While its name might conjure up images out of Oliver Stone’s ‘Born on the Fourth of July’, free radicals en masse aren’t so cool. In fact, if they were people, they wouldn’t be progressive or radical at all…they’d be interested in maintaining the status quo “1984” style…and they’d have a lot of wrinkles. And smoke. And eat shit food. And be body snatchers (we’ll get to this).
Step One: Know your Nemesis
Free radicals are molecules in our bodies that have lost one of their electrons and, as a result, have become unstable. Because the free radical is unstable, and naturally tends towards stability, it will fasten itself onto any electron it comes across and effectively steal it. The molecule from which the electron has been stolen is, in turn, destabilised and becomes a free radical itself…so you get this whole “Body Snatchers” vibe going on in your system where free radicals infiltrate your stable molecules. The presence of certain free radicals is inevitable as a result of the body’s metabolic processes while others are necessary for stamping out bacteria and viruses.
Just as it’s impossible for us to protect ourselves from shitty people or body snatchers in the real world, so too is it impossible for us to completely protect ourselves from free radicals. We can, however, manage the way in which these free radicals (and shitty people or body snatchers) affect us and engage with us.
Step Two: Know your Allies
Ordinarily, your body produces antioxidant enzymes to counteract the inevitable presence of free radicals as a result of metabolic and immune-related processes. Antioxidants play a crucial role in the prevention of cellular damage in the body which often results in cancer, aging, and a variety of other diseases. Antioxidants are the hippies of your body and are all about free love…so they give the free radicals one of their spare electrons in order to get them to chill the hell out and stabilise themselves. So the hippie puts a stop to the body snatcher and it can’t wreak anymore havoc on our other molecules.
The chief antioxidants/hippies are:
- Vitamin E
- Beta-carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A)
- Vitamin C
Step Three: Know your Weaknesses
The problem arises when the amount of free radicals (body snatchers) outnumbers the amount of antioxidants (hippies) in your body. The formation of additional, super destructive free radicals is caused by environmental stressors such as a poor diet, stress, lack of sleep, smoking and really anything that places your digestive system and other vital organs under stress by creating an acidic internal environment. The result is that eventually, you’re going to resemble a free radical; old before your time and disease-ridden.
Step Four: Know your Strengths
Once you have identified your (free) radicalising habits, you can manage the prevalence of these body snatchers in your system by practising a healthy lifestyle (eating alkalinising and antioxidant-rich wholefoods, exercising, limiting and managing the amount of stress and negativity in your life and generally acting like a loving antioxidant hippie towards yourself and others) and cutting out the bad shit you’re putting your body through. Don’t let free radicals get the best of you, yo!
- Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health by Lien Ai Pham-Huy, Hua He, and Chuong Pham-Huy available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697