Oxidation in biochemistry refers to the process when electrons are lost to free radicals. Our bodies are constantly under oxidative stress. Just like an apple or a car, our bodies will brown, rust, or decay.
What Exactly Is Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress causes free radical damage. Free radicals are uncharged molecules that are highly reactive. When we breathe in oxygen, our bodies create free radicals.
Molecules “like” being in pairs. When free radicals roam the body, they look for molecules to pair with. Once they “steal” an already paired molecule, a chain reaction occurs due to the imbalance of paired molecules.
The body produces defense mechanisms—mainly enzymes—to counteract this imbalance and detoxify the body. When the body is unable to keep up with the damage and experiences a gross imbalance, the nasty effects of oxidative stress will occur.
Molecules are the building blocks of the body. When they undergo damage–proteins, lipids, genes, etc. will also incur damage. From a macro perspective, this could lead to some serious injury to the body.
What Causes Oxidative Stress
High temperatures are a major impetus to oxidative stress. When temperatures hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit, apoptosis—or cellular death—will commence. UV rays are obvious culprits—you can see the damage. When individuals are overexposed to the sun, skin tissues will break down causing wrinkles, sun spots, and even skin cancer.
Pollution is also a contributor to oxidative damage. Toxins from pollution can accumulate in the body causing a dangerous landslide of molecular chain reactions. This is why the term “detoxify” is more than just a health trend—it’s an essential component to optimal health.
Trauma and stress cause oxidative damage in ways scientists are still examining. Stress can do incredible things to the body—mostly, creating inflammation. Some individuals experience acne and other skin blemishes when they experience stress. Others experience stomach problems. These conditions are manifestations of stress.
In various rheumatology studies, research has shown a link between trauma and lupus. It’s extremely important for individuals with autoimmune conditions to mitigate their stress to avoid flares. However, is the trauma-lupus link much deeper? Does overexposure to trauma or stress cause lupus and perhaps other autoimmune conditions?
Autoimmunity, Oxidative Stress, & Trauma
External factors—smoking, pollution, over-tanning—cause oxidative damage. Stress is and is not an external contributing factor to oxidative damage. Mental health specialists have created the term “internalizing” to connote the unhealthy physical side effects of stress when stress is not properly managed. People who are stressed undereat, overeat, lose their hair, and array of other unpleasant symptoms.
It’s extremely likely that stress and trauma are creating more powerful manifestations than the by-products of stress listed above. A 2008 study noted that genetic, environmental, hormonal, and immunologic factors may only account for 50% of the onset of an autoimmune disease. The remaining 50% was referred to as “unknown trigger factors.” Additionally, researchers have noted that as many as 80% of people with an autoimmune disease reported “uncommon emotional stress before disease onset.”
Illnesses that Stem from Oxidative Stress
“Immunologic factors” account for individuals who have unusual immune systems. Medical professionals have noted that oxidative stress produces immunodeficiencies. It’s very likely the heightened sense of stress could cause the immune system to overcompensate—which is indicative of over-immunity/autoimmunity—due to a deficient state. The body’s fight or flight mechanism was meant to function over a short of period of time with about a 2-week recovery. Modern day stresses happen over an extended period time with very little room to recover, potentially wreaking havoc on molecular structures.
For individuals who have immune systems that underperform, chronic infections could be a manifestation of oxidative stress as well.
Inflammation originates from oxidative stress/free radical damage. As noted in previous articles in this series, inflammation is the root cause of many illnesses, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, alzheimer’s, dementia, and more.
How to Fight Inflammation & Oxidative Stress with Anti-Oxidants
Even more so today, anti-oxidants are essential to prevent free radical damage caused by oxidative stress. To prevent free radical damage the body has a defense system of antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged.
The consumption of anti-oxidants counteracts the imbalance of free radicals in the system. Anti-oxidants reverse imbalance between the systemic manifestation of the reactive oxygen species and the organism’s ability to detoxify or repair the resulting damage.
Eating foods that are rich in anti-oxidants such as berries, citrus fruits, dark leafy green vegetables, walnuts, and pure dark chocolate are great additions to the diet to balance the system and support detoxification.
When the Body Needs More than Just Food
Vitamin C can act as a prophylaxis to the flu or the common cold. This essential nutrient is vital in essential bodily functions as well as regeneration.
Vitamin C—AKA ascorbic acid—is a nutrient that plays various important roles in the proper functioning of the body. Vitamin C prevents disorders such as scurvy. Beyond that, it is essential in the building and repair of the body’s connective tissues. Connective tissues, specifically collagen, are proteins that help to form skin, ligaments, cartilage, bones, and teeth, as well as helping to maintain blood vessels and organs.
Several cells of the immune system accumulate vitamin C and need the vitamin to perform their task, especially phagocytes and t-cells—white blood cells. Vitamin C is not only a preventive remedy, but rather a necessary one to ensure the immune system’s proper function.
High-dose vitamin C may be taken by mouth or given by an intravenous (IV) infusion (through a vein into the bloodstream). When taken by IV infusion, vitamin C can reach higher levels in the blood than when the same amount is taken orally. High-dose vitamin C infusions could an powerful and effective treatment for detoxification.
Protecting Your Body Anti-Oxidants
Always talk to medical professional before adding any supplement to a treatment program. A medical provider should take extensive blood panels to determine which treatment plan is right for your architectural complexity.
Adding vitamin C to the body through food sources is always a great idea. This helps the immune system function properly, and perhaps even more importantly, detoxifies the body. If you’re concerned your body needs more help detoxifying because of an overload of stress, sun, pollution, etc…there is safe and effective supplementation.