What Are Free Radicals And How Do They Affect Us?
Rusty metal? Brown apples? What has that got to do with what goes on in our bodies? According to researcher Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston, in a statement to Web MD ~The birth and death of cells in the body goes on continuously, 24 hours a day. It is a process that is necessary to keep the body healthy. “Oxidation is a very natural process that happens during normal cellular functions. Yet there is a downside. As cells use oxygen to metabolize (break down to create energy) carbohydrates, fat, and protein, they create a kind of “exhaust” or waste known as free radicals.”
“Free radicals” is a term often used to describe damaged cells that can be problematic. They are “free” because they are missing a critical molecule, which sends them on a rampage to pair with another molecule. “These molecules will rob any molecule to quench that need,” states Blumberg.
Oxidation and free-radical formation are behind the rusting of nails and browning of apple slices. Just as what happens to the inside of an apple when it is cut ~ it is turning brown because of the iron-containing chemicals inside the apple’s cells reacting to the oxygen in the air ~ or metal when it rusts ~ that happens as well inside our body. Polluted air, cigarette smoke, alcohol, medications, and even the body’s own natural processes can all generate free radicals. So what defense does the body have against these free radicals?
Fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans, green tea, and herbs are loaded with essential nutrients that prevent free-radical damage: antioxidants. However, there are circumstances that interfere:
- we do not consume enough of these antioxidant-rich foods
- we take medicines that reduce our body’s production of its own antioxidants
- we are exposed to a lot of exhaust fumes, air pollution, cigarette smoke, or meats that have been fried, preserved with nitrates, or broiled.
- we are living under a lot of stress, engage in intense exercise regimens, or overexposure to the sun
According to Hyla Cass, M.D. in her book, Supplement Your Prescription, here are some great suggestions to combat this free radical damage:
- eating at least 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables and eating a wide variety of them (not just iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, and oranges)
- choose vegetables and fruit in a rainbow of colors, the deeper color, the better, and as fresh as possible (frozen is the next best)
- using spices and herbs such as cinnamon, cilantro, parsley, garlic, oregano, turmeric (cumin) ginger, and rosemary which all have known healing effects
- limiting salt intake. Sea salt in its natural form is essential for good cellular function and contains trace minerals, including iodine ~ important for the health of the thyroid gland ~ is a better alternative and more usable by the body
- Because we are surrounded by toxins and pollutants, some of which we take in through our food, she recommends also taking a multivitamin, antioxidants, a probiotic supplement, CoQ10, and fish oil daily. I take a daily strip that contains all of these nutrients which is easy and convenient for me. If interested, contact me for more information about this valuable supplement.
Another free radical threat to our bodies can occur when high levels of an amino acid called homocysteine is present. It is known to enhance the production of free radicals ~ the unpaired electrons that are naturally formed as cells turn food into energy. According to Dr. Cass, this cellular “exhaust” has been found to speed up the aging process and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants can mop up the free radicals IF we eat enough of those antioxidant-rich foods!
According to Dr. Oz in You: Staying Young, without B vitamins, your homocysteine levels rise, and that doubles the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. He suggests taking a B supplement each day. B complex is in the daily strip I take each day and I also sometimes I get it in this additional supplement. (Ask me about it) Not sure if these free radicals cause the aging process to speed up, but just in case, I make sure to eat antioxidant-rich foods as much as I can as well as supplements. What about you?