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BEVERLY NADLER, CH, CMT - Speaker, Author, Trainer, Re-Programming Coach and Consultant

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List of Nutrition Articles

Inflammation, Free Radicals, Oxidative Stress and Antioxidants

By Beverly Nadler, CHT, CMT   © 2007

Inflammation, free radical damage and oxidative stress have become major health issues in recent years, the subject of much research and concern. Most articles written about them are highly technical, very scientific and often boring and confusing. Hopefully, this article won’t bore you () and will provide useful information.

Inflammation, free radical damage and oxidative stress are not “diseases.” In fact, they are often the by-product of normal cellular processes. However, they are implicated in cancer, heart disease, strokes, MS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, premature aging and almost any debilitating, degenerative condition you can name.

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is your body's natural reaction to invasion by an infectious agent, toxin or physical, chemical or traumatic damage. One purpose of inflammation is to protect the site of an injury. Most people are familiar with the kind of painful inflammation that occurs due to accidents and athletic injuries.

Where infection is present, inflammation is not to be confused with the infection – rather it is your body’s response to the cause of the infection.

You can recognize some inflammatory conditions because their names end in “itis” – arthritis, appendicitis, gastritis, laryngitis, pancreatitis, dermatitis, meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that cover the central nervous system), peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane that covers all the abdominal organs and inside walls of the abdomen). Two inflammatory conditions that don’t end in “itis” are asthma (usually caused by an allergy to an ingested substance) and pneumonia, an inflammatory reaction to the invading micro-organisms in the lungs. Some of the above conditions are very serious and if not halted, cause death.

While inflammation helps fight disease and protect parts of the body, it also suspends the body’s normal immune response and certain metabolic processes. While in the short term this is not a problem, in the long term it causes progressive damage.

Chronic systemic inflammation is not confined to a particular tissue, but involves the lining of blood vessels and many internal organs and systems. This inflammatory process is often associated with free radical damage and oxidative stress and may not cause pain, as some internal organs do not relay pain. Because there is no pain, you may not be aware of the serious damage systemic inflammation is causing, often leading to chronic, debilitating and even life-threatening diseases, some of which are listed above. (For information on effective supplements to reduce inflammation, click here and write “inflammation” on subject line.)

What Are Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress?

Your body constantly interacts with oxygen as you breathe and your cells produce energy. Free radicals are unstable, highly reactive molecules that lose an electron as a result of this activity. In other words – in simple unscientific terms, free radicals are molecules that are missing an electron. (Molecules are made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons.) Since electrons come in pairs, when molecules lose an electron, they “steal” electrons from other molecules. These molecules then “steal” electrons from other molecules – thus starting a dangerous chain reaction called “free radical damage.”

The sources of free radicals are both external and internal. Here’s a partial list: chemicals, drugs (medical and recreational), tobacco (smoking and 2nd hand smoke), radiation, sunlight, exercise, internal metabolic processes, physical strains, stresses of all kinds (including mental and emotional) electronic pollution (extra low frequencies, called ELFs, from computers, TV, power lines, microwaves, etc.) and known and unsuspected toxins and pollution in our food (including many additives), water and air.

If your body is unable to stop the spiraling free radical chain reaction (a molecule stealing an electron from another molecule, causing that molecule to steal an electron from another molecule, causing this molecule to steal an electron, etc.) oxidative stress results. Oxidative stress damages cellular proteins, membranes and genes and leads to systemic inflammation. Free radical damage, oxidative stress and systemic inflammation are all implicated in serious diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's and those listed at the beginning of this article.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are vitamins and other substances that supply missing electrons for unstable molecules in order to prevent free radical damage from external and internal sources. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, grapeseed extract, pycogenol, alpha-lipoic acid and others. Antioxidants from food and supplements need glutathione/GSH in order to do their job properly.

What Is Glutathione/GSH?

Glutathione/GSH is your body’s master antioxidant that protects it from free radical damage and carries out many other essential functions, including detoxification, repair of DNA, regulation of enzymes and strengthening of your immune system by increasing production of killer T cells. It is a vital component of every cell in your body and is manufactured by your body, in the cells of your body.

How Do Glutathione/GSH and Antioxidants Work Together?

When an antioxidant gives up an electron to an unstable molecule to prevent it from becoming a free radical, glutathione/GSH donates a hydrogen atom to supply the antioxidant with the missing electron. In so doing, it recycles the antioxidants, thus keeping them in an active state longer.

In the last 30 years, however, due to the ever-increasing environmental toxins and mental and emotional stresses, the amount of free radicals we are being bombarded with is increasing at an alarming rate. As a result, our body is unable to produce enough glutathione/GSH to meet the demand, especially since production normally declines as we age.

How Do We Know Glutathione/GSH Is Important to Health?

As you probably know, nutritionists, holistic doctors and even some medical doctors recommend that we eat antioxidant rich foods and take antioxidant supplements. Most health-conscious people do this, but the numbers of devastating, life- threatening diseases have not diminished. What is not yet recognized is the essential role of glutathione/GSH in preventing free radical damage, oxidative stress and inflammation, and the resultant conditions.

Over 78,000 clinical research papers on glutathione/GSH have been published since the 1980s and they reveal that people who suffer from systemic inflammation and chronic degenerative diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS, Parkinson’s, and the other diseases listed earlier all have one thing in common -- low levels of gluathione/GSH in their body.

To find out more about glutathione/GSH and how you can raise your levels, read Is Glutathione/GSH the Nutritional “Miracle Solution” of the 21st Century?

 

To contact Beverly, call 203-373-1943 or click here

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