Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage. It occurs naturally and plays a role in the aging process causing direct damage to the DNA. Oxidative stress may also suppress apoptosis (programmed cell death) and promote proliferation (cell growth), invasiveness (spread to nearby tissue)and metastasis (spread to distant organs).
A large body of scientific evidence suggests that long-term oxidative stress contributes to the development in a range of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
So what is a free radical? It is an unstable moelcule that can damage cells in your body. Free radicals form when atoms or molecules gain or lose an electron. External substances, such as cigarette smoke, pesticides, and ozone, can also cause the formation of free radicals in the body.
Antioxidants are substances that neutralize or remove free radicals by donating an electron. The neutralizing effect of antioxidants helps protect the body from oxidative stress.
While mild oxidative stress may protect the body from infection and disease, long-term oxidative stress damages the body’s cells, proteins, and DNA. This can contribute to aging and may play an important role in the development of a range of conditions. Oxidative stress can also trigger an inflammatory response which can lead to the production of more free radicals that can lead to further oxidative stress. As you can see, this creates somewhat of a vicious a cycle.
Oxidative stress may play a role in the development of a range of conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Inflammatory disorders
- Male infertility
So what can you do to prevent or minimize oxidative stress and the effects of free radicals on your body?
- EXERCISE – improve your body composition by increasing lean muscle mass and reducing adipose tissue (fat cells). Excess fat cells produce inflammatory substances that trigger increased inflammatory activity and free radical production in immune cells.
- Cut out fats, sugar, and processed foods from your diet. Eat a diet high in fiber and organic fruits and vegetables.
- Minimize your exposure to all types of radiation (x-rays, power lines, microwaves, etc.)
- Eliminate tobacco products in all forms.
- Reduce your alcohol intake or eliminate it all together.
- Research the medications that you are taking to find out if they are linked to oxidative stress.
- Avoid pollution (air, water, food, etc.)
- Wear gloves when using household cleaning supplies and avoid breathing fumes.
- Chose glass over plastic containers and bottles when possible.
- Read the ingredients in your self-care products. Opt for organic when possible.
- Avoid pesticides in your garden and in the food you eat.
- Reduce the amount of stress in your life. Try meditating, yoga, deep-breathing, and gratitude.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and you should not try and overhaul your lifestyle completely overnight. Try and make one positive change per week. As you start to look and feel better, you will be inspired and compelled to lead a healthier lifstyle.