Combating Oxidative Stress: Healthy From the Inside Out

Our Bodies Are Miracles
Our bodies are made up of 100 trillion cells that perform billions of reactions per second each and every day.  Oxidation is a normal process by which our body uses oxygen (hence the term oxidation) for energy metabolism.  During virtually every cell function, including the creation of ATP (our body’s energy currency) electrons are passed back and forth between atoms. Free radicals are formed as a by-product of these reactions.  Free radicals are atoms with unpaired electrons which are highly unstable and short lived.  That being said, the damage from free radicals is self-perpetuating.  Once a molecule is oxidized it reacts with its neighbouring molecules (i.e. it robs an electron from a neighbouring atom) and causes a cascade of damage.  Every structure and every substance produced by the cells in the body are susceptible to damage.  It is thought that each cell of the body receives an estimated 10,000 hits by free radicals each day.  Normally, our cells can handle free radicals generated by physiological activity but if the production of free radicals becomes excessive or there isn’t a sufficient supply of antioxidants, the body is overwhelmed and oxidative damage and chronic systemic inflammation results.  Chronic systemic inflammation is the root of degenerative disease. 

What Factors Cause Oxidative Stress?
Many factors cause oxidative stress via free radical damage some of which include:

  • Energy metabolism
  • Detoxification
  • Stress
    • Physical, mental or emotional
  • Poor dietary and lifestyle factors
    • Highly processed, high fat, high glycemic foods
    • Inadequate amounts of physical activity
    • Smoking
  • Environmental contaminants
    • Air and water pollutants including heavy metals and radiation
    • Soil contaminant 

Decreasing Oxidative Stress: Healthy From The Inside Out

What can you do?

Make healthy choices about what you eat and be sure to get a steady supply of antioxidants (vitamins and other substances that donate electrons to free radicals to stop the cascade of damage).  Unlike free radicals, antioxidant nutrients are stable in either form (i.e. they don’t become free radicals upon donation of one of electron). Antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, selenium, grapeseed extract, reseveretrol, catechins, quercetin, polyphenols, alpha-lipoic acid, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and others.

  • Choose foods rich in antioxidants such as:
    • Richly coloured vegetables and fruit
    • Dark chocolate and cocoa powder
    • Red wine
    • White, green and black teas
  • Choose healthy fats- fatty fish, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and avocado
  • Maintain normal blood glucose levels; lose weight if appropriate, eat regularly, eat low glycemic foods, avoid trans fat and watch the amount of saturated fat you eat

Make healthy lifestyle choices:

  • Eat less, move more; build enjoyable physical activity into daily living
  • —Acknowledge and manage stress
  • If you smoke, reduce the amount and/or seek help to quit

Supplement your diet with high quality nutritional supplements:

  • Consider a multivitamin to ensure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals
  • If you can't get enough yogurt in your diet consider an acidophilus supplement

Give your liver a helping hand: practice awareness and avoidance when it comes to chemical, environmental and food based toxins:

  • Remember that all cells, especially your liver, produce free radicals in the process of detoxification. Everything we eat, breathe and absorb is filtered through the liver.
    • If you drink, consume alcohol in moderation
      • Men - 2 drinks/day
      • Women - 1 drink/day
    • Talk to your doctor about the health of your liver
    • Consider supplementation - our fast paced lifestyle and poor dietary habits make it so that most people need supplementation
    • Practice awareness and avoidance when it comes to chemical, environmental and food based toxins, consider what you clean your house with, how your food is grown and processed, and what you put on your skin.  

Choosing a Supplement That is Right For You
Supplements are not created equally.  When choosing a supplement look for one that is:

  • Complete
  • Offered at optimal levels
  • Balanced
  • Bioavailable
  • Potent
  • Safe

Always check with an expert like your doctor, pharmacist or dietitian before starting a supplement regime; especially if you take medications of any kind.