What are free radicals and can they be controlled through nutrition?
How an atom behaves is determined by the number of electrons found in its outermost shell. When the outermost shell is full, the atom is considered to be stable, which means that it will tend to not engage in chemical reactions. Atoms with missing or an odd (unpaired) number of electrons, making them unstable and highly reactive, are known as free radicals.
These unstable atoms are often formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once formed, an atom with a missing electron will try to stabilize itself by stealing an electron from a nearby neighbor. This theft leaves the victim short an electron, thereby creating a new free radical, which will, in turn, look for somewhere to steal an electron, creating a huge chain reaction called a free radical cascade. The end result can be extremely damaging to the affected living tissue.
When the body is healthy and receiving proper nourishment, this normal process of cellular activity does not pose a threat, because there will be a sufficient supply of antioxidants to replace the missing electrons and control the free radical cascade. Unfortunately, our modern diet and lifestyle is anything but healthy. The result is a literal bombardment of toxins, as well as other sources that contribute to the generation of free radicals, such as stress, pollution, unhealthy lifestyles, elevated cholesterol levels and high blood sugar levels. Combine any or all of these with poor nutrition and the body is simply unable to compensate. Over time, this leads to oxidative stress and inflammation, which are believed to be major precursors of age-related diseases and cancer.
Symptoms of Free Radical Damage
The damage associated with free radicals has a wide range of symptoms. Some of the more common ones include:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Sinus issues
- Intestinal issues
- Sleep problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Food cravings
- Water retention
- Trouble losing weight
- Skin problems, including rashes, eczema, psoriasis, canker sores and acne
- Puffy, dark circles under the eyes
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Bad breath
Antioxidants, which are molecules that can inhibit oxidation, are the body’s natural defense against free radicals. Their job is to scour the systems of the body and neutralize the free radicals before they have the opportunity to do damage to the cells. The body does produce antioxidants, but things like poor diet, pollution, toxins, medications, stress, aging and a list of other factors all deplete its supply, requiring external sources, like fruits and vegetables. Without antioxidants, the damage to the body can be severe, including cancer, heart disease and stroke, as well as all of the horrors of aging, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and senility.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Health, antioxidants play three roles in preventing the tissue damage that results from free radicals. These are:
- Suppressing the formation of free radicals
- Scavenging active free radicals to break the chain reaction stage
- Repair by promoting their decomposition
At the Southern California Center for Anti-Aging, we know how important nutrition is to health and well-being. Our bodies have to be well-nourished in order to function well and keep our immune systems at the ready. Once we have diagnosed your particular case through carefully administered lab tests, we prescribe the diet, or combination of diets, that we know will address your issues.
To learn more about free radicals and the role of antioxidants or to discuss any of our services, take advantage of our Free Consultation by clicking here to use our convenient online form.