Oxidative stress: Causes, symptoms, effects, and prevention
When an imbalance occurs between the antioxidants and free radicals in your body, you are affected by oxidative stress. Usually a part of the aging process, oxidative stress can damage your cells and tissues if not treated early. Long-term oxidative stress can also cause cancer, heart conditions, and diabetes. Here's all you need to know about the condition and its causes and effects.
Here's what our expert says
- Oxidation and reduction are two types of complementary chemical reactions that are happening in our bodies at any given moment, in which electrons move from one chemical to another.
- Oxidative stress is a result of excess electrons in the form of free radicals.
- The free radicals hit and injure essential cellular structures like DNA, lipids, and proteins leading to aging and degeneration.
What is oxidative stress?
Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules that carry several uneven electrons which allow them to react easily with other molecules. They can cause large chain chemical reactions in your body called oxidation. Antioxidants donate an electron to a free radical, helping them stabilize and become less reactive. However, an imbalance between the two causes free radicals to lead to oxidative stress and damage.
What causes oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress can occur due to a number of factors including obesity, consuming a daily diet rich in fats and sugar, smoking cigarettes and tobacco products, and exposure to radiation. Regular consumption of alcohol, and certain medications, and exposure to industrial chemicals and pesticides can worsen the condition. Vitamin D deficiency also causes oxidative stress and accelerates the premature death of cells.
Symptoms of the condition
The common symptoms of oxidative stress include fatigue, memory loss or brain fog, wrinkles, and greying of hair. Initially, it can also cause muscle or joint pain, headaches, sensitivity to noise, decreased eyesight, and susceptibility to infections.
Effects of oxidative stress on the body
The effects of oxidative stress are not really harmful but vary from person to person. The free radical formation is often triggered by exercise which can cause temporary oxidative stress. Long-term oxidative stress can start damaging the fatty tissue, proteins, and DNA in the body which can cause several diseases over time. It can cause diabetes, inflammatory conditions, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and cancer.
Here's how to manage and prevent the condition
Free radicals are naturally produced by your body and it is completely normal. However, having too many or too less of them can be harmful leading to serious diseases. To prevent or manage the condition, follow a balanced diet loaded with antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies, limit your intake of processed foods, exercise regularly, and quit smoking. Also, get enough sleep and avoid overeating.