Oxidation, or oxidative stress, is a well-known aging force in the body. Many of us take antioxidant supplements to optimize health and slow aging. Let’s learn more about oxidation and how we can best combat this aging force.
Oxidation is a by-product of our oxygen-based metabolism. Our metabolism and cell energy production generates free radicals which are unstable molecules. Free radicals steal electrons from other molecules to stabilize themselves. They commonly steal electrons from cell membranes and other cell structures including our DNA. This process of stealing electrons damages cells and contributes to disease and accelerated aging. Free radical damage plays a role in a multitude of diseases including cancer, heart disease and dementia.
Common examples of oxidation include rust on metals or the brown discoloration of sliced apples on the kitchen countertop. Just like the Tin Man, our cells are rusting because of oxidative damage. He needed frequent oil applications, we need a steady supply of anti-oxidant nutrients.
Free radical production occurs with our normal metabolism and cell energy production. You live and breath, you produce free radicals. We don’t want to stop free radical production, in fact we can’t live without oxidation, but we want to avoid anything that produces excessive free radicals. We want to simultaneously supplement with a vast array of effective antioxidants and support our antioxidant systems in the body.
Our body’s have built-in standard equipment antioxidant enzyme systems, unfortunately their activity decreases with age. Our anti-aging programs including diet, nutritional supplements and exercise programs will optimize these intrinsic antioxidant systems in the body.
Excessive free radical production occurs with toxic exposures, such as cigarette smoke, with high sugar consumption, processed food, excessive exercise, high-stress levels, illness, and with chronic inflammation.
Let’s look at lifestyle interventions to help us win this oxidant/antioxidant battle:
Diet: a common source of excessive oxidation is from our consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates. Processed carbohydrates, such as breads, pastas, white rice, cereals, cookies, cakes, candy, and soft drinks, elevate our blood sugar levels leading to excessive glycation and oxidation.
Nutrient deficiencies increase oxidation. When we choose nutrient-dense carbohydrates, whole-fruits and vegetables, we provide our bodies with a vast array of phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, without excessively elevating our blood glucose levels.
Herbs and spices provide polyphenols and bioflavonoids that have powerful antioxidant activity.
Eating healthy proteins, such has wild seafood, free-range poultry/eggs, and grass-fed beef, support our internal antioxidant enzyme systems.
Adding healthy fats, such as omega-3 fish oils, avocado, walnuts/almonds, coconuts, olive oil and seeds, provide antioxidant protection to cell membranes as well as lowering inflammation.
Avoiding processed vegetable oils and trans-fats helps lower oxidative stress.
Supplementation: in addition to our healthy diet, supplementing with a wide array of antioxidants diminishes the aging forces of oxidation. To best protect our cells from oxidative damage we need water soluble supplements, such as vitamin C, to protect the interior “watery” portions of cells, and fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin E, to protect the fat-rich portions of cells. The fat-rich areas of our cells, such as cell membranes and the mitochondria, are extremely vulnerable to oxidation. Since different antioxidants quench different free radicals, we must diversify our intake of antioxidants.
Take a high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade multivitamin/mineral formula daily. Supplement with omega-3 fats (fish oil), and Vitamin D3 for a balanced foundation.
Additional anti-aging supplements to provide optimal antioxidant protection include: astaxanthin, curcumin, CoQ10, alpha-lipoic acid and L-carnitine. A daily green-formula is an easy way to provide multiple antioxidants to your program.
Exercise: since exercise increases oxidation, we must choose a exercise program that allows us to reap the health benefits while minimizing the damaging oxidation that can occur with exercise. Prolonged exercise, especially long aerobic sessions, cause excessive oxidation and can accelerate aging. If we utilize shorter duration exercise sessions we can gleam all the health benefits without producing excessive oxidation.
Best exercise options include short duration, high-intensity exercises. Examples include resistance training, i.e. weight training, Tabata training, and crossfit sessions.
Stress Reduction: since high-stress levels increase oxidation, we must add daily stress reducers to our anti-aging program.
Easy to use daily stress reducers include deep-breathing exercises, meditation, walking, smart exercise programs, and hobbies or activities you find relaxing. Take some time daily to relax and lower your stress level.
Hormone Balance: When our hormones are out of balance we increase oxidation. In addition, our natural hormones at optimal levels provide antioxidant protection to the body.
Our anti-aging diet, supplements, exercise and stress reduction programs improve the balance of several hormones including insulin, cortisol, DHEA and HGH.
When estrogen and testosterone levels get out of balance, bio-identical hormone therapy can restore that balance and provide additional antioxidant protection.
Conquering excessive oxidation will keep us youthful and help us fend off a multitude of degenerative diseases.