If you nerd out about all things science and nutrition, then chances are you’ve heard of oxidative stress. Studies have shown that oxidative stress is an underlying factor linked to numerous chronic disease states, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. We’re going to uncover the facts about what oxidative stress is, its causes, and how oxidation can have a dramatic impact on your overall health. Then we'll tell you how you can reduce oxidative stress.
What is Oxidative Stress?
Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between the production and accumulation of oxygen-reactive species (ROS) also known as free radicals in cells and tissues and the ability to detoxify these reactive products with antioxidants. Free radicals have a role in several physiological functions such as cellular signaling and are generated as a byproduct of oxidation when your body metabolizes the oxygen you breathe. This process creates oxidative stress—a harmful process that can cause cellular damage and contribute to several different disease states.
Environmental stressors such as UV, ionizing radiation, pollutants, chemical solvents, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoke, and heavy metals can greatly increase free radical production contributing to the imbalance of oxygen production and resulting in oxidative stress. While free radicals are traditionally associated as harmful to the human body, free radicals are normal and necessary to some degree. It has been shown that free radicals can be utilized as a therapeutic approach to treat clinical conditions such as cancer, with a certain degree of success. In addition to causing some damage, free radicals also stimulate cellular repair and ward off pathogens.
What Causes Oxidative Stress?
Oxidative stress is caused by both endogenous and exogenous factors. In fact, there are millions of biological processes that can cause oxidation which include but are not limited to
- The process of Glycogenesis or glycogen synthesis
- The Immune system fights bacteria and invading pathogens resulting in inflammation The detoxification process of pollutants and pesticides.
When there are more free radicals than antioxidants in the body, free radicals can cause damage to fatty acids, protein, and DNA. A large body of evidence shows that oxidative stress can be responsible for differing degrees in the onset and progression of several different disease states, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurogenerative diseases, arthritis, and metabolic disorders.
How To Treat, Reduce, and Prevent Oxidative Stress
Free radicals are necessary to a certain degree, and impossible to completely avoid. However, there are a couple of ways in which you can reduce or try and minimize the effects of oxidative stress, which include limiting your exposure to environmental factors which are contributing factors to oxidative stress. Introducing more antioxidants to counteract the formation of free radicals is also a way to reduce oxidative stress.
Introducing antioxidant rich foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables is one of the best ways to reduce free radical formation such as:
- Citrus Fruits
Best Supplements For Oxidative Stress
Adding supplements that contain antioxidant-rich properties in addition to your nutrition plan is another way to reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress formation.
Turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin is a polyphenol – micronutrients packed with antioxidants. Polyphenols can induce oxidative stress and have been proven to have anti-cancer effects fighting against cancer cell proliferation.
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Krill Oil is a superior source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to possess anti-inflammatory effects. Krill Oil also contains the world's most potent and powerful antioxidant, Astaxanthin. Numerous studies have shown that astaxanthin can reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress by suppressing the inflammatory response to environmental factors such as UV exposure, acting as an anti-aging agent, while also absorbing free radicals into its molecular structure, providing neuroprotective and positive cardiovascular effects.
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One of the main benefits of CoQ10 comes from its antioxidant properties. Dietary supplementation of CoQ10 can increase the resistance of mitochondrial membranes, proteins, and DNA to oxidative damage, especially in the tissues that are most sensitive to damage. Vitamins such as C, E, and coenzyme Q10 could reduce this free-radical formation, thereby minimizing skeletal muscle damage and fatigue and promoting tissue and organ recovery.
Much like CoQ10, Vitamin C and Vitamin E need to be regularly replaced through diet and or supplementation because they are likely to be excreted in the urine when they become oxidized (lose their antioxidant functions). Luckily, CoQ10 is able to receive Vitamin C & E free electrons, recycling the vitamins as unoxidized antioxidants and allowing them to continue protecting the body from oxidative damage. Coenzyme Q10 then transfers the gained electron to other antioxidants, shifting and completing the sequestration of the electron while regenerating itself.
Without an abundance of readily available coenzyme Q10 in the body, free radical damage builds up leading to degenerative disorders and chronic diseases ranging in severity. Some examples include brain dysfunction, muscle weakness, loss of coordination and balance, seizures, poor muscle tone, muscle stiffness, and loss of vision.
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What Is Oxidative Stress: Takeaway
The more antioxidants you can include in your diet from food or supplementation, the more you can reduce your exposure to free radical damage and oxidative stress. Reducing your exposure to preventable exogenous factors and making healthier lifestyle choices regarding diet, exercise, and supplementation will reduce oxidation and toxin buildup. It’s really as simple as keeping your body in balance and living a healthier lifestyle.
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Pizzino, Gabriele et al. “Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2017 (2017): 8416763. doi:10.1155/2017/8416763