What is oxidative stress?
Our breathing supplies the cells of our body with oxygen. In the process, free radicals are always produced. These are certain oxygen molecules such as superoxide, hyperoxide or hydrogen peroxide that are missing an electron. For this reason, they are very unstable and therefore short-lived. In order not to decay, they “steal” one of their electrons from the nearest cell. As a result, the free radicals turn into stable molecules. However, the “stolen” cell has now become unstable (it oxidises). So it procures a new electron from a stable neighbour. This triggers a chain reaction in which more and more cells are damaged. Normally, the body defends itself against this with its antioxidant system. However, if there are too many free radicals in the body, the natural defence system reaches its limits. The body is then exposed to oxidative stress.
What promotes oxidative stress?
If the physical balance between free radicals and antioxidants is right, there is no chain reaction that leads to oxidative stress. On the contrary: free radicals then take on the thankful task of destroying excess cells and thus preventing cancer, for example. Antioxidants are the guardians of order: they prevent too many healthy body cells from oxidising. Then the human body ages at a natural rate.
But the balance between sweeping and guarding can quickly become unbalanced. It depends on a person’s circumstances. Does a person smoke? Does she consume excessive amounts of alcohol? Or does she frequently expose herself to the rays of the sun without adequate UV protection? These and various other factors favour the formation of more free radicals in the body. Harmful substances such as ozone, smog or pesticides also play a role. And even those who do not always have the opportunity to eat a balanced and healthy diet take in too few antioxidants after a certain point. Mental and physical stress – for example after an operation or as a result of competitive sport – also promotes oxidative stress.
How does oxidative stress manifest itself?
Oxidative stress manifests itself in various symptoms. Their occurrence depends on the specific regions of the body in which healthy cells are destroyed by free radicals. These areas of the body are particularly frequently affected.
- Skin: The more free radicals destroy skin cells unhindered, the faster skin ageing progresses. They damage important building blocks such as collagen and hyaluron, which are partly responsible for keeping the skin firm and youthful.
- Muscles: A particularly large number of free radicals are produced during sport. Those who suffer from oxidative stress are physically less resilient and sooner or later get muscle pain.
- Blood vessels: If free radicals damage the fatty acids that are part of the blood vessels, the latter constrict. The likely consequences are the appearance of circulatory disorders and varicose veins.
- Brain: If oxidative stress emanates from the brain cells, this can promote neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
Oxidative stress is suspected of being partly responsible for a whole range of diseases. These include cancer, vascular diseases, cataracts, rheumatism, immune deficiency and diabetes.
WHAT ALLEVIATES OXIDATIVE STRESS?
So far, there is no recognised therapy against oxidative stress. However, you can do something yourself to ensure the balance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. The basis for this is a healthy, balanced diet. Many fruits, vegetables and other foods are rich in antioxidants. Include apples, blueberries, nuts, tomatoes, spinach – and a piece of dark chocolate every now and then. You can also prevent oxidative stress with food supplements containing L-cysteine, selenium or the coenzyme Q10.
Do you think that your body is exposed to oxidative stress? To be on the safe side, measure your oxistatus with your doctor. This way you can find out if your symptoms are actually related to an excess of free radicals – and take specific countermeasures. If your skin has already noticeably lost moisture and elasticity due to oxidative stress, it will benefit from collagen and hyaluron. Both active ingredients can be supplied to the body not only in the form of creams, but now also as dietary supplements – for beauty from within.