Understanding Oxidative Stress: Getting into the Mind of the Enemy

 

image courtesy of http://www.nature.com

 

The sight of an eightyish old man shakily walking or reaching something trying not to be helpless is heart-rending. It makes you understand why the fountain of youth was and is still quested for. Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, diabetes and other age-related diseases can make a strong-willed person submit to helplessness. Autism, cancer, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases are as dreadful even for those who are robust and young.

The fountain of youth can be a metaphor; the scientific world offers an explanation for aging and succumbing to diseases: Oxidative Stress. To understand it is to get nearer the truth that helps one fight it more successfully.

Origins and Aftermaths of Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress indicates an imbalance within the cell. Specifically, this reflects higher than usual quantities of “free radicals,” a rickety oxygen molecule that is desperate to have another electron to make it stable. This attacks the body cells and causes oxidative stress. These arise from an assortment of process such as modifications in aerobic metabolism, immune activation, heme accumulation, and UV radiation; in simple terms – unhealthy lifestyle.

The situation requires immediate attention. If the cell’s defense mechanisms fail to compensate the consequences of oxidative stress, the cell’s functions and integrity are going to be compromised. Expect DNA aberrations, mitochondrial dysfunction, deviations in protein folding, and lipid peroxidation. These can trigger cellular dysfunction leading to diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, ischemia, diabetes, asthma, and neurodegenerative disease.

A Vigorous Cell Need Not Fear Oxidative Stress

The formation of free radicals happens all the time and more so as a person ages. But nothing untoward may happen because your body has certain specific enzymes and antioxidants to neutralize free radicals causing a flow of oxidation and anti-oxidation reactions. Nutrients from the diet may also feed the built-in glutathione system to make more glutathione to counter oxidative stress.

The body is overwhelmed only when these defense mechanisms fail to work or produce enough of the glutathione. Remember that there are too many processes that can lead to oxidative stress –animal-based diet and processed foods, endurance exercises, exposure to pollution and pesticides, smoking, drinking and taking prescription drugs.

Fighting Oxidative Stress Naturally

The solution is simple, demolish free radicals with antioxidants.  Antioxidants – Vitamin E, Vitamin C, glutathione, beta-carotene, polyphenols, and other vitamins – do that by donating an electron without themselves becoming destroyed or becoming another free radical. You can get these from natural sources such as eating more raw foods or plant-derived food and from exercise.

You can consider taking supplements containing a broad spectrum of antioxidants. Supplements have certain advantages: it assures you of a consistent dosage taken daily; it is easy on the compliance since it is something you can take virtually anywhere and anytime; and it is convenient. However, supplements can be rather expensive especially those that claim breakthrough effects. The origins of the raw materials can also be hard to ascertain.

But one thing is certain, overwhelming oxidative stress is responsible for accelerated aging process and the diminishing cellular products that help the cells beat the free radicals. Understanding how these are formed and act inside a cell is like getting into the mind of the enemy. It lets you beat it with the right kind of strategy and ammunition.

 

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