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Oxidative Stress: the Fight for an Electron
The oxygen atom had to get to the root of his problem. He knew he’d lost an electron during that last metabolism melee. He could feel the single electron zinging round and round. Sparks were flying. The atom didn’t like being a free radical. It was uncomfortable, so he had to move fast to find another electron in the vicinity. He bumped into the wall, he tried to hit on a protein. He even tried to hit on the cell nucleus. He didn’t care how much damage he might cause. Then suddenly there appeared an antioxidant. The antioxidant was generous and gave the atom another electron. The little atom was neutralized. He relaxed. The antioxidant had saved him and the cell. Hooray!
Oxygen atoms or molecules that lose one of their electrons are electrically charged. This frequently happens in the body during the process of metabolism (burning fuel for energy). The molecule or atom moves rapidly to find another electron and it doesn’t care where it might find it. In fact, it will steal an electron from cell membranes, vessel walls, proteins, fats or even the DNA nucleus of the cell. Its violent movement actually creates bursts of light.
The damage done by these free radicals is called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress causes steel to rust and apples to turn brown. It can affect every cell in the body. Our bodies rust from the inside out! Depending on where it causes the most damage it can bring about enough damage over time to incur a degenerative disease such as: heart disease, stroke, cancer, alzheimers dementia, macular degeneration, arthritis, emphysema, or diabetes, to name a few.
Some scientists say some areas of our bodies are genetically predisposed to oxidative stress. This explains familial traits in degenerative diseases (such as diabetes).
The body produces more free radicals than it can handle when the person: • Exercises excessively • Is exposed to environmental toxins • Is exposed to too much sun, medications, radiation treatment, fatty meals • Experiences stress from financial or work-related personal and emotional pressures.
Information on all of these generators of free radicals can be found on the Stresstonics website. There is help.
However, for best defence, consume antioxidants from foods and supplements. In adequate amounts, they neutralize the free radicals and there’s no damage. Our bodies make some antioxidants; some come from food and some need to come from supplements. If not enough antioxidants are present over time, a chronic degenerative disease develops.
Beta-carotene, water-soluble vitamin C and fat-soluble vitamin E are the best known, but there are 1000’s of others available from fruits and vegetables that work together synergistically. Others include glutathione with superoxide-dismutase and alpha-lypoic acid, mixed carotenoids, co-enzyme Q10, cruciferous, N-acetyl-h-cysteine, lutein and the bioflavanoids.
Besides cooperating with each other, they work against different types of free radicals in different parts of the body. So just how does an antioxidant from broccoli know it has to travel to your left eye to neutralize a free radical? How do drugs do it? Even the doctors don’t know. Maybe a biochemist knows but so far it’s not in the literature I’ve read. If I find out, I’ll let you know!
I do have a theory though – if you have enough antioxidants in your body at all times, they will all travel through your body, and as they encounter the cells that they are able to help, they will fix them, one molecule at a time.
Also needed are antioxidant minerals, such as zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium and selenium, as well as adequate folic acid and the vitamins B1-2-6 and 12. These are co-factors needed by the antioxidants. Without these nutrients the antioxidants lose their effectiveness.
Our bodies create free radicals all the time. It is prudent to do all we can to help our bodies neutralize these free radicals, as well as take measures to produce less of them. So beyond eating judiciously and taking appropriate and effective optimum supplements, we should also restrain from excessive exercise, reduce exposure to environmental toxins, and reduce financial, work-related and personal emotional stress.