foods, again, fast food and that kind of thing. So we want be eating real food.
And we also still want to be getting sufficient fiber into the body, because often people can move into eating a lot of fat, and then kind of forget a bit about the fact that they still need the plant foods for fiber. So, on a keto diet, it's still possible to eat lots of leafy green salads, and things like spinach and broccoli, and berries. And there are ways of checking that you get into ketosis, which probably could be a whole another podcast. But if you really want to get serious about this, I'm gonna be writing a blog about this soon, actually. But there are ways to test. So you can do a urine dipstick test that you can buy easily on Amazon. And you can also do a breathalyzer test. And that's measuring the ketones that are produced through the breath. And so they will basically tell you if you're in ketosis or not, but you don't have to test, the key thing is to go down to a low carbohydrate diet.
There are also other signs of that you might be in ketosis from symptom point of view. So clean teeth is a really good one. Because if you don't have carbohydrates on your teeth, you won't end up with them building up as much. Basically, the kind of furry feel you get on your teeth when you think, oh, I need to brush my teeth, basically. So that kind of goes away to a large extent, because that is partly to do with carbohydrates in your mouth and the response. Your mind should feel clearer. And that's one of the reasons that it's been looked at for dementia and things now is that it's can help calm the mind. So you can get more clarity, it can help reduce brain fog.
And also, from an energy point of view, you will, ideally, this is the right fuel to really get your mitochondria working properly again. So to really bring it back to that key point is your mitochondria. If you think of ancestrally, what we'd have eaten - now we're in the UK here. So you know, we're coming into the summer, where there are berries, there are salady things, and we would be hunting and gathering, we'd be eating some meat, we would be gathering, you know, plant foods, and it would be what would be in season. And other than that small window, which in the UK is quite small for the summer, and then maybe into autumn, a few root vegetables that we would find, you know, the rest of the year, we would have been probably in ketosis because we'd have generally been eating a more high fat animal diet. And that would traditionally have lasted us, you know, at least six months of the year, if not nine months. So our mitochondria are kind of, you know, we think about our ancestry and our genetics. So how we're adapted to eat, the likelihood is that that would have suited us well, is what the thinking is.
Jackie Baxter 32:34
Yeah. I mean, when you hear about carb loading, don't eat for athletes, or people that take a lot of exercise. But you know, a lot of people with long COVID are not very active at all. So is that why, the opposite, almost might might be helpful?
Moira Newiss 32:51
Well, it's really interesting, because if you are a sprinter, and you need to go fast, but for a short distance, and you want to beat people, you are definitely going to have to have carbohydrates because it is a faster response in the body. But endurance athletes who are cycling long distances, or running long distances. There are now fat adapted athletes who are doing this in ketosis, and they are doing really well. There was a really interesting experiment done, I went to a conference a couple of weeks ago, the Public Health Collaborative Conference, which are all about providing real food for health. And there were I think it was four or five men cycled from Glasgow to Bristol for the conference, over five days, completely fasted, they didn't eat anything for five days, they did 500 kilometers. And they were basically in ketosis, they were burning their own fat as fuel during that process. So you know, it's, it can help lose weight as well, because that because you are, you know, once you get into ketosis, you're able to either use fat from the diet or from your own fat reserves.
And quite often now, you will - even there are some very famous tennis players or other sport professionals who will do a lot their training very low carbohydrates, because it'll help them improve their performance. And then on the day, they may do a little bit of carb loading just beforehand, or, you know, they might eat a banana halfway through a tennis match or something like that. And that gives them enough of a glucose increase on the day to have a better performance, but they're actually quite fat adapted athletes generally. So it's fascinating science, and it's relatively new science still coming out about this.
Jackie Baxter 34:23
Yeah, that's fascinating, isn't it? That almost sounds like the food version of training at high altitude.
Moira Newiss 34:29
Yeah, it's a way of getting the body to adapt, really, you know, to be more efficient, and the way it does things, so
Jackie Baxter 34:37
yeah, that's amazing. So yeah, there's some really, really helpful food related tips and things there, which is amazing. So other than diet, what else could we be thinking about sort of in more more general terms, I suppose, in order to help our energy production?
