Free Radicals – What You Need to Know

There is a lot of talk about free radicals and how they are harmful to our health. Let’s talk about the basic details of free radicals and what we can do about them.

Background with molecules blue, old-style vector

What are free radicals?

They are unstable molecules with an unpaired electron, which makes them chemically reactive.

What causes free radicals?

The truth is: having some free radicals in our body is unavoidable, since our own metabolism (breathing) creates some free radicals.  The good news is that we can control many other things that cause excessive, damaging free radicals through our lifestyle.  Free radicals are caused by:

  1. environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, herbicides
  2. stress
  3. lack of exercise OR excessive exercise
  4. lack of sleep
  5. unhealthy dietary lifestyle
    1. eating high glycemic foods which spike our blood sugar
    2. consuming harmful fats – especially synthetic trans fats.
    3. drinking excessive alcohol
  6. excessive exposure to sunlight
  7. virus infections

Why are free radicals so harmful?

Free radicals set off a chain reaction called ‘oxidative stress’ which damages healthy cells.

  1. Free radicals attack nearby cells in an attempt to replace their missing electron and become stable
  2. Attacked cells then become free radicals themselves
  3. The process escalates and more healthy cells (and tissue) become damaged.
  4. Scientific and medical research is proving that oxidative stress causes illness such as arthritis, 
premature aging, edema and leg swelling, hardening of the arteries and heart disease, and susceptibility to cancer.
  5. Common examples of oxidation (oxidative stress) that we see every day: rust on metal, apples turning brown when cut

What can we do about free radicals? 

While there may not be any way to totally avoid free radicals – we can make changes in our general lifestyle and our dietary lifestyle to limit the amount of free radicals, and neutralize them.  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Try to avoid environmental toxins such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, herbicides
  2. Take steps to reduce the stress in your life
  3. Strive to get the exercise your body needs, without overdoing it.
  4. Get the proper amount of restful sleep that your body requires.
  5. Strive to make changes in your dietary lifestyle, such as: eating low glycemic foods that won’t spike the blood sugar, use moderation when consuming alcoholic beverages, consume whole foods and healthy fats that support the body nutritionally.
  6. Get enough exposure to the sun to produce vitamin D in your body, but don’t overdo it.
  7. Keep your immune system as healthy as possible, to fight off viruses
    1. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals. They stop the chain reaction of oxidative stress by donating one of their electrons to the free radical
    2. The antioxidant does not become a free radical by giving away its electron
    3. Some foods that are high in antioxidants: tomatoes, cherries, broccoli, red raspberries, blueberries, sprouted wheat grass, acai berries, milled chia seeds. Eat foods that build your immune systems and are high in antioxidants.
  8. Take high quality cellular nutrition: vitamins and minerals such as A, C, E, selenium, manganese, zinc

So, as it turns out – our Mothers and Grandmothers really were right when they told us to eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, get lots of sleep, and to take time to smell the roses! Free radicals can be harmful for us but through healthy lifestyle, as our Mothers suggested, we can control the impact free radicals have on us.

Do you want to reduce the stress in your life?  Are you looking for more information about specific antioxidants to add to your dietary lifestyle?  If so, contact me.  Let’s work together to help you take your healthy lifestyle to the next level!


Informational Resources: – What Is A Free Radical – Free-radical theory of aging – Free Radicals & Antioxidants – article on antioxidants & free radicals

Healthy for Life by Dr. Ray Strand


Copyright © 2013 Cathy Ormon – All Rights Reserved