Healthy, beautiful skin, isn’t that what we all want?
The interesting fact about skin is that it can be a big indicator of overall health. Breakouts and skin problems can be a clue that something else is going on within our bodies that we may want to explore.
It is designed to give both physical and biochemical protection and is equipped with a large number of defence mechanisms against the damaging effects of the outer environment. It is generally agreed that our skin is also a major target of oxidative stress.
WHAT IS OXIDATIVE STRESS?
Oxidation is a normal and necessary process that takes place in our body. Oxidative stress is when there is an imbalance between free radical and antioxidants in your body. It affects the ability of the body to detoxify harmful effects. When functioning properly, free radicals can help fight off pathogens that lead to infections.
Free radicals – oxygen that contains molecules with one or more unpaired electrons that makes them easily react with other molecules. Free radicals can cause large chemical chain reaction called ‘oxidation’ that can be beneficial/ harmful for the body.
Antioxidants- Every cell that utilizes enzymes and oxygen to perform functions is exposed to oxygen free radical reactions that have the potential to cause serious damage to the cell. Antioxidants are molecules present in cells that prevent these reactions by donating an electron to the free radicals without making themselves unstable.
Let’s talk about the risk factors that may contribute to oxidative stress.
Everyone produces some free radicals naturally in their body through processes like exercise or inflammation. This is normal and part of the body’s system of keeping itself healthy.
You may also be exposed to free radicals in the environment. Some sources include:
- certain pesticides and cleaners
- cigarette smoke
A diet high in sugar, fat, and alcohol may also contribute to free radical production.
EFFECTS OF OXIDATIVE STRESS ON OUR BODY
Oxidative stress leads to many harmful conditions in the body. When there are more free radicals present than can be kept in balance by antioxidants, the free radicals can start doing damage to fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in our body. Some of these include neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart and blood vessel disorders (hypertension), heart diseases and inflammatory diseases. Oxidative stress also contributes to ageing
HOW DOES OXIDATIVE STRESS AFFECT OUR SKIN?
Think of an apple… What happens when an apple is cut in half? Within a very short period of time, oxidation occurs and the inner side of the apple turns dry and darker. The same process occurs on our skin, only it’s not as immediately visible as an apple.
Studies have shown that oxidative stress leads to chronic inflammation, which, in turn, can cause disrupts the collagen fibres and skin cell functions, and contributes to skin diseases including cancer. Free radicals can cause damage by cell and tissue breakdown that can result in further damage and disease—everything from wrinkles to increased pigmentation/ dark spots.
MANAGE OXIDATIVE STRESS, GET THOSE ANTIOXIDANTS INTO YOUR BODY!
There are things you can do to minimize the effects of oxidative stress on your body.
Given our daily lifestyle, it is impossible to completely avoid free radical exposure and oxidative stress, however, we can choose to prevent oxidative stress by ensuring that we are obtaining enough antioxidants in our diet.
Fruits and vegetables like berries, prunes, dark leafy greens, carrots and broccoli are the best way to provide your body what it needs to produce antioxidants.
- N -acetyl cysteine – is supplement form of L- cysteine, a semi-essential amino acid that is found in most high-protein foods, such as chicken, turkey, yoghurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds and legumes. L- cysteine is not an ‘essential’ amino acid and is not naturally produced in our body.
- Consuming adequate L- cysteine and NAC are important for a variety of health reasons, including replenishing the most powerful antioxidant in your body, glutathione. These amino acids also help with chronic respiratory conditions, fertility and brain health.
- NAC also plays a role in our body’s detox process and helps prevent liver and kidney damage due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
How can L-cysteine help our skin?
It favours pheomelanin production, a lighter pigment compared to eumelanin. Our skin color is determined by a pigment called melanin, and it comes in different forms and ratios.
Since it has very high skin-whitening abilities, it is used in various anti-spot medicines and nutrition tablets. L-cysteine helps the skin defend itself against sun damage.
Together with selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E, L-cysteine helps skin cells form the enzymes that keep a gene called p53 active. This gene triggers a series of steps that can kill a potentially cancerous cell. When p53 detects changes in skin DNA that could cause cancer, it shuts down the cell.
- Glutathione is one of the body’s most important antioxidants, which helps neutralize free radicals that can damage cells and tissues in your body. It’s essential for immune health, fighting cellular damage and help boost brain health.
- Carotenoids – reduce melasma and also prevent hyper-pigmentation. Carotenoids are a class of natural chemicals that primarily function as antioxidants. These carotenoids, when eaten, also goes preferentially into the skin. They absorb UV and stop melanin production which causes the skin to darken, giving your skin that pinkish glow. Carotenoids rich food is like tomatoes, pumpkins, apricots and carrots.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is not only essential to make collagen but it also acts as an antioxidant. Collagen, keratin and elastin are the main elements that help support skin strength, appearance, and prevent wrinkles. Fruits like oranges, pineapple, lemon, and grapes contain a rich amount of vitamin C.
Other healthy lifestyle choices can also prevent or reduce oxidative stress.
Here are some lifestyle choices that will help:
1. Keep your body active!
A regular, moderate exercise routine like cycling, walking or sports is associated with higher natural antioxidant levels and decreased damage caused by oxidative stress. It can even be as simple as an everyday routine of repetitive exercise for 30 minutes. Regular exercise helps to a longer lifespan, fewer effects of aging, and decreased risk of cancer and disease. Antioxidant enzymes in our bodies can be used over and over again, and these enzymes are up-regulated by exercise. The key is to ensure your workout is not too exhaustive so that free radical productions does not exceed the antioxidant level.
2. Don’t smoke. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke as well.
3. Avoid unnecessary radiation/ chemical exposure, and being aware of other sources of chemical exposure, such as pesticides used on food or in gardening.
4. Slap some sunscreen on! Sunscreen prevents ultraviolet light damage to your skin. Your sunscreen protects best when it has a minimum of SPF30 or higher and should be reapplied throughout the day to prevent UV damage.
5. Decrease your alcohol intake. Alcohol like beer, wine and liquor, when consumed in a limited amount (<70 ml a day) will not trigger oxidative stress. Chronic consumption of high dose alcohol results in many changes in the cellular function and the effects on its metabolism.
6. Hit the snooze button. Get plenty of sleep. Brain function, hormone production, antioxidant and free radical balance, and a host of other things are affected by sleep.
7. Stop overeating! We are what we eat. Overeating and constant eating have been proven to keep your body in a state of oxidative stress more often than if you maintain at an appropriate and healthy diet.
We can limit the amount of oxidative stress placed on our bodies by eating and living healthily, doing our best to prevent our body and skin to be exposed to dangerous environmental damages and participating in at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
We can also take antioxidants to supplement our diet to give that extra boost we need to get healthy glowing skin.
That’s all Folks!