Oxidative stress occurs in our body when there is an electron imbalance in our cells which can cause metabolic dysfunction, and the condition often links to cancer and diabetes. Our body has its way of dealing with oxidative stress through naturally occurring antioxidants.
There are also antioxidant supplements available to help cure oxidative stress. However, if not dealt with, oxidative stress can cause damage to cells, proteins, and DNA and can even contribute to ageing. You can notice that you may be suffering from oxidative stress if you notice symptoms like fatigue, memory loss, grey hair, joint pain, etc.
What is Oxidative Stress?
Studies define oxidative stress as a disturbance in the balance between our antioxidant defences and ROC or reactive oxygen species production, most commonly called free radicals. Scientists often use a seesaw as an analogy when describing oxidative stress. One side of the seesaw is formed by the antioxidants and the other by the free radical or ROS. And they have to exist in a state of balance. In addition, Reactive Oxygen Species form in the body when a molecule’s electrons decide to go rogue.
These electrons are tiny, negatively charged subatomic particles found in pairs in all atoms. They are usually non-reactive; they generally stay stable and do not interact with other molecules in the body. However, an electron may break free from its pair and bind up with other molecules like nitrogen or oxygen in some cases.
In such cases, these molecules get reactive, interact with other molecules and spark downstream effects. For example, when nitrogen molecules pick up an extra electron, it is called a reactive nitrogen species (RNS). Likewise, when oxygen molecules pick up an extra electron, it is called a reactive oxygen species (ROS).
ROS form when cells create energy in the mitochondria. Sometimes electrons slip out when they are passed along a long protein chain in the mitochondria during the energy-making process. They then can react with nearby oxygen, resulting in ROS formation. As a result, oxidative stress gets reduced by antioxidants created by the body or supplied by certain food items. Therefore, they can scavenge the ROS and make them harmless by working at different levels to stop oxidative stress and causing any damage. Also, this way, they achieve an antioxidant-ROS balance in the body.
What are the Effects of Oxidative Stress?
Generally, the formation of ROS is not something to worry about unless there is a depletion in the level of antioxidants in the body or if it accumulates. Oxidative stress can have positive effects, especially the stress formed from physical activity may be beneficial. They can regulate tissue growth and also stimulate the production of antioxidants. Mild oxidative stress may even protect the body from infections and diseases, and a study found that it was capable of limiting melanoma cancer in mice.
ROS can be dangerous when they accumulate or become entirely depleted. An accumulation or a high concentration of ROS can damage proteins, fats, and nucleic acids and even cause cell death. However, a too low concentration of ROS can also derail healthy cell signalling pathways, which can cause an unbalanced state, thus causing oxidative stress.
Two primary health conditions that can cause oxidative stress include chronic inflammation and neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, chronic inflammation due to oxidative stress can lead to further conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis. It happens when immune cells called macrophages produce free radicals while fighting off any invading germs. However, these free radicals can damage healthy cells, which causes inflammation.
Neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, can also be caused by oxidative stress. Brain cells require around 20 per cent of the total amount of oxygen to perform their function. The brain, while performing metabolic activities, can release free radicals. While most of them support brain cell growth, any excessive formation can lead to neurodegenerative diseases. A study conducted in 2018 found that oxidative stress can lead to the modification of peptides, further resulting in the accumulation of amyloid plaques. Also, this is one of the critical reasons behind Alzheimer’s disease.
What are the Risk Factors of Oxidative Stress?
Here we discuss the effects of excessive free radicals and oxidative stress. Since it can tear down your cell tissue, oxidative stress can cause lasting impacts on your body. Some of the risk factors that can cause oxidative stress are as follows.
Poor diet and following a diet plan rich in fat, sugar and processed foods can be a reason behind the formation of oxidative stress. In addition, studies have made it clear that following a diet plan that is low in nutrients can be a factor in oxidative stress. Furthermore, following high glucose diets for more than four weeks can reduce the body’s antioxidant level, another cause of increased oxidative stress.
To make changes in food habits and consume a glucose regulatory diet, you have to take measures like using HealthifyMe’s Continuous Glucose Monitor. It can keep track of the glucose levels in your body and get advice on what you must do to bring it back to the recommended level.
Inactivity can be another reason behind the cause increase in oxidative stress. Studies have also confirmed that physical inactivity can result in the formation of excessive Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) concentrations, especially in skeletal muscle.
