(NaturalNews) Free radicals are atoms or molecules with an unpaired electron. They are very unstable, highly reactive particles, which collide with other molecules in the body, causing them to change structure. These molecules then become free radicals creating a domino-effect or chain reaction with millions of molecules being affected in a matter of nanoseconds. Free radicals are also known as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) so free radical stress is also known as oxidative stress. There are many causes of free radical stress, which is now seen as a major mechanism in chronic diseases as well as ageing.
Anti-oxidants are the body's defense mechanism or internal army against free radicals. Antioxidants, or free radical scavengers, will neutralize these damaging particles. Common antioxidants are vitamins A, E, C, zinc and selenium. As you will read below, some free radicals are produced as an essential part of bodily processes, so the body expects to have to deal with and manage free radicals produced. It is only when the net production exceeds the body's capacity to neutralize free radicals that disease-states arise.
The body also produces internal anti-oxidants like glutathione, Co-Enzyme Q10, superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidise.
Exogenous Sources of Free Radicals (from outside the body):
-Preservatives and chemicals in foods -Herbicides and pesticides on non-organic foods -Prescription drugs -Pollution and radiation and sunburn -Heavy metals like mercury, aluminum and lead -Alcohol, and smoking -Trans and hydrogenated fats
The body's immune system produces free radicals which it uses to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. If the immune system becomes chronically over-activated (as in cases of chronic inflammation), there is an extra burden of free radical stress in the body. Certain conditions that trigger off the immune system are chronic infections like helicobacter pylori, major operations, allergies and intolerances.
Your body naturally produces free radicals as a by-product of cellular energy production and liver detoxification. This is similar to a car that produces toxic exhaust fumes as the waste product of the combustion of petrol. Whenever you use your body a lot, there will be increased free radical production. This is why athletes are recommended to take regular supplements of anti-oxidants.
Emotional stress significantly increases free radical load on the body. As stress induces the release of hormones, the body mobilizes ready for action, known as the fight and flight response. This creates bio-chemical changes which increase free radical stress in the body.
Alex Howard is author of "WHY ME? My Journey from M.E. to Health and Happiness" and founder of The Optimum Health Clinic, an award winning clinic specialising in M.E./C.F.S./Fibromyalgia based in Harley Street Clinic, London, UK. The clinic has treated over 5,000 patients with M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia in over twenty-five countries around the world, and is currently running a two year clinical trial in conjunction with two top universities. A free information pack, including a 75 documentary about the clinic and its work, can be ordered from www.FreedomFromME.co.uk