We are all rusting. In this sense, we are all like apples – going brown with age (think “age spots”). The process of oxidizing is a necessary component of burning fuel to make energy, but the by-products of this process are highly reactive oxygen molecules known as “free radicals” – which can damage the tissues unless there is enough “anti-oxidation” happening to counteract free radical production. This state of imbalance is called Oxidative Stress, or the unchecked effects of oxygen on the body.
Research has shown that virtually all illnesses have an increased level of oxidative stress in common.
Heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and neurological problems like alzheimers’s, parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are some common diseases that appear to be triggered by oxidative stress. The related symptoms include fatigue, weakness, muscle and joint pain, headaches, itchiness, digestion problems, anxiety and depression – to mention only a few.
The source of oxidative stress can be both internal and external. Internally, we may have nutritional deficiencies of the “antioxidants” – like Zinc, C, Selenium, and E. How we live our lives also contributes to this imbalance as smoking, alcohol, excessive exercise, pharmacologic drugs and overeating contribute to oxidative stress. Blood sugar imbalance leads to oxidative stress, and so does being overweight. External sources include exposure to pollution, pesticides, petrochemicals and heavy metals.
Tests for Oxidative Stress include measuring lipid peroxides, superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, catalase and/or glutathione in the blood. Certain free radical markers like catechol and 2,3 – dihydroxybenzoate can be measured in the urine. Blood levels of the antioxidant nutrients A, D, E, CoEnzyme Q10 and beta-carotene can be measured in the blood as well.
We are all at risk for Oxidative Stress – since the majority of us do not get enough antioxidant-containing through our food. I believe that supplementation of these nutrients is often a necessary first step – if the individual already has signs of oxidative stress. This being said, there are no supplements that can take the place of optimizing your diet. Choose to eat high nutrient-to-calorie ratio foods rather than eating meals or snacks which are high in calories but low in antioxidants. Eliminate anything “white” or processed from your diet i.e. white sugar, white flour, white bread, white rice and white pasta. Dramatically increase the colourful vegetables and fruits in your diet which contain antioxidants like lycopene, lutein and proanthocyandins. “You are what you eat” is an appropriate phrase. As Mr. Spock might say….”Eat Right, Live Long and Prosper”!
Until next time…..