You know that avoiding stress is essential to maintain optimal health. But did you know that protecting yourself from oxidative stress can defend your body against various problems such as chronic fatigue, insomnia, premature skin aging, cancer, and diabetes? In this article, you can find information about oxidative stress, its symptoms, and factors that can reduce it.

What is Oxidative Stress?

Oxidative stress occurs because of an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your cells. Free radicals are molecules that contain oxygen with an unequal number of electrons. These unequal electrons in free radicals easily react with other molecules, leading to significant chemical reactions in your body. These reactions in your body are called oxidation. Oxidation is a natural and necessary process that occurs in your body regularly. 

Antioxidants and Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress arises when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. When the balance is restored, your body is protected against pathogenic substances. Antioxidants play a crucial role in maintaining the functions of your body and protecting against oxidative damage. They provide electrons to free radicals, preventing their unstable structures. By doing so, antioxidants help stabilize free radicals and prevent oxidation. However, when there are more free radicals in your body than antioxidants can balance, free radicals can start damaging your body’s fat tissue, DNA, and proteins. Since these make up most of your internals, this damage can result in various diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and early signs of aging.

Causes of Oxidative Stress

Metabolism produces free radicals or oxidants. Removing them is necessary for the systematic functioning of biological processes. Unhealthy eating habits, smoking, and alcohol consumption can increase oxidative stress. Free radicals can be produced within your body as by-products of aerobic activity. Individual lifestyle and environment also contribute to the increase in free radicals.

During normal metabolism, each cell produces approximately 20 billion oxidants per day. Cells produce this amount of free radicals to fight against pathogenic microorganisms like nitric oxide (NO), superoxides, and H2O2. Additionally, oxidants are produced to be used in breakdown of fatty acids or certain chemicals. Factors such as inhaling environmental free radicals, exposure to radiation (ultraviolet light), automobile exhaust (mainly ozone and nitrogen oxides), contribute to an increase in free radicals and, thus, oxidative stress. Exposure to air pollution or smoke generates oxygen radicals. Active or passive smoking, alcohol consumption, and the consumption of unsaturated fats can cause oxidative stress by jeopardizing the body’s natural antioxidant system. 

How to Reduce Oxidative Stress?

Human body produces various antioxidants. Vitamin C is one of the essential antioxidants in the body. Its water-soluble nature provides a watery phase for scavenging free radicals. Vitamin E also prevents the formation of free radicals. β-carotene, which is abundant in carrots, acts as an effective antioxidant. Your diet should contain sufficient amounts of antioxidants for the treatment of oxidative stress. Consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables per day increases antioxidant production in your body.

Which Diseases Can Oxidative Stress Cause?

Oxidative stress negatively affects human health. Symptoms of oxidative stress include chronic fatigue, skin problems, circulation disorders, and insomnia. Additionally, oxidative stress can lead to the development of acute and chronic diseases. Some of these diseases include:

  • Cancer: Oxidative stress can directly damage various molecules in your body, including DNA. Continuous oxidative stress leads to DNA damage and uncontrolled cell growth. The main types of cancer caused by oxidative stress are breast, colon, and prostate cancer.
  • Respiratory diseases: Oxidative stress can damage lung tissue and exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung infections.
  • Neurodegenerative diseases: Conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are associated with oxidative stress. Oxidative damage to brain cells and the accumulation of harmful protein aggregates contribute to the progression of these diseases.
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Oxidative stress acts as a triggering component for the formation of cholesterol plaques in blood vessels, which eventually leads to the development of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. Oxidative stress promotes inflammation and damages the inner lining of blood vessels, making them more susceptible to plaque formation.
  • Diabetes: Oxidative stress plays a significant role in the development and complications of diabetes. It impairs insulin signaling, promotes inflammation, and contributes to the deterioration of pancreatic beta cells responsible for insulin production.
  • Aging: Oxidative stress is considered one of the key factors contributing to the aging process. The accumulation of oxidative damage over time leads to cellular dysfunction and tissue deterioration, resulting in age-related diseases and diminished physiological functions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is exercise helpful for treating oxidative stress?

Yes, production of free radicals through exercise is a way to maintain your health. In this manner; regular exercise, avoiding smoking and exposure to cigarette smoke, reducing alcohol consumption, using sun protection, getting enough sleep, and avoiding overeating also help reduce oxidative stress.

How oxidative stress is measured?

Oxidative stress level can be measured and treated with the H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) test from the blood. The H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) test can determine how much oxidative stress affects the body. Oxidative stress levels can be controlled by changes in eating habits.

Which foods are good for your oxidative stress?

Strawberries, cherries, citrus fruits, dried plums, dark leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes are good sources of antioxidants. Fish, nuts, turmeric, green tea, onions, garlic, and cinnamon also contain antioxidants.

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