5 Things To Know About Oxidative Stress & Free Radicals
Free radicals come from the normal metabolic processes of our cells.
For example, we use oxygen, in combination with food, to form energy that our cells can utilize. The chemical processes that achieve the formation of energy take place in the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the engines of the cell and are responsible for many baseline functions of life.
When we breathe, we gather oxygen in the lungs and this is dispersed to all the cells of the body by way of circulation (blood flow). The oxygen combines with fuel (food) to form usable fuel for the cells.
When the cells use this oxygen to form energy, free radicals are formed. This is due to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production by the mitochondrial engine.
The by-product of this process are free radicals.
What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are a normal part of life. The chemical process of fuel production is called cellular redox. We mostly think of free radicals as ‘bad.’ However, free radicals are beneficial to the cells, but only in small amounts.
Larger amounts of free radicals are damaging and are the actual source of what is called ‘oxidative stress’. In small amounts, the by-products of cellular redox systems can help cellular responses and immune function. But at oxidative stress levels, cell structures are damaged.
Oxidative stress plays a large role in what we call ‘lifestyle diseases’. These include cancers, arthritis, aging, autoimmune disorders neurodegenerative problems, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
So, in theory, if we can manage our free radicals properly, we can prevent or manage these diseases.
Free Radicals & Oxidative Stress
A molecule with one or more unpaired electrons is called a free radical. These are formed from the breakup of a chemical bond. Each fragment of the formerly bound molecules keeps one electron. This happens during aerobic respiration in the mitochondria and also from enzymatic processes during cell functions.
Radiation and toxins can also cause these molecules to split and form free radicals. Free radicals can also come from immune cell activation, excessive exercise, ischemia, infection, aging, cancer and inflammation. Air and water pollution, cigarette smoke, heavy metals, some drugs and alcohol can also cause free radicals to form.
The excessive free radicals and oxidants cause oxidative stress. This is when normal cells are destroyed by the radicals. Other structures like proteins, lipids, lipoproteins and DNA are also targets of excessive ROS. The free radicals cause oxidation of normal structures. This means that an electron is stolen from the normal structure to complete the pair of the free radical.
Remember the free radical is a byproduct and consists of a molecule with an unpaired and lonely electron. Electrons are negatively charged structures. The electrons want to exist with a partner, to form a pair. The free radical will take this pair from the closest or most convenient source.
Too often, this is a normal and needed structure in your body. Oxidation of DNA causes mutations. Oxidation of cell membranes will destroy them. Oxidation of proteins changes the structure in a bad way.
Managing Free Radicals
The human body has a system in place to keep a proper balance of reactive oxygen species or free radicals. We use antioxidants to achieve this goal. The antioxidants attach themselves to the free radicals and neutralize them before they can cause damage. Antioxidants are either produced by the human body or brought into the human body through diet or supplements. It is possible to enhance immunity and prevent cancer and degenerative diseases if this balance is in place.
Antioxidants exists to neutralize the free radicals. The antioxidant takes the free electron and sequesters and controls it. We make our own antioxidants. However, due to diet, stress, lack of sleep, pollution and lifestyle we do not make enough and at the same time produce more free radicals than the human body should. This is why antioxidant supplements are crucial for long-term health and optimal aging.
Dr. Warner strongly believes in the health benefits of antioxidants – which is why she founded her own wellness brand: Well Theory.
Well Theory harnesses Dr. Warner’s medical expertise to provide free blogs, videos, and resources to living well.
And the products she offers provide support for inflammation, improved immunity, arthritic pain, stress – and of course, oxidative stress.
To learn more about Well Theory and the science behind her formulations, click below!