Inflammation is one of the major contributors to oxidative stress. When immune cells called macrophages fight off any invading germs, they produce free radicals. These free radicals can damage healthy cells, which causes inflammation. If this becomes constant, the cycle of ROS production will get sustained, leading to oxidative stress.
Consumption of alcohol can result in excessive ROS, thus resulting in oxidative stress. Alcohol can reduce the antioxidant level, which creates an imbalance in the body and thus causes oxidative stress. Alcohol, especially beer, can also increase the glucose levels in your body, which can be another reason for the increase in oxidative stress.
The Continuous Glucose Monitor released from the HealthifyPro 2.0 initiative by HealthifyMe can also keep track of your alcohol consumption and warn you against drinking too much if it goes above the recommended glucose level.
Oxidative stress is also at times linked to psychological stress. Psychological stress can result in the release of cytokines that trigger ROS release, thus resulting in oxidative stress. Cytokines can also be released by immune system messengers when the body is under stress, especially when there is an invading pathogen or any other similar complications.
Lack of Sleep
Sleeping has a lot of antioxidant properties capable of eliminating any excessive ROS that gets produced when we are awake. So, sleeplessness, lack of sleep, or sleep deprivation can cause ROS accumulation, resulting in increased oxidative stress.
Excessive body fat is another reason for oxidative stress. A study conducted in 2015 noted that excess fat cells in the body could increase inflammatory activity, further resulting in an increased production of free radicals. Therefore, we must maintain our body weight and take measures to reduce any excess fat in our body to improve our overall health.
The Smart Scale, an innovation of HealthifyMe, India’s digital health expert, tracks twelve parameters of our body weight and insights into how we can improve our body weight. Such innovations will motivate us to work harder to achieve weight loss goals.
We already saw that our diet plans, consumption of high glucose foods, lack of sleep etc., can play a crucial role in being the cause of oxidative stress. But, in addition, such behavioural flaws can cause many other complications and can cause oxidative stress and metabolic imbalance.
We know that high blood glucose levels in our bodies can cause hyperglycemia. This medical condition can further set off a chain of reactions leading to oxidative stress. Such an effect on glucose metabolism is a driving factor in sustained oxidative stress in our body and the cause of many other conditions like kidney diseases, nerve damage, coronary artery disease, vision loss, etc.
To avoid such complications, we must maintain good metabolic health. You can achieve this with the help of initiatives like the Metabolic Panel included in the new HealthifyPro 2.0 version of HealthifyMe. Your metabolic health gets assessed through 80 parameters through this innovation for the first time.
How do High Glucose Levels Contribute to Oxidative Stress?
Suppose the body had a higher glucose level than the recommended amount over a long time. Then, in that case, it can unlock various medical conditions, including the formation of more ROS within cells. Furthermore, hypoglycemia can also cause the depletion of antioxidant levels in the body, contributing to the accumulation of ROS.
So, we must regulate the glucose levels in our bodies to keep our bodies healthy and avoid oxidative stress. Technological advancements like the ones brought by HealthifyMe have made it a lot easier for us to do so.
For example, the CGM, one of the innovative offerings from HealthifyPro, helps us monitor and regulate our glucose fluctuations.
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All we have to do is follow the coaches’ advice as regularly as possible. As a result, we get pointers about what we can eat to maintain our glucose level at the recommended range and what we can do to bring it back to normal if it accidentally goes high.
How to Manage Oxidative Stress?
Like the seesaw analogy, if our body is to maintain a balance, it must have both free radicals and antioxidants at the recommended levels. So, we must take some dietary measures and make some lifestyle changes to manage oxidative stress in our bodies.
Some of the measures we can adopt:
- Follow a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Quit smoking and reduce binge drinking habits
- Take measures to avoid exposure to pollution
- Limit the intake of processed foods, especially the ones that have high sugar content
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce stress
Oxidative stress is thus a state that happens when our body has excessive free radicals in our body cells. Our body sure produces free radicals during normal metabolic processes, but an excessive amount can negatively impact our body. They can include the damage to cells, DNA, proteins, etc.
Oxidative stress may even contribute to health conditions including neurodegenerative disease, chronic inflammation, diabetes and cancer. You can avoid oxidative stress by ensuring that your body has enough antioxidants to curb excessive free radicals by following a healthy diet, limiting processed foods, especially those with extreme sugar content and maintaining a healthy body weight.