Causes of Oxidative Stress
- Are you stressed?
- Could you be exercising more?
- Do you eat a lot of fried foods (either shallow or deep-fried)?
- Do you have a high caloric diet?
- Are you sleep-deprived?
- Are you exposed to pollutants and toxins?
- Do you work outdoors or have excessive sun exposure?
Each of these situations can cause oxidative stress. What is oxidative stress? I believe it is a major cause, if not, the major cause of unbalanced health. Having said that, oxidative stress is not the source problem. It’s the causes of oxidative stress that we need to work on. Interestingly, you might notice a correlation between the causes of oxidative stress and the SENST wheel, it’s not a coincidence. It’s at the crux of my SENST wheel. (Find out more about the SENST wheel here.) That’s because each negative aspect of the SENST wheel causes oxidative stress.
The Correlation Between Oxidative Stress & The SENST Wheel
One of the main aims of my approach to holistic health is to minimise oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress causes inflammation which leads to chronic diseases. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes 2, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and more.
Let’s look at this in more detail. However, before we do so, I will say, this is a very complicated area. So, I am going to try to simplify it. To understand oxidative stress, we need to first understand the normal body process of oxidation.
Free radicals or ROS (reactive oxygen species) are produced as a normal product of cellular metabolism. Free radicals are cells that are missing an electron. When the body is in homeostasis (the body is in balance) antioxidants present in the body, donate an electron to the free radical which stabilises the free radical. As illustrated above. This occurs without destabilising the antioxidant.
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. Specifically, when there are not enough antioxidants to stabilise free radicals. When this occurs, free radicals then take electrons from healthy cells which in turn destabilises them. The result is oxidative stress, which then leads to inflammation. Inflammation is the cause of many chronic diseases, such as those mentioned above.
It’s a complicated area and new data is coming out showing that some oxidative stress is good for you. In a healthy, young body, small amounts of oxidative stress, in some circumstances, may sometimes make you stronger, more energetic. However, once oxidative stress has escalated and you get older, the situation changes and it becomes detrimental. This might point to why you can’t get away with what you used to as you get older.
Here’s a quick two and half minute overview on by Dr Marcus Cooke
Phew! Now that we’re over the biology lesson we can look at what we can do to maximise our performance. The interesting stuff! Let’s start with antioxidants.
Antioxidants – Are They The Solution?
So you’re probably thinking, what about antioxidants and which ones should I be eating? Absolutely, antioxidants are good for you! Not only do antioxidants donate electrons to free radicals to stabilise them, but they are also involved in repairing DNA and maintaining the health of cells.
So which foods should you be eating? Foods that are high in vitamins C, E and beta-carotene as well glutathione, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, phytoestrogens phytochemicals and many more! These foods are good for you. However, each antioxidant has its own chemical behaviours and properties, as does each free radical, as does each oxidation process. The matching of antioxidants to free radicals to specific processes is too vast to know which antioxidant to eat for the benefit you need.
There has been a lot of “hype” about antioxidant supplements and there is an enormous antioxidant supplement industry. However, there is not a lot of empirical evidence to suggest that antioxidant supplements can alter the many chronic diseases that oxidative stress causes. I believe this is due to two main factors; one, as I mentioned above, matching the antioxidant to the many different free radicals and many different oxidation processes is very complicated and two, a processed supplement is different to a naturally occurring food. We can’t expect to get the same result from a manufactured supplement as we could from naturally occurring foods. The body will react to it differently.
The bottom line? Eat a rainbow. I hear you say “huh?” I mean, eat fruits and vegetables in varied colours. Some from each colour of the rainbow. You will notice a focus on rainbow bowls in my recipes. Try if possible, to fill your plate with fruits and vegetables of all colours. That’s the best way to get antioxidants. Regularly eating varied and rainbow-coloured fruits and vegetables will result in a far better chance of getting the vast number of antioxidants you need. Ideally, choose organic produce to make sure you are getting maximum nutrients without any harmful chemicals. If you’re on a budget and want to know the fruits and vegetables that are high in pesticides (the ones you absolutely should buy organic) check out my list here
Why is Oxidative Stress Such an Issue?
So why is oxidative stress so important? As outlined above, it is a major contributor to chronic diseases and so many health problems. If we reduce oxidative stress, we enable the body to do what it is best at, balancing the body, fighting toxins, fighting antibodies and returning to homeostasis. Something we should all be aiming for, especially with new viruses such as the Coronavirus hitting the elderly and people with low immune systems.
However, we have so many unnatural external pressures on our bodies these days that it is difficult for the body to operate as it should. Therefore we need to understand how to minimise the trauma that stressors place on our body. Below are some tips:
- Chronic Stress – relaxation techniques, check out the article on relaxation techniques
- Lack of Exercise – sustainable and healthy exercise, check out the article on exercise tips
- Bad diet – reduce rancid oil consumption, eat nutrition-dense food, eliminate unhealthy foods, check out the article on nutrition tips
- Sleep Deprivation – get good quality sleep, check out the article on sleep tips
- Toxins – reduce toxins, check out the article on toxicity tips
Oxidative Stress and Performance
As you know, I’m all about improving performance. So it’s important to know how oxidative stress affects performance at work, and in life in general. As mentioned above, oxidative stress leads to inflammation and inflammation leads to chronic disease. Which answers the question, how does oxidative stress affect your overall performance in life? The answer is, not well! However, how is your performance at work affected? Let’s look at the effect on the brain (assuming you need strong mental capabilities at work).
“The brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress. … excess free radicals can damage structures inside brain cells and even cause cell death”
There has also been found to be a relationship between oxidative stress and anxiety
Which leads me to, the conclusion that oxidative stress also has a negative impact on work performance (assuming you need your brain for work).
What Should You Do?
Do you think you could be suffering from oxidative stress in any of the areas of the SENST wheel? If so, follow the Healthy Results 2Day methodology to incorporate a healthy habit or to drop a bad habit in your life. The essence of the methodology is to focus only on one area and one habit. The focus will make you successful. If you choose well, your habit will have kick-on effects on to other SENST areas. When you have successfully incorporated or dropped the habit, when you are ready to choose another habit, there will be less to choose from!
The methodology is a simple three-step process (but the devil is in the detail):
STEP ONE: Choose a SENST area. If you have already done so, great! If not, take the Body Signals tests and I will respond to you with guidance.
STEP TWO: Choose a healthy habit to incorporate into your life, or alternatively, a bad habit to take out. Refer to SENST tips.
STEP THREE: Learn the tricks to make a healthy habit stick here or break a bad habit with habit hacks
If you would like more information, refer to the articles. They are categorised according to the SENST wheel.
If you would like assistance through this process, I can help. Simply fill out the form below: