RAY D. STRAND, M.D.

Specialist in Nutritional Medicine

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Oxidative Stress

Even though the average life expectancy in the United States has increased dramatically during this past century, our quality of life due to chronic degenerative disease has taken a major hit. We are essentially "living too short and dying too long". Most of us can simply look forward to suffering and dying from heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, macular degeneration, and the list goes on and on, unless we literally attack the underlying cause of All of these diseases—oxidative stress.

How long do you expect to live? Now envision what your last twenty years will look like. I can assure you my patients today are not as concerned with the number of years in their lives as they are the quality of life in those years. Who wants to live to a ripe old age if he or she cannot even recognize close family members because of Alzheimer’s dementia? Who looks forward to a decade or two of suffering severe joint or back pain due to degenerative arthritis?

One of my close friends told me recently that he simply wants to live until he dies. Is this your desire? It certainly is mine. That is why I recommend preventative rather than post-problem medicine—empowering people to avoid getting major diseases in the first place. Over the past seven years, I have changed my approach. I now strongly encourage and support my patients in taking a three-fold approach to health: eating well, practicing a consistent exercise program, and daily consuming high-quality nutritional supplements. I now use medication as a last resort—not as my first choice.

Do you fear growing old? Have you accepted chronic disease or pain as a given in your future? Are you willing to make necessary life changes to ensure your health? I believe a full and abundant physical life does not need to start slipping away at age forty. Each year of your life can be your very best. But first you must understand the war that is waging within every one of our bodies.

Oxygen is essential for life itself. But did you know it is also inherently dangerous to our existence? I call this the "dark side" of oxygen. And as a result, we are essentially rusting both inside and out. The same process that causes a cut apple to turn brown or iron to rust is the cause of all the chronic degenerative diseases we fear and even the aging process itself.

Consider the aging of our skin. Oxidative stress is the cause of wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots. The next time you are with a large gathering of people of different ages, observe closely the change you see in people’s skin. Aging is a process we all take for granted, but when you look more closely, and compare a baby’s face, to that of a grandparent’s, the effects of our largest organ being exposed to all the pollutants in the air, sunlight, and cigarette smoke is baffling. This aging of the skin is an outward manifestation of "oxidative stress," which is occurring within every cell in your body.

Over the past 7 years, I have reviewed well over 2,000 medical and scientific studies in regards to nutritional supplements and their affect on your health. These studies appearing in medical journals like the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, British Lancet, and Annuals of Internal Medicine report that beyond any doubt the "root" cause of well over 70 chronic degenerative diseases is "oxidative stress." These are the "who’s who" of diseases we all fear and want to avoid; diseases like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s dementia, macular degeneration, lupus, MS, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. "So what," you may be wondering, "is ‘oxidative stress’?"

Within every cell of the body is a furnace called the mitochondria. As oxygen is utilized within the furnace of the cell to create energy and life itself, occasionally a charged oxygen molecule is created, called a "free radical." This free radical has at least one unpaired electron in its outer orbit essentially giving it an electrical charge. If this free radical is not readily neutralized by an antioxidant it can go on to create more volatile free radicals, damage the cell wall, vessel wall, proteins, fats, and even the DNA nucleus of our cells. Chemically this reaction has been shown to be so volatile that it actually causes bursts of light within our bodies!

Imagine yourself in front of a crackling fireplace and I’ll give you the best illustration I have to explain the process of oxidation. The fire burns safely and beautifully most of the time, but on occasion out pops a hot cinder that lands on your carpet and burns a little hole in it. One cinder by itself doesn’t pose much of a threat; but if this sparking and popping continues month after month, year after year, you will have a pretty "ratty" carpet in front of your fireplace.

The fireplace represents the furnace of the cell (the mitochondria), the cinder is the charged "free radical," and the carpet is your body. Whichever part of your body receives the most free radical damage will be the first to wear out and potentially cause one of these degenerative diseases. If it’s your arteries, you could develop a heart attack or stroke. If it is your brain, you could develop Alzheimer’s dementia or Parkinson’s disease. If it’s your joints, you could develop arthritis.

Through biochemical research we’re learning that we are not defenseless against this attack on our body by free radicals. Antioxidants are like the glass doors or fine-wire mesh we place in front of our fireplace. The sparks are still going to fly but our carpet will then be protected. As you begin to imagine the war that is taking place within every cell in your body, you can envision the two opposing forces: the enemy—free radicals; and your allies—antioxidants and their supporting nutrients.

Living a healthy life becomes a matter of balance. You must have enough antioxidants available to readily neutralize the number of free radicals your body produces. If you don’t, "oxidative stress" will occur. When this oxidative stress is allowed to persist over a prolonged period of time, you will most likely develop a serious chronic degenerative disease.

Each of us must ask, "Am I getting enough antioxidants from my diet to protect myself from this onslaught of free radicals or do I need to be taking nutritional supplements?" This is the question that I’ve had to ask myself as I have spent countless hours researching medical literature. You see I was taught in medical school that you don’t need supplements—that you can get everything you need from a good, healthy diet. And this is what I told my patients for years. I was wrong.

Since balance is the key, we need to look closely at the individual players that are at war within. The number of free radicals you produce each and every day is never the same. All the pollutants in our air, food, and water dramatically increase the number of free radicals we produce. Enormous stress, excessive exercise, cigarette smoke, sunlight, radiation, and every drug prescribed greatly increase the number of free radicals produced in the body. In fact, there has never been a generation on this planet subjected to more oxidative stress than this present one. We are literally under attack from our polluted environment, stressful lifestyles, and over-medicated society.

This ongoing attack is depriving us of our most precious gift—our health. But God did not leave us defenseless against this onslaught by free radicals. In fact, we actually have our own army of antioxidants, which are able to neutralize free radicals and render them harmless. In generations past, these defense systems were sufficient. Unfortunately this is no longer the case. Our bodies’ defense systems need additional allies.

Most antioxidants come from vegetables and fruit. This creates a gap in our protection, because our foods have become significantly depleted in their content of antioxidants and supporting minerals as a result of mineral depletion in our soils, green harvesting, cold storage, foods that are highly processed, our poor food choices and food preparation.

At a time when we are under the heaviest attack from the environment around us, our natural defense systems are becoming overwhelmed and depleted. We must do all we can to rebuild our antioxidant systems with a healthy diet, but too you need to learn how complete and balanced nutritional supplementation with high quality supplements (cellular nutrition) is our best hope in winning this war within and protecting our health.

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