How do free radicals affect the body and vice versa?

Free radicals are formed naturally in the body as a byproduct of metabolism (oxidation). They can also be formed through external factors like smoking and pollutants. Let me break down the causes of free radicals from natural processes within the body to outside factors.
Natural cause External cause
metabolic functions cigarette smoke
exercise pollution
inflammation pesticides
illness or infection radiation
stress industrial chemicals
certain drugs
Free radicals may sound like a bad player in the health game but they’re also a natural part of your body’s function. For example, exercise creates free radicals but in general the mental and physical benefits of exercising will most likely outweigh the downsides of free radicals. So why are people freaking out over free radicals and trying to control them? It’s because when you have too many free radicals that your body can’t regulate, a condition known as oxidative stress happens. What is oxidative stress? Oxidative stress means that free radicals are triggering chain reactions in your body where proteins, lipids, and DNA are being altered. These alterations can increase your risk for a number of diseases.


So are free radicals ever good?

Actually, yes. Sometimes. The body uses free radicals for good. This includes killing pathogens and regulating cell growth. The immune system, for example, takes advantage of free radicals’ cell-damaging qualities and uses them to destroy pathogens. Pathogens are disease-causing organisms such as bacteria and viruses. Additionally, free radicals are crucial to many other bodily functions — including cell growth and death, stress responses, and metabolism. Depending on your overall health, minimizing free radical production may be as simple as lifestyle and diet choices. For example, antioxidants are one of the best defenders of free radicals and can easily be achieved through whole foods. This isn’t 100 percent foolproof, however, and can also vary widely based on your genetics as well as pre-existing conditions. Keep in mind there’s also no specific antioxidant that targets free radicals. It’s more about incorporating more holistic health choices and managing stress. Don’t focus on trying to reduce free radicals, focus on holistic health. Since free radicals are natural and unavoidable, you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to eliminate them (without success). We cannot actually fine tune the process of oxidative stress yet. We also understand that marketing has exploited our fear of free radicals (hey, they gotta sell those antioxidant products somehow), so if you have a condition and/or disease, it’s best to talk to a doctor about how to manage and treat your symptoms first rather than focusing on free radicals. And since free radicals can be produced through environmental and mental factors, there are some holistic health tips that can help with your stress levels.
  • Develop a regular exercise routine. This can lead to higher natural antioxidant levels and decreased damage caused by oxidative stress.
  • Increase intake of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables
  • Practice stress management and coping skills.
  • Decrease your alcohol intake.
  • Get enough sleep.