Free Radicals: Party Crashers
Oxidative stress is defined as “an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants.”
Free radicals share a chemical reaction with DNA, protein or lipids (which are parts of your cells), they acquire their electrons and become stabilized. The cell components are then destabilized until they steal an electron from another molecule, and this becomes a chain reaction.
So what does that mean?
Well, think of it this way…
Your body is your ‘house’, and the free radicals are a bunch of rowdy kids, partying in your living room. At first, it’s not so bad, it’s contained, and you figure you can clean up the mess later. However, the wilder they get, the more they spread out through your house, leaving damage and mess in their wake. We’ve all seen those movies where the camera pans across the house party, toilet paper hanging in the trees, cups, and cans everywhere, broken lamps and treasures scattered haphazardly across the rooms. This isn’t a pretty picture; it takes a long time to clean up and some of the damage is irreversible.
That is what oxidative stress is doing to your body. It will leave you feeling run down, it can steal your youth and make you look older, it damages your immune system leaving you vulnerable and it can cause a number of health conditions, including Alzheimer’s, heart disorders and cancer.
Who Invited these Guys, Anyway?! – Causes of Oxidative Stress
Unfortunately, there are a lot of common causes of oxidative stress, some of them are impossible to avoid, while others can be prevented with a dedication to a healthy lifestyle.
Here is a list of contributing factors that you have some control over:
- You can choose to avoid eating too much sugar or animal protein
- Don’t Smoke
- Ensure that you drink enough water
- Stay away from hydrogenated fats
- Try to avoid artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors
- Limit alcohol
- Try to reduce psychological and emotional stress
- Get plenty of antioxidants
There are a lot of changes that you can make to your day to day life in order to protect yourself from oxidative stress, but the scary thing is that so many of the causes are completely out of your control.
Here are some causes of oxidative stress that you risk being exposed to- just by walking out your front door!
- Exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants
- Chemical cleaning agents (ones used at your workplace for example)
- Chlorinated water
- Secondhand smoke
- Geophysical stress (proximity to power lines or waste facilities)
- Technology (Ex. cell phones)
- Bacteria, mold, viruses etc.
Fight Them Off With Antioxidants!
Antioxidants are crucial for our bodies. Especially when it comes to oxidative stress.
Antioxidants are substances that neutralize or remove free radicals by donating an electron. This neutralizing effect of antioxidants helps protect our body from oxidative stress. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E.
Like free radicals, antioxidants come from several different sources. Cells naturally produce antioxidants such as glutathione.
A person’s diet is an important source of antioxidants. Foods such as fruits and vegetables provide many essential antioxidants-vitamins and minerals that the body cannot create on its own.
So to put it simple-Oxidative stress happens when there is an excess of free radicals in our cells. The body produces free radicals during normal metabolic processes.
Oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins, and DNA, which can contribute to aging. Oxidative stress has also been known to contribute to the role in the development in serious health conditions-including diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Since our body naturally produces antioxidants to counteract these free radicals- it is important for us to ensure we get plenty of antioxidants in our day to day diet- as well as do what we can to reduce exposure.