You begin to sense that you are feeling weaker and weaker. But you realize by then that this weakness has been creeping up on you for some time now. And it is getting worse each day.
You try and try, but you feel like your body is working against you.
The bad news is that your body chemistry is probably imbalanced, but the good news is that there is something you can do about it.
Keep reading to learn about a chemical phenomenon called "oxidative stress" and how to get your body back in equilibrium.
The Basics of Oxidative Stress
Before we get into how to turn around your signs and symptoms, we need to cover precisely what oxidative stress is and why it's crucial for you to know about it.
How It Works
Oxidative stress is the result of your body's free radicals and antioxidants being out of balance. Both free radicals and antioxidants are made by the body regularly, but sometimes your levels can be off.
To put it simply, free radicals are molecules with one or more unpaired electrons. Your body forms these naturally when it is creating energy. However, free radicals are also made by your body when you are exposed to things like pesticides and cigarette smoke.
Free radicals are not always harmful though.
Your body uses them to make energy. However, your body makes all of the free radicals that you need. Because of this, external sources that encourage your body to produce extra free radicals can be harmful. Your body makes additional free radicals when you are in an environment filled with toxins.
Antioxidants are what your body makes to neutralize, or fix, free radicals. Antioxidants are kind of like the population control for free radicals in your body. Your body also receives antioxidants from the foods you eat and supplements you take..
If you don't have enough antioxidants, your body will have too many free radicals and not enough neutralizers. However, if you have too many antioxidants, you won't have enough free radicals to continue normal bodily functions.
There is a more significant scientific explanation and pathway for this, but we have covered the basics.
The bottom line is that it is all balanced. Your body creates everything in moderation.
Why It Matters
Oxidative stress is not always bad.
Your body can process excess free radicals even from exercising. However, these kinds of free radicals are good for your body and promote the production of antioxidants to rebalance your immune system.
The bad kind of oxidative stress comes with long-term exposure. The longer your body is exposed to the stress, the more damage the imbalance will do to your body, specifically your cells, DNA, and proteins.
Unchecked inflammation can result from long-term stress and can lead to many diseases and chronic conditions. These include the following:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Heart disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Alzheimer's disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Insulin resistance
Keep in mind that this is not the complete list of illnesses that can come about from long-term exposure to oxidative stress. However, it is notable that these conditions are known for chronic inflammation and/or neurodegeneration. This commonality will become clear when you learn the symptoms associated with oxidative stress.
Signs and Symptoms
Now that we've gone over what oxidative stress is and why you should care about it, we will cover how to tell if you even have it.
If you have any of the conditions above (or any related or similar conditions to those above), there is a pretty good chance that you have had long-term exposure to the chemical imbalance that comes with oxidative stress.
If you don't have any of these conditions or just want more confirmation before you start worrying, here are some of the symptoms that are associated with the imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants:
- Recurring infections and illnesses
- More pronounced wrinkles
- Worsening eyesight
- Migraines with or without sensitivity to light
- Muscle pain and joint pain
- Fatigue and body aches
- Memory problems
There is one thing that all of these symptoms have in common. They are considered normal in the aging process.
Researchers have found that oxidative stress becomes more prominent as you age. There are many theories behind why age and oxidative stress are linked, but the fact is that the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants can become worse over time.
The more that you expose your body to an unnatural state of being, the more problems your body can potentially create over time. These problems typically arise in conditions and symptoms as listed above.
If you are a member of the lucky minority who does not have any of the diseases linked to oxidative stress and does not experience any of the listed symptoms, you should consider looking at your risk factors for a potential imbalance issue.
As explained, oxidative stress is brought about by poor metabolic and immune regulation. Because of this, there are several outside factors that can affect how your body shifts how it regulates its chemicals, including its free radicals and antioxidants.
Obesity and poor diet can contribute to the buildup of oxidative stress over time and make your chemical imbalance worse. If you eat foods that are particularly high in fat or sugar, your body could be at risk for long-term disequilibrium.
Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are also infamous for encouraging imbalances in your body. As we mentioned earlier, exposure to cigarette smoke encourages the production of free radicals without also encouraging antioxidant production. The same goes for drinking.
Regular exposure to pesticides and pollutants can also facilitate the production of free radicals without accompanying antioxidants. Remember that having too many free radicals is not good for your body. You will not have enough antioxidants to balance your free radicals if exposed to these environments.
It is important to remember that balance is the key when it comes to your body's functions and your personal health. Free radicals and antioxidants must be in equilibrium for optimal immune health.
If you feel like you have any of the conditions associated with oxidative stress or are linked to any of the risk factors, it is important to note that there are steps that you can take to minimize the imbalance in your body. You could even completely get rid of the symptoms all together.
There are many steps that you can take in your daily life to help reverse the damage caused by oxidative stress.
The first step that you can take is to limit your exposure to environmental factors that cause your body to make free radicals without the balance of more antioxidants. We have discussed the negative effects of pollutants and pesticides on your body's equilibrium. Staying away from these harmful environments would be best.
Reducing exposure to environmental factors does include cutting off cigarettes and alcohol as well. These also cause a worsening imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants over time.
Your diet can also affect how your body manages its levels of free radicals and antioxidants.
Free radicals are created by the body during regular metabolic processes, which are the things that the body does in response to your eating. Many of our antioxidants come from the foods that we eat, so it is simple to see how food can affect the balance of these chemicals.
Food is sometimes the best medicine, and the foods that we eat can be great for reversing inflammation and encouraging biological balance. You should limit your intake of fatty and sugary foods as these do worsen the disequilibrium of your immune system.
There are also many natural remedies that have been shown to help reduce the severity of the symptoms that come with oxidative stress.
Naturally, a healthy diet should be followed up by regular exercise. However, a common problem arises when dealing with chronic conditions.
Diseases like those listed above can cause chronic inflammation which can lead to muscle aches and joint pain. Muscle aches and joint pain can then lead to chronic fatigue.
If you're fatigued, you won't want to exercise. This cycle of fatigue and pain seems never-ending for chronic illness patients, but there are ways to tackle your fatigue and ignite your energy.
Speaking of never ending cycles, you should also work on de-stressing. Relaxation is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation.
It can be difficult not to focus on your swollen joints and aching muscles, but it is important to set aside your recurrent distress and focus on eustress.
Working to alleviate the symptoms that come with oxidative stress takes time. Solving the problems that come about from such a complex pathway in your body cannot be done overnight, but with careful research and asking experts for help, your symptoms can become a problem of the past.