Moira Newiss 34:56
So I think diet is obviously a big one, but there are loads of other things, as I said before. Because when we think about, going back to that sort of model we were thinking about, where the mitochondria sensing things in their environment at the cell level, and they're sensing things like, you know, well, we'll run through a few. And we can see, you know, what we can do about them.
So first, and we'll be toxins at the level. So we're talking about chemicals here that are unhelpful for health. Have a think about the environment you live in. I mean, some things we can't change, you know, if we live next to agricultural fields, and they're spraying, you know, we can't change that - we can maybe try to avoid being close to it while they actually oing the spraying. But we can do things - we can look in our own house, at our own skincare products, you know, are we using natural products or have we got very heavily chemical laden products. Are we cleaning our home with chemicals that might be you know, some of them have a really strong impact on the mitochondria. So can we use more natural things? You know, there's lots of things you can Google about this, but you can use bicarbonate soda or vinegar, and you can get natural products as well. And you know, what about shampoos, things we put in our hair, hair dyes, there's all sorts of things that we can just be thinking about in terms of the environment, air fresheners are a great one, you know, just think about that - most of them are not very helpful. So yep, there's things like that.
There's also the fact that, you know, if you're on medications, it might be worth speaking to your GP next time you're there, you know, having a medication review, because some of them aren't very helpful for mitochondria. So you know, I'm not suggesting anybody stops some medication at all. Just a note of caution here, because I can't advise on that at all. But you know, you might be worth having, you know, trying to get your medication reviewed, and seeing whether anything needs adjusted there.
If you've had your blood sugar tested in the past, and it's not as optimal as it could be, then obviously, we talked about some dietary things that would be helpful for that.
Exercise - now, that's an interesting one, obviously, with Long COVID. Because, you know, exercise can be very problematic. So when I say exercise, I'm really meaning movement here. And what you really want to do is send the mitochondria signals that everything is okay. So what we don't want to be doing ideally, is just sitting all day and not moving.
So if you're somebody who is struggling to get out of bed, or is struggling to walk, or do any form of kind of, you know, gentle exercise, like walking, then I would say, if you can just try and move your muscles, you know, even clenching your hands, moving your legs occasionally, you know, you just want to be trying to send the mitochondria signals, that you know, it's daytime, it's an active time of day, you know, so just to try and do the most you can in a comfortable way that you can repeat again tomorrow, because obviously that goes into what you've talked about in other podcasts, Jackie, about pacing, and things like that, you know, we don't really do too much, because that also is negative for the mitochondria. So it's a very careful balance, but definitely trying to move your body as gently as you need to. That will be really good. I mean, drinking, make sure you hydrated is another good one.
And you've done other podcasts on things like breathing, you know, the importance of breath work, to calm our body down and reduce the stress response. So and things like yoga and meditation and mindfulness. And one of my most favorite of all, is just being in nature. And again, that could be difficult for you if you're live in a flat, or you're not able to get out and about but if you are able to, try and get out somewhere where there's natural forest, if you can at all and just even sit there because there is some amazing studies about how forest bathing can be really helpful for reducing our stress response generally. And if you are stuck in a house, you know, watching nature documentaries. There's great studies that show that even people who are shown pictures, or had a view out of their window that had nature had a positive effect as well. So lots of things to have a think about.
Jackie Baxter 38:57
Yeah, that's amazing. I mean, I think yeah, I've definitely noticed, you know, being outside or even just having the window open sometimes, a bit of fresh air can can really, really help. Amazing. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. It's been awesome to dive a bit deeper into the sort of inner workings of ourselves. And yeah, definitely got my brain working a little bit. So that's been awesome. So thank you so, so much for explaining all of this to us and all the things you've mentioned, I will stick in the show notes for anybody to follow up on. So thank you.
Moira Newiss 39:33
Thank you very much.
Jackie Baxter 39:34
Thank you so much to all of my guests, and to you for listening. I hope you've enjoyed it, or at least found it useful. The long COVID podcast is entirely self produced and self funded. I'm doing all of this myself. If you're able to please go to buymeacoffee.com/longCOVIDpod to help me cover the costs of hosting the podcast. Please look out for the next episode of the long COVID podcast - it's available on all the usual podcast hosting things and do get in touch - I'd love to hear from you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai