Chemists define a free radical as a molecule with at least one unpaired electron. Stated that way, it sounds harmless, but an oxygen free radical in the body is anything but. Oxygen free radicals are unstable and desperate to return to stability. They attack our cells in an effort to find an element that can accomplish this. Normally, your chemistry — particularly the balance of antioxidants and oxidizing agents — holds the damage in check. But when you don’t have enough antioxidants or you have too many oxidizing agents (as a result of inflammation, aging, bad nutrition, or even exercise) your cells are said to be under oxidative stress.
Millions of processes throughout the body can result in oxidation, particularly when your immune system is fighting off infection with inflammation and when your cells are trying to detoxify themselves of pesticides, cigarette smoke, and other insults of modern civilization. Some observers believe that oxidative stress is responsible for
- muscle pain
- joint pain
- memory loss
- failing eyesight
- susceptibility to infection
That is a pretty long list, and many of us struggle with such conditions even if we are relatively healthy. But if you have oxidative stress, you should probably attend to it. According to Wikipedia, oxidative stress is thought to be involved in the development of ADHD, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, heart failure, myocardial infarction, infection, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression.
Some sources say that you can limit oxidative stress by avoiding infections, using sunscreen, embracing a diet rich in antioxidants, and exercising care with toxins such as alcohol, tobacco, and chemicals. We also have services at Peak Recovery & Health Center that can help to control oxidative stress: cryotherapy and photobiomodulation.
Cryotherapy. Can cryotherapy reduce oxidative stress? A 2010 report (PDF) in The Journal of Medical Investigation found that sessions of whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) substantially increased total antioxidant status (TAS) in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. TAS, which is measured with a blood test, is lower in MS patients than it is in healthy people. The obvious impact on antioxidant status found in their study led the researchers to conclude that WBC could be a short-term adjuvant treatment for patients with MS.
Photobiomodulation. How does photobiomodulation (PBM) help? Oxidative stress in the muscles can be increased by exercise. That’s no reason to stop exercising, which offers enough benefits to outweigh the risks, but it does give researchers a way to induce oxidative stress for purposes of studying it. A 2018 study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity described the results of an experiment in which rats were put through a program of resistive exercise and analyzed for an array of oxidative stress markers. Some of the rats were given PBM before the exercise, and the others were treated with placebo. The PBM prevented signs of oxidative stress in the rats that received it, while those treated with placebo had all the expected markers.
Are studies of MS patients and of rats applicable to you? The truth is, oxidative stress is a chemical process, and these studies (as well as countless others) say this chemical process can be stopped or reversed by whole-body cryotherapy or photobiomodulation. That’s why either of these services can make you feel better, perform more optimally, and stay healthier. If you want to find out for yourself, a WBC session takes three minutes and a PBM session takes 12. Both are utterly noninvasive. Why not book a session and see?