What is oxidative stress / Effect on Body
Oxidation occurs as our bodies metabolize (or process) oxygen that we breathe and our cells produce energy from it.
This produces free radicals which interact with the molecules within our cells resulting in damage (or stress) to nearby cells, mitochondria, and DNA (our genes).
To some degree…free radicals are normal and necessary; in addition to causing some damage they can also stimulate repair, but it is when the amount of free radicals produced overwhelms the repair processes that it becomes an issue.
This is what we call oxidative stress.
As long as you have enough antioxidants, a careful balance is maintained and damage is prevented.
Essentially this occurs when the amount of free radicals exceeds the amount of antioxidants; causing damage to the cells, proteins and our DNA.
Signs of oxidative Stress
- Memory Loss and/or brain fog
- Muscle and/or joint pain
- Wrinkles and grey hair
- Headaches and sensitivity to noise
- Susceptibility to infections
Causes of Oxidative Stress
Oxidation increases when we are physically and/or emotionally stressed.
- Eating too many calories, sugars and/or refined carbohydrates. When we eat more, our mitochondria release more “exhaust,” creating higher levels of free radicals as they burn fuel from food for energy.
- Exercising too much or too little. Exercise is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, but too much can increase oxidative stress in our bodies. In general, more than 60 minutes per day is considered excessive, while less than 30 minutes five times a week is not enough.
- Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol increases your levels of cytokines, inflammatory molecules that are linked to oxidative stress.
- Exposure to tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 toxic chemicals that lead to oxidative stress.
- Exposure to air pollutants. Allergens and industrial pollution increase oxidation in our bodies.
- Excessive stress. Stress and the stress hormone cortisol increase inflammation, which further increases free radical production.
- Ionizing radiation. Exposure to the sun, x-rays, radon, hair dryers, cellphones, airplanes, electric blankets and waterbed heaters can contribute to oxidative stress.
- Eating charbroiled foods. These contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which can contribute to oxidative stress.
- Exposure to fungal toxins. Environmental molds (like those in bathrooms and basements) and internal molds and fungi (those related to your gut) can produce toxins that increase oxidative stress.
- Poor liver and gut detoxification. When the liver becomes overwhelmed with toxins from food (like when you eat too much sugar) or the environment (like exposure to pesticides or mercury), it becomes inflamed and produces more free radicals.
- Chronic infections. Dental infections and chlamydia can cause hidden infections that contribute to oxidative stress.
Lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation increases oxidation.
Prolonged Oxidative Stress
Has been associated with numerous health conditions including fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, insomnia, cancer, and more.
Reducing Oxidative Stress
There are several ways to reduce oxidative stress. Avoid exposure to unnecessary oxidation and increase your antioxidants.
Oxidation increases when we are exposed to stress, toxins, and infections. It is increased by sugar and chemicals – it is best to minimize your exposure to these things.
You can do this by choosing organic foods when possible – or at least avoiding the dirty dozen.
Avoid sugar and processed foods while balancing your glucose levels.: When the body has to process sugar it also creates oxidation and the more sugar we eat, the more oxidation happens.
Processed foods often contain sugars and other chemicals that also result in oxidation. Eating large and infrequent meals also creates more oxidative stress, so balancing your blood sugar by eating small and frequent meals also helps.
Prevent Infections: have a strategy to avoid catching colds and infections. When the immune system is fighting off an infection, it ends up creating oxidation which is why you get sick, it drains your body of energy. Eat tons of veggies, take a multivitamin, and bulk up on vitamin C if you feel something coming on. Typically if you have a strong immune system you will not get sick.
Allow time for daily stress remedies: build breaks into your day to give your body a chance to recover. Be sure to honor the breaks you create in your schedule.
- Talking with a friend
- Enjoying nature
- Watching a funny show
- Taking a walk
Avoid Toxins: Choosing organic foods and avoiding cigarettes, candles, hair and nail salons, carpet, exhaust fumes and plastic. Also, check your personal care items and cleaning items for toxic ingredients such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Bleach.
As hard as you try…you will be exposed to some toxins and stress so the obvious step is to increase antioxidants by helping your body make more or consuming them in food or supplements.
Antioxidants block oxidation and quell the harmful properties.
Promote the production of antioxidants: One of the most powerful antioxidants is glutathione which is produced by the body. It is made from three amino acids: glycine, glutamate, and cysteine – it contains surfer which helps to increase its efficacy.
Foods to eat to promote glutathione production in the body: Asparagus, Peaches, Walnuts, Spinach, Tomatoes
Foods that are high in sulfur can help to support glutathione production as well: Garlic, Onions, Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, collards, and cabbage, and avocados
Lastly, you can take supplements of the above mentioned amino acids or antioxidants such as CoQ10, Selenium, and vitamin C..but getting it in food form is always most ideal unless your levels are very low.
Foods that are high in antioxidants: beets, kale, berries, tomatoes, and other good sources include nuts & seeds, green and black teas as well as cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric.