Dr. Spelman Dives Deep Into Optimizing Mitophagy and Mitochondrial Function

Sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine

By Jen Palmer, ND

Kevin Spelman, PhD, Restorative Medicine Conference faculty, has an extensive background in research as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health, a Marie Curie research fellow in the EU, as well as a past adjunct professor of botanical medicine at the National University of Natural Medicine. He has over 20 years of clinical experience, and brings to his lectures the optimal blend of both science and clinical relevance.

At the 2019 Restorative Medicine conference in San Diego, he will be speaking on the fascinating role of mitochondria in health and disease, environmental factors which damage mitochondria, and nutrients and botanical medicine that support organelle function and structure.

In his three-hour course, he will translate the science which connects mitochondrial health to longevity. Mitochondria are ubiquitous to human cellular function, and are linked to ROS activity (reactive oxygen species), calcium homeostasis, ATP supply, membrane permeability, iron/copper handling, apoptosis and much more. Clinical symptoms reflecting mitochondrial dysfunction include those common to chronic fatigue syndrome, such as muscle weakness, malaise, and long recovery times after exercise.

As mitochondria deteriorate due to aging, stress and damaging factors, their performance declines. With this comes more membrane leakage and higher production of ROS. The body has an efficient method for breaking down old and defective mitochondria, called “mitophagy,” in which it recycles the old materials to produce new, healthy mitochondria. When mitophagy is effectual, the body has the ability to rebalance and self-regulate to maintain health. However, this is greatly dependent on dietary factors; the body requires optimal nutrition to support mitochondrial function and the “standard American diet,” high in processed foods and low in nutrition, hampers the regenerative process. Without the proper building blocks, the “old” mitochondria accumulate and are not substituted with healthy replacements.

It’s believed that mitochondrial function decline is closely linked to common signs of aging, including sarcopenia (the loss of both activity and muscle mass) and cognitive decline. It hasn’t been definitively proven whether the loss of mitochondria is the direct and sole cause of aging and disease, however, it is significant to note that applying nutritional strategies to enhance mitophagy will support longevity and health.

Beyond nutrition, one of the categories of herbal medicine that Dr. Spelman recommends is adaptogens, in which he has coined an alternate term “autophagic restoratives.” Adaptogens are believed to affect longevity, most likely via mitochondrial support; they also influence the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and much more.

Regarding sourcing botanical medicine, Dr. Spelman believes that the whole herb offers much more than just an isolated plant compound. In botanical medicines, there are thousands of constituents in a plant which contribute to its therapeutic benefits, likely far more than we could possibly understand. Extracting only the active constituents in plants means that hundreds or maybe thousands of other beneficial phytocompounds are excluded. For example, Spelman shares his clinical experience of using dried, whole, fruiting body of Ganoderma lucidum mushroom to give patients a gentle boost in energy without being stimulating. This mushroom is known to improve mitochondrial function and is a potent antioxidant. But he found that using formulas targeting just the polysaccharide extract of the mushroom do not produce the same benefits.

It’s also important to note that when a single compound is isolated from the full spectrum of naturally occurring phytocompounds, it affects absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion. The means in which an herbal extract is delivered and in what medium is very critical to how effective it will be. This is why incorporating the whole herb is key, particularly when addressing mitochondrial function.

Dr. Spelman will be offering his expert insights on clinical applications of herbs and nutrients for mitochondrial support in his not-to-be-missed lectures in San Diego. Naturopathic doctors qualify to earn up to 20 CE at the live conference, as well as an additional 9 CE through on demand recordings after the conference (including 10 pharmacology CE in total). MDs and FNPs earn up to 20 CME total. View more conference details here https://restorativemedicine.org/sandiego or email jen@restorativemedicine.org for more information.

About the Author

Jen Palmer, ND is a graduate of Bastyr University and has spent the last 20 years focused on consumer and physician wellness education. She is currently the Director of Education and Communications for the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine. 

References

  1. Ana Bratic, Nils-Göran Larsson, The role of mitochondria in aging. J Clin Invest. 2013;123(3):951-957. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI64125.
  2. Mattson MP. Dietary factors, hormesis and health. Aging Res Rev. 2008;7(1):43-8.
  3. Shu-Ting Chang, Ganoderma lucidum (Curt.: Fr.) P. Karst. (Aphyllophoromycetideae)−A Mushrooming Medicinal Mushroom. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, DOI:10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.v1.i2.30. pages 139-146