The Battle within – Free Radicals and Antioxidant War!
Our bodies are made up of trillions of atoms and molecules, ever day these atoms in our body wage war between life and death. Breathing oxygen the basic necessity for life promotes free radicals also known as radical oxygen species (ROS). With every breath of oxygen we take, our body circulates oxygen through out itself and as this oxygen passes through various metabolic functions the oxygen will bond with hydrogen, carbon and other elements that can easily be eliminated from the body, but in some cases the oxygen can lose an electron and become unstable also known as a free radical.
When oxygen looses an electron it looks for a replacement and will attach itself to the nearest cell offering an electron causing cellular damage. Have you ever seen when an apple is cut open it has a nice white/off white color but leave it set for a few minutes and it turns brown? Well at the atomic level oxidation is causing the oil soluble parts to become damaged and that is why the apple turns brown. In our bodies the water soluble parts can oxidize and produce toxic by products such as hydrogen peroxide. If a cells’ DNA becomes damaged the cell can die, but in some cases the cell goes on living and reproducing its damaged self this is known as cancer. This oxidation in the body is called oxidative stress and if left unchecked can lead to disease.
Oxidative stress isn’t limited to the oxygen we breathe and our metabolism, it also comes from environmental chemicals, radiation and second hand smoke. We have all experienced second hand smoke; this will contribute to our daily free radical war on the body. But there is hope, a good diet and lifestyle can turn the tables and bring health to the body.
There is an answer to the free radical war, its called antioxidants. These antioxidants circulate through out the body with electron donors offering the free radical what it needs an electron to become stable again. Our body manufactures some antioxidants such as Glutathione and the enzyme Dismutase. These antioxidants combine with minerals that we get from our diets such as copper, magnesium, and zinc and offer electrons to free radicals making them stable thus preserving cellular DNA damage which in turn improves health. Never the less even though our body can produce antioxidants, the body can not produce enough to fight all the free radical war that is going on in our body.
We need to get a majority of the antioxidants from our diet; this is why a varied diet is so important. Make sure you eat your fruits and vegetables. Our cells are made up of both water and lipids (fats); so we need a variety of both water soluble and fat soluble antioxidants in our diets. With a good variety of both types of antioxidants in body, antioxidants can regenerate themselves by passing electrons back and forth prolonging their life.
One of these great dietary antioxidants is vitamin E. Vitamin E is an oil soluble vitamin which helps maintain the lipid domain of our body; that is cell membranes, cholesterol and other lipids in the body. Vitamin E is composed of tocopherols and tocotrienols each having components beta, gamma, delta, and alpha forms four in natural vitamin E. Synthetic Vitamin E has beta, gamma, delta, and alpha as well as their isomers. We will focus on only natural vitamin E. Vitamin E donates electrons to lipid free radicals rendering them harmless. Vitamin E is regenerated by Vitamin C and Glutathione.
Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid is a very inexpensive and only acquired by diet water soluble antioxidant. Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals as well as reactive nitrogen free radicals and is regenerated by vitamin E and Glutathione. Vitamin C helps preserve Glutathione concentrations within cells as well.
Another great antioxidant is found in all the parts of plant stems, roots, leaves, blossoms, bark, seeds and fruits are called Polyphenols. Polyphenols are strong antioxidants and consist of thousands of plant chemical groups which are great for the body. You may recognize some of these polyphenols as bioflavonoids usually mixed with vitamin C, procyanidins found in grape seed, skin, and pine bark extracts, catechins found in green tea and white tea, and Xanthones found in Mangosteen.
There are many more antioxidants available most of which we won’t discuss in this article, some others you might be familiar with are Coenzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid, NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine), and Vitamin A (Beta Carotene). These are all available in supplement form.
The Fight against free radicals will continue for the rest of our lives, if we maintain a diet high in both water soluble and oil soluble antioxidants we can possibly prevent all sorts of disease and live long and healthy lives. Don’t forget if you can’t get your daily vegetables and fruits, visit your local vitamin store they offer a large selection of antioxidant formulas along with vegetable and fruit complexes in a pill form. Keep up the good fight.
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