Free Radicals and Antioxidants – what’s the fuss about?
You bite into your crisp juicy apple and notice the fresh white flesh, then you are distracted by a phone call for a few minutes and when you return to the apple, the flesh has turned brown. This is the effect of oxygen and it’s called oxidation. The same process causes metal to rust. The same process causes a cut on your finger to become irritated and swollen. This is natural and it goes on inside you too and we have mechanisms to manage it.
So why is it relevant to write an article – it’s all sorted isn’t it? Sadly it’s not but it is an important subject and what follows is my attempt to explain this in layman’s terms covering four main elements of the problem and the solution:
Your body is an astonishingly sophisticated, inter-connected, organic, living being with its own energy, checks and balances – I do not pretend that this one subject is the answer to everything as there are many systems involved in wellness, but it is an important contribution to good health and well-being.
Symptoms resulting from free-radical damage
The bottom line is that when the number of free-radicals has escalated beyond the control capability of your body, then they damage your cells and your DNA – here’s a list of the symptoms that can happen:
- An increase in wrinkles making you look older
- An increased risk of degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer
- Oxidisation of the type of cholesterol which triggers for formation of arterial plaque and increases the risk of heart disease and brain stroke.
That’s a worrying list of conditions. Antioxidants are important, very important: but so too is working at preventing the overload of free-radicals in the body. The damage they cause needs to be corrected from the inside but before explaining that, here’s a bit more about the significance of free-radicals and antioxidants.
Free-radical cause and effect
To understand the cause and effect of free-radical damage, it is relevant to explain a little about how the cells in your body are working. It is a natural, necessary and continuous process which causes millions of cells to die and millions of new ones to be born. The rate that this happens is significant, in the time it took for you to read these couple of sentences, it is estimated that about 50 million will have died and been replaced.
New cells need to be paired with electrons and it is estimated that this doesn’t happen in 1-2% of the 37.2 trillion that we have. The natural defence mechanism in your body can cope with this 1-2% but that assumes no over-load in the production of free-radicals. Without the necessary electron, the cell becomes erratic and this is what’s known as a free-radical. It starts stealing electrons from other cells that have successfully paired. In robbing the electron from a cell it damages the cell including the DNA string inside its nucleus. Yet the cell is programmed to reproduce and it continues to do so – it reproduces faulty DNA and cells at the rapid rate described above. This causes a chain reaction. Perhaps that in itself is enough to get you reaching for some effective antioxidants – please do, but you may also wish to know a bit more about it.
When you are completely healthy and free from pollutants (such as mercury, aluminium, chlorine, tobacco/chemical smoke, pesticides, preservatives, alcohol and more) and too much exposure to ultraviolet light, your body’s production of antioxidants will keep things nicely under control. But where pollutants are creating significantly higher volumes of free-radicals, your body’s protective mechanisms are massively and seriously overwhelmed. Without preventative and corrective action being taken, you make yourself vulnerable to considerable risk of deteriorating health.
Sadly, much of our food supply contains preservatives and pesticides, tap water contains chlorine and often heavy metals too, tooth fillings contain mercury and then by choice, many people smoke and/or consume excessive amounts of alcohol. The trail of destruction caused from these things can continue unabated for many years.
Antioxidant function and sources
I hope now that you’ve reached this stage in the article, you are eager to make some changes to your life choices – you can take control if want to.
Who needs antioxidants? Everyone! Antioxidants are critical to your survival, without them your body would be destroyed in the same way your apple would deteriorate from the effects of oxygen if you left it with a bite missing. Antioxidants safely interact with free radicals by providing the necessary electron and they terminate the chain reaction.
I suggest therefore, that you include sources of antioxidants in your diet as much as possible, here are some examples.
Self-help, prevention and correction
Antioxidants work synergistically to enable your body to maintain its natural state of homeostasis. There are other classes of antioxidants called flavonoids and polyphenols which are naturally occurring in plants. However, the wrong combination and balance of antioxidants can do more harm than good. This means that you must have the right doses and combinations to have the desired effect.
To prevent and correct further excessive free-radical damage, here are some measures you can take:
- Stop smoking
- Minimise the amount of alcohol you drink
- Eat and drink organic produce, including a variety of fresh vegetables every day
- Avoid processed foods such as ready meals, check the label for preservatives
- Drink bottled or filtered water – check that the filter removes chlorine and heavy metals (also see my article about water)
- Consider removing toxic chemicals from your environment; read the labels of all those bottles in and around your kitchen/utility room and bathroom. Instead use environmentally friendly products to reduce the exposure of you and your family.
- Avoid food coming into contact with aluminium
- Take daily exercise, such as a 20 minute walk outside where you can allow your mind to relax
- Take a good quality vitamin C supplement – to break the free-radical chain reaction
- Take a good quality vitamin E supplement – to stop the chain reaction starting
It is always desirable to get everything your body needs from the food you eat but as I have set out in this article, for the size of the free-radical problem, this can be difficult to achieve.
Another aspect of self-help, prevention and correction comes in the form of the Kinesiology consultations and treatments. Working with your body’s natural communication we can gently and effectively determine what is needed and what would best be removed from or included in your diet to support your good health and well-being without guesswork or based on averages. This includes:
- What antioxidants are needed, how much and when to take them
- What foods are best eaten or avoided
- Providing help to stop smoking or drinking
- Finding out if your body is overloaded with toxins and how to clear them
Your consultation and treatment is personal, private and confidential. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to know more.
I hope you have found this article to be a balanced view of the free-radical problem plus the solution. I wish you good health and happiness in your life.