Oxidative Stress and Free Radicals
Welcome to section five of our Journey to Better Nutrition!
"The absence of disease symptoms does not necessarily indicate
the presence of health. Health is a measure of cell, organ, and
system function throughout our body; and the constant and complex
interplay of all of our wonderful bio- chemical interactions.
Every function inside the human body depends upon the proper introduction,
digestion, and distribution of essential micro-nutrients. Basic
functions can be restored and damaged tissues can be regenerated
with the right nutritional support."
Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., Toxic Overload
(paraphrased from the book Optimal Digestion, ch. 11)
Oxidative Stress, Oxidants, and Free Radicals…
Not too many years ago, we heard only about stress. Today we hear the term "oxidative stress". Let's use a simple example to clarify some terms, so we can get to the nutritional solution.
Oxygen is the common denominator in the negatively charged and always destructive change-agents called oxidative stress, oxidants, and the more technically correct label oxygen-free-radicals (which are commonly referred to as free radicals). Oxygen? One of our most essential nutrients…a bad actor? Not exactly. This is a perfect example of how thinking of nutrition in terms of good or bad, instead of the more interdependent adjectives complementary or insulting, can lead to confusion.
Of course oxygen is an essential nutrient. Deprive the body of oxygen for only a few minutes and death will surely occur.
Think of a pile of burning, smoldering leaves. Lots of thick smoke, no visible flames, not much heat. Left alone, what little fire remains could easily go out in a few minutes or a few hours. What could you do to radically change and transform this situation? Exactly. Increase the flow of oxygen to the smoldering coals at the bottom of the leaf pile. Use a pitchfork or a metal rake and just lift up the leaves and let some air circulate around the coals for a few seconds. What happens? Can you spell ignition?
Depending on the moisture content of the leaves, of course, our little once smoldering leaf pile just ignited as if gasoline had been added to the mix, and it may burn ten times faster and hotter. Why? Oxygen.
Oxygen is an essential ingredient in almost every form of energy
production inside the human body. We require oxygen for metabolism
and for every form of aerobic process that takes place in every
cell in our body. Inside the mitochondria of every cell (remember
our each cell is a factory metaphor?),
oxygen provides the catalyst for the fuel for all the other activities
of the body: digestion, cellular repair, immune function, nervous
system responses, reproduction, even the contraction of our muscles,
and much more.
However, like all living things, oxygen has a dark side. Oxygen causes things to activate, energize, metabolize, burn…and when this happens without obstruction or protection, things will burn up completely and disappear. If this happens to the leaf pile mentioned before, no problem. If it happens to the cells of our body…big problem!
Oxygen's ability to do this is called oxidation. It refers to the tendency that things have towards dissipation, particularly when a process of oxidation is released (upon it or within it) without obstruction. Of course, oxygen, by itself doesn't do anything. In order for oxidation to take place, other biochemical factors and agents must be present, such as enzymes, trace minerals, amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, etc. These various nutritional factors, co-factors, and agents are called antioxidants. Antioxidants allow for a balanced amount of burning to take place inside the cells. Antioxidants allow for a normal and healthy amount of energy production.
So, anti-oxidants serve two purposes:
- To provide the nutrients to mix with oxygen to
- provide nutrients to protect the cell and to
prevent the burning from going too far
Antioxidants are the natural and organic dancing partners to the normal, natural,
and healthy oxidant co-factors of metabolism.
So, a certain amount of oxidative stress is normal, as we have just described.
Then of course, there is that other kind of oxidative stress - the abnormal, insulting, and destructive kind. Two factors define the situation that we will hear more and more described as "oxidative stress":
- The presence of non-nutritious substances
and unnatural toxins outside the normal metabolic pathways. These
substances include, but are not limited to the following: smog,
tobacco, smoke, radiation, alcohol, pesticides, anti-biotics and
other medications, food colorings and preservatives.
- The absence of vital antioxidant nutrients.
When this kind of situation exists - unnatural and insulting oxidants without
the obstructing and protecting influences of various and complementary
antioxidants - an entire new category of destructive and potentially
disease causing change-agents appear on the scene: free radicals.
Free radicals are highly charged but extremely unbalanced molecules that have a very destabilizing and destructive effect when they interact with our cells in the absence of essential antioxidant protection. The technical bio-description states that free-radical molecules are destructive because they are missing an electron in their structure and therefore seek stability by stealing electrons from other stressed-out and unprotected cells. This situation leads to two basic cellular vulnerabilities:
- The protective outer layer of the cell can be
damaged, made brittle and less flexible. Gradually the cell wall
can be completely destroyed.
