What Are Free Radicals & How Do They Damage the Body?

Updated on & Medically Reviewed by Dr Lalitha
What Are Free Radicals & How Do They Damage the Body?

We are all aware that excess free radicles cause damage to almost all cells in the body and lead to various chronic diseases and accelerate ageing. Read on and know what these free radicles can do to you and how do we tackle them.

What are Free Radicals in the Body?

A free radical is an atom or molecule that contains 1 or more unpaired electrons and is always looking to steal electrons from other atoms and molecules, thereby causing their oxidation. This ‘Oxidative Stress’ caused by these free radicles damages the cells in our body.

Free radicals such as superoxide, hydroxyl radicals, nitric oxide (NO), and peroxy-nitrite are highly active chemical substances that easily react with other molecules. They are exceptionally destructive, indiscriminately causing protein deterioration, cell membrane destruction, DNA damage, cell death, and organ failure.

free radicals in body

How Free Radicals are Formed in the Human Body?

Free radicals can be formed by infections (such as the Corona Virus), radiation, environmental toxins, tobacco smoke, excessive exercise, etc. our body also makes free radicals when it converts fat to energy.

Our body normally has a scavenging mechanism in place which can remove free radicles. It is when this scavenging mechanism gets overloaded, that problems start.

Molecules called antioxidants can interact and stabilize free radicals. Many dietary antioxidants are vitamins (such as beta-carotene and vitamins E and C) that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. Many are also available as supplements.

What Is Oxidative Stress?

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the free radicals and antioxidants in our body. Free radicles which are always in search of electrons to grab from other molecules, cause the other molecule to be oxidized when they grab the electron from them, thereby leading to their damage.

This happens daily in a small manner when we are regularly exposed to small amounts of germs in our environment, which is beneficial to help build a healthy immune system.

During pathological events, such as viral infections, there may be an increase in the production of oxidant species not neutralized by the antioxidant system, resulting in oxidative stress causing cellular damage through protein denaturation, changes in the functions of nucleic acids, lipid peroxidation, and cell death.

Factors that can Increase Free Radicals / Oxidative Stress in the Body

  • Inadequate sleep
  • Lack of a nutritious diet,
  • Obesity
  • Too little or too much exercise,
  • Stressful work/home environments,
  • Constipation,
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

How Can You Decrease Your Oxidative Stress and Free Radical Damage?

free radicals damage

Lead a Healthy Lifestyle to the extent possible, by avoiding junk food, getting adequate exercise, having a good sleep, no smoking and restricted alcohol intake

Intake of dietary antioxidants which are available in vitamins, herbs, fruits, and vegetables, and specifically made dietary supplements also help in eradicating the free radicles.

Free radicle scavengers or anti-oxidants are also sometimes called ‘immune boosters’, immunity enhancers, etc, in general terms.

“Love yourself, heal yourself, only you can help yourself. Be informed and take action towards building a bright future.”

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Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please talk to a healthcare professional.

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