Free Radicals and Antioxidants
Oxygen is a double-edged sword. Without it we can’t stay alive, but a surplus can be deadly. Happily, the body has a way to handle these oxygen-derived by-products known as “free radicals” which allows us to both maximize oxygen and remain alive. The answer lies in valuable protector nutrients known as antioxidants. If our cells did not contain these substances, we would die within a matter of seconds. You are sitting in front of your hearth, enjoying a roaring fire. Without a screen, the sparks flying off the fire would damage your rug and furniture. The bigger the fire, the bigger the screen you’ll need. No one would think of risking their fine furniture by not using a big enough screen. So it is with free radicals and antioxidants. The sparks flying off the fire are just like the free radicals that fly through our cells when we burn food for energy. The screen is the counterpart of the antioxidant nutrients and enzymes in our cells that protect us from these damaging byproducts. The more free radical sources you are exposed to smog, emotional and physical stress, pesticides, indoor pollution, cigarette smoke, burnt foods, excessive intake of liquid vegetable oil, aerobic exercise the more protector nutrients, or antioxidants you’ll need. Even if you are not exposed to any of these things, normal metabolic processes will still produce a significant amount of free radicals.
The most important antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, zinc, selenium, and glutathione. N-acetyl cysteine, taurine, lipoic acid, CoQ 10 , milk thistle, curcumin, grape seed extract, and other nutrients act as cellular protectors as well. Even if you cannot afford the more esoteric antioxidant nutrients, you should try to take a combination of the “primary” group. Why? Antioxidant nutrients work best as a team, and the more well balanced the team, the better the results. The results we gain with an optimized intake of antioxidants are impressive. Research shows that antioxidants will not only reduce the risk for many diseases, but also slow down the aging process. While disease and aging are complicated matters, they always involve an excess of free radicals. Cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and premature aging are just a few of the ailments that result when the body does not have adequate free radical defense. But don’t let these sobering facts about oxygen’s by-products negate the importance of the number one life essential, oxygen. It is essential for keeping our tissues healthy, and a lack of it is incompatible with survival Remember this principle: It is the combination of oxygen with antioxident nutrients that will maximize its most positive health benefit. Oxygen is like the electricity that runs your appliances, and antioxidants are the protective shields that insulate it and keep it from burning down your house. You need them both. I hope you see why I singled out the constant cellular battle between free radicals and antioxidants. Win this battle. If you do, you’ll enjoy a healthy life, free of disease, where every day can be enjoyed to the fullest.