Energy – many first-time patients arrive at my office woefully short of it. Often, their opening question is ‘Where has my energy gone?’ – followed by, ‘how can I get it back?’ When it comes to optimal health, everyone’s looking for a magic bullet – one that neutralizes free radicals, staves off disease, preserves organ health and rejuvenates our bodies. Turns out there is one. The cool thing is, it’s already inside of us. It’s called CoQ10 and our bodies make it. Not so cool is the fact that our bodies don’t make quite enough of it to power us through our whole lives as vigorously as we’d like – yes, aging can be a drag, literally, in this case, on your energy. So what’s the workaround? Here’s the inside scoop on this incredibly helpful substance that your doc’s probably never mentioned, but regardless, you should definitely get to know a lot better:
What is CoQ10?
It’s a naturally-occurring, vitamin-like antioxidant that your body produces to help keep you well and energized. Found in every cell in your body, CoQ10 helps generate roughly 95% of your body’s energy, while also protecting cells from free radical damage and preserving organ health.
How does CoQ10 work?
It’s an essential component in the complex chemical process that transforms the food we eat into the energy that our cells need to do their jobs, including first and foremost, keeping us alive. Consequently, most of the CoQ10 in our bodies is found in the mitochondria, the power plants inside the cell which produce the energy we run on. In other words, not only does CoQ10 help pump out the energy but, as an antioxidant, it also helps to neutralize the waste products that are left over. We’re talking here about the free radicals that generate inflammation which drives most, if not all, of our most serious chronic diseases.
What’s in it for you?
Quite a bit, and virtually all of it good. In addition to the energy lift, CoQ10 is also credited with supporting neurological and cardiovascular health while helping to keep blood pressure and blood sugar on an even keel. Got muscles and bones? CoQ10 is great for their growth and strength and may help prevent osteoporosis. If that weren’t enough, research indicates that CoQ10 can also help strengthen immunity. And the list goes on, with studies showing CoQ10 supplementation as beneficial for patients dealing with fatigue, migraines, mood issues and elevated cholesterol. There’s also promising research indicating that increasing the level of CoQ10 can help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease and aid recovery in stroke patients.
Given that CoQ10 has its ‘fingers in so many pies,’ it’s easy to see how you’ll likely feel it when you’re falling short, fatigue, sure, but also in some other not-so-obvious but still debilitating ways.
Two simple ways to top your CoQ10 tank.
OK, so, CoQ10 is fantastic stuff, but unfortunately, as we age we tend to produce less and less of it. Without enough CoQ10 to power our cells, they become less resilient and more susceptible to damage – cellular functions can start to sputter, organs become compromised then more severely impaired, and in extreme cases, even death can occur.
How to reverse the slide? Start by boosting your CoQ10 levels into the health-sustaining range by eating CoQ10-rich foods and from there, add a CoQ10 supplement. These two simple moves will almost immediately improve your short and long-term health and deliver added protection to your cells and organs. Supplementation fills in the gaps of even a good, healthy diet. And, truthfully, what you can extract from food is still modest compared to what our bodies actually need to perform well, so supplementation is one of those simple and effective no-brainer habits to add to your daily routine a.s.a.p.
Beware the CoQ10-drainers.
As you age, producing your own CoQ10 gets a lot tougher – I’m looking at you Gen X and beyond – but being on certain medications can deplete your supplies even further. For example, has the doc put you on a cholesterol-lowering statins drug? Then keeping your CoQ10 levels up should be top of mind. Though few docs mention it when prescribing them, statins can slash CoQ10 levels, leaving you more vulnerable to their debilitating but all-too-common side-effects, like fatigue, muscle pains and brain fog.
My advice? If you must take a statin, do so in tandem with a CoQ10 supplement. Just be sure to let your doc know your plan, as OcQ10 can interact with some antidepressants, some blood thinners (like Warfarin) and chemotherapy meds. Beyond that, the good news is that CoQ10 is generally safe and well-tolerated and the side-effects (like nausea and stomach upset) are minimal, so it’s a pretty low-risk option – with numerous health upsides.
Put more CoQ10 on your plate and dig in.
To begin boosting your CoQ10 supply, start by adding more of it to your meals. Work in some grass-fed, organic meats and organ meats, including liver and heart – which makes sense given that our own hearts are high in CoQ10. No need to go hog-wild though, just two servings of organic meats or organic organ meats a week will do. If meat isn’t your thing, you can pick up the slack by weaving in regular servings of oily fish, and several key veggies. Good CoQ10 dietary sources include:
- Meats: pork, beef, chicken (and reindeer)
- Organ meats: like heart, liver, and kidney
- Fatty fish: salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines
- Veggies: spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, parsley and avocado
- Legumes: lentils and peanuts
- Nuts and seeds: sesame seeds and pistachios
- Oils: extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil
Stack the deck – and feel good fast.
While food is definitely your first stop, consider that what we eat is often grown in soil that’s depleted of nutrients, sprayed with pesticides, processed, packaged and trucked long distances. While I recommend everyone should eat fresh whole, preferably organic foods or from farmers’ markets, sometimes, we fall short of our best intentions. A quality CoQ10 supplement is an excellent way to close the nutrition gap and get powered up again.
Age is also a factor. As time marches on, our bodies ability to produce CoQ10 declines. Here again, a good supplement can come in very handy.
Once you start introducing more CoQ10 into the body, the benefits kick in usually within 2 or 3 weeks, and some people may start feeling more energized within just a few days. On a cellular level, the replenishing of depleted CoQ10 levels enables cells to function as efficiently as they did when you were younger, so don’t delay – start enjoying the benefits as soon as possible.
Suss out the supplements, and buy ‘em like a pro.
I usually suggest starting with 200-400 mgs of a high quality CoQ10 supplement, taken daily for the first four weeks and then 200 mg a day after that to maintain healthy levels. As the body will use only what it needs and excrete the excess, overdosing isn’t a big concern, but follow the dosing instructions and check with your doc to establish a baseline dose that’s appropriate to your situation. If you’re on prescription meds, many of which rob the body of vital CoQ10 supplies, you may need a higher dose. A case in point: Statin drugs can lower CoQ10 levels by as much as 40% – leaving you vulnerable to additional problems, on top of the one you’re being treated for.
When shopping for CoQ10, you may see two different forms of it, ubiquinol and ubiquinone. Ubiquinol is preferable, as it is more easily used by the body versus “ubiquinone” which is more difficult for the body to convert into a usable form. How to keep the two similar sounding names straight when it’s time to put your money down? Think ubiquin-all, as in, all you need, vs ubiqui-none, as in, none for me, thanks! Other points to keep in mind when shopping for CoQ10? Look for:
- soft gels or a liquid capsule of pure CoQ10 for better absorption
- the best quality possible – not the cheapest ones on the shelf – the fewer cheap fillers and questionable ingredients the better
- manufacturers who are transparent about the sources of their ingredients, and have their products 3rd party tested
- products made in countries where manufacturing standards are more rigorous (i.e., U.S., Canada, Germany, Norway, etc.)
- certifications from independent vetting organizations like USP (United States Pharmacopeia), NSF International or Consumer Lab
For example, Nordic Naturals and Thorne are two highly-regarded brands, and I also recommend professional grade CoQ10 supplements from Designs for Health, Metagenics and Xymogen.