Confusion with Oxidation?

by Glen Depke

I have had readers asking questions about oxidation and there appears to be quite a bit of confusion when the word oxidation comes up. Here are some questions that have come up.

  • Is oxidation breathing?
  • Is oxidation increased during exercise?
  • If oxidation is good, why would we need antioxidants?
  • Should we limit or promote oxidation?
  • Is oxidation good or bad?

As these questions unfold, it makes sense as to the confusion of this topic and why the subject can appear to be contradicting. 

Let’s clear this up.

First of all, oxidation is a process where oxygen combines with another substance to produce an oxide. Every second we breathe in oxygen, which goes inside our bodies and the process of oxidation occurs. The human body converts a small amount of the oxygen that we breathe into free radicals as a positive step to ward off disease. However, an excess of these free radicals and the wrong type of free radicals can create havoc in the body. This risk increases considerably when we breathe in air that is polluted with emission from vehicles, industries and other pollutants. With this said, we can also understand that exercising to an extreme, which will also increase oxygen intake, has the potential to lead to an increase in free radical activity.

Another natural production of free radicals occurs during the process of digesting our foods. Our bodies break down the food we eat into usable energy and a side effect from this is the formation of free radicals. Consuming raw foods or consuming cooked foods with a quality digestive enzyme will significantly decrease the free radical production tied into digestion.

Another source of free radical production is caused by the immune system. Yes, your immune system will create free radicals in order to fight off bacteria and harmful disease.

Fortunately our bodies have natural antioxidants which will neutralize these free radicals. The problem occurs when your body produces more free radicals than your body can handle and/or when our body has lost the ability to produce its natural antioxidants. 

Unfortunately there are many factors in our culture that increase free radical activity. Here is a list of common free radical stimulatants:

  • Environmental pollution (from air, water, household chemicals, asbestos, pesticide residues, & other man-made pollutants including the out-gassing of plastic and other synthetics)
  • Preservatives, Colorings, and other food additives
  • Smoking and passive smoke
  • Exposure to excess heat or cold
  • Medical Treatment including medications
  • Alcohol
  • Detrimental Bacteria
  • Parasites
  • Chemotherapy & Radiation
  • Prescription & Over The Counter Drugs
  • Exercise
  • Lack of Clean & Fresh Air
  • Radiation (including electromagnetic radiation from anything electric such as outside power lines; wires in your home/work, TVs, computer monitors, etc.
  • Heart Disease & Strokes
  • Computers/Monitors/TVs
  • Cooking Food
  • Microwave Use
  • Refrigerators
  • Nutrient deficiencies (major & minor) which can still occur even on the best of diets (even fresh, raw foods contain only as many nutrients as the soil in which they were grown)
  • Sunburn
  • Stress of any kind
  • Judgment or any other non-positive mental state
  • Synthetic materials such as Polyester, Acetate, Satin, Plastics, etc.
  • Tap Water 

Obviously there is much within our life that creates free radical activity. While it would be nice to say that we could eliminate what creates free radical activity, that simply is not realistic, nor would be want to completely eliminate this oxidation and creation of free radicals. 

The key is to reduce as many external circumstances as we can that lead to further oxidation and free radical activity while increasing antioxidant activity. There are two ways we can increase antioxidants, food and supplements.

Nutritional Sources:

  • Berries — Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries are among the top sources of antioxidants.
  • Beans — Small red beans and kidney, pinto and black beans are all choices rich in antioxidants.
  • Fruits — Many apple varieties (with peel) are high in antioxidants, as are avocados, cherries, green and red pears, fresh or dried plums, pineapple, kiwi and others.
  • Vegetables — Those with the highest antioxidant content include artichokes, spinach, red cabbage, red and white potatoes (with peel), sweet potatoes and broccoli. Although the effect of cooking on antioxidant levels varies by cooking method and vegetable, one study showed that cooking generally increased levels among select vegetables.
  • Beverages — Green tea may come to mind as a good source of antioxidants, but other beverages have high levels, too, including coffee, red wine and many fruit juices such as pomegranate.
  • Nuts — Walnuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds are some of the top nuts for antioxidant content.
  • Herbs — These may be unexpected suppliers of antioxidants, but ground cloves, cinnamon and ginger, dried oregano leaf and turmeric powder are all good sources.
  • Grains — In general, oat-based products are higher in antioxidants than are those derived from other grain sources.
  • And for dessert — Done forget that a piece of dark chocolate ranks as high or higher than most fruits and vegetables in terms of antioxidant content. Note that this is for high quality dark chocolate.

