Whether we realize it or not, we are always in a survival response as part of our biological programming – the need to survive, is actually just a permanent characteristic of being human. It is our biological reality. It is that same ‘submerged’ cellular programming that is being acted out on the greater stage of life, that drives and motivates us to improve our health and our lives.
Every single cell in our body is programmed to live out its functions both in itself and as part of a co-operative for the whole, and for that cell and organism to survive in health. The body and cellular functions are nothing short of a battlefield, with each cell fending off about 10,000 free radical attacks every second, and with trillions of cells acting out this. Those free radicals may be due to outside threats such as viral, bacterial, fungal, heavy metal, chemical or other environmental toxins, or free radicals produced by our own cells in the course of manufacturing chemical energy from food and the elimination of wastes.
How the body protects itself
Antioxidants are our major primary cellular defence mechanism. It has been found that women live longer than men as they overexpress a gene that codes for a particular antioxidant enzyme called superoxidase dismutase ( SOD), far more powerful than anything found in food, and the bodies singularly most powerful intracellular antioxidant. Without this enzyme, genetically engineered mice will die in a few days, due to the typical free radical onslaught and oxidative damage happening in a biological system.
Our immune systems will also mop up dead tissue and cells as our bodies are in a process of continuous regeneration, as well as their recognition and destruction of any foreign microbes that might threaten health. Using highly sophisticated antioxidant, immune and detoxification defence systems, a critical part of our gene pool is programmed for us to survive and thrive, and it never stops in aspiring to that endeavour.
Another major survival initiative is through stem cells that are in our blood stream and tissues, that can differentiate into any type of tissue in the body. If that tissue has been damaged, they are programmed to replace that tissue with a perfect copy. As children we have lots of those stem cells. They diminish with age and they can become oxidised and damaged themselves. That’s why we don’t regenerate the same way when we are older. But there are things we can do to stimulate and preserve those stem cells.
Stress, Exercise and Sleep
Keeping an emotional and mental balance is very important i.e. avoiding negative emotional states or habits that effectively maintain us in a chronic stress response. And of course avoiding environmental and dietary toxins that can cause oxidative cell damage, inclusive of stem cell damage. Supplementing with antioxidants, particularly ones that upregulate the production of our most powerful intracellular antioxidants such as SOD, glutathione peroxidase and catalase, is an important anti-ageing initiative in an increasingly toxic world. Polyphenols found in green tea, pine bark extract and pomegranate work in this respect and also the carotenoids in natural Astaxanthin, which work as signalling molecules as well as direct antioxidants. Broccoli sprout powder with a demonstrated high sulforophane content, is shown to activate over 2000 genes involved in antioxidant and detoxification defence. Nutrigenomics, or the science of how nutrients influence genes, is at the new cutting-edge of research into chronic disease, characterised by ‘silent inflammation’ and oxidative stress as the primary upstream factors involved in disease expression.
The natural upregulation of these antioxidant defences can also happen after short exposure to a stressor such as exercise. If we do take antioxidants such as Vit C, we should avoid taking them just before or immediately after exercise as research has shown that this will switch off this natural production. A little bit of stress is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as we feel well afterwards, we know it is a positive thing. Taking the antioxidant later in the day, well after exercise, would be a better plan. It is now suspected that modest doses of antioxidants that act as ‘signalling molecules’ might be a better approach than swamping the body with high levels of regular antioxidants, that are far from optimal at promoting cell defences, and which may discourage our own natural production.
Experts who have studied stem cells found that exercise and getting sufficient sleep, promote stem cell regeneration. Fasting for a few days in particular has been found to be a significant stimulator of stem cell regeneration and activity. Antioxidant and detoxification upregulation during exercise or a fast is likely a key physiological component of stem cell regeneration, as well as the body throwing the toxins out of harms way. Again, a little bit of free radical stress in a controlled setting or environment is not a bad thing, in an otherwise healthy individual.
It is worth considering that in the modern world brimming with environmental toxins, these ancient gene defence systems are being challenged and often overwhelmed, with an increase in chronic disease the result. The gene pool itself is being progressively undermined and damaged as has been noted by geneticists since the advent of commercial and personalised DNA testing, which checks for gene polymorphisms, or mutations. As our gene pool is increasingly vulnerable and with mutations already common, there appears to be a strong case for regular nutrigenomic antioxidant supplementation, which upregulates our own natural production of antioxidants and detoxification capacity. The use of nutrigenomics in healthy individuals should be staggered to allow for a natural and endogenous response to free radical production during exercise or a fast. In those that are chronically unwell and who already have high oxidative stress and inflammation, then supplementation should be on a regular basis.
It is estimated that residents of New York and Chicago have gained about two years lifespan on average, since the Clean Air Act was introduced in the 1970’s, which cut particulate pollution by half. Breathing is something we all do 24 hours a day, and air quality has a vastly underrated impact on our health and well-being. Urban traffic air pollution, which also includes agricultural chemical and spray drift and for that matter, whatever was in the air in Beijing last week, is now linked to not only heart and lung problems but accelerated mental decline and reproductive disorders. As a singular polluting agent, carbon monoxide emissions from car exhaust have 200 times the affinity for haemoglobin and red blood cells than oxygen does. This lethal colourless and odourless gas will soon displace oxygen and cause death if breathed in, in an enclosed space, a well recognized hazard. The elderly already have reduced blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain through atherosclerotic change and it comes as no surprise that accelerated mental decline is now linked to air pollution. Increased fatigue is always a sign of some type of oxidative stress. It is a social and political travesty and tragedy to locate retirement homes next to main roads.
What We Need To Do
If possible, avoid living near or breathing in fumes from heavily trafficked areas. Grow lots of plants in your yard or garden that increase oxygen levels and help purify the air around your residence. Cultivate a variety of indoor pot plants, many of which have been shown by NASA to neutralise volatile organic compound emissions (VOC’s) from paints, walls, furniture and carpets. Peace Lily loves indoors and has been shown to significantly reduce formaldehyde and benzene levels, both known carcinogens.
It is best to keep windows open to dilute household VOC’s. This will also reduce radon gas build up that enters homes or offices through fine cracks in concrete floor slabs, known to cause 20,000 lung cancer deaths a year in the U.S. Radon gas which is a natural breakdown product of uranium in soil, is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. A radon gas test kit is listed and is readily available on government web sites, who are aware of but strangely silent about this potential hazard. Air conditioners will simply recirculate the radon gas.
EMF, mobile phones and Wi Fi have been shown to exert their harmful effects through oxidative stress. The French have already banned Wi Fi use in pre-school or children’s nurseries. This may be an insidious factor involved in declining health, particularly as we age and are increasingly vulnerable. If you participate wholeheartedly in everything that technology has to offer, be aware that we are all part of a huge social experiment, where government for corporations is favoured over government for the people. Minimising exposure where possible may be a prudent approach.
- Get out of the way.
- Let nature do what it was programmed to do.
- Eat natural whole organic foods, exercise or work outdoors in sunshine if possible (sit as little as possible) and drink filtered or springwater.
- Plan and execute the occasional fast.
- Take the right antioxidants at the right time.
- If you live in the city, escape to the bush or the beach as often as you can.
If you need guidance in the treatment of this or any other condition, please make an appointment with one of our practitioners.
This article is for information purposes only. Please refer to our Medical Disclaimer policy for more information. The opinions expressed here represents the author’s and not necessarily those of Realize Health. In addition, thoughts and opinions change from time to time due to updates in research and as a necessary consequence of having an open mind. Views expressed in out-of-date posts may not be the same to those we hold today.