Free Radicals (or oxidants) can come from our environment or be created in our bodies. Some environmental sources for free radials are: sunlight, fried food, poor diet, pollution, cigarette smoke, drugs, illness, stress. Smoking, diet, disease can change the chemical responses in your body and thereby lead changes to your epigenome. Your body can produce free radicals as well, such as burning fat. That fat molecule can be converted into energy which also creates free electrons.
"A free radical is a molecule with an unpaired electron. The molecule is reactive and seeks another electron to pair. Free radicals are involved in the mechanisms of damage associated with disease development"- wikipediaSo that free radical that is floating around doesn't have anything to attach to... That's where antioxidants come into play. They'll attach to that free radical and neutralize them. Otherwise, it could try to attach to other molecules, like DNA. These free radicals can be damaging and cause faulty methylation.This can form cancer cells, cause DNA mutations, and all sorts of bad mojo.
What does this mean for the cells in your body?
“About a trillion molecules of oxygen go through each cell every day, inflicting about 100,000 free radicals hits or wounds on your cells genes or DNA, estimate geneticist, Bruce Aimes, of the University of California at Berkley.’’
According to Dr. Aimes, by the time we are old, each cell will have "a few million oxygen lesions"! For example, cancer, can be caused by changed in the epigenome.
"Cancers are caused by changes in the genome, the epigenome, or both. Changes in the epigenome can switch on or off genes involved in cell growth or the immune response. These changes can lead to uncontrolled growth, a hallmark of cancer, or to a failure of the immune system to destroy tumors." - Genome.gov
How can I prevent free radials?
Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals. These antioxidants can come from us (our bodies can create them) or from external; nutritional foods like vegetables, and supplements like vitamin C and spirulina. Spirulina has been found to have high concentrations of antioxidants. The issue is quality control, so make sure you have a high quality product.
"Quality control in the growth and process of Spirulina to avoid contamination is mandatory to guarantee the safety of Spirulina products." - cbi.nlm.nih.gov
The need for antioxidants in our daily life is becoming more critical with increased exposure to free radicals.
Before you jump on the bandwagon for antioxidants and overdose on Vitamin A, C or E, be aware that antioxidants can be harmful if not taken in moderation. Getting what you need, or knowing the amount needed, is something that is being debated by the health industry. There is a lack of evidence on how much they help (at least in human studies), but more research and studies are coming out frequently.
What can you do?
- First steps, check your diet. Diets rich in vegetables (antioxidants) have been shown to be 'good for you'. But, are you getting enough? If you are on a restrictive diet (Atkins or Low-Carb) you may not be getting the proper nutrition. Or for medical reasons, such as Gastroparesis (inability to empty your stomach), thereby limiting foods you can eat. This could possibly lead to getting a nutritional deficiency.
- Next, limit toxic environmental factors (such as exposure to smoking, stress, pollution, sunlight, etc). Stress is a huge one... work, family, lack of sleep, relationships, finding time to do just about anything.. you need to balance your life. It's not easy.
- Exercise daily. Note that exercising can increase free radicals! However, regular exercise can also protect against free radical damage by enhancing your antioxidant defense system. But, if you only exercise excessively once or twice a week... it can generate more free radicals. So for you "weekend-warriors", it may be doing more harm than good due to the increased oxygen utilization. 30 minutes a day keeps the fee radicals at bay (I just made that up).
- Limit over supplementation. Figure out what your body needs based on your lifestyle habits, allergies, dietary habits, medical conditions, prescriptions, and goals. You can do so through the free assessment link located at the bottom of this page.
Free Radicals can lead to epigenome changes that can lead to human disease, such as cancer. How do you prevent them? Eat right (fruits and veggies), limit toxins (smoking, pollution, fried food, STRESS), daily exercise regime, supplement if you can't eat right, and limit over supplementation (figure out what you need using the health assessment below). You are unique; your environment, diet, DNA, everything. Your nutrition should be too.