Below is a blog I posted in 2015 on antioxidants. Antioxidants cover a wide range of substances. It's a similarly broad category like fats. We all know there are healthy fats and very unhealthy fats. So, too, are there good and not so good antioxidants. My focus is on disease mechanisms. As you may know, we focus on 4 disease mechanisms:
Poor repair and recovery,
Thrive vs Survive, and
Chronic (stealth) infections
Chronic infections are much more ubiquitous than is recognized in both allopathic and functional medicine. Your main defenses against such pathogens are your gut (strong acid and diverse microbiome), your innate immune system (white blood cells are key here) and your adaptive immunity (antibodies).
Both your innate and adaptive immune systems use oxidation as an important part of immune defense. Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a major pathogen-killing pathway. Few know that antibodies (adaptive response) also produce ROS.
In our paper titled, "Innate Immune Response in COVID-19 and Immunoaugmentive Activity of Ozone Therapy," we site a paper authored by the President of Scripps Research Institute.
"Significantly, researchers at Scripps Research Institute clearly demonstrated that antibodies can destroy pathogens by producing localized concentrations of ozone gas. According to the authors, “The ozone may be part of a previously unrecognized killing mechanism that would enhance the defensive role of antibodies by allowing them to subject pathogens to hydrogen peroxide and participate directly in their killing. Previously, antibodies were believed only to signal an immune response.” This landmark finding illustrates the elegance and interconnectedness of the innate and adaptive immune system. It also supports the thesis that exogenous ozone, when used at physiologically safe levels, can be a natural, safe, and effective treatment of pathogens."
Some antioxidants have the potential to scavenge (reduce) ROS - including those produced by our innate and adaptive immune system. Dr. Trempe, my key mentor, found out that some of his patients who were taking high doses of vitamin E developed more bleeding gums, which stopped when they stopped the vitamin E supplementation. Although anecdotal, we believe that the (high levels of) vitamin E was reducing the efforts of the ROS to control the periodontal infections.
I recommend that antioxidants that impact the action of our innate and adaptive immune system should only be obtained through food, and not through supplementation. Which are these? This will be the subject of a future blog - but vitamin E is clearly one of them.
Here is blog part 1 on antioxidants from 2015.
Supplemental Antioxidants Cause More Disease. Find Out What and Why - Part 1.
This is part 1 of a 3-part blog on the harm caused by excess antioxidant supplementation. It is based on the latest research and an article in The Washington Post titled, “The latest study about antioxidants is terrifying. Scientists think they may boost cancer cells to spread faster.” Often a negative result provides us as much or more information than a positive result. In this case, the recent findings on the adverse effects of antioxidants helps explain a lot about health and disease. Particularly, 1. It helps explain the mechanism of action of our immune system to protect us. 2. It substantiates the involvement of pathogens in disease, and illustrates the interconnectedness of disease. 3. It shows how antioxidant research may be misinterpreted and our “healthy use” recommendations. Part 1 – Antioxidants and Immune defense. What are free radicals? They are those dreaded reactive oxygen species (ROS) associated with oxidative stress and aging that we are told we must eliminate from our bodies to stay young, healthy, and beautiful. But our immune system produces and uses free radials, such as superoxide and hydrogen peroxide, to preserve our health. Somewhere there is a contradiction! Here is an excerpt from Harvard Medical School. [i] “When you were a kid your mom poured it (hydrogen peroxide) on your scraped finger to stave off infection. When you got older you might have even used it to bleach your hair. Now there’s another possible function for this over-the-counter colorless liquid: your body might be using (producing) hydrogen peroxide as an envoy that marshals troops of healing cells to wounded tissue.” Antioxidants scavenge (remove) ROS, including those produced from hydrogen peroxide. Since the ROS are often fighting against unwanted invaders in our body, this antioxidant action is working against our body and our good health. Let’s go back in time to when scientists were first discovered how human immunity worked against bacteria and toxins. Here is an article from 1973 that reveals the essence of immunity. It is titled, “Biological Defense Mechanisms. THE PRODUCTION BY LEUKOCYTES (white blood cells) OF SUPEROXIDE, A POTENTIAL BACTERICIDAL AGENT.” [ii]
For those interested in reading the technical “punch line,” look further below. But for the casual reader, here is a simplified interpretation of this work that, in 1973, was ground-breaking in understanding how our immune system actually works.
Simplified explanation: White blood cells, which are the first line of defense against outside invaders. These cells take up oxygen and convert it to a very powerful and destructive substance called superoxide. This substance is produced to kill pathogens and alter other substances that do not belong in our bodies and are responsible for disease. Thus white blood cells and the ROS they produce are part of our defense against sickness.
From the article (detailed explanation): “It has recently become apparent that biological systems are able to convert oxygen into a compound of great reactivity. This compound, the superoxide anion, is an extremely powerful oxidation-reduction reagent, capable of undergoing either oxidation to oxygen or reduction to hydrogen peroxide with the liberation of large amounts of energy. The production of this compound by the one-electron reduction of oxygen in biological systems, together with its reactivity, suggested it as a possible killing agent in leukocytes (white blood cells). In the following communication, we report evidence for the production of superoxide by phagocytizing (to envelop and destroy bacteria and other foreign material) leukocytes.
ROS can help protect us against heavy metals and other toxins too. Certain chemical substances that we ingest or take in through our skin or the air are toxic to our bodies. Examples include lead from paint and benzene from gasoline. Often, our bodies cannot simply remove these substances because of their physical properties such as solubility. Superoxide (free radicals) can interact with these harmful substances and do one or more things to the toxin. First, it can alter its structure through oxidation. The new structure may have less toxicity compared to the original compound – making it less harmful to the body. Second, oxidized substances tend to be more soluble in water. Water soluble substances are more easily removed from our bodies because our circulatory and lymphatic systems are water-based.
1. ROS (free radicals, hydrogen peroxide, superoxide) are produced by our white blood cells as part of our defense mechanism (immunity) to protect us from pathogens (bacteria, virus, fungi, and parasites) and other harmful substances. 2. Antioxidants are known to scavenge (remove) ROS. The consequences are the proliferation of harmful pathogens and toxicity from harmful substances.
Antioxidants, like essentially everything in life, are not bad in moderation. Disease is (almost) always an issue of excess and/or deficiency. This is also known as balance. People who eat a healthy diet are generally more healthy compared to people who eat a poor diet. By definition, a healthy diet includes vegetables and other foods naturally high in antioxidants. Obtaining antioxidants from foods, not from concentrated supplements, allows our bodies to achieve balance. And clearly our foods contain complimentary ingredients that regulate the action of the food-based antioxidants. We evolved on healthy whole foods, not supplements. Don’t upset your internal balance – eat a sound diet and do not “overdose.” The simple expression, you can have too much of a good thing applies to antioxidants too.
[ii] Babior, Bernard M., Ruby S. Kipnes, and John T. Curnutte. "Biological defense mechanisms. The production by leukocytes of superoxide, a potential bactericidal agent." Journal of Clinical Investigation 52.3 (1973): 741.
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