How do you prevent and manage Oxidative stress? Like many stressors in life, the most important thing is to get rid of it or manage it to a level where it does not pose a threat to you. Before you can address any stressor, you need to understand what it is.
What is Oxidative Stress?
Oxidative stress occurs when excess oxygen radicals also called free radicals or oxidants are produced in cells of the body and when this happens it can overwhelm your body’s normal antioxidant capacity to handle it.
In our body’s defense mechanisms, we have enzymes as well as antioxidants such as ascorbic acid, tocopherols and glutathione that fight for us
However, it can get to a point where your body’s defense mechanism cannot handle the situation, and it can result in oxidative damage. This damage can be damaged cells, mutated cells (cells with damaged genetic information) and cancer.
How can oxidative stress occur?
- It could be the presence of foreign substances or chemicals that your body does not recognize e.g. pollutants, pesticides, some food additives, cigarette smoke, even drugs
- It could be as a result of your immune system fighting in response to invading microorganisms
- It could be due to radiation
- A diet high in fat, sugar and alcohol
Oxidative stress has been implicated in the development of many diseases in our bodies such as diseases related to aging, inflammation, heart diseases, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer.
Just like normal everyday stress, it might be completely impossible to eliminate oxidative stress. However, there are a number of things that you can do to prevent, manage and minimize the effect of oxidative stress such that it cannot do much damage.
Here are 6 ways that you can take care of oxidative stress:
- Eat Antioxidant-rich Foods
As we continue to move, breathe and do normal functions, it is normal for our body to produce free radicals. Eating antioxidants will help mop up the free radicals by giving it an electron and neutralizing the damage it can cause. Examples of popular antioxidants in our foods are vitamin C, Vitamin E, β-carotene and flavonoids. You will get these antioxidants when you eat enough fruits and vegetables everyday. There are also other foods and drinks like cocoa powder or dark chocolate, green tea, and black tea that are rich in antioxidants also.
- Include herbs and spices in your foods
Herbs and spices are known to contain medicinal properties or phytochemicals. Some of these properties act as antioxidants.
Black pepper, turmeric, chili pepper, thyme, cloves, oregano, rosemary, cumin, basil, ginger are examples of herbs and spices that have shown through research to have very high antioxidant properties.
Africa has a lot of herbs and spices that have not been researched into but hopefully, we will progress in this area. Generally, herbs and spices are high in antioxidants and you can incorporate them into your soups, stews, porridges and so on.
- Avoid Excessive Eating and Eating Diets High in Fat, Sugar and Alcohol
Overeating, eating of foods high in sugar and refined foods, and excessive drinking of alcohol can lead to oxidative stress. Simply replace your consumption of sugary and refined foods with whole grains, less refined foods as well as foods that do not have a lot of added sugar.
There is also evidence that giving your body resting intervals between meals such as in the case of intermittent fasting is beneficial to your health.
- Increase Physical Activity and Include Exercises into Your Daily Routine
Increasing physical activity and exercises is important for reducing oxidative stress. Find ways to incorporate physical activity and exercise into your daily routines. However, remember that even excessive or extreme exercise can increase oxidative stress. 60 minutes of intense running can be considered extreme exercise. Moderate daily exercise is what is best for overall health.
- Sleep Well
Sleep has been studied in different contexts and some results are showing how sleep is important for productivity, learning and improved memory, weight loss and overall health. A 2015 systematic review I looked through supports the evidence that oxidative stress can result from lack of sleep.
So, take the time to sleep well; 8hours of sleep is said to be the ideal.
- Be Aware Of Chemical Exposures And Pollutants And Avoid Them
We are exposed to so many chemicals from the air we breathe to the drugs that we take. We have the responsibility to avoid the ones that we can. This requires that we become very conscious of the environment around us and what we take into our bodies or put on our skin.
Examples of steps that you can take include: washing your fruits and vegetables properly to avoid pesticides and chemicals, not hanging around smoking areas, avoid using unnecessary aerosols on your skin or in enclosed rooms. These are just examples. You need to study your own environment, identify the potential hazards and address them.
As people who are high achievers, you have to do what it takes to eliminate stresses in your life including oxidative stress. When you apply these 6 pieces of advice, you will experience improved health all around and you would be strong and healthy enough to achieve your dreams.
Don’t forget to live better and eat better.