Oxygen is a great paradox of life. While absolutely essential for your existence, it also has extreme damaging effects on the body.
As mentioned yesterday, during respiration and all this swapping of electrons, some invariably leak out and react with oxygen. This is the birth of free radicals.
Free radicals are molecule or molecular fragments with an unpaired electron. This makes them extremely unstable and short-lived, having a lifespan of a few trillionths of a second. The sole purpose in their short lives is to steal an electron from another cell to make up for one it is missing.
Think of free radicals of sparks from a fire in your fireplace. As the sparks jump out of the fire onto the rug in front of your hearth, you initially don’t notice the damage. But over time, the damage will reveal itself as burns and holes in the rug. Eventually it looks like an old, ratty piece of cloth.
Free radicals damage the good cells of our body in much the same way. They ricochet around your body, punching holes in cell membranes, damaging cellular DNA, and attacking protein and lipid molecules.
The resulting damage from this, over time, is ultimately what causes us to age.
Your body is full of free radicals. Not only are they part of your biological process, but environmental toxicities, radiation from the sun and x-rays, agricultural pesticides, even intense exercise all add to your free radical load.
But fear not. Your miraculous body has a defence mechanism that can guard against free radical damage. To counteract this damage triggered by oxygen and the resulting oxidation, antioxidants come to the rescue.
Antioxidants work by freely donating electrons to free radical molecules. In doing so, the free radicals are neutralised, their damage-potential minimised.
Your job is therefore two-fold. First, practice avoidance and minimise the creation of free radicals within your body. Second, ensure your dietary habits include antioxidant-rich foods and supplements to give your immune system the ammunition it needs to protect your from yourself.