The Stressor Setback: Everything you need to know about oxidative stress 

A look at the silent cause of deteriorating health
Representational image.
Representational image.

New age, new terms. If you’re familiar with stress, here comes another additive: oxidative stress (OS). Described as an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and antioxidant defence, this exudes king-sized damage in our bodies. Many factors can bring on its impact: environmental pollution, poor diet, smoking, excessive alcohol etc. Align yourself with the how-to of OS to retune your operating system.

Kochi-based Dr Kumara Panicker Gopakumar, scientist at, delineates the delicate difference effectively. “Oxidative stress is caused by a chemical reaction. Free radicals are responsible for its formation. Uncharged molecules spontaneously dimerise because they have an unpaired valency electron. The chemical reactions involving free radicals can result in the production of chemicals inside our bodies that are toxic to us,” he says.

“To counter the effect, our body produces antioxidants, also called free radical scavengers, like Vitamin D and squalene. But these are often overpowered, resulting in oxidative stress: that is conclusively a disturbance in the balance between the formation of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and antioxidant defence.” Certain additional factors like exposure to ozone, or to pesticides and insecticides can compound the occurrence of oxidative stress in our bodies. When there is this kind of stress, it causes a breakdown in the cell not just of the skin but also on the internal organs, putting the body into a state of stress. 

“The effect of oxidative stress registers in the form of dry skin, hyperpigmentation, blotchy skin, premature ageing. The skin being the first immune barrier in a body when put under stress, will immediately index early inflammation. Oxidative stress can be contacted by oral antioxidants with lycopene, curcumin, alpha-lipoic acid, ubiquinone, Vitamin C, Vitamin E,” explains cosmetic dermatologist Dr Chytra V Anand, founder, Kosmoderma Clinics and Skin Q, Bengaluru. “Topical applications like Vitamin C and federal lick acid serums protect the skin from stress stemming from UV radiation.” Other tell-tale signs include fatigue, memory loss, brain fog, muscular or joint discomfort, and wrinkles. 

Looking at cultivating a fresher profile? Cut out sugar, processed foods and those foods with saturated fats. “Fat oxidation produces free radicals, which produce over 200 volatile carbonyl chemicals that are hazardous to our health,” cautions Gopakumar, adding, “Eat green vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, walnuts, and peaches as they aid in antioxidant production. Increase the intake of squalene, a free radical scavenger. Up to one percent of it is found in olive oil. It is found in abundance in deep-sea shark liver oil, and in modest levels in rice bran and vegetable oils.”

✥ Make time for physical and mental relaxation. Regular walks, time spent in nature, and meditation help.
✥ Get adequate sleep to boost antioxidant levels. Skip night-time binge-watching.
✥ Overeating increases free radical production. Have moderate meals spaced out throughout the day. 
✥ Shun frozen and processed foods. Opt for organic food.

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