Growing up, we are taught about the crucial role oxygen plays on earth. The most important thing we learn is that we cannot breathe without it. Oxygen is life, essentially. A bit later on we also learn that it is important for many processes such as burning and growth.
But did you know that the same life-sustaining oxygen also hastens your aging? It can also lead to adverse health conditions including cancer, dementia, heart failure and chronic fatigue syndrome among others.
How can such an essential and beneficial substance cause all this? The answer is in a scientific term known as Oxidative Stress.
Oxidative stress is the result of certain oxygen byproducts gone rogue. You see, oxygen is used in the body for various processes including metabolism and energy synthesis.
In any chemical process, there have to be byproducts. In addition to releasing mostly harmless byproducts, these oxygen-fueled reactions also release ‘incomplete’ atoms and molecules called free radicals. I say incomplete because they have an unpaired electron.
Hence, they are actively seeking for that electron to complete them. This makes them highly reactive and unstable. They are essentially looking for anything they can react with so as to gain the extra electron and achieve stability.
How Free Radicals Affect the Body and the Body’s Response
In their quest for stability, free radicals may react with parts of body cells including cell membranes, DNA, and proteins. This reaction is known as oxidation. It is the same reaction that causes an exposed apple to turn brown or a piece of metal to rust.
By ‘stealing’ an electron from a cell, a free radical causes damage to that cell, resulting in it functioning defectively. If the damage is extensive, the cell dies.
Now, imagine many free radicals attacking many cells in the body. They can cause a lot of havoc. But, the body is not without defense. It responds by releasing antioxidants. These are compounds that reduce damage to cells in preventing the formation of free radicals or reacting with them before they can cause damage.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating one of their electrons without themselves getting unstable. Once stabilized, the free radical is no longer a danger to cells.
How Oxidative Stress Occurs
Oxidative stress is not always caused by antioxidants combating and neutralizing free radicals. If the free radicals overwhelm available antioxidants, oxidative stress follows.
This is essentially an imbalance between the number of free radicals and the body’s ability to fend them off using antioxidants. In such a case, free radicals are free to continue their rampage of body cells. As they react with cells and take electrons, they rob crucial components from them. Cell function is severely hampered or completely stopped.
Consequences of Oxidative Stress
When the body is unable to cope with the number of free radicals, it results in health deterioration as cells lose their vitality, and some even die.
This can damage major organs such as the kidney, heart, and lungs. It can also affect major functions within the body including digestion and immunity. Here are some of the possible consequences of oxidative stress:
- Kidney disease
- Auto immune diseases
- Heart disease. This leading killer develops after arteries in the heart harden and narrow in a process called atherosclerosis. A reaction between free radicals and bad cholesterol has been linked to this process. It has been discovered that people who have low antioxidant intake tend to be at the highest risk of heart disease.
- Joint inflammation. This could lead to conditions such as arthritis.
- Problems with the digestive system. This may result in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disorder.
- Brain aging. Cell damage and death in the brain causes a deterioration of brain health and function. This causes Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease and other forms of dementia. Oxidative stress has been suggested as one of the main contributors to brain aging.
- Skin damage. Free radicals can also target skin cells. This compromises major skin functions, including UV protection. With continued assault from these reactive molecules, the skin shows accelerated signs of aging. In fact, the free radical theory of aging suggests that oxidative stress is the main reason why humans grow old.
- Skin conditions. Apart from causing the skin to age, oxidative stress can also lead to other skin conditions including lesions, scarring and overall skin damage.
- Cancer. For decades, cancer has stumped researchers with a cure still eluding them. In their study of how it comes about, free radicals have been singled out as major suspects. Remember, cancer is basically caused by malfunctioning cells. Also remember that free radicals damage cells, affecting how they function. You can see how the two connect.
- Lung disorders. Pollutants in the air can increase the amount of free radicals in the lungs, causing oxidative stress as antioxidants are unable to cope. This could lead to various lung diseases including asthma and lung cancer.
Symptoms of Oxidative Stress
There are certain symptoms that signal oxidative stress. They include chronic fatigue, muscle or joint pain, memory loss, unusually early signs of aging such as greyed hair and wrinkles, decreased eye sight as the eye lenses are damaged, and increased susceptibility to infections as your immune system is compromised.
Dealing With Oxidative Stress
Combating oxidative stress is all about returning the balance between free radicals and antioxidants. One way to do this is to make sure the body has access to adequate antioxidants. This involves eating a proper diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, taking supplements and sleeping well.
Dieting and supplements are especially important as they directly increase the number of antioxidants in the body. Some of the best foods include tomatoes, spinach, walnuts, onions and avocados. These foods supply important antioxidants such as Glutathione and vitamin C.
As you add more antioxidants, you also need to take action to prevent excessive formation of free radicals. Avoid junk such as fried food and sugary drinks as they increase oxidation. Avoid spending too much time in polluted areas to protect your lungs from free radicals. Also check the sprays and chemicals you use at home. They could be adding free radicals to your body.
Don’t ignore the importance of a good night’s rest. Poor rest causes an uptick in oxidation, meaning more free radicals are produced to cause even more damage.
Additionally, many health professionals recommend supplementation, and many individuals have found significant personal benefit in doing so. In order to maintain optimal Glutathione levels, consider supplementing with Nano Glutathione.
Glutathione has been shown to provide health benefits and be supportive in relation to a large number of conditions. In order to maintain optimal Glutathione levels, consider supplementing with Nano Glutathione.