Fighting oxidative stress and inflammation with natural substances
If you cut up an apple and leave it on the counter, you may notice its white flesh turn to brown. A similar effect happens to our own cells when they’re exposed to unstable molecules known as free radicals. This “rusting,” or “browning” process is called oxidation, and in many cases is a normal and healthy effect of the various biochemical processes happening in the body. For example, when we breathe oxygen to burn up the calories in the food we eat to make energy, our cells release “exhaust,” which in turn creates free radicals.
Over time, oxidative stress compromises the body’s ability to function properly, increasing the risk for many chronic health issues, including cancer.
When external factors cause more than normal oxidation, however, or when the amount of free radicals is greater than the amount of antioxidants in the body, oxidative stress can damage our cells, proteins, and even DNA. Over time, oxidative stress compromises the body’s ability to function properly, increasing the risk for many chronic health issues, including cancer.
Sources of free radicals and oxidative stress include:
- Diets high in calories, sugars, and refined carbohydrates
- Diets high in charbroiled foods, such as barbecued meats
- Over-exercising or under-exercising
- Drinking alcohol
- Sleep deprivation
- Excessive emotional and/or physical stress
- Cigarettes and tobacco products
- Poor liver and digestive health, which compromises detoxification pathways
- Chronic infections (like Lyme disease, Epstein-Barr, and dental infections)
- Exposure to air pollution, environmental toxicants, and environmental molds
- Exposure to radiation
Anti-oxidants to fight oxidative stress
Antioxidants and antioxidant-promoting strategies help combat the negative health effects of free radicals and the oxidative stress they cause. Substances that increase nuclear factor erythroid 2 (NF-E2)-related factor (Nrf2) may be of particular benefit in keeping our cells healthy, strong, and durable in the face of oxidative damage and toxin exposure.
The Nrf2 cell-signaling pathway regulates a variety of genes that control antioxidant production, detoxification, and cell survival in response to injury and inflammation., In fact, Nrf2 has been called the master regulator of the antioxidant response element (ARE) in the body. The Nrf2-ARE pathway is activated by oxidative stress – turning on the response when it is needed to help protect our cells.
Nrf2 activation plays a protective, helpful role on health, which has led researchers to explore ways of optimizing Nrf2 activation, from exercise, to diet, to dietary supplements.
Several natural products that support the Nrf2 pathway and activate its crucial effects include:
- Green coffee,,
- Green tea extract
- Milk thistle,
- Gingko biloba,
- Lipoic acid,
Certain supplements also may help reduce the impact of oxidation and toxin exposure on an ongoing basis, such as olive leaf, N-acetylcysteine, glutathione, B-complex vitamins, and multivitamins. Because the soil has become depleted of necessary vitamins and minerals in many growing regions, supplemental greens products, which provide a wide array of phytonutrients (plant-derived nutrients), vitamins, and minerals can also be of benefit.
These natural products may be of particular benefit to the elderly population, as the ability of the body to upregulate Nrf2 and the body’s levels of glutathione, a potent antioxidant, both decline with age., Regardless of one’s station in life, however, virtually all of us are vulnerable to the effects of oxidation and free radical damage, and could stand to get a little extra Nrf2 protection.
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