Free Radicals: The villain With The Cool Name That Causes Accelerated Aging
Adapted from Healthy, Sexy, Happy: A Thrilling Journey to the Ultimate You
I recently got into a friend’s car and gagged. Dangling from his rear view mirror was one of those pine tree thingees. It wasn’t just that the smell reminded me of a gas station bathroom. It’s that I try to live a detox lifestyle, and part of that is avoiding toxic exposure—like anything that emits poisonous fragrance.
We’re living in an apocalyptically toxic world. The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency perpetuate the attitude that “a little bit of toxins here and a little bit of toxins there” will not hurt you. The problem is the compounding of all toxic exposure is hurting us.
We all have different toxic loads depending on accidental exposure, and whether or not we’ve intentionally endeavored to avoid toxins, or if life has just been a merry toxic free-for-all. Poison overload interferes with vital organ and gland functions and damages your liver’s ability to filter, break down, and eliminate the toxic substances. Because many toxins are fat soluble, the chemicals that are too abundant to be eliminated migrate to the subcutaneous fat under your skin and remain there, smoldering, generating free radicals.
Toxins introduce free radicals in your body. Free radicals sound cool, but they are deadly. Free radicals cause accelerated aging (overweight/obesity, disease, and the outward signs of aging like wrinkles, flab, sags, bags, thinning hair, and skin and so on).
Free radicals are generated in your body and brain via seemingly innocuous sources. A cheeseburger and a Diet Coke introduce toxins into your digestive track. The dryer sheet scent emoting from your laundry or that pine tree thingee introduce toxins into your lungs. Petting kitty that’s wearing a flea collar introduces toxins through your skin. All of these toxins generate free radicals.
So really, what in the world are free radicals? They are molecules with an odd or unpaired electron. Molecules consist of a positively charged nucleus and negatively charged electrons that orbit the nucleus in pairs. When an electron is added or lost the molecule becomes extremely reactive and is referred to as a free radical because it frantically seeks electrons to pair up with its unpaired electrons. Free radicals ravage the molecules in your body, stealing electrons from complete molecules. This process of stealing electrons, called oxidation, creates a domino effect of molecules becoming free radicals and further rampaging to obtain paired electrons, causing more free radicals.
In very simple terms free radicals destroy cellular membranes, thus impairing cellular function (ability to use nutrition, communicate, and coordinate with one another). One very important aspect of free radical damage is called “lipid peroxidation,” which is when free radicals steal electrons from the lipids (fats) in cells, called oxidation (think of a rusting piece of metal in the sun). Cells become brittle and stiff. Imagine little kids playing with free and fluid movements. Then imagine an elderly woman and man doddering on canes. The kids’ bodies are comprised of fluid, fatty cells. The elderly people’s bodies are made of dried-up, inflexible cells. Inside your body free radicals damage tissues and organs, beginning the process in which tumors grow; damage blood vessels, initiating the buildup of plaque; and on the outside, free radical damage to the skin causes wrinkles and premature aging. Free radical damage is also associated with cataracts, autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Free radicals are generated by normal physiological processes and cellular metabolism, but in a normal, healthy body with a healthy diet, your body is equipped to neutralize these free radicals. It’s the bombardment of free radicals from artificial sources that we need to worry about.
There are now over 83,000 chemicals in our environment. Because of this proliferation of toxins, aging due to free radical damage has snowballed and now the majority of people on this planet are on an accelerated aging path.
Some Free Radical Generators
Anything that activates your immune system
Drugs (prescription, OTC, recreational)
Excitotoxins (MSG and aspartame)
Environmental toxins and chemicals
Exposure to heavy metals
Grilled meat (heterocyclic amines)
Normal metabolic processes
Processed vegetables oils
Stimulants (caffeine, alcohol, drugs, extreme exercise are some examples)
Ultraviolet radiation (too much sun exposure and tanning beds)
Avoiding toxic exposure as much as possible is crucial to avoiding and preventing accelerated aging. But you also want to introduce antioxidants into your system as much and as often as possible. Antioxidants stop oxidation by neutralizing free radicals by either providing the extra electron that is missing, or by breaking down the free radical molecule so that it’s neutralized. Antioxidants stop the chain reaction of free radical formation.
The first course of action, of course, is to eat a balanced diet of real, whole food. I also advocate taking antioxidants in supplements and drinking green veggie juice (and stirring in a teaspoon each of spirulina and chlorella) to fortify your defense.
My friend was nice enough to take the pine tree down while I was in the car. Don’t forget to ask for what you need!
Peace Fun Love.
Your girlfriend in health,