- Internally (inside the cell), basic cellular structures
and functions can be impaired, enzymes and enzyme systems stop
working, and the precious genetic material, DNA, can be damaged
Since DNA represents the genetic blueprints of our bodies, any alteration here
can spell disaster everywhere else. Without a coherent master plan
for building, repairing, and rebuilding the body, everything starts
to back up and break down. Genetic impairment is like losing a part
of the overall instruction manual for the entire system. This can
lead to a constant breaking down of all internal biological processes
and thereby accelerate the potential for heart disease, cancer,
hardening of the arteries, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, and
many other degenerative dis-ease conditions.
All New Earth nutritional productsprovide some degree of antioxidant protection from free radical damage by virtue of the presence of Wild Bluegreen™ Algae…a nutrient rich, enzyme rich, antioxidant rich food source. But two products in particular have been designed to provide outstanding and very specific anti-oxidant protection:
provide antioxidant protection in the blood and lymph
by protecting the cell walls from the outside.
provides antioxidant protection inside the cells of
our body. The nutrient Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is essential for energy
production inside every cell of the human body. If it is missing,
the cell remains vulnerable from attack by free radicals. If the
cell contains CoQ10, free radicals have less of a chance of hurting
The Protective Effects of Antioxidants: Promoting Stamina
"A remarkable study of elite mountain climbers in the Himalayas
provides new insight into the protective effects of antioxidants.
During a climb on Annapurna, one of the highest mountains in the
world, professional climbers were evaluated for levels of vitamins
C and E (both antioxidant vitamins) and the effects on their performance.
The athletes were climbing at altitudes above 20,000 feet without supplemental
oxygen, under extreme conditions. Some climbers received vitamin E supplements
of 200 milligrams twice a day for four weeks, while others received a placebo of no
nutritive value. The study confirmed that antioxidants have an important protective
effect. Climbers who received supplemental vitamin E were able to engage in
strenuous physical activity for longer periods of time without suffering fatigue.
Why? More stamina and better resistance to oxidative stress during the climb due
to the inclusion of antioxidant vitamins in their diet."
Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D. Damage from Free Radicals
(from the book Optimal Digestion, chapter 12, page 123)
What else can I do?
Understanding the role of oxidants and antioxidants in normal metabolism is essential food for thought. Taking antioxidant supplements (like many of the New Earth products, but especially Wild Earth and Energize), will definitely assist the body in its desire and ability to confront free radicals and more effectively manage oxidative stress from all sources. And there is a lot more that you can do with the rest of your diet and lifestyle.
- Increase the amount of fresh fruits and
vegetables in your diet
- Increase the amount of fiber rich whole foods
- Exercise moderately every single day
- Make sure you are properly hydrated
- Make sure you get enough sleep at night and rest
during the day
- Communicate! Express yourself creatively. Emotional
and psychological stress can increase the production of free radicals!
- Don't tolerate low-grade gastrointestinal problems.
Indigestion and/or constipation can be sources of internal free
radical production. Be proactive; use digestive enzymes, probiotics,
and antioxidants. Learn all the complementary habits for a healthier
- Don't smoke cigarettes. There are 100 trillion
free radical molecules in every puff of cigarette smoke!
- Minimize indoor air pollution.
- Avoid toxic exposures of all kinds
- If you work with toxic chemicals, protect yourself.
- Avoid eating refined and processed foods.
- Avoid rancid oils. Use only fresh, highest quality
cold pressed vegetable oils. Discard oils every six weeks.
- Minimize alcohol consumption.
- Use Common Sense! Learn more about how nutrition
works inside your body, and what you can do to nourish yourself
Thank you for participating with us in our fabulous Journey to Better Nutrition!
Next, find out about the importance of Seasonal Cleansing.
Action Step for Section 5!
- Learn more about
- Learn more about antioxidants
- Fill out your Weekly
- Identify an insulting habit in your diet or lifestyle
and minimize its impact. You could eliminate the insult altogether
or simply modify it. Just try it one day at a time, for one week,
and see if you notice improvements in your health and energy.
Review the Habits of Naturally Healthy People
for ideas and suggestions.
- Do you have questions?
- Make sure you do something that really makes you
laugh every day!
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