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FREE RADICALS & AGING

What is a free radical?

Free radicals are molecules that lack an electron.

Why excesses of free radicals accelerate aging leading to disease?

  • Free radicals are very unstable, highly reactive molecules. Normally free radicals are continually created in the millions in your body to carry on your metabolic activity.
  • They are essential to life, we need them, and they fight infection. Our cells give a burst of these free radicals to kill the germs when we become infected with bacteria, fungus, and parasites.
  • Any molecule, any atom in the body can become a free radical, and when it does it will try to balance itself by picking up an electron from the neighboring molecule damaging the cells, which in turn becomes a free radical and the vicious cycle continues until it gets controlled.
  • If it is not controlled, damage occurs in different parts of the body and this damage contributes for oxidative stress, which accelerates the aging process leading to a disease.

In today’s world, free radicals occur in the environment as well.

Common causes of free radical production outside the body

  • Television screens
  • Cell phones (electromagnetic fields)
  • Computer screens
  • Airplane trips
  • Hair dryers
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Microwaving
  • Toxic exposure to chemicals in your food, water, and air
  • Excessive sunlight

When you have exposure to free radicals in the environment, your body cannot handle the extra load of oxidation. Oxidation in your body is like rust in your car. If you have extra free radicals, your body will “rust” on the inside. Cataract formation is an example of this.

Other causes of overproduction of free radicals:

Cholesterol

You hear you should lower cholesterol, that cholesterol is harmful and high cholesterol causes a lot of problems. It is not the cholesterol which causes the problem, but the oxidized cholesterol, the cholesterol which has been damaged by free radicals, just like butter which turns rancid.

The highest concentration of cholesterol is in the brain and if you have low cholesterol, you will have problems in the brain. Every cell in the body contains cholesterol, and if you lower the level, the liver will try to compensate for that. Milk does not increase cholesterol. One of the reasons that people get bloating from milk because of lactose intolerance is because they take milk cold. Cold milk is heavy and difficult to digest. Milk should be boiled before it is taken. Ginger or turmeric may be added and the problem goes away.

Fat

Unsaturated fat is of two types: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated fat is not good; it ultimately causes damage. Polyunsaturated fat has multiple double bonds which can become oxidized and cause an increased production of free radicals and increased incidence of colon cancer.
All these vegetable oils are polyunsaturated fatty acids which become very easily oxidized. Oxidation also occurs in fried foods and meats. It is in beef, lamb and chicken.

Monounsaturated fat doesn’t get oxidized and these are olive oil and mustard oil. Olive oil increases high-density lipoproteins (HDL - good cholesterol) and vegetable oil decreases them. All those are all right, but stay away from polyunsaturated oils.

Meat

How does meat cause problems?

In a non-vegetarian diet, there is increased overall mortality, an increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diverticular disease, and a higher fracture rate.
A high fracture rate occurs because a high protein diet, a high meat diet, causes change in the pH, makes it slightly acidic and calcium leaches out of the bones. The average loss of calcium in a 65 year-old woman, non-vegetarian is 35% bone loss; in a vegetarian, the bone loss is 18%. These are well established published findings.

The carnivores or meat-eating animals have an intestinal tract three times the body length, so that the food does not stay in the body for a long time. Meat has iron, which in excess again causes free radicals in the colon. The intestinal tract in the herbivores is ten to twelve times the body length because it takes a long time for the vegetarian food to be absorbed. The human intestine is just like the herbivores, twelve times the body length.

The hydrochloric acid content in the stomach is very high in meat eating animals. It is twenty times less in herbivores. If you are eating a meat diet, free radicals are being produced, carcinogens are produced, and you don't have that problem in a vegetarian diet.

Mental Distress

This is directly linked to over production of free radicals. When somebody is under anger, anxiety, tension, or stress, it creates chemicals (cortisone and catecholamine) which react with different organs and cells and ultimately create free radicals and after some time, disease starts occurring wherever the deficiency is in the body. You have to have a balanced function of mind and that comes from meditation.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a major producer of free radicals. If you really want the big doors to free radicals, every time you drink alcohol, you have a big boost. It damages the liver, causes cirrhosis, damages the heart, causes myocardiopathy, and damages the brain.
The latest research shows that the cell to cell connection in the brain breaks down in alcoholics. You may have heard that a small drink of wine every day saves you from heart disease, but then you will have all these other problems.

Basically red wine is much better than white wine, and the beneficial effect of wine is actually due to the red pigment of the grapes which contains bioflavonoids, and not the liquor. Bioflavonoids have an anti-oxidant property, and they protect the damage caused by the free radicals and they also prevent clotting.

Smoking

causes susceptibility to strokes and cancer of the colon. The problem with smoking is that it creates all free radicals that damage the lung so that almost every smoker gets bronchitis and emphysema. Not every smoker gets cancer because it takes more time, and some individuals have the capacity to increase the amount of enzymes which fight free radicals when their system is challenged and others lack it.

Food preservatives and pesticides

Pesticides kill the pest by creating free radicals, and if you consume them you will be damaged by those free radicals also. That is accumulative damage.

Environmental pollution

all the exhaust fumes coming from cars cause a lot of pollution and it damages our lungs and other systems.

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Chemo kill tumor cells by producing too many free radicals. Their effects are toxic because they also damage normal cells.

How can you stop the excess of free radicals?

In order to stop the oxidative process caused by free radicals you can take antioxidants, which donate an electron to the free radical. This stops the destructive cycle.

Some antioxidants you should take

  • Vitamins A, C, and E
  • Selenium
  • Coenzyme Q-10
  • Alpha lipoic acid
  • Melatonin
  • Garlic
  • Glutathione/NAC
  • Clarified butter GHEE
  • Sesame oil
  • Curry herbs
  • Natural herbal mixtures known as Rasayanas

It is important to understand that antioxidants have to be balanced as well. In certain conditions too much of one antioxidant may stop the protective effects of other antioxidants.

For better understanding and a complete assessment on your nutrition, make an appointment at The Wellington Institute for Wellness by calling 561-333-3440.

 

 
 

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