The body’s cells use oxygen to produce energy. In the process, oxygen sometimes reacts with body compounds to produce highly unstable molecules known as free radicals. In addition to normal body processes, environmental factors such as radiation, pollution, tobacco smoke, and others can act as oxidants and cause free radical formation. The trouble begins when free radicals in the body exceed its defenses against them, a condition known as oxidative stress.
To regain its stability, the free radical quickly finds a stable but vulnerable compound from which to steal an electron. With the loss of an electron, the formerly stable molecule becomes a free radical itself and steals an electron from some other nearby molecule, thus an electron snatching destructive chain reaction is set off.
In a book titled Immunotics, authored by Robert Rountree, MD, compares free radicals to small sparks of fire in the forest. “Extinguished early on, they pose no threat,” he explains. “Left to spread, they can cause a catastrophe.” Because free radicals damage cellular DNA and weaken our immune system, in fact their damage disrupts unsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes, destroying the membranes’ ability to transport substances into and out of cells causing chronic inflammation. Such destruction with Chronic inflammation combined with a weakened immune system is extremely dangerous”, he said. Free-radical damage is closely associated with oxidative damage.
Every time we breathe in oxygen, it burns the fuel in our cells, which in turn coverts to energy. The necessary mixing of oxygen and fuel to create energy is called oxidation.
It is during this oxidative process that dangerous by-products called free radicals are created.
Oxidative stress leads to loss in cell function and eventually to cell death, and in turn contributes to loss in organ function. This process leads to the development of most chronic diseases and exacerbates existing conditions, damage to cell proteins, altering their functions, and to DNA, disrupting all cells that inherit the damaged DNA.
Factors causing Oxidative Stress