Amped About Antioxidants?
Antioxidants seem to be a buzzword in the health and beauty space. Yet, there’s more to these compounds than helping skin glow. Antioxidants are an essential part of the body’s health and a vital protector against stress and diseases. At the same time, these critical chemicals must be handled with care, especially with the many antioxidant supplements on the market. So what are antioxidants exactly, and should everyone be taking supplements?
All about free radicals
Antioxidants and free radicals go hand in hand, and one cannot be explained without the other. Cells and DNA experience wear and tear from environmental, physical, and even psychological stressors. Everyday stressors include a poor diet, alcohol, tobacco, exhaust smoke, pesticides, and air pollutants. Cells excrete byproducts called free radicals. The more toxins in the body, the more cellular waste or free radicals accumulates. These free radicals steal electrons from healthy cells, which can lead to cell breakdown and chronic diseases.
Fighting your oxidative stress
The medical community has long recorded the dangers of excess free radicals and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, asthma, and a host of other severe conditions. The phenomenon also leads to chronic inflammation, which plays a significant factor in arthritis. Free radicals are not inherently bad. Some help kill harmful bacteria in the body. However, if free radicals aren’t expelled quickly enough, oxidative stress occurs. One of the best ways to combat oxidative stress is to have a high antioxidant intake.
So what are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that can prevent or slow cellular damage caused by free radicals. These chemicals heal or rejuvenate cells by replacing electrons depleted by free radicals. Antioxidants also help slow down the aging process by preventing free radicals from damaging healthy skin cells. This is why antioxidants are one of the main ingredients in many beauty products. Antioxidants are present in common vitamins and minerals like:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Beta carotene
Each antioxidant has a specific chemical makeup and affects the body in different ways. That’s why getting the right balance of each is key for optimal health and wellness.
Do you need antioxidant supplements?
The body can produce some antioxidants naturally. However, these are insufficient to fight daily free radicals. The rest comes from a healthy, balanced diet. Antioxidants are found in what’s commonly known as rainbow fruits and vegetables. These should be organic, containing little to no pesticides that increase free radicals. Some nuts, seeds, milk, butter, eggs, and meats also contain antioxidants. Someone with a consistently healthy diet does not need antioxidant supplements. Unfortunately, the average American diet lacks these essential food groups. The world is also exposed to more pollution, smoking, alcohol, and pesticides than ever before. That’s why antioxidant supplements are so important today.
Beware the supplement risk
If there is a genuine concern about antioxidants, speak with a doctor or pharmacist to find the right supplement. Supplements should fall in line with any signs of oxidative stress like fatigue, memory loss, reduced immune function, and joint pain. At the same time, everyone should use antioxidant supplements with discretion. Supplements provide antioxidants in higher concentrations, so overdosing is possible, which would have the opposite effect on the body as a prooxidant. A compound pharmacist can create a custom supplement with the recommended dose of each antioxidant.
Antioxidant supplements aren’t enough
Supplements can help fight DNA damage and free radicals, but even these might not be enough. To get the full benefits, look for ways to reduce oxidative stress altogether through lifestyle modifications. Sufficient REM sleep, exercise, and meditation can help to reduce oxidation. Avoid heavily polluted areas, harmful plastics, smoking, and excess alcohol. Avoid processed sugars and processed foods as much as possible. Making small daily changes can reverse the effects of oxidation and increase the potency of antioxidants. Consult a doctor before taking any supplement, as some may have unwanted side effects.