What is Oxidative Stress?
In essence, oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are oxygen molecules which contain one or more unpaired electrons that make them highly reactive with other molecules. This reaction is called oxidation and can be both beneficial and harmful.
When functioning properly, free radicals become a key player in the body’s intricate system of keeping itself healthy since they can help fight off infection-causing pathogens. However, when there are more free radicals present than can be kept in check by antioxidants, they overwhelm the body’s repair processes and start doing damage to nearby cells, mitochondria, and DNA. That is what we call oxidative stress.
Once oxidative stress is overwhelming the body’s ability to detox and repair itself, humans and animals start experiencing fatigue, memory loss, body pain, eyesight quality decline, noise sensitivity, and infection susceptibility. The damage can get severe enough over time and lead to a vast number of diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.
Completely avoiding free radical exposure and oxidative stress is virtually impossible. However, there are two ways to minimize exposure and the likelihood of their subsequent damaging effects — decreasing exposure to unnecessary oxidation and increasing intake of antioxidants.
Decreasing exposure to unnecessary oxidation
It is important to note that a number of free radicals occur naturally inside the body by way of exercise, inflammation, and physical and/or emotional stress. The body can also be exposed to free radicals in the environment from the ozone, pollution, cigarette smoke, radiation, pesticides, and chemical cleaners. High sugar, fat, or alcohol intake is also a major contributor to free radical production.
Preventing or reducing oxidative stress in the body requires making healthy lifestyle choices for you and your pet and sticking to them no matter what. Here are some lifestyle choices that both humans and animals can adopt in order to mitigate the chances of suffering from cellular damage caused by oxidative stress:
Adapting to a regular, moderate exercise routine.
The body runs out of antioxidants during long, intense exercises. Because of this, free radicals overwhelm the cells and oxidative stress levels rise far beyond what is considered healthy, increasing vulnerability to heart disease, cancer, and premature death. A moderate exercise routine, on the other hand, has been associated with higher natural antioxidant levels and decreased oxidative damage, promoting longer lifespans, lower cancer risk, and slower aging for both pets and pet owners alike.
It is a well-known fact that cigarette smoke contains free radicals that are partly responsible for making smokers sick. Avoiding smoking as well as exposure to secondhand smoke can significantly decrease oxidative stress.
Being careful when handling chemicals.
Exposure to chemical cleaning solutions, pesticides, and radiation sources induces persistent oxidative stress in the body and, therefore, should be handled with extreme caution.
Being environmentally conscious.
Free radicals are present in the environment, which is why engaging in environmentally friendly initiatives is a must in order to reduce free radical production not just in your home, but also in your community.
Avoiding overeating and making sure to eat on time.
Overeating and constant eating cause cells to produce free radicals, keeping the body in a constant state of oxidative stress. Eating at appropriately spaced intervals and keeping meals small or in moderate portions are simple ways to promote good glucose uptake and keep organs healthy and in perfect working order.
Sleeping for at least 7 hours daily.
The body is hard at work healing itself in those unconscious hours. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night helps produce antioxidants, maintain optimal cognitive brain function, strengthen bones, improve skin health, decrease adrenaline and cortisol levels, increase antibodies, regulate appetite, and promote fertility.
Increasing Intake of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that block oxidation by neutralizing free radicals and making them less of a threat to one’s health. Since free radicals contain one or more unpaired electrons, they are generally unstable. Alternatively, antioxidants are stable and remain stable even after losing an electron. This enables them to donate as many of their extra electrons to free radicals as needed to make the pair, or break down the entire molecule to render it harmless.
The easiest way to obtain enough antioxidants is through a healthy diet. Eating five servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables per day, including berries, cherries, citrus fruits, prunes, dark leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and olives, will nourish the body with enough vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and polyphenols to help with the detoxification process and promote optimal bodily functions. Other dietary antioxidant sources include fish, nuts, green tea, melatonin, onion, garlic, cinnamon, ginkgo biloba, ginger, milk thistle, rosemary, and turmeric.
Unfortunately, animals do not get to have an abundance of fresh, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables since they are mostly fed commercial pet food, which may or may not contain toxins. Without the help of potent antioxidants, your pet may continually suffer from allergies or skin problems, respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, immune disorders, eye ailments, or wide-ranging issues associated with aging. Taking antioxidant supplements can be a great way to reduce oxidative stress and maintain a healthy body for you and your pet.
Antioxidant supplements work with bodily fluids, fatty tissues, and cell walls to protect carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins from oxidative damage when a healthy diet falls short. These supplements have enough antioxidants to counterbalance the effect of free radicals and promote the body’s ability to fight disease and sickness and help prolong life.
Protecting the body against oxidative stress is both simple and complicated. Giving the body what it needs and avoiding what it does not need take commitment and discipline. A proper exercise routine, an intake of different antioxidants, and an avoidance of harmful chemicals will maintain overall good health for both humans and animals alike