What is rust? Well, the technical/scientific name for rust is called oxidation. You are probably familiar with rust as it relates to metals. Essentially, rust occurs when oxygen comes in contact with the metal. The extent of the “rust” or oxidation is dependent on how long the oxygen is in contact with the substance. Hence, the older the car, the rustier it gets. Other common examples of oxidation are when an apple turns brown after being cut into, and when a copper penny turns green.
Now, how are rust and aging synonymous? Living tissues can rust, that is they can oxidize. As you know, oxygen is our most important “nutrient” so there is no way around it. When living tissues oxidize they produce molecules called free radicals. This is where the aging comes in. I’ll do my best to explain what a free radical is without boring you.
Most stable molecules inside the body have a balanced electrical charge, with an evenly paired number of electrons, giving it a neutral charge. Free radicals, on the other hand, are highly unstable molecules that have an unpaired electron with an extra negative charge. These free radicals then react with other molecules in an attempt to “steal” an electron in order to become electrically balanced. This sets off a chain-reaction by creating another unstable molecule that again seeks balance by “stealing” an electron from a stable molecule, and so on. During this process of “stealing” electrons, the unstable molecules that are created cause tissue damage.
As you know it’s the process of a chemical reaction known as oxidation that produces these free radicals. The terms “oxidative stress” (or “oxidative damage”) is often used when referring to free radical tissue destruction. Keep in mind, oxidation reactions are a normal and necessary part of a person’s biochemistry. However, there are many ways that we get exposed to an excess amount of free radicals. These include, but are not limited to: unhealthy, processed, chemically-laden food and tainted water, pesticides, smoke and smog, radiation (x-ray, cosmic, etc.), sunlight, toxic chemicals in plastics, and from environmental pollution in general. The list is practically endless. But think unnatural, synthetic chemicals especially, along with poor dietary choices.
This is where antioxidants come into the picture to stop the chain reaction caused by free radicals. Antioxidants have the ability to “donate” an electron, thus stabilizing or deactivating the free radical. As a result, the chain reaction stops because the free radical becomes electrically balanced without the need to “steal” electrons and disrupt other molecules. Finally, the tissue damage stops.
Now that you understand the concept of oxidative (free radical) damage. Let’s move a step further to talk about the impact free radicals can have on the body in a way that we can relate. Here are some common examples. Oxidative damage to the… blood vessels causes arterio- and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arterioles and arteries) leading to heart disease and stroke; brain causes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease; eyes causes cataracts and macular degeneration; skin causes wrinkles, sagging and “age spots”; connective tissue causes faulty collagen and elastin formation, possibly leading to tendonitis/osis, and other musculoskeletal complications and injuries; etc.. Oxidative damage has also been implicated in all types of cancer. (Don’t get me wrong, free radicals may not be the only reason these conditions occur.)
So remember, the key to stopping this damage is through an abundant supply of antioxidants. Just about every fruit and vegetable contains one or more antioxidants. Organic food would obviously be better, because it would help avoid the exposure to pesticides. Also, your body innately has antioxidant enzyme systems in place to help counteract the normal oxidation reactions that occur naturally.
There are hundreds of antioxidants and you probably already know some. There are so many great food sources that are readily available; blueberries, pomegranate (w/out added sugar) and cocao (the unadulterated “chocolate” bean) come to my mind first. With the current state of the environment it’s often extremely help to add some by way of supplementing. Again there are dozens. I prefer grape seed extract, alpha lipoic acid, green tea extract, co-enzyme Q10, N-acetyl cysteine, bilberry, milk thistle, turmeric, rosemary, and so on. Also, don’t forget the basics – vitamins A, C, and E. Additionally, the minerals manganese, copper, zinc, and selenium are necessary to make the body’s own natural antioxidants known as superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase.
So how do we know which antioxidant would be best to take? As an applied kinesiologist, I would use muscle testing to “challenge” the body. One way might be to have a person inhale a very small amount of chlorine bleach (one of the most oxidative substances) in order to smell the vapors, and see if a previously facilitated muscle becomes inhibited. If so, the person can ingest different types of anitoxidants to see which one(s) returns the muscle to a facilitated state. Or, pick your favorite color of the many anitoxidant rich fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology