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Oxidative stress is a constant force in our everyday life. When our body is able to handle and adapt effectively to the oxidative stressors we are able to get stronger and healthier. However, when the stressors become too much for our body to adapt too, we get weaker and sicker.
Elevated oxidative stress is the major factor in degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and neurodegenerative diseases. These occur over many years of inability to successfully adapt to the oxidative stressors. This happens when the body’s antioxidant defenses are insufficient to neutralize dangerous free radical compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Measuring Oxidative Stress and Anti-Oxidant Protection
Anti-oxidants have a powerful anti-inflammatory action in the body and protect the cells, tissues and organs from inflammatory and oxidative stressors. This is a critical player in healthy aging, high quality of life and chronic disease prevention.
Anti-oxidant needs can vary between individuals and so clinical testing has been developed in order to assess an individual’s level of oxidative stress and anti-oxidant compounds. This testing allows the practitioner to pinpoint the key deficiencies that are limiting the body’s ability to adapt and heal.
Glutathione (GSH) is the most potent endogenous anti-oxidant in the body. This is comprised of glutamic acid, cysteine and glycine. It plays an enormous role in protecting the DNA and mitochondrial components from oxidative stress. It is also a critical component to the successful detoxification of xenobiotic particles such as organochlorides found in plastics and pesticides and potent endocrine disrupters like PCB’s in the body.
A deficiency in GSH is implicated in every chronic degenerative disease. Health and longevity are both strongly related to increased blood GSH levels. During times of increased oxidative stress and inflammation, GSH is upregulated in order to protect the body.
This is a semi-essential amino acid that is considered the rate-limiting amino acid in GSH synthesis. This refers to cysteine’s critical role in donating its sulfhydryl or thiol (-SH) group to GSH which allows GSH to act as an intracellular anti-oxidant.
Cysteine also acts as an extracellular anti-oxidant and is a precursor for taurine (necessary for magnesium metabolism), protein synthesis and the development of Coenzyme Q10. Cysteine depletion leads to GSH insufficiency and a wide variety of health challenges.
Cysteine and Cysteine/Cystine Ratio:
As cysteine (Cys) is being used to fend off free radicals it is converted into its disulfide form: cystine (CySS). GSH and vitamin C help to restore CySS back to CyS where it can be used to regenerate GSH and perform its other functions.
GSH goes through a similar oxidation and forms Glutathione Disulfide (GSSG) and is then reduced back to its anti-oxidant form GSH through the action of the glutathione reductase enzyme.
The ratio of Cys:CySS and GSH:GSSG are great functional measures to look at the redox balance in the body. The redox balance refers to the balance between reducing agents (anti-oxidants) and oxidative agents (free radicals).
Total Anti-Oxidant Capacity (TAC):
The TAC assesses the ability of the individual’s blood specimen to inhibit oxidation reaction that is induced in a laboratory setting. So the TAC reveals the power of all the anti-oxidants synergistically.
Sulfate and Cysteine/Sulfate Ratio:
The oxidation of sulfur in the body produces sulfate which is critical for phase II liver detoxification processes. Sulfate is also a key factor in mucin formation in the gastrointestinal tract and glycosaminoglycan formation in articular cartilage.
The conversion of cysteine into sulfate is called sulfoxidation. When any of the part of this biochemical process are compromised it can lead to sulfate deficiencies and elevated sulfite levels.
When this conversion is inadequate the individual is unable to effectively detoxify and their gut membrane is more susceptible to damage. This leads to leaky gut, digestive disorders, cancer and neurodegenerative states. They are also at risk for accelerated joint degenerative states throughout the body.
The body produces specific enzymes that help to balance and stabilize anti-oxidant compounds. These enzymes include superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx). The levels of these enzymes give an important indication in the effectiveness of the bodies anti-oxidant defense systems.
Any good test for oxidative stress should be looking at these 2 critical enzymes.
Biomarkers Of Oxidative Stress
It is important to assess for biomarkers of oxidative stress. In particular, oxidative stress effects the cell membrane which consists of lipids. The breakdown and oxidation of these lipids creates a byproduct called lipid peroxidases.
It is possible for an individual to have normal levels of anti-oxidants but have elevated biomarkers of oxidative stress. This happens when the body is in acute phase of oxidative stress or when the individual is supplementing with major anti-oxidant compounds but the major inflammatory cascades have yet to be quenched.
The major biomarker we are looking for is lipid peroxidases.
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