Human energy — where does it come from? From food calories, or from how your body transforms them into the kinds of energy your brain and body can recognize and use?
There’s more to it than that. What about the quality and quantity of energy you feel from the first thing in the morning until the moment you fall asleep at the end of your day? When are you most likely to experience an energy drain? Ever wish you had greater physical stamina or better mental focus?
Our sense of energy (or the lack of it) stems from how well our cell and organ systems coordinate their work. Some cells help digest, detoxify, or absorb food, while others help convert food energy into a dizzying variety of human energy forms.
Energy comes in tricky packages
Energy is great, but like electricity or radioactivity, it is inherently hazardous to handle. Safely distributing, storing, and retrieving it for use exactly when and where you need it is a complicated feat of biochemical juggling for the body, and it only gets trickier as we age.
Now, back to immunity. (Remember immunity?) Where does immunity intersect with mental and physical energy?
Within cells is where the alchemical transmutation of food into energy takes place, and cells rely heavily on good immune function in order to work effectively. Cells contain many kinds of specialized bio-machinery (called “organelles” because they’re like miniature organs) to perform their tasks, and all of it takes energy. In terms of energy, though, mitochondria are the most important, because they are where the riskiest power transformation occurs.
Mitochondria need rejuvenation too
Mitochondria tend to age quickly as the result of their high-intensity work. Good, steady energy takes mitochondria that are robust and efficient. Because they’re particularly prone to damage, mitochondria need regular replacement through rejuvenation in order to maintain the high performance their humans depend upon.
Rejuvenation usually happens at the cell level, but it also occurs in mitochondria, which bear an especially heavy work burden. Updating cells and mitochondria through rejuvenation is a normal immune event that is central to health, yet it often gets sidelined if we consume too many calories, don’t enjoy enough physical activity, or feel overwhelmed by stress.
For more on this immensely important topic, check out these previous blog posts. Each one provides pointers on encouraging natural rejuvenation — Immunity + Metabolism, Immunity + Aging, Immunity + Longevity.
Energy leakage from injured mitochondria is an important factor in aging, and as you might guess, it’s also incompatible with staying healthy and keeping reliable energy reserves. Rejuvenation of mitochondria may be one of your immune system’s most important tasks, because cells (including all those immune cells) rely on their mitochondria for energy — and so do we!
For a deeper dive
For the detail-oriented, here’s an illustrated science article describing how mitochondrial rejuvenation keeps cellular engines running more smoothly, and here’s another showing how exercise promotes rejuvenation and immune function at the same time.