What are Antioxidants & Free Radicals?

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There’s a lot of buzz about ‘free radicals’ and ‘antioxidants’ in the health world. Yet, most people don’t understand what they are or how they work. 

Let’s start with free radicals. These are toxic byproducts your body creates when you digest food. They are also produced when you have exposure to pollution or radiation. Free radicals are unstable molecules that mess up your DNA. They can cause heart disease, cancer, and other illness. The good news is your body has a secret weapon…

Antioxidants to the rescue!  

Your body fights free radicals with molecules called antioxidants. These antioxidants neutralize free radicals, preventing them from damaging your cells. Yet, free radicals do play an essential role in your survival. 

Your immune system uses free radicals to fight infections. That’s why your body must maintain a balance of both free radicals and antioxidants. An improper balance may lead to an unhealthy state called oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is nasty. It can damage your DNA, increase your risk of Head and Neck Cancer, or cardiovascular disease.

All living things make their own antioxidants to fight free radicals. Our bodies make antioxidants called glutathione. Unfortunately, glutathione levels decrease with age, disease, infection, and stress. This puts you at risk for oxidative stress. We can increase glutathione levels through diet, exercise, sleep, and supplements. 

How to bolster your antioxidant levels 

As always, your diet plays a huge role…

Eat foods like poultry, beef, and fish. Consume plant-based food sources like nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Try broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, watercress. Add garlic, shallots, onions, and spices like turmeric. Turmeric has curcuminoids that serve a dual function. Curcuminoids are antioxidants and reduce inflammation. 

Vitamin C is a huge help… 

Vitamin C is found in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables. It works as an antioxidant by protecting us against free radical damage. It destroys free radicals before they attack our glutathione! Juices in blood oranges and orange juice, coffee, and green tea also help boost your glutathione levels. 

Exercise – get your body moving! 

Regular exercise that includes and cardio and weight training can increase glutathione levels.

Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep… 

Sleep is necessary to maintain and increase antioxidant levels. Poor sleep can decrease antioxidant levels in the body. Scientists recently learned the brain is bathed in cerebral fluid during the sleep cycle. Perhaps this fluid contains the secret to why antioxidants increase during sleep. Lie back, close your eyes and let your brain soak! 

It’s more than ok to lean on supplements… 

Food processing destroys most nutrients before they even get to your body. Glutathione from food is difficult to absorb. Liposomal Glutathione is easily absorbed into your bloodstream and can help keep you healthy and thriving!

In conclusion… 

Glutathione does more than reduce oxidative stress. By keeping you healthy on the inside, your skin appears less wrinkled and lighter. A defender, fighting free radicals on the inside with a youthful glow on the outside!  Who doesn’t need that?

References

Inside the neutrophil phagosome: oxidants, myeloperoxidase, and bacterial killing by Hampton MB1Kettle AJWinterbourn CC, NCBI, Nov 1998, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9787133

Free radicals hasten head and neck cancer risk: A study of total oxidant, total antioxidant, DNA damage, and histological grade by AK Singh,* P Pandey,1,* M TewariHP Pandey,2 IS Gambhir,1 and HS Shukla, NCBI April – June 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4944358/

Glutathione!. Integr Med by Pizzorno J. (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):8–12., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684116/

Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: by Nagpal M, Sood S. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2013;4(1):3–7. doi:10.4103/0976-9668.107253, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633300/

What is glutathione and how can I get more of it? By Mark Hyman,  https://drhyman.com/blog/2010/05/12/what-is-glutathione-and-how-do-i-get-more-of-it/

10 Natural Ways to Increase Your Glutathione Levels by Kaitlyn Berkheiser, 2018, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-glutathione#section1

Effects of exercise training on the glutathione antioxidant system, Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2007 Oct;14(5):630-7., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17925621

Sleep deprivation and oxidative stress in animal models: a systematic review by Villafuerte G, Miguel-Puga A, Rodríguez EM, Machado S, Manjarrez E, Arias-Carrión O, US National Library of Medicine, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25945148

Coupled electrophysiological, hemodynamic, and cerebrospinal fluid oscillations in human sleep by N. Fultz, G. Bonmassar, K. Setsompop, R. Stickgold, B. Rosen, J. Polimeni, L. Lewis, Science, Nov 2019, https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6465/628

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