How Oxidative Stress Directly Contributes To Low-Grade Inflammation
Dr. Warner regularly sees patients at her clinic who are suffering from diseases as a result of low-grade inflammation caused by or enhanced by oxidative stress.
Oxidative Stress is the result of a disproportionate amount of reactive oxygen species, or free radicals, in the body compared to antioxidants.
Free radicals are formed during the body’s natural processes for metabolizing food, or when you come into contact with harmful external sources like cigarette smoke, pollution, and harmful chemicals. Radiation causes massive amounts of free radicals and is known to be very dangerous.
However, there is no pain with this damage and therefore it is not thought about very often. Oxidative stress is pernicious and the damage accumulates over time without an overt awareness.
When the body breaks molecules down into atoms during various chemical reactions, each atom is supposed to have a specific number of electrons in each shell, or layer. If the outer shell is not filled entirely with electrons, then this causes the atom to become unstable. A ‘filled’ shell is basically one with an even number of electrons.
This unstable atom, or free radical, will scavenge in search of an atom to pair with in order to achieve the correct number of electrons. The outer shell of one molecule will fuse with the outer shell of this other molecule and both will achieve an even number of electrons by ‘sharing’ one. This can cause a number of concerns throughout the body including chronic, or low-grade inflammation. Many molecules are not meant to ‘share’ and electron with a free radical and the structure and function of that molecule is changed once the free radical attaches.
How Does Oxidative Stress Cause Low-Grade Inflammation?
While free radicals scavenge to find an atom to pair with, they cause damage to healthy cells including DNA/RNA, proteins and lipids.
This damage to healthy cells triggers an immune response, because the body recognizes the damage, or potential threat. Just as when a pathogen like a virus or bacteria secrete certain substances and this is sensed by the innate and adaptive immune systems, a damaged cell in the body will secrete signals of that damage and stimulate the immune system.
An acute inflammatory response is natural and healthy to have. However, as the body continues to undergo oxidative stress, the body never shuts off its inflammatory response, leading to low-grade or chronic inflammation. Basically, without natural brakes in place there is no end to oxidation, stress, inflammation and damage-associated signaling.
This is inflammation that occurs well beyond the necessary time to respond to negative conditions within the body, and it can lead to a number of diseases, commonly associated with aging, as opposed to their true root cause. Even pain is known to be caused by persistent inflammation and the associated changes. Again, pills can mask pain but they do not treat the underlying problem.
Low-grade inflammation as a result of oxidative stress can lead to arthritis, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and more. It can also contribute to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Mitigating Risk For Oxidative Stress and Chronic Inflammation
Oxidative stress is caused by a number of factors. The largest contributing factors are likely diet and environment. As we age, we also lose a number of natural antioxidants our bodies produce, like Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
Staying away from diets that include a lot of processed foods, and focusing on diets that incorporate more whole, fresh foods can help lower your oxidative stress levels.
This is one of the reasons Dr. Warner recommends the Mediterranean Diet to her patients. The Mediterranean Diet focuses on whole foods like omega-3 rich fish and seafood, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, fruits and vegetables
With this lifestyle you can still enjoy foods like red meat and sweets, but in moderation. The focus should be on lowering the amount of these food items you eat, but this doesn’t have to happen all at once. It is important to note the quality and sourcing of the foods you eat as well. Mass-produced foods are generally not known to offer any health benefits.
Taking smaller steps to reduce the amount of unhealthy foods you eat can help you make the switch, but in a more practical way. You can do this by setting measurable and timely goals, instead of trying to accomplish everything all at once.
Even with the best diets, we can all fall short in getting the correct amount of nutrients our body needs in order to live our best. That’s why Dr. Warner created Well Theory supplements that can lower your inflammation and oxidative stress levels.
Supplements That Can Improve Your Longevity
Another lifestyle choice you can take on slowly is exercise. Building yourself up to regular exercise is something that can help reduce your oxidative stress levels and risk for disease. Taking walks after dinner for at least 20 minutes can help keep you active and improve your mental stress levels. This has the added benefit of lowering the glycemic load in your blood after a meal.
Spending time in the sauna can also reduce your levels of inflammation, which is why Dr. Warner has an infrared sauna available for patients at her clinic. Finnish saunas have been studied the most, but more and more is being learned about infrared. At Warner Orthopedics and Wellness, you can expect a variety of treatments that tackle your health concerns with a holistic approach.