For a long time, many have said free radicals are harmful to your health, but how do they exactly affect you? To fully understand how these compounds affect your body, you need to know what they are and how they work.
Free radicals can cause oxidative stress that may damage the cells in your body, just like the photo of the rotten apple in this blog. These result in significant consequences to your health. Luckily, there are several ways that you can minimize free radical exposure and oxidative stress.
Learn how to reduce the bodily damage these unstable molecules can cause. Read on to discover what free radicals are and how to fight the destruction they cause.
What Are Free Radicals?
You may have heard of the term “free radicals” floating around, but what exactly are they? Essentially, they are unstable atoms that have one or multiple unpaired electrons.
A molecule needs paired electrons to be considered stable. Free radicals seek to compensate for the unpaired electron by looking for another electron to pair with. This is what causes the unstable or reactive nature of free radicals.
These atoms only last for less than a second, but they can cause a chain reaction that can significantly damage the body. As one free radical looks and finds an electron to bond with, it causes one atom to lose an electron and become another free radical.
This domino effect can damage cell membranes, resulting in harsh health consequences.
Where Do Free Radicals Come From?
There are two primary sources of free radicals our body can get - natural metabolism byproducts and ones caused by exposure to toxins.
The natural metabolic process is needed by our body to get energy and nutrients from the substances we intake. Therefore, we can’t avoid having free radicals in our bodies since it’s a natural byproduct. This is why even if we avoid toxins and environmental stressors, we are still exposed to free radicals that can damage our bodies.
The other way we get free radicals is from exposure to toxins or carcinogens. These are free radicals we can avoid. Some carcinogens that cause free radicals include tobacco smoke, radiation (UV or medical), pollution, chemicals like asbestos, and a number of viruses.
The Negative Effects of Free Radicals on the Body
Free radicals are not inherently bad. If there’s a balance between free radicals and antioxidants, they can help the body fight off pathogens that can cause infections.
The adverse effects of free radicals come from the lack of antioxidants that can neutralize them. This imbalance is called oxidative stress, and it causes damage to our bodies’ fatty tissues, proteins, and DNA.
If our bodies experience oxidative stress that is not corrected by antioxidant activity for a long period of time, it can lead to a wide range of diseases and health complications. These include cardiovascular issues, neurodegenerative diseases, inflammation, chronic metabolic diseases, faster cell aging, and cancer.
How to Stop or Minimize Production of Free Radicals
Do not believe anyone who would say they can completely eradicate free radicals in your body. It’s a natural byproduct, so there’s no way to avoid it entirely. However, there are some things you can do to minimize the oxidative stress that can come from having too much of it.
1. Antioxidant Intake
To minimize oxidative stress stemming from free radicals, you need to increase your intake of antioxidants so that they can neutralize the unstable molecules in your body. They can also help reduce inflammation that you may experience. You can primarily do this by being mindful of your diet.
Many types of food carry antioxidants. Several fruits and vegetables are full of polyphenols which have antioxidant properties. Such fruits include berries, citrus, broccoli, dark leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, olives, and prunes.
You can also get antioxidants from fish and nuts, green tea, and spices like turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, and onions.
Dietary supplementation can also be a source of antioxidants. For vitamins, you should look for vitamins E, and C. Melatonin supplements like Xendurance ® Deep Sleep can also reduce oxidative stress.
2. Lifestyle Changes
Several lifestyle changes can also help you reduce oxidative stress and minimize your exposure to free radicals caused by environmental or external factors.
A good way to minimize oxidative stress is by having a regular exercise routine. Following this practice has been linked to decrease bodily damage caused by oxidative stress.
Another necessary lifestyle change you need to avoid or stop smoking. Tobacco is an excellent source of free radicals, and avoiding it altogether is an effective way of keeping your free radical levels to a minimum.
It would help if you were careful when handling chemicals, as many of them can expose you to free radicals. Some such chemicals include pesticides.
Unless it’s absolutely necessary (such as for medical/diagnostic purposes), avoid radiation exposure.
Protect your skin from damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun by religiously wearing sunscreen when going out.
Make sure to get enough sleep. Along with the many benefits this brings to our body, such as improved brain function and hormone production, it also reduces oxidative stress.
Watch your diet and avoid eating too much. Overeating means the body needs to metabolize or process more food to get nutrients. This also causes an uptick in the production of free radicals.
Fight Free Radicals With the Right Diet and Lifestyle
Many have used the term “free radicals” without fully explaining how they affect the body. But how can you find effective ways to minimize it without knowing what it is?
One of the first steps you need to take if you want to start living healthy is knowing what to minimize or avoid. By knowing what free radicals are and what they cause, you will also know what to do to reduce the consequences that they may bring.
With antioxidants and a healthy lifestyle and diet, you can tone down the levels of free radicals in your body. Learn more about your body and the factors that affect it to start your journey to reaching your health goals!