List of Antioxidant Supplements:

  • Carotenoids – Plants are constantly being bombarded by sunlight and ultraviolet rays. Since they can’t just go inside or erect a parasol when they’ve had enough sun, they produce strong antioxidants to protect their cells against cell damage from ultraviolet radiation and other environmental carcinogens. It is a potent group of antioxidants, and having a daily intake of them is an important disease-preventing measure. Several hundred of these antioxidants are known to exist, and the most potent and beneficial ones are these six:

         Alpha-carotene
         Beta-carotene
         Cryptoxanthin
         Lycopene
         Lutein
         Zeaxathin  
 

  • Flavonoids – Flavonoids are antioxidant phytochemicals that form the water-soluble colors of vegetables, fruits, grains, leaves, and bark. Flavonoids come in many forms, and different plants contain different concentrations of them. Some flavonoids may have up to fifty times more antioxidant activity than vitamins C and E. Impressively, flavonoids from red grapes are more than a thousand times more powerful than vitamin E in inhibiting oxidation of human LDL cholesterol. A steady intake of flavonoids can do a lot for your health.

         Catechins
         Resveratrol
         Proanthocyanidins

         I use resveratrol on a regular basis personally

  • Isoflavones – Isoflavones are found in soybeans and other legumes. In the body, they are converted to phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), compounds that may help inhibit the growth of hormone-dependent cancers and other cancers. In addition, they lower total cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease.

         Genistein
         Daidzein

  • Vitamins

         Vitamin A
         Vitamin C
         Vitamin E

         Personally I use Vitamin A daily and Vitamin E

  • Minerals – All minerals are antioxidants and must be acquired through the diet, because none of them are produced by the body. Minerals are exceedingly important for the proper functioning of the body and the assimilation of vitamins. Selenium and zinc are the two most powerful mineral antioxidants.

