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Nurturing your divine feminine.

I suspect many of you are wondering about this title: What exactly is this article about? Many of you might not have known that you do indeed have a divine feminine aspect, which should be respected and nurtured.

In traditional Chinese medicine, practiced for thousands of years, all things--both substances as well as processes--have yin and yang qualities. Yin is feminine, yang is masculine. Yin is cold and wet, yang is hot and dry. Yin problems tend to be ones of deficiency and usually involve the interior, while yang problems tend to be ones of excess and generally involve the exterior. Here's the interesting part: There is nothing that is absolutely yin or absolutely yang; each is relative to the other, and everything contains components of both! As shown in the yin-yang symbol (Figure), there is always a seed of yin within yang and vice versa. Along this line of thought, all males have some feminine aspects and all females have some masculine aspects.


In the 1970s, University of Massachusetts biologist Lynn Margulis explicated the process of endosymbiosis, in which mitochondria evolved from bacteria and became incorporated, 1.5 billion years ago, within anaerobic bacteria--allowing them to survive in an oxygen-rich environment. Mitochondria have become the key source of energy within our bodies; they are, after all, where oxidative phosphorylation takes place in the electron transport chains, allowing us to make ATP molecules from glucose. Human mitochondrial DNA is single stranded, arranged in a ring just like bacteria.

Now here's the really fascinating part: all of your mitochondria come from your mother! Even the most masculine among us contain within each of their cells these organelles that are so vitally important for our life energy.

The mitochondria are crucial organelles, not only for energy regulation but also for intracellular signaling and regulation of apoptosis. Professor Enzo Nisoli believes that our more than 10 million mitochondria make up 10% of our body weight. In some cells, like the heart, they account for up to 40% of the cellular substance. It is thought that we each have a million billion mitochondria in our bodies. Many chronic degenerative diseases--such as Parkinson's and dementia, for example--are believed to be the result of accumulated mitochondrial damage.

Here's how you can nurture your mitochondria:

1. Limit caloric intake. Excessive calories lead to excessive free radicals, which can damage mitochondrial DNA. Interestingly, caloric restriction has repeatedly been shown to reduce tumorigenesis and to slow the aging process.

2. Occasional fasting, as well as regular exercise, will promote the transcription of NRF2, which leads to enhanced production of endogenous antioxidants (think especially glutathione), which help protect the mitochondria.

3. Choose your foods in such a way as to enhance endogenous production of glutathione, the most important and prevalent antioxidant within your cells. It is the primary free radical protector for mitochondria and helps maintain the redox potential of the mitochondrial membrane. Glutathione is a tripeptide made of cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. N-acetylcysteine and alpha lipoic acid promote the formation of glutathione, as do whey protein, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and SAMe.

4. Consume foods that contain the sulfur-containing building blocks for glutathione: onions, leeks, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and arugula.

5. Avoid destabilizing molecules such as neurotoxic pesticides, herbicides, and volatile chemicals; the mitochondrial DNA is less protected than nuclear DNA and is exquisitely sensitive to injury by these compounds.

6. Be aware of the ever-important B vitamins: Riboflavin (B2) is a component of FAD, which is important in the electron transport chain. It is also a cofactor for glutathione reductase, so it participates in the generation of glutathione. Niacin (B3) is a precursor to NAD, which is also part of the electron transport chain.

7. Present in all cells, the ubiquitous CoQ10, known as ubiquinone, is also a cofactor in the electron transport chain. Many pharmaceuticals, such as statins and thiazides, reduce levels of CoQ10; however, it can be supplemented orally.

Carolyn M. Matthews, MD

From the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Department of Gynecology, and Division of Integrative Medicine, Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center.

Corresponding author: Carolyn M. Matthews, MD, Director, Integrative Medicine, Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, 3535 Worth Street, Suite 200, Dallas, Texas 75246 (e-mail: CarolyMa@
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Author:Matthews, Carolyn M.
Publication:Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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