An easy understanding of free radicals & anti-oxidants

Dr. Holly
Dr. Holly
Dr. Holly

People usually hear terms like free radicals and anti-oxidants – they know they go together and
they know one is bad and the other is good, but they don’t really understand them. This is a nice simple article I found from BC Blog critics that does a nice job in explaining them.

How is Stress caused?

In this fast-paced lifestyle, almost everything leads to stress. The working individual is under severe stress, as is the student and the homemaker too. No one is spared from stress or maybe we open up ourselves to stress. Irrespective of all that, it is the base of almost every lifestyle disease; Diabetes, Thyroid storm, Heart Diseases, Renal Diseases just to name a few! We definitely don’t want to risk ourselves to these deadly disorders and thus stress must be curbed and prevented in the initial stages itself.

To do so, understanding how stress is caused is very important. Yes, it’s all science, but if you know it, you would be able to differentiate between stress and other mental disorders like anxiety, panic attacks etc. which are much more hazardous than stress. Nevertheless, it’s a bit complex and involves a lot of ionic and cellular science.

In layman’s terms, stress is caused if there are too many free radicals in the body, particularly in the mind. Free radicals are those which carry an electron or negative charge or sometimes positive charge too in the loss of an electron. They are highly unstable and have to be paired to become stable. This is the main basis for understanding stress.

Free radicals can be of any nature, but in the body, they are usually derivatives of oxygen. The most hazardous oxygen free radical is superoxide ion, represented as O2- . These ions are usually formed within the cell and thus affect the contents of the cell. Another potent oxygen free radical is the hydroxyl ion, represented as OH-.

These free radicals have to be disposed immediately or else destroyed which is what drugs usually do. If not disposed or destroyed, they bind to all molecules of the cell thus called as Oxidative Stress. Free radicals then produce the following types of damage.

Lipid Peroxidation

The oxygen free radicals mainly affect the Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, abbreviated as PUFA. They pair with the PUFAs of the cell membrane to form highly destructive PUFA radicals. This is called Lipid Peroxidation. They can be decomposed by transition metals like Iron. This process usually propagates and thus causes widespread membrane damage and thus cell death.

Protein Oxidation

Free radicals can cause oxidation of the protein macromolecules and also form cross-linkages between susceptible amino acids. They may also cause fragmentation of polypeptides directly. Ultimately it leads to the destruction of cytosolic nuclear enzymes and thus cell death.

DNA Damage

The free radicals particularly affect the single stranded DNAs of both the nucleus and mitochondria. This results in cell death. Another disadvantage is it may also cause malignant transformation of the cells.

Cytoskeletal Damage

They also interact with the cytoskeletal elements like microtubules and microfilaments. They can also interfere with the respiratory processes like mitochondrial aerobic phosphorylation, causing ATP depletion and thus cell death.

Free radical injury can also cause several other disorders too. However almost every disorder caused by free radical injury is accompanied by some sort of stress. Perhaps, any free radical cause Oxidative Stress but the magnitude differs with every ion.

Natural Stressbusters

Natural stressbusters are usually antioxidants. They may be either exogenous or endogenous and prevent our body and mind from succumbing to stress very easily. They inactivate the free radicals by pairing with them. Some of the natural antioxidants or stressbusters are:

  • Vitamins E (Tocopherol), A and C (Ascorbic Acid).
  • Sulfhydryl containing compounds – Cysteine and Glutathione.
  • Serum Proteins – Ceruloplasmin and Transferrin.

There are a wide number of anti-oxidants in our foods and supplements that can be effective to some degree.  The problem with Vitamin A, C, D3, CoQ10, bioflavonoids, etc. is that operate on a one to one basis with free radicals – then they would be anti-oxidant becomes a free radical itself and the body has to get rid of it.  In addition, food/supplement anti-oxidants will only work on one category of free radical and usually in only one location, i.e. in the cell, the cell membrane, outside the cell.

Glutathione, is quite different. It operates on a one to a million basis – it works on all categories of free radicals; in all locations; and once it balances a free radical – it restabilizes itself and does it again and again…in addition, it also restabilizes all your other anti-oxidants…in addition, it also involved in more functions than almost any other molecule in the body!

We cannot get glutathione through food or supplement – it has to be made inside the cell.

We have the ways, so we can get the body to create more – and we desperately need to as most of us are deficient by the time we are 30 years old… losing about 15% per year from our teens on.

We can take a 5 herb formulation which universities have now shown – turns on the genetic tools to make glutathione – and anti-inflammatories, and anti-fibrosis pathways, and more.

But there is more to making glutathione that just having the DNA turned on to make the right tools. You also need the mitochondria functioning effectively to provide the fuel to make the glutathione. And as I showed in my last PhD, you also need all 4 components of the methylation cycles working to both regulate and synthesize glutathione. Finally, you need the ingredients to make the glutathione with.

When I work with clients, I want to make sure all components of the cellular functioning are working effectively, because glutathione is a hugely important compound to most systems in the body.

Here’s to your health.

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Dr. Holly is a naturopathic doctor that holds a PhD in Psychology and Biochemistry, specializing in balancing mind, body and energy of the system.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information only and is not a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or other health care practitioner.