Oxygen is killing us. While its role as the breath of life is well known, the destructive nature of oxygen is more clandestine, slowly chipping away at our health until symptoms emerge.
Oxygen can break down the very cells that make up our tissues and organs, our bones and blood. It can damage DNA and critical enzymes. It can injure and stiffen our cell membranes, making the movement of nutrients in and out of cells more challenging while ruining our receptors for various hormones including testosterone, insulin, and thyroid.
We can hold our breaths for as long as we wish, but that would probably create an even bigger problem. Darned if you do. Darned if you don’t.
How does oxygen kill? The same way metal rusts and a half-eaten apple turns brown, by a process termed oxidation or oxidative stress.
The need for energy is something that we all have in common. The process of producing energy is called metabolism and is dependent upon the food we consume as well as the presence of oxygen. I’ll spare you the complicated details, but you likely already know where this process occurs. Flashback to sixth grade science class! Energy production takes place in the “powerhouse of the cell”, the mitochondria. The end result is the energy molecule ATP.
According to Dr. Russell Blaylock in his book Health and Nutrition Secrets that Can Save Your Life, “about 95 percent of the oxygen that enters our cells goes to the mitochondria…but 3-5 percent of this oxygen escapes in the form of free radicals”. As the name implies, free radicals are in fact free. Free to create havoc as they act like a packet of lit firecrackers burning the vital cellular apparatus including:
DNA: Tells your cells how to function. If your cells are getting the wrong instructions, malfunctions including cancer may occur.
Enzymes: The proteins that drive the chemical reactions within the cells. Some enzymes are responsible for damaging DNA. When free radicals oxidize DNA, these enzymes are responsible for coming to the rescue. If the enzymes are oxidized themselves, the DNA is left to fend for itself.
Membranes: Not only are cells enclosed within a fatty (lipid) bilayer, but the organelles within, such as the nucleus and endoplasmic reticulum, also have their own fatty acid-composed membranes. Free radicals burn these membranes. This process is called lipid peroxidation and is present in over 200 different diseases including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS.
Oxidative stress is an unavoidable part of life. However, degenerative disease does not have to be our inevitable fate. The key is to find out why our bodies may be generating excess free radicals and also to take the proper measures to neutralize them.
Tune in next time!