Oxidative stress is a process that naturally occurs in the body, playing a significant role in the human aging process, but we’re seeing higher levels of chronic oxidative stress in young people in the world today. Poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles, and exposure to damaging UV rays (sunburns) can speed up oxidation and contribute to development of many chronic and inflammatory conditions.
Oxidative stress is a contributing factor in many diseases:
- Autoimmune disease
- Kidney disease, and even renal failure
- Respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Cardiovascular disease, including atherosclerosis, hypertension, and heart attacks
- Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
How oxidative stress occurs in the body:
Oxidation is half of the primary energy generating reaction in the body, the other half is reduction. They form a balance at an atomic level to produce energy but not cause damage. If oxidation starts without the balance of a reduction reaction, potentially triggering a chain reaction that leads to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
Oxidation can be started from damage to your body’s cells, including from damaging UV light exposure. The damage to the cell creates a free radical – a molecule that is missing an electron, and that will steal electrons from any molecule it can find. The trouble with free radicals is that in their search for a stabilizing electron, they actually create more free radicals who are missing an electron!
No doubt you’ve heard about the health benefits of eating foods rich in antioxidants – and they really live up to their name. Antioxidants have an abundance of available electrons, and they’re able to give up their extra electrons to fulfill the demand of free radicals. They stop the chain reaction while still keeping their own stable structure, and regularly eating foods with antioxidants prevents new free radicals from going on a rampage in the body.
Some ways to manage oxidative stress:
- Eat more foods containing antioxidants such as berries, carrots, avocados, onions, and nuts.
- Eat foods containing Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Omega-3 fatty acids
- Avoid smoking
- Engage in a moderate fitness routine, 30 minutes per day
- Add sunscreen to your daily skin routine
- Get more than 6 hours of sleep per night
Oxidative stress is a natural process in your body, that can be managed. With the right habits and knowledge, you will increase your likelihood of living a longer and healthier life.