Oxidative Stress: The Silent Killer


By Emily Howard

‘Oxidative stress’ is the latest buzz word used in the realm of science and nutrition, and various health experts and nutritionists all across the world are recommending ways to deal with it. In fact, even research and clinical studies indicate that oxidative stress is the underlying cause of several chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes or heart disorders. But, what exactly is this oxidative stress? It’s increasingly discussed in media and health industry, so let’s understand what it is and why should we care?

Oxidative stress…What it is?

Oxidative stress is defined as the shift of balance between oxidants and antioxidants towards the former. In simple terms, oxidation or oxidative stress is a condition in which the level of oxidants in our body increases. This causes damage to the healthy cells through the process of oxidation. Oxidants are called free radicals which are chemically unstable and react with other molecules.

This is a natural process in our body by which the oxygen is metabolized by our body to produce energy. During the process of oxidation, free radicals are produced, which are healthy and necessary to some extent. However, due to certain factors, the number of free radicals or oxidants increase in the body, thereby interacting with the molecules within our cells. When not neutralized by the body the free radicals start causing damage to the healthy tissues.

Why do we care about it?

What really makes free radicals dangerous is when the body experiences an increased amount of oxidation or oxidative stress. Now as we have discussed above, the excess free radicals produced can cause damage to the healthy cells, DNA and proteins in our body. Oxidative stress is one of the major reasons of premature aging effects. Oxidation shows its impact on the body in the form of early development of signs of aging. For example, it is known to cause greying of hair, wrinkling of facial skin, decreased eye sight and even joint pains.

Studies have found that the process of oxidation of healthy cells is one of the major causes of chronic degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart and blood vessel disorders, heart failure, heart attack and inflammatory diseases. Studies have confirmed that people with diabetes type 1 have elevated levels of oxidative stress. Similarly, cancer and heart disorders are also associated with increased levels of oxidation in the body.

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There are several environmental factors that can result in increased number of free radicals. These include excess stress, environmental pollution, cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, processed food, excessive exposure to sunlight, and overuse of medications.

Ways to minimize the effects of oxidative stress:

1. Eat food rich in antioxidants:

One of the effective ways of reducing he oxidative stress is by consuming food that are rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants counter balance the oxidation effect by neutralizing the free radicals. Some of the foods that are rich in antioxidants include Beets, berries, tomatoes, ginger, nuts and seeds, green tea, cinnamon, curcumin, broccoli, spinach etc.

2. Avoid toxins:

Try to avoid or reduce the intake of toxins in any form. Avoid cigarettes and try consuming more of organic food. Also, it is advisable to avoid exhaust fumes, candles, hair and nail salons. Check the ingredients of your personal care products and try to avoid the ones with toxins as an ingredient. One of the best options is to move towards herbal products to avoid toxin exposure.

3. Avoid sugar and processed food:

Avoid consumption of sugar as the digestion process for the same leads to increased oxidation. Even processed food contains either sugar or other chemicals that lead to oxidation. Moreover, consumption of large meals also leads to increased oxidation. In order to reduce this effect, it is advisable to eat in smaller quantities with higher frequencies.

4. Prevent Infections:

Infections can have an adverse effect with respect to oxidation. When the immune system is fighting an infection, it ends up increasing the oxidation in the body, which is why your body feels drained out when you are sick. To reduce the oxidation, one should try to keep a health routine and avoid exposure to things that can lead to infections.

5. Destress and rejuvenate:

bike-trail-1437881Stress and lack of exercise can lead to greater levels of oxidation in the body, and one of the best ways to reduce its effect is to find some or other activity to destress yourself. Meditation, enjoying nature, talking to friends, watching funny shows can have a positive effect in terms of reducing the stress levels. Also, physical exercises such as running, walk in the park, cycling, gym or playing sports can help in rejuvenating the body, which also leads to reduced oxidation in the body.

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