Free Radicals And The Harmful Side Effects Of Oxidative Stress

By: Meredith Miller
Published: Tuesday, April 09 2019
Last Updated: 3 years ago

Oxidative stress is making its rounds in the healthcare community and news headlines as the new silent killer. While that sounds a bit sensationalized, there is actually evidence in the form of scientific research that seems to back up these claims.

If you’re not a medical professional or someone who doesn’t keep up on the latest health trends and scares, you may be wondering what oxidative stress actually is. Even more so, you may be curious as to how oxidative damage will affect you. Below, we’re going to answer all of your questions, and touch on the causes and symptoms you should watch for, and what you can do to help fight back.

What Is Oxidative Stress?

Oxidative stress is an imbalance of chemicals in the oxidation process. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that happens during respiration. Antioxidants are vital to the oxidation process.

Antioxidants attempt to get rid of something called free radicals in your system. These are molecules that are missing a single electron. They then go into a sort of rampage, seeking out other missing electrons that would make them whole, lending them their name.

The Dangerous Side Effects

Because free radicals damage the integrity of cells, they often lead to some pretty dangerous side effects, particularly in elderly patients. Chronic disease is often caused by this condition. Another common example of oxidative stress symptoms is a compromised immune system, thereby allowing bacteria, viruses, and parasites into the body. Furthermore, it may result in aging skin, often making the skin thin and wrinkly, and more prone to damage.

Perhaps some of the worst oxidative stress symptoms include an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, and even heart disorders. If the balance between antioxidants and free radicals isn't solved, many of these problems could become a regular part of life.

The Main Causes

So what are the oxidative stress causes? There are many to list out. One of the oxidative stress causes is smoking. Smoking increases the number of free radicals in the body thereby accelerating the risk of cell damage. This can be a particularly deadly combo, as cancer often plays off of this condition, increasing the rate at which cancer metastasizes.

It can also be caused by chronic sleep deprivation or an incorrect circadian rhythm regulation. As well as, this chronic psychological stress can make the oxidation regulation systems of the body become dysfunctional. However, there are likely other causes that might affect you in modern day life.

The industrial production of things like cooking oil may have chemicals present in them, or latent chemicals that are activated by heating, that may cause oxidative stress. In addition, if you live in a particularly older or more water damage house you might be victim to an effect of mold or mildew inhalation.

Oxidative Stress Symptoms to Watch For

Reports have shown that oxidative stress has been associated with many health conditions that may mask its presence. For example, chronic fatigue, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, insomnia, and cancer have all been associated with oxidation. So, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, make sure to seek out medical attention immediately.

  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Brain Fog
  • Wrinkles or grey hair
  • Worsening eyesight
  • Headaches
  • Increased noise sensitivity
  • Higher susceptibility to infections

What You Can Do to Fight It

So, what can you do to fight back? Well, if you increase the production of antioxidants in your body, you will restore balance to the oxidation system that is activated during regular respiration. The most important thing that you could possibly do is eat antioxidant-rich foods. Color should be your guide in figuring out what you should eat if you are undergoing or attempting to prevent this from occurring. In general, the more colorful food is taking it literally a fruit or vegetable, it is likely high in antioxidants.

Beets, dark green vegetables, oranges, berries, and nuts are incredibly high in antioxidants. If you've got a bit of a sweet tooth, dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants. The higher the cacao content, the richer in antioxidants your bar is.

Are you a fan of your cup of morning joe? Well, it turns out that coffee is high in antioxidants as well! If you're more into tea, that's good too, because tea is high in antioxidants as well. As far as drinks go- besides coffee and tea- there are tons of wonderful smoothies that you can create made out of all of those fruits and veggies we've already listed. Make sure, however, that you're always eating a balanced diet of proteins, lipids, fiber, etc.