Oxygen - Can You Have Too Much Of A Good Thing?

by Oliver Freer - Date: 2007-04-24 - Word Count: 775 Share This!

What is oxidative stress?

Oxidative stress, simply put, is the damage made to a cell through the oxidative process. Oxidation, in itself, is a very normal process - it happens all the time to our bodies and many things that surround us. However, when there are disturbances in the natural oxidation process, such as the attraction of a free radical to another molecule in your body, the results are often toxic effects.

Imagine an iron pipe lying on the ground. As it weathers years of rain, environmental exposure, sun, and other factors, it begins to rust. The rust is caused by oxidation. Free oxygen radicals are created during the metabolism of normal oxygen cells, or oxidation. These free radicals are missing a simple electron and are in search of another molecule that they can combine with to become "whole." In their quest, they fire charges that damage other cells and structures around them. This, in turn, causes the rust.

In effect, your body is "rusting" as it goes through its lifetime, the free oxygen radicals wildly running through your system, searching for a mate. As you can see, the more free radicals your body contains, the more damage that's likely to be done. The best way to see this damage is through our normal aging process.

Oxidative Stress and Aging

While modern medicine has found ways for humans to live longer, our quality of life - especially during the last 30 years - has gone down. Much of this can be attributed to oxidative stress and the toxins that we're encountering more and more throughout our lives.

A simple way to visually experience the effects of oxidative stress on aging is to visit a nursing home. Compare the skin of a five-year-old to that of a resident, and notice the breakdown, wrinkles, and color as compared to the smooth, supple skin of a child. Throughout our lives, our skin encounters free radicals in many different forms, and their effect is clearly obvious on our skin.

But oxidative stress isn't only apparent on the outside. It's the cause of many or most diseases our society is concerned with today.

Oxidative Stress and Disease

To date, science has discovered that oxidative stress may very well be the cause of over 70 well-known, widely-spread diseases. Depending on what form of toxin or stress your body is exposed to on an ongoing basis, you could find yourself suffering, even at an early age, from diseases that could be prevented if only you'd have minimized the harmful free radicals in your system.

Here are just some of the diseases are caused by oxidative stress:

Heart Disease
Lung Disease
Neurodegenerative Diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
Autoimmune Diseases
Eye Diseases like Macular Degeneration

A Look at Free Radicals

Obviously, even back in the early days of man, free radicals existed and caused oxidative stress. They're inherent to life and a normal byproduct of regular oxygen molecule metabolism. However, our bodies were only made to withstand so much exposure to free radicals (even though our body does an amazing job at neutralizing them in a normal, low-toxin setting). And the increased and prolonged exposure to these wild and reckless free radicals cause a faster build-up of "rust" or disease in our bodies.

So what are some of the most common reasons our bodies' oxygen molecules oxidize themselves into an increased amount of free radicals? Some of them you're probably well aware of, and some of them may come as a surprise.

Environmental and Air Pollution
Cigarette Smoking
Excess Stress
Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications
Excessive Exercise
Increased Exposure to Sunlight

The Heroic Role of Antioxidants

The key ingredient, by far, to reducing the amount of free radicals in your system is antioxidants. Antioxidants are fantastic little substances that wander through your body, giving up an electron to the greedy free radicals charging through your system. They neutralize the free radicals and allow your body to do its business of excreting them safely and without harm.

Our bodies already make several different types of antioxidants all on their own. But as our exposure to harmful free radicals in the environment and through our lifestyles increase, our need for outside supplies of antioxidants is vital in the war against aging and degenerative disease.

While a good supply of antioxidants come from natural sources like healthy food, we also need to supplement those sources. Increasingly, our food supply is being degraded through harmful growing practices and soil depletion, and can no longer be relied upon to protect us from the oxidative stress all around us.

With a healthy supply of free-radical-neutralizing antioxidants, you can see how our bodies are better able to withstand and ward off the "rusting" for decades longer than we currently do.

Related Tags: diabetes, cancer, antioxidants, heart disease, asthma, oxidative stress, free radicals

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