(JoyNutritionals) - Did you know the food you eat, the water your drink and the air you breathe to sustain life can cause what are known as free radicals and oxidative stress within your body? Even healthy eating causes the generation of harmful molecules known as free radicals, and free radicals can cause a cascade of oxidative stress in your body.
Toxins, free radicals and their byproducts can accumulate in your body, causing cellular damage that is associated with various health conditions and diseases. Diet and exposure to environmental toxins can damage the mitochondria within your cells (cellular organelles that help convert food to energy). Mitochondria are the masters of generating and managing free radicals. Mitochondrial dysfunction leads to the formation of out-of-control free radicals that then cause a cascade of negative chain reactions and results in the production of even more free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS). This chain of events the root cause for damaging your cellular organelles, DNA, and telomeres. And here’s the part to highlight and underline - the result is premature aging, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.
There are many research studies which indicate that high fat and energy-dense foods increase inflammation and oxidative stress build-up, thereby contributing to the development of vascular diseases and other health concerns.
As many of you know, a typical Western diet is characterized by large portions of highly processed foods, large amounts of carbohydrates with added sugars, and a high fat content. Because of the high fat content, many individuals experience a postprandial state with elevated levels of circulating triglycerides (TG) following meals. Research has shown that fat accumulation correlated with systemic oxidative stress in humans and animals may lead to systemic inflammation and may increase the risk for sudden cardiac events and mortality. Other studies indicated that plasma total antioxidative status and muscle superoxide dismutase (SOD) were decreased after high-carbohydrate meals.
Although you can’t escape from formation of free radicals in your body, there are things you can do to fight off free radicals more effectively and eliminate toxins that can cause free-radicals.
Recommendation 1: Neutralize Free Radicals
Eat foods high in natural antioxidants that can help neutralize free radicals and ROS. One of the best ways to fight free-radicals is with antioxidants found in colorful fruits and vegetables. The colors from fruits and vegetables are phytochemicals that can suppress free radicals and ROS. Most people think antioxidants are vitamins from foods, but the phytochemicals of complex polyphenols and/or flavonoids are more potent antioxidants that can neutralize of free radicals and ROS. Vitamins and minerals are beneficial in moderation and they can be harmful in excess. Some vitamins can act as pro-oxidants in certain conditions, and not antioxidants- aiding in forming more free radicals.
All antioxidants are either exogenous or endogenous.
Additionally, antioxidant enzymes (commonly found in the liver and kidneys) are our endogenous defense system to help protect against free radical-induced cell damage and work to metabolize toxic intermediates. These natural enzymes constantly battle to neutralize free radicals and ROS.
Your body makes different types of endogenous antioxidant enzymes:
SOD, catalase, and GPx are important types of antioxidant enzymes that navigate well in your body to fight off free radicals and their byproducts. In addition to combating free radicals, glutathione plays a role in many important chemical reactions including detoxifying chemicals that your body creates naturally, as well as mitigating external pollutants and drugs.
Your body loses some of its ability to produce endogenous antioxidants as you get older. Your body is also incapable of producing enough endogenous antioxidants to combat free radicals on their own, especially when it is overwhelmed with free radicals from your diet and lifestyle. Therefore, I recommend that you increase your intake of exogenous antioxidants, especially phytochemicals from foods to balance the antioxidant enzyme status loss due to diet, stress, disease, environmental toxins and aging.
Unfortunately, the majority of people do not eat enough colorful vegetables and fruits. Therefore, it is important to supplement certain botanicals and herbs (rather than heavy doses of vitamins and minerals) to augment your endogenous antioxidants and stimulate antioxidant enzyme production. Some studies suggest that in addition to being powerful endogenous antioxidants, botanicals like milk thistle, bacopa, ashwagandha, turmeric, green tea and grapes with certain types of polyphenolics can optimize the activity of antioxidant enzymes.
Recommendation 2: Reduce Stress
Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to various demands in life. A small amount of stress can be good to motivate you. However, modern men and women deal with multiple challenges daily that can push us beyond our ability to cope.
When you perceive a threat, it signals your body to release adrenal hormones that increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure so that you can respond. This "fight-or-flight" response prepares your body to react or run. However, constant threats can create series of repeated oxidative stress and over time, chronic stress can lead to serious health problems.
There are a number of studies showing that chronic psychological and mental stress accelerates biological aging and creates oxidative stress damage. An interesting study showed subjects with low chronic stress exposure were associated with reduced levels of oxidative damage. There is data suggesting lower socio-economic status (financial stress) and poor diet are relevant to accelerated biological aging with higher oxidative stress, shorter telomers and higher inflammatory markers.
Find a way to reduce stress such as properly breathing, performing yoga, building positive attitude, improving relationship with your partner, being active with walk and implementing good quality sleep.
Recommendation 3: Minimize Etoxins
Exotoxins are chemicals that are made by mankind and that we are exposed to daily. They can be chemicals from the repellents in carpet and furniture, cleaning products, prescription and OTC drugs (like acetaminophen, NSAID, etc), herbicides and pesticides commonly used in modern farming practice. These chemicals can trigger free radicals or ROS that will cause damage to antioxidant enzymes, detox enzymes, tissues, cellular organelles, DNA, telomeres, etc.
Many of these chemicals have not gone through long term toxicity studies. We are not talking about 6 months or 1-year acute safety and toxicity assessment, but rather generational toxicity studies. There are more unknowns about the accumulation of these chemicals and their metabolites in your body then what scientists know. Consider that you still find banned chemicals from the 70s in young population who were never exposed these banned chemicals.
Minimize exotoxins from environment. Buy organic produce to avoid toxic pesticides, but make sure to wash well to get rid of harmful microorganisms like E. coli and salmonella bacteria. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), publishes the "dirty dozen" and the "clean 15." So, chose your fruits and vegetables wisely. Find a way to clean your house without using so many cleaners that do not disclose the chemicals in them. There are many cleaning products that are self-claimed to be eco-friendlier and less toxic. Unfortunately, there are no regulations to ascertain who is telling the truth. This will be a future blog… Stay tuned.
In the meantime, daily detox, minimize stress with better attitude and gentle yoga, eat high antioxidant foods and supplements that contain antioxidant enzyme support, minimize environmental toxins, achieve better quality sleep and enjoy laughter with friends and family to eliminate daily oxidative associated with free radicals.