Free Radicals and Our Health
We can’t avoid them,
but we can mitigate their effects with proper nutrition.
By Franklin St. John
Almost any human activity results in the formation of free radicals in the body. In addition, there are many outside things that, when they enter our bodies, can cause free radicals to form there.
Why are those facts significant to our health? Let me start out by explaining what a free radical is.
If you’ve taken a chemistry class, you may already understand
that a free radical is an atom or compound that’s missing an electron in its
outer shell. Electrons like to be paired up, so atoms that need to complete their
outer shells will do so by “mating.” For instance, sodium (Na) has one electron
in its outer shell, but it wants two. Chlorine (Cl) has seven electrons in its
outer shell, but it wants eight. So when Cl comes in contact with Na, they “mate”
to form NaCl—sodium chloride, or ordinary table salt. Inside the body, however,
free radicals end up scavenging for electrons—damaging our cells, our proteins
and our DNA along the way.
Since any physiological process can produce free radicals, there
probably was never a time when free radicals weren’t forming in our bodies. We
can neutralize them by eating lots of fruits and vegetables; that’s all well
and good. But with the pollutants in the air we breathe, the chemicals we
ingest when we eat processed food, our overexposure to the sun, and the
physically punishing activities we engage in, from hard labor to contact
sports, we still have the potential for severe health problems. (I often wonder
whether the constant pounding and abuse football players’ bodies must withstand
has something to do with the health problems those players sometimes encounter
later in life.)
There is no doubt that eating properly is the key to good health, but that’s easier said than done. If we sometimes fail in our quest to eat properly, daily supplements can be part of the answer.
By having green tea concentrate in water several times a day,
we reap two benefits: One, we’re drinking water, and two, we’re adding
ever-important polyphenols to our diet. A lot has been written about the health
benefits of polyphenols. They’ve been shown to help prevent dangerous conditions
like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. (I recommend that
you look up green tea polyphenols and read about their documented health
benefits. If you look it up yourself, what you learn will be more meaningful to
you than just having me recite the benefits.)
While polyphenols are among the most potent antioxidants we
can take for fighting free radical damage in the body, there are other
effective antioxidants too, such as those found in many fruits. The problem
with eating fruit to fight free radicals is that we would have to eat so much
of it that we couldn’t keep up with our bodies’ need. That’s why supplements,
including certain concentrates, are an important tool for maintaining good
Ultimately, we are in charge of our own bodies, and so we
should learn as much as we can about protecting them and our good health.
Franklin St. John,
doctor of Chinese medicine and founder of HerbaSway Laboratories, was taught
traditional Chinese herbal medicine by a Taoist master from the mountains of
China. For more information about HerbaSway products, call 1.800.672.7322 or