You can’t turn the channel on your television, flip through a magazine, or click on an internet page these days without hearing about the dangers of ‘free radicals’. It seems every food company, cosmetics company, and pharmaceutical manufacturer has something in a pill, potion, or cream to stop the bombardment of these ‘free radicals’ on your body. Here’s the rub. A lot of these pills, potions, and creams are full of toxins that bombard the cells and create more……you guessed it…. free radicals.
To go forward we must go backwards.
What’s a free radical anyway??
Your body constantly interacts with oxygen in order to help your cells produce energy. The simple act of breathing helps bring oxygen into the blood stream, the thyroid helps produce T4 which is converted to T3, much of it in the liver, and that T3 raises the basal metabolic rate of almost every cell in the body. (Remember glucose? It is the fuel the cells need to create oxygen and insulin is the key that opens the “gate” of the cell to allow that glucose in…. The T3 helps churn tells the cells how much glucose it needs to create however much energy it needs…. over simplistic explanation but it’s a basic explanation.) T3 also increases the breakdown of fat, stimulates protein synthesis and degradation, stimulates the heart, and “arms” the fight-or-flight hormones (the catecholamines) to be ready to burst into action when needed. These adrenal hormones might help you understand how adrenal fatigue can affect the functioning of the thyroid so profoundly.
Oxygen is utilized in the cells to “churn” energy for every function in the human body. As with every single process in life, with those processes come by-products or “waste”. In a perfectly functioning metabolism, in a pristine environment with a pure water and food supply, clean air, no chemicals, etc. (that’s a lot of etceteras), the function of the cell utilizes oxygen very efficiently. This process of churning energy produces 1% to 2% of by-products which are damaged cells that “lose” an electron and become ‘free radicals’ that go around looking for other molecules to latch onto in hopes of recovering that missing electron. If these rogue molecules bump into other molecules they can start a “chain reaction” of damaging other molecules which in turn damage others, and so forth and so forth until damaged cells which in turn damages the DNA which quickly sets the stage for diseases like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, which are, in fact, damaged cells rapidly reproducing. (When free radicals adhere to cholesterol, it forms LDL which is when cholesterol gets sticky and adheres to the walls of the arteries causing plaque buildup. This proves it is NOT actually cholesterol that is “bad” rather the oxidation of cholesterol by ‘free radicals’. This process of releasing free radicals turns the positive process of oxidation into a negative one; indeed a dangerous one.
It’s a little like living in this complicated 21st century. A baby is born into a loving home. They are raised happy and healthy and, as they get older, marry, have children, raise those children in a loving home, etc. Free radicals happen when one man (or woman) is raised in a dysfunctional home (the making of one free radical), and goes through the dating pool bumping into other molecules (the good ones become free radicals because this free radical usually hurts the good one) and that free radical then becomes a rogue molecule, and so on and so on until molecules no longer know how to behave in the body (city) and the body goes into a diseased state. (Marriages and remarriages dissolve, children are created and raised in dysfunctional homes, etc.). A very simplistic way of looking at the way ‘free radicals’ are formed, I know, but you get the picture.
To get the total picture of what ‘free radical damage’ or oxidative stress can do aside check out the diagram below::
Just so you get a clearer picture of what ‘free radical’ damage can do to skin, your largest, most vulnerable organ in the body, the first line of defense against intruders and the organ most in need of protection against these scavengers, let’s take a look at a few of the effects of ‘free radical’ damage.
*Skin surface damage
*Slow cellular renewal
*Sun damage which also can cause skin cancer
And to add insult to injury, the enzymes triggered by these unbalanced electrons can cause future damage not able to discern immediately but lurking around the bend.
*Skin discoloration and age spots
What are the main sources of ‘free radicals’?
*Chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, cosmetic chemicals, cleaners, etc.)
*Iron in tap water
*Car Exhaust and other transportation emissions
*Poor diet ( Standard American Diet with too much sugar, refined flours, and polyunsaturated fats)
*Drugs (both prescription and recreational)
*Exercise (strenuous, intense or extended without proper rest periods)or physical strain
*Internal metabolic processes
*Stress of any kind (including mental and emotional)
*Electronic pollution (extra low frequencies, called ELFs, from computers, TV, power lines, microwaves, etc.)
*Known and unsuspected toxins and pollution in our food (including many additives), water and air.
So your body needs an armed defense system with warriors at all levels-lieutenants, corporals, generals, staff sergeants – and those warriors in the Battle of the Free Radicals are antioxidants!
What can be done about free radical damage?
Since the creation of free radicals is actually a normal process (on a much smaller scale than what is going on in most bodies today) there isn’t any way to completely escape free radical formation. You can run but you can’t hide. In fact, if we lived in a pristine world, the ‘free radicals’ being made by normal metabolic processes would be dealt with by the “Master antioxidant” manufactured by the body called glutathione , which is also responsible for detoxification, repair of DNA, regulation of enzymes and strengthening of your immune system by increasing production of killer T cells. It is a key component of every cell in your body and is manufactured by your body, in the cells of your body.
Calling All Antioxidants
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are vitamins and other substances that supply the missing electrons for unstable molecules (free radicals looking to glom onto other molecules in search of their missing molecules) in order to prevent free radical damage from external and internal sources.
Glutathione in the body plays a vital role in the utilization of antioxidants as the glutathione (GSH) “donates” a hydrogen atom to the antioxidant as it gives up an electron to an unstable molecule in the body. It basically allows the antioxidant to stay in an active state for longer in the body, thus recycling the antioxidant antioxidant. Because free radical damage affects the immune system so profoundly I find, often, I need to modulate the immune systems of my clients by supplementing with glutathione.
Examples of Antioxidants::
*Alpha Lipoic Acid (manufactured in the body but declines with age so very important to get in diet or whole foods supplement)
*Polyphenols (in too high of doses it can hinder protein synthesis and mineral absorption)
How do antioxidants work?
Each antioxidant has a different role to play to minimize or halt free radical damage. For example, Vitamin C’s role is to stop the free radical chain reaction before it starts. Vitamin E breaks the chain. Coenzyme Q10, found inside the mitochondria of every cell, helps strengthen the membrane of the cell making it harder for free radicals to penetrate. Alpha Lipoic Acid is an important one as it is soluble in both water and fat (unlike Vitamin C which is solely water soluble and Vitamin E which is solely fat soluble) and steps in when glutathione levels fall short helping pick up the slack in recycling antioxidants.
The body needs a wide variety of antioxidants every day to minimize free radical damage in the body. Eating a myriad of colorful fruits and vegetables, healing bone broths and nourishing fats like avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and grass-fed ghee and plenty of Omega 3 rich foods like Alaskan Wild Salmon and other wild fish, or COLD PRESSED and COLD processed krill oil supplements (kept in your refrigerator) along with smaller amounts of chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds (all stored in your refrigerator to avoid oxidation) will help in keeping free radical levels down. While Omega 3 is not considered a super antioxidant it does increase antioxidant enzymes and their activities manufactured in the body.
A whole food supplement like the one from New Chapter “Only One” provides a broad base of antioxidant protection on a daily basis. Superfoods supplements like STAMBA Daily Superfoods Blends also provide specialized antioxidant protection.
Think of your body as a country needing protection from a strong military. So your body needs an armed defense system with warriors at all levels-lieutenants, corporals, generals, staff sergeants – and those warriors in the Battle of the Free Radicals are antioxidants!