Here’s What You Need to Know to Prevent It So You Can Live Well and Hold Aging At Bay
Oxidation is a normal and necessary process in the body in which a chemical substance changes because of the addition of oxygen. Oxidative reactions also have the potential to be dysfunctional and harmful. Oxidation becomes oxidative stress when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body (an excess of free radicals) with a potential to cause harm resulting in immune system compromise, sickness, disease and aging.
Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules that possess an uneven number of electrons. The uneven number of electrons allows the free radical to easily react with other molecules thereby causing large chain chemical reactions in the body also known as oxidative reactions or oxidation.
Free radicals aren’t always ‘bad.’ When functioning properly, free radicals can help fight off pathogens that lead to infections. But when there are more free radicals present in the body than existing antioxidants can counterbalance, the free radicals begin to do damage to fatty tissues, DNA, and proteins in the body and over time this damage can lead to a plethora of diseases and conditions including:
• conditions caused by inflammation
• high blood pressure
• cardiovascular disease
• neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s)
• lack of cognitive clarity
• vision impairment
Oxidative stress also contributes to aging.
A significant body of research shows that a rise in unbalanced free radicals in the body contributes to senescence. Senescence is described as biological aging and the gradual deterioration of the functions of a living organism. Cellular senescence is characterized by the cessation of cell division and can be initiated by a wide variety of stress-inducing factors one of which is oxidative stress.
As we age, the number of senescent cells in a person’s body increases, and our bodies are no longer as effective in dealing with dysfunctional free radical cells. This can contribute to a weakened immune system and other less efficient biological processes.
As the aging immune system becomes less efficient, senescent cells accumulate and taint other healthy cells resulting in an inability to withstand stress or illness, recover from injury and learn new things.
It’s believed that senescent skin cells may contribute to sagging and wrinkling and investigations are underway to explore this theory.
Antioxidants are molecules that have the ability to donate an electron to a free radical without making themselves unstable in the process. The free radical now stabilizes and becomes less reactive.
As a result of inflammation or the process of exercise, for example, we all very normally produce some free radicals naturally in our bodies. It’s an important part of the body’s intricate system of keeping itself healthy.
But we often become exposed to harmful free radicals in the process of everyday living.
Some sources include:
• certain pesticides and cleaners
• cigarette smoke
A diet high in sugar, fat, and alcohol will also contribute to free radical production and oxidative stress.
Counteracting free radicals
You want to be sure to increase your levels of antioxidants at the same time decreasing the formation of free radicals in the body.
The primary way to do this is through the diet. Fruits and vegetables abound in natural antioxidants which are easily absorbed by the body. Most especially, orange, red, blue, blue-black and green produce will provide you with all sorts of potent antioxidants.
Turmeric and green tea are also antioxidant-rich with matcha green tea especially so.
You can also increase antioxidation through supplementation. Vitamins E and C are primary examples of excellent antioxidants to take in capsule form.
Glutathione,(1) found in very cell of the human body, is considered by many health professionals to be the master antioxidant of the body. It is a key component in the continuous regeneration of healthy skin. This protein, also available as a supplement, can help regulate skin pigment, improve elasticity, and reduce wrinkles.
Says Joseph Pizzorno, naturopathic physician, educator, and glutathione researcher:
“…as I have studied detoxification, mitochondrial function, and healthy aging, the critical role of adequate glutathione to health has become ever more apparent…: protection from oxidative stress, protection from mercury, and other toxic metals.”
A regular moderate exercise routine has also been associated with higher naturally occurring antioxidant levels and decreased internal damage caused by oxidative stress.
We should also be very mindful of any exposure we may experience to radiation and chemicals, in general.
Exposure to oxidative stress-inducing chemicals includes industrial chemicals found in products we use, cleaning chemicals, chemicals found in skin and hair care products, and chemicals in foods grown using pesticides.
Bio-electric shields exist which can help limit our exposure to free radical producing radiation from our mobile phones and other tech devices.
“Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) or radiofrequency fields of cellular mobile phones may affect biological systems by increasing free radicals, which appear mainly to enhance lipid peroxidation, and by changing the antioxidant defense systems of human tissues, thus leading to oxidative stress.”
—F. Ozguner et al in Mobile phone-induced myocardial oxidative stress
Decrease your alcohol intake and definitely do not smoke if you want to reduce oxidative stress, keep your cells healthy, and aging at bay.
Also, pace the amount and the rate at which you eat. Studies have shown that overeating, as well as constant eating, actually maintains a continual state of oxidative stress in the body. Prevent oxidative stress and cell damage by eating at appropriately spaced intervals, while also eating small or moderate portions of food.
The mind is just as potent as any physical factor initiating oxidative stress. Psychological stress is also associated with increased oxidant production and oxidative damage. Long-term exposure to psychological stressors may enhance the risk of many diseases caused by oxidative stress so it’s important to develop ways to cope and bounce back from challenges with resilience. Mindfulness practices like nature walks, meditation, yoga, tai chi, or immersion in arts will all serve to quickly bring you back to your center of serenity and help keep your internal cellular vitality in balance.
(1) Glutathione: a compound involved as a coenzyme in oxidation–reduction reactions in cells. It is a tripeptide derived from glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine.
(2) Lipid peraxidation: the chain of reactions of oxidative degradation of lipids. It is the process in which free radicals "steal" electrons from the lipids in cell membranes, resulting in cell damage.
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