         Selenium
         Zinc

         I use a zinc liquid personally

  • Allium vegetables – The genus allium encompasses over 500 plants, but the best antioxidants in this group are garlic, onions, shallots, and leeks. These vegetables contain flavonoids, vitamin C, selenium, and sulfur compounds that have potent cancer-fighting properties. In addition, they may help prevent heart attacks stroke by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and preventing blood clots. They benefit the liver by activating detoxification enzyme systems, and may be helpful in preventing allergies and asthma. These vegetables retain their antioxidant properties even when cooked, and odorless garlic caps are available.
  • Bilberry – This potent antioxidant, which is an herb, is also called European blueberry. It contains anthocyanides, which keep capillaries strong, protect against cataracts and night blindness, and improve circulation. As well as having anti-carcinogenic effects, it inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Bilberry supplements are widely available, either as pills or in liquid form.
  • Coenzyme-Q10 – This antioxidant is also known as ubiquinone, since it is present in every living cell. It provides the cells with energy to effectively carry out their functions. Without this antioxidant, our cells would simply not work. The levels of Q10 fall with increasing age, a fact which may have impact on the diseases and illnesses we associate with age. Infection, stress, and poor eating habits can also affect the body’s ability to produce sufficient amounts of this necessary enzyme. Q10 shares many of its antioxidant properties with vitamin E. It has been shown to increase energy, improve heart function, help reverse gum disease, and strengthen the immune system. It may also slow the deterioration rate in Parkinson’s disease, and is the only known substance to have that effect. Coenzyme Q10 has many other positive effects and is a most valuable antioxidant ally in disease prevention and anti-aging. Coenzyme Q10 is found in meat, dairy products, eggs, cereals and vegetables. Storage, processing and cooking significantly reduces the Q10 content of these foods, so supplementing your diet with additional Q10 is a good idea. Personally I take CoQ10 almost every day.
  • Cruciferous vegetables – Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cale etc. are very rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and other flavonoids, and also phytochemicals called indoles and sulforaphane. Indoles inactivate estrogens that promote the growth of tumors, particularly in the female breast. Sulforaphane stimulates cells to produce cancer-fighting enzymes. This combination of antioxidants makes cruciferous vegetables potent cancer-preventers. Cruciferous vegetables may not be among the most popular foods, but many of their beneficial antioxidant effects may be obtained through supplements.
  • Ginkgo Biloba – Ginkgo Biloba is a potent antioxidant herb which is best known for improving circulation. It helps increase the blood supply to the brain, the heart, and all other body parts. It strengthens the mental processes and the ability to concentrate, as well as ease muscle pain and improve male potency. For this last reason, Ginkgo Biloba is sometimes known as “nature’s Viagra”. Interestingly, this antioxidant may improve perception and social functioning in victims of Alzheimer’s disease. Like many other antioxidants, it protects cells from free radicals and may therefore prevent cancer and slow the aging process. Macular degeneration of the eyes may be prevented and treated with Ginkgo Biloba, which also has been shown to work as an antidepressant. Ginkgo Biloba is widely available as a supplement.
  • Glutathione – This antioxidant is produced in the liver from amino acids. It protects cells throughout the body, and may help prevent cancer, especially of the liver. Glutathione is beneficial as an immune system booster, a detoxifier of heavy metals and drugs, and may also protect against radiation poisoning and negative effects of smoking and alcohol abuse. It also functions as an anti-inflammatory treatment of allergies and arthritis. Glutathione is found in vegetables and fruit, but cooking will significantly reduce its potency. Taking glutathione as a supplement is little to no benefit because of its poor absorption and assimilation. I do recommend a glutathione recycler, which is the nutrients needed to increase your own production of glutathione. This is such a key since glutathione is your bodies’ primary antioxidant that actually assist every other antioxidant in your body. Personally I take a vascular cream of glutathione almost every day.
  • Lipoic acid – This antioxidant is produced naturally by the body. It is a unique defender against free radicals, and is sometimes called the universal antioxidant. Many other internally produced antioxidants have specific jobs, whereas lipoic acid enhances the activities of other antioxidants in the body, as well as being an excellent antioxidant on its own account. Lipoic acid may, for instance, temporarily fill in for vitamins C or E if their levels are low. Because of its ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier, it can reverse the negative effects caused by a stroke. Lipoic acid helps normalize blood sugar levels and can prevent serious complications from diabetes. Our bodies’ production of lipoic acid decreases with advancing age, so it is a very beneficial supplement for those over age forty.
  • Melatonin – This antioxidant hormone is produced by the brain’s pineal gland during sleep and helps maintain the body’s natural biorhythm. Melatonin may also help retard the aging process, especially by preventing the oxidative damage to brain cells that are associated with Alzheimer’s and other conditions. Cluster headaches may be alleviated by melatonin, and it has the ability to boost the immune system’s ability to stop tumors from spreading. Melatonin is found in tomatoes and other vegetables, and is available as a supplement. I do not recommend melatonin supplement use as an antioxidant due to fact that hormones require a very delicate balance in your body.
  • Superoxide dismutase – This antioxidant is an enzyme which is particularly powerful with skin tissue, revitalizing cells and reducing the rate of cell destruction. Superoxide dismutase helps the body use essential zinc, copper and manganese. Good sources of this antioxidant are barley grass, cabbage, wheatgrass and broccoli. As we age, our bodies produces less of this beneficial antioxidant, so supplementation could be an important factor in reducing wrinkles and retarding the aging process. Personally I take this daily in a vascular cream.

So we can see that a level of oxidation is actually a very positive aspect of our health and wellness, yet when this gets out of control and our antioxidant levels do not meet the levels of our oxidation, chronic dis-ease states will likely develop.

Please use this information to move into empowering choices within your life to reduce oxidation levels, increase antioxidant rich foods and supplements and live your life of health and happiness.

If you have any questions in regard to this article, leave a post below for me to reply to personally.

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