What actually is Oxidative Stress?

What actually is Oxidative Stress?

Oxidative stress in a nutshell is stress that happens inside the mitochondria; it’s probably one of the most important forms of stress we should be concerned about.


Mitochondria are found in every cell of the body. They’re often known as little factories in our cells that use the energy from foods we eat, combined with the oxygen we breathe and convert it into usable energy for the cell. This energy (also known as ATP) is used to support many functions in our body.

Although we need this process to happen it results in the formation of highly reactive molecules called “free radicals.” These free radicals are highly poisonous waste products.

Free radicals & oxidative stress

Mitochondria are very sensitive, they are particularly susceptible to damage due to free radicals. Oxidative stress occurs if these free radicals aren’t properly neutralised by antioxidants and enzymes (e.g. Super Oxide Dismutase).

Oxidation is what happens if you slice an apple, it turns brown when it’s exposed to oxygen; it’s also the process that causes rust on cars. This ‘rust’ is similar to what happens in our cells during oxidation.

Over time, oxidative stress can leave our cells and tissues unable to function properly. This can result in the development of a range of illnesses and diseases.

What symptoms can result with oxidative stress & free radical production?

Studies report that oxidative stress & free radicals can cause a whole host of diseases from Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, Glaucoma, arthritis to cancer.

It’s also thought to have a role in other conditions such as depression, GERD, anxiety, memory loss, pain, rapid aging and more. Fatigue is the most common symptom of poorly functioning mitochondria.

Oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction are considered key factors in neurological disorders of childhood. https://content.iospress.com/…/journal-of-pediatri…/jpb00064

Lifestyle and environment also play a big part in contributing to the production of these free radicals.

What can increase oxidative stress?

  • Too much or too little exercise
  • Certain fats (e.g. canola, soy, peanut & safflower oils)
  • Insufficient antioxidants in the diet
  • Excess iron (or iron overload)
  • Too many calories, sugars and/or refined carbohydrates
  • B vitamin deficiencies
  • Constant exposure to smoke/air pollution
  • Chronic stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone can increase free radical production.
  • Eating burnt/charred foods
  • High oxalates and salicylates (if you are sensitive to these).
  • Poor liver and gut detoxification
  • Infections (e.g. oral infections, gut infections such as h pylori, fungal infections & other infections such as PANS). Infections are a big cause of oxidative stress.
  • Lack of sleep
  • Over-exposure to the sun, x-rays, EMF’s.

Final thoughts….

Tests I use to look for oxidative stress include: NutrEval or an OAT (Organic Acid Test).  

Clearly you can’t reduce ALL toxins, we will be exposed to some, but even just being aware and making a few changes may help to reduce oxidative stress.

There are plenty of ways to help reduce oxidative stress including gut, mitochondrial and adrenal support.

Diet and/or certain supplements are very useful such as antioxidants (e.g. Vitamin C or E), B vitamins and zinc.