In simple words, oxidative stress is the damage caused to a cell by means of the oxidative process. By itself, oxidation is a very common process, occurring every time to our bodies as well as several other things around us.
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Nevertheless, in case of any interruption in the normal oxidation process, for instance drawing a free radical toward another molecule in our body, it often leads to toxic effects.
In fact, oxidative stress generally appears in the form of an adverse side effect in the normal functioning of the human body. While the cells in our body utilize oxygen to generate energy, it can often produce reactive molecules that are called free radicals. The molecules of free radicals are basically unstable since they are short of one electron. Within the human body, these free radicals have the potential to react with nearly all other types of molecules. Precisely speaking, oxidative stress is actually a type of cell damage that is related to the chemical reaction between any healthy molecule of our body and the free radicals.
It is commonly believed that the cell damage due to oxidative stress is responsible for several ailments, for instance autoimmune disease and cancer. Normally, our body utilizes the nutrients called antioxidants to keep a check on cellular stress. It is believed that antioxidants help to perk up our immune system and, at the same time, work to put off the development of ailments like diabetes, heart diseases, cancer and macular degeneration. In addition, antioxidants may also prove to be helpful in inhibiting the signs of aging as well as Alzheimer's disease progression.
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Generally, oxidative stress takes place when the body has more number of free radicals compared to antioxidants. When there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, as stated above, the free radicals freely bond chemically with the body's healthy cells. In fact, free radicals are extremely unstable and this makes them react with nearly all other types of molecules in our body. It is thought that free radicals possess the ability to cause considerable damage to the healthy cells as well as proteins inside our body. These detrimental free radicals that lack an electron may also cause damage to the DNA of a cell in such a manner that it may result in the mutation of the cell and it may start reproducing uncontrollably, thereby leading to the onset of various forms of cancer.
No matter how much one tries to prevent oxidative stress, some amount of this is inevitable owing to the normal aging process. There are several other factors that may be responsible for oxidative stress at the cellular level, including environmental pollution, smoking cigarettes, poor nutrition and exposure to too much sunlight. Doctors are of the view that cellular stress can be controlled to a large extent by staying away from cigarettes, eating healthy and balanced diet containing elevated levels of antioxidants and using protection against ultra-violet (UV) rays.
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Precisely speaking, antioxidants are a type of nutrients that usually work to scavenge and eliminate the harmful free radicals from our body by giving up an electron, thereby making the free radical molecules stable. The free radicals accept the electron released by the antioxidant molecules and become stable. When the free radicals stabilize, they are unable to cause any damage.
There are a variety of antioxidants and the most common ones include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, the trace mineral selenium, and zinc. In addition, the plant polyphenols are also popular as well as effective antioxidants. Mostly, antioxidants are present in vegetables, fruits, teas and different herbs. There is a broad consensus among members of the medical fraternity that taking a diet having elevated levels of antioxidants may be useful in retarding the natural oxidative stress process too.
It goes without saying that free radicals were present even during the earliest days of man. As a result, oxidative stress was a common problem in those days as well.
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Free radicals are basically intrinsic to our life and they are a normal spin-off of the metabolism of the standard oxygen molecule. Nevertheless, our bodies have been made in such a manner that they are able to endure a certain level of exposure to free radicals. Nevertheless, our body works amazingly to neutralize all free radicals in a very natural, low-toxin manner.
The enhanced as well as prolonged exposure to reckless and wild free radicals results in a more rapid accumulation of diseases inside our bodies.
Therefore, it is important to know about a few of the more ordinary reasons why the oxygen molecules in our body oxidize themselves when they are exposed to an augmented number of free radicals. While you may be already aware of some of them, there are some others that may actually take you by surprise.
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Some of the common reasons that lead to the oxidization of the healthy cells in our body include environmental as well as air pollution, too much stress, cigarette smoking, exposure to radiation, taking certain prescription and non-prescription (OTC) drugs, too much exercise as well as enhanced exposure to sunlight.
There is no doubt that the main element in lessening the amount of detrimental free radicals in our system is maximum use of antioxidants. Antioxidants have a vital role in our wellbeing. In fact, antioxidants are wonderful small substances that move through our body freely, releasing an electron for the free radicals, which charge through our system, thereby stabilizing them. Antioxidants counteract the free radicals enabling our body to carry on with its normal functioning, such as elimination them without causing any harm.
It is important to note that the human body makes several dissimilar varieties of antioxidants by itself. However, as we are increasingly exposed to the detrimental free radicals in our surroundings and also owing to our increased lifestyles, we need more antioxidants to keep healthy. Therefore, we need to obtain antioxidants from outside sources to combat the natural aging process as well as fight against degenerative diseases.
An adequate supply of antioxidants is obtained from various natural sources including healthy foods. Nevertheless, there is a need to supplement these antioxidants by taking various supplements containing antioxidants.
With the passage of time, our food supplies are increasingly becoming less healthy owing to gradual soil depletion and the harmful cultivation practices. Hence, we cannot depend on them solely to safeguard us against oxidative stress from what we consume.
When we have a healthy supply of antioxidants that are effective for neutralizing the harmful free radicals, you will be surprised to notice how our bodies are able to endure as well as defend against diseases better for longer periods that we usually do.
Oxidative stress is responsible for several patho-physiological problems in our body. As of now, science has been able to find out the oxidative stress may be responsible for more than 70 common diseases, which most of us are familiar with.
Subject to the type of toxins or stress that one's body comes in contact with on a regular basis, one would find himself/ herself suffering from different diseases, sometimes even at a very tender age. However, it is possible to avoid or put off these diseases or minimize their occurrences by diminishing the presence of the detrimental free radicals in our system.
Some of the diseases which are caused by oxidative stress: