Free radicals exist all around you. You create them every second of every day through exercise, breathing, eating, stress, etc. Free radicals are atoms or molecules missing an electron. An atom or molecule missing an electron has a mission to replace that missing electron no matter what. Every part of your body is at risk of a free radical attack.
Once the free radical attack begins, it cascades into a chain reaction – the atom or molecule that was robbed of an electron is now a free radical – missing an electron – and it must get a replacement. When electrons are robbed from your DNA or other important cells in your body, the cells tend to function poorly or even die as a result of free radical damage.
Dennis Harman conceived of the free radical theory of aging (FRTA) in the 1950’s. FRTA asserts that your organs age because of the long-term effect of free radical damage. Antioxidants provide extra electrons and effectively stop the chain reaction of free radical damage. Your body produces antioxidants to prevent cellular damage. Additionally, the foods you eat provide other sources of antioxidants that your body cannot manufacture.
Many scientists and doctors today believe that the main cause of most disease is based on chronic low-level cellular inflammation brought on by long-term free radical damage. Infection, irritation or injury activates your immune system.
Your immune system directs a flood of white blood cells to the location of the infection, irritation or injury. Pain, swelling, heat, and redness are typical signs that your immune system is working properly. Inflammation is the first and very critical step in your body’s fight against infection and begins the process of healing.
When inflammation is persistent, your immune system is continually activated. This condition is known as chronic inflammation. A good test to determine the level of overall inflammation in your body is the highly sensitive C-reactive protein test (CRP). Nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, medication, beneficial sleep and a positive attitude can lower inflammation levels in your body.
There are anti-inflammatory medicines (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, etc.) that can reduce inflammatory conditions. However, the side effects of these anti-inflammatory medicines can be severe. In the 1990’s, scientists discovered enzymes involved in the inflammation process. Cyclooxygenase (COX) was found at the site of all inflammation. Further studies revealed that COX is really two different enzymes – COX-1 and COX-2.
COX-1 is present in almost every tissue of your body and acts as a protector. COX-1 preserves the healthy lining of your stomach for example. It also assists in kidney function and is responsible for platelet function. COX-1 is a very important enzyme to keep you healthy. COX-2, on the other hand, is part of the normal process of healing. It initiates the swelling, redness, heat, pain associated with inflammation.
COX-2 is found everywhere there is inflammation. It is possible through nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to inhibit COX-2. That is good. However, NSAIDs also inhibit COX-1 – and, that is not good. The side effects of many NSAIDs are ulcers, prolonged bleeding, kidney problems, etc. to name a few. The inhibition of COX-1 by NSAIDs actually makes the NSAIDs more toxic to your body.
In the late 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies developed COX-2 selective inhibitors (Vioxx, Celebrex, and Bextra). These COX-2 selective inhibitors concentrated primarily on obstructing the formation of COX-2, but still prevented COX-1 from functioning properly, but not to the same extent of NSAIDs. However, the COX-2 selective inhibitors had more severe side effects than NSAIDs – increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Vioxx was removed from the marketplace in 2004 and Bextra was withdrawn in 2005.
Fight chronic low-level inflammation daily by eating nutritionally balanced meals. Minimize grains, dairy, and omega-6 fatty acids. Gluten in grains inflames the gut and the brain. Casein is a mirror-like protein to gluten. It has been shown to cause similar inflammatory responses. Excess amounts of omega-6 fatty acids are inflammatory. Try to keep an equal balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in your food choices.