Most consumers know about the countless man-made toxins present in the environment. Some of the strongest ones—smog, cigarette smoke, chemicals, plastics and pesticides—are at the root of what we collectively call “oxidative stress.”
As you breathe, your body interacts constantly with oxygen, and your cells produce energy. One consequence of this activity is the production of highly reactive molecules known as “free radicals.” No doubt you’ve heard of them, possibly related to the beginnings of cancer, and you know they’re not good. Free radicals—the troublemaking molecules—interact with other molecules within your cells. This can cause oxidative damage to proteins, membranes and genes. Scientists have linked oxidative damage to the cause of many disorders and diseases, such as:
- Autoimmune disease
- Birth defects
- Dermatitis/skin rashes
- Fertility problems
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Nervous system disorders
To fight back against oxidative stress, or the damaging potential of free radicals, the body produces an army of antioxidants. The job of antioxidants is to neutralize free radicals that can harm our cells. How well your body can produce antioxidants—the body’s metabolic process—is determined by your genetic makeup, and influenced by your exposure to environmental factors such as the chemicals surrounding you at home and at work. More than anything, the strength of your body’s antioxidant pool is set by lifestyle factors such as the over-consumption of alcohol, trans fats, pesticides, over-the-counter medications and other chemicals.
Unhealthy lifestyle changes, some of which we cannot control—including more environmental pollution and less dietary quality over the years—expose us to more free radicals than ever before. Our bodies just don’t produce enough antioxidants to neutralize all of the free radicals to which we are exposed on a daily basis.
You can help your body defend itself, however, by increasing your dietary intake of antioxidants, and reducing or eliminating the toxins to which you are exposed.
We all want to pare down our free radical exposure and fight those destructive molecules! Here are some tips that will help:
- Design a diet for yourself that’s rich in organic whole foods: fruits and veggies, whole grains, free-range poultry free of hormones and antibiotics, (grass fed) meats, and organic dairy products.
- Drink only clean filtered water. Don’t drink from plastic bottles—glass or stainless steel only!
- Stay away from fast food!
- Avoid all pesticides in food and at home, inside and in your yard and garden.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Avoid using over-the-counter medications.
- Stay as far away from trans fats as you can!
- Throw out your unhealthy cleaning products.
- Use only natural air fresheners.
- Here’s a great challenge: Try to cut back on plastics in every area of your life, especially eating and drinking! Click here for healthy tips on plastic.
- Take your microwave to the recycling center.
- Use VOC-free paint in your home.
- Get rid of mold in your bathroom and heating/air conditioning units.
- Invest in a good vacuum with a HEPA filter.
- Tear out your wall-to-wall carpeting and use smaller rugs that can be washed.
- Control dust mites around the house.
- Start a “healthy office” campaign at work.
This list isn’t complete, but it will give you a great start towards putting oxidative stress out of your life.
Don’t try to rush through the list; give yourself plenty of time so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by all the changes. Even tackling one or two items each month would enhance your life—and before you know it, you’ll have a healthier body and home!
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