oxidative stress

When there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in our bodies, the result is something referred to as “oxidative stress.” What is oxidative stress in the body, and how can it affect your health? Keep reading to better understand what causes oxidative stress, and what you can do to help and bolster your antioxidant defenses.

What is Oxidative Stress?

“Oxidative stress” is the scientific term for a physiological condition that occurs when the body’s ability to fight against or neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) – commonly referred to as “free radicals” – is compromised. In order to understand what is oxidative stress in the body, it’s helpful to understand the two competing forces that are involved in oxidative stress: antioxidants and free radicals.


Antioxidants are substances that fight or neutralize free radicals, preventing, delaying, or repairing certain types of cellular damage that free radicals can cause. Antioxidants are the most important component in the body’s ability to defend against the effects of oxidative stress that may affect many areas of the body, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Immune system health
  • Neurological health
  • Aging process
  • Weight management
  • Appearance of skin
  • Energy levels
  • Feelings of motivation
  • And more

Free Radicals

Scientifically, free radicals are simply atoms that are highly reactive or unstable because of their chemical makeup. Free radicals are a normal byproduct of basic biological processes like energy production or immune response. In a healthy person, as long as they are balanced out by antioxidants, free radicals are not inherently harmful. Free radical production can also be created by environmental stressors or toxins, such as:

  • UV rays
  • Pollution
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Radiation
  • Heavy metals
  • Certain industrial chemicals and pesticides

Now that you know the difference between antioxidants and free radicals, you need to know about how they may affect the body.

How Does Oxidative Stress Affect the Body?

When the amount of free radicals in the body overwhelm the antioxidants available to fight them, it causes oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can occur in the short term in specific tissues following trauma, injury, infection, toxins, heat injury, and excessive exercise.

Oxidative stress can have a harmful effect on lipids, proteins, and DNA production in the body. it is believed to be a major contributing factor to a number of diseases and conditions, including:

  • All inflammatory diseases (like arthritis, lupus, vasculitis, and more)
  • Heart diseases
  • Stroke
  • Neurological or neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • Emphysema
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Hypertension and preeclampsia
  • Certain cancers

Some oxidative stress may be manageable. However, certain chronic conditions or use of tobacco and alcohol products may affect the effectiveness of your management strategy.

What Helps Combat Oxidative Stress?

Antioxidants are the best line of defense against oxidative stress. They come from a variety of sources. Scientists estimate that there are hundreds – if not thousands – of substances that act as antioxidants. Some types of antioxidants include:

  • Vitamin C and vitamin E
  • Beta-carotene (and other carotenoids)
  • Minerals like selenium and manganese
  • Glutathione
  • Resveratrol
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Lipoic acid
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols and polyphenols
  • Phytoestrogens
  • And more

Where do we get these antioxidants? A variety of sources. Our bodies can produce some types of the above antioxidants as part of a normal metabolism process, but not all. Antioxidants also need to come from dietary or supplement sources. Some dietary sources rich in certain types of antioxidants:

  • Beans (especially red beans and pinto beans)
  • Berries (blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries)
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Prunes
  • Dark leafy greens.

Supplements are another way to boost both the amount and the variety of types of antioxidants you’re able to take in through diet, to help your body combat against oxidative stress. Beneficial supplement sources of antioxidants include:

  • Resveratrol Supreme from Designs For Health is a powerful blend of antioxidants, Resveratrol Supreme combines trans-resveratrol and quercetin, two naturally occurring polyphenols. Found in Japanese Knotweed, berries, peanuts, grape skin and red wine, resveratrol has been greatly studied. Its antioxidant properties may help protect cells from damaging free radicals, maintaining optimal health in every part of the body.
  • Glutathione-SR from Thorne Research contains natural antioxidants with a sustained-release form of glutathione for optimal support of liver, pulmonary, bowel, cardiovascular, cognitive and eye health. They’re also important for immune function and carbohydrate metabolism.
  • Raw Resveratrol 350 Mg from Garden of Life provides 23 organically grown fruits and vegetables, including Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes, plus live probiotics and digestive enzymes that seek to support antioxidant activity, heart health, and healthy aging.

Prior to starting a new supplement, consult with your primary care physician to learn more about lifestyle changes, therapies, and treatments that may help to support your individual health goals.