What is oxidative stress and free radicals?

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Oxidative Stress

Many times when we are physically and mentally ill, we tend to hear comments such as: “you are like this because of stress”, “you work a lot and this is the result” or “you should take a break” every day. Stress will end up seriously affecting your health.

These statements are not entirely wrong. Due to stress, a poor diet, a sedentary life and exposure to the sun can cause “stress or oxidative damage”.

Oxidative damage is a reaction that occurs in our body that damages various macromolecules, cells, tissues, and DNA. This usually happens because our cells normally produce molecules called “free radicals,” which need to be balanced with antioxidants in the body.

However, it is when we are exposed to higher amounts of free radicals and have lower levels of antioxidants that our cells can be damaged by oxidative stress. Even oxidative stress is associated with various noncommunicable diseases such as arteriosclerosis, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.

Oxidative Stress

Free Radicals

Free radicals are molecules produced as a result of basic processes that the body performs daily to keep us alive. They can be produced by the development of important functions, but the body can fight their damage through various antioxidant systems.

It should be noted that if free radicals exist in the body in moderate amounts, they can be beneficial to health because they perform important activities such as: collagen synthesis, white blood cell support, etc.

However, several factors such as poor diet, alcohol and tobacco consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle can also promote the production of oxidants. This can cause an imbalance, and as a result, the body’s antioxidant enzymes act as a natural defense against the inappropriate production of free radicals and the inability to remove waste products to kill this reaction from the body.

Free radicals, which are incomplete molecules, are constantly looking for the electron they need and can get it from other macromolecules and even from DNA. By stealing electrons from other molecules, it oxidizes them, which can damage cells.

Free Radicals

What diseases and degenerative processes occurs?

There are many pathological processes that imply deterioration in the organism that would cause critical illnesses in the long term without solutions:

Aging: It is a bit difficult to distinguish when it is a self-made process and when it is a deterioration due to stress, since it turns out that this originates due to the accumulation of organic lesions, reflecting in the individual a physical and skin deterioration, showing premature aging.

Atherosclerosis: Under certain oxidative conditions, the lipoprotein fraction and some amino acid residues of the low-density lipoprotein apoprotein are altered. Oxidized low-density lipoproteins or their released products have greater atherogenic power because they are taken up more passionately by macrophages, are cytotoxic to the endothelium, and stimulate the production of vasoactive factors, adhesion, thrombosis, and the proliferation of smooth muscle cells of the system vascular, initiation or extension of atherosclerotic lesions.

Cancer: Tumor growth is a very complex process, characterized by the presence of cellular necrosis of healthy tissues, uncontrolled growth of cancer cells, neovascularization of the affected area, influence to ensure the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tumor, among many other phenomena. . The activation of some early genes that could participate in the transcription control of growth factors necessary for tumor development has also been observed.

Senile Cataract: Free radicals generated in the lens induce crosslinking, denaturation, proteolysis and other effects, forming microscopic particles with a complex composition due to the disordered agglomeration of molecules, grow in size and number, initially creating the Tindall effect and eventually coverage entire lens.

Chronic Renal Failure: Oxidative stress induces damage at the mitochondrial level, which leads to mitochondrial processes and disease progression. The pro-oxidative state involved in the inflammatory response induces apoptosis and fiber remodeling both in the kidney and in the heart. There are several molecular pathways involved in the increase in oxidative stress that, once known, have allowed the discovery of biomarkers for the diagnosis and monitoring of the progression of chronic kidney disease.

Diabetes Mellitus: It occurs when there is too much sugar circulating in your bloodstream. There is an increase in oxidative stress, due to an inadequate elimination of continuously generated free radicals. The contact between the dialysis membrane and the serum and polymorphonuclear components produces complement activation, production of cytokines and free radicals. This situation leads to lipid peroxidation, protein denaturation, endothelial cell damage, and continuous oxidative stress.

Arterial Hypertension: It is considered as a set of systemic results of the lesions (vascular, parenchymal, etc.) produced by free radicals; that is why it predisposes to accelerate atherosclerosis, at least in part because of the synergy between elevated blood pressure and other atherogenic stimuli that induce oxidative stress in arterial vessels.

Cirrhosis, Liver Failure, and Alcoholic liver Disease: Traditionally, portal pressure in liver disease was thought to be determined only by altered liver structure and cytoplasmic blood flow. But because reversible portal hypertension has been reported in alcoholic hepatitis and acute liver failure, the intervention of vasopressor mediators is necessary to explain the mechanism of venous hypertension.

This acute portal is also the reason why cirrhotic patients develop acute venous bleeding during prolonged periods of hepatic failure and decompensation. Alcoholic liver damage is, at least in part, related to oxidative stress, due to the production of free radicals and/or decreased antioxidant activity.

Qué enfermedades y procesos degenerativos se presenta / What diseases and degenerative processes occurs

How to combat oxidative stress?

In addition, we recommend a series of guidelines to reduce the level of free radicals in your body:

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet: You must consume fresh fruits and vegetables in abundance, always remember to wash them before eating them.
  • Provide the body with antioxidants through dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals and enzymes to prevent cell damage.
  • Consume foods rich in antioxidants: Foods such as broccoli, green tea, tomatoes, artichokes, carrots, among others.
  • Have a daily physical exercise routine: It is very important to have an active lifestyle and be able to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Avoid unhealthy habits: Avoid consuming tobacco, alcohol and exposure to sunlight.


NOTE: If you suffer from oxidative stress, it is advisable to go to a health specialist to be able to take a specific treatment, since each condition is different in each type of person.


Cómo combatirlo el estrés oxidativo / How to combat oxidative stress

Click HERE to learn more about what Antioxidants are, their types and benefits.