Oxygen & Free Radicals
Oxygen: Too much of a good thing?
Oxygen is essential to survival. It is relatively stable in the air, but when too much is absorbed into the body it can become active and unstable and has a tendency to attach itself to any biological molecule, including molecules of healthy cells. The chemical activity of these free radicals is due to one or more pairs of unpaired electrons.
About 2% of the oxygen we normally breathe becomes active oxygen, and this amount increases to approximately 20% with aerobic exercise.
Such free radicals with unpaired electrons are unstable and have a high oxidation potential, which means they are capable of stealing electrons from other cells. This chemical mechanism is very useful in disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide and ozone which can be used to sterilize wounds or medical instruments. Inside the body these free radicals are of great benefit due to their ability to attack and eliminate bacteria, viruses and other waste products.
Active Oxygen in the body
Problems arise, however, when too many of these free radicals are turned loose in the body where they can also damage normal tissue.
Putrefaction sets in when microbes in the air invade the proteins, peptides, and amino acids of eggs, fish and meat. The result is an array of unpleasant substances such as:
- Hydrogen sulfide
These substances are also produced naturally in the digestive tract when we digest food, resulting in the unpleasant odor evidenced in feces. Putrefaction of spoiled food is caused by microbes in the air; this natural process is duplicated in the digestive tract by intestinal microbes. All these waste products of digestion are pathogenic, that is, they can cause disease in the body.
Hydrogen sulfide and ammonia are tissue toxins that can damage the liver. Histamines contribute to allergic disorders such as atopic dermatitis, urticaria (hives) and asthma. Indoles and phenols are considered carcinogenic. Because waste products such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, histamines, phenols and indoles are toxic, the body's defense mechanisms try to eliminate them by releasing neutrophils (a type of leukocyte, or white corpuscle). These neutrophils produce active oxygen, oddball oxygen molecules that are capable of scavenging disintegrating tissues by gathering electrons from the molecules of toxic cells.
When too many active oxygen molecules, or free radicals, are produced in the body they become reactive and can attach themselves to normal, healthy cells and cause damage by stealing electrons from normal, healthy biological molecules. This electron theft by active oxygen oxidizes tissue and can cause disease.
|Effect of Oxidation on Vital Organs|
|Oxidated Tissue||Leads to|
|Liver||Hepatitis, cirrhosis, cancer|
|Pancreas||Pancreatitis, diabetes, cancer|
Nephritis, nephrosis, cancer
Because active oxygen can damage normal tissue, it is essential to scavenge this active oxygen from the body before it can cause disintegration of healthy tissue. If we can find an effective method to block the oxidation of healthy tissue by active oxygen, then we can attempt to prevent disease.
Hydrogen sulfide, amonia, histamines, indoles, phenoles, and scatoles
present in the digestive tract of the human body.
In order to protect the body from damage by hydrogen sulfide, amonia,
histamines, indoels, phenoles and scatoles, neutrophils (leukocytes)
produce active oxygen to oxidize these waste products.