The Inner Antioxidant: How Meditation Reduces Free Radicals
Why Meditation Is The Best Antioxidant
What Is A Free Radical?
Buzzwords, we hear them everyday. So many products out there claim to be an "antioxidant."
Because it sounds healthy we usually fork over our hard earned cash without second thought.
After all, who doesn’t want to scavenge free radicals? Whatever that means. Must be a good thing!
But really, what are free radicals, what are antioxidants, and for those of us wanting to live a long, healthy life, why do they matter so much?
Think back to chemistry class, what's the smallest part of matter? The atom!
Well, your body has a whole bunch of them, somewhere around 7 x 10^27 atoms! That’s 7 followed by 27 zeros!
When one of our many atoms unpairs an electron from its outermost shell — the whole molecule becomes unstable, chemically reactive, and highly unpredictable. This is a free radical.
Free radicals need to regain their lost electron so badly that they resort to stealing it from the nearest molecule. Think of a drug addict so desperate for a hit that he resorts to robbing his own brother at gunpoint.
When a free radical electron robbery is successful, the offender is made whole again, and the victim is now left short. And he too, becomes desperate, and will take it from the nearest molecular bystander. And the process repeats.
The thing is, even if a free radical regains stability through electron theft, things are never really the same. The criminal action damages and even mutates parts of our cell, including our proteins, DNA, and cellular membranes.
Oxidative Stress: The Free Radical "Zombie Apocalypse"
If our body can’t effectively neutralize free radicals, then a chain reaction called 'oxidative stress' begins, which can be thought of as a cellular aging "zombie apocalypse".
With an estimated 6.023 x 10^21 (6 followed by 21 zeros!) molecules reacting per second, oxidative stress is like dropping a nuke on bodily tissue. What kind of damage can it do?
For starters, it mutates our cells, hyper speeds our physical aging (skin spots, sagging, wrinkles, etc), hardens our arteries (stroke, heart disease, etc.), damages our DNA, and much more.
With arthritis, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes exits on the oxidative stress interstate, the inability to handle free radicals puts us well on our way to countless diseases. The final stop? Cancer.
With so many angles of attack, it's easy to see why oxidative stress is perhaps the most scientifically accepted and well-recognized theory of aging.
How Antioxidants Work
Back to that missing electron. Like Santa Claus, antioxidants leave electrons under the tree of naughty free radicals, converting them back into nice, stable molecules come Christmas morning.
In case you didn’t catch that, antioxidants work by donating electrons to unstable free radicals, stabilizing them as a result.
In this way, antioxidants avert the free radical hyper cell aging scenario which makes us look like we moonlight as an LAX air traffic controller.
While you can get antioxidants from many sources, including food, being able to let stress roll off your back is perhaps the greatest free-radical neutralizing weapon in your arsenal.
While we could focus on a number of ways meditation scavenges free radicals (like mastering stress, boosting melatonin, etc.), we will not do that here. It's too easy. Let's take it up a notch.
The Legend Of Glutathione: Meditation Boosts The "Mother Of All Antoxidants"
Backed by 117,000 peer reviewed scientific studies, meditation has been shown to boost 'glutathione' (GSH), the Huffington Post anointed "mother of all antioxidants."
The benefits of GSH span the seven great seas. So, what are the experts saying?
Gustavo Bounous MD, retired McGill University professor told Medicinenet.com that "It's the [body's] most important antioxidant because it's within the cell [which is prime position to neutralize free radicals]."
Jeremy Appleton ND, a naturopathic physician and respected author, was recently quoted:
"If you look in a hospital situation at people who have cancer, AIDS, or other very serious disease, almost invariably they are depleted in glutathione," says Appleton. "The reasons for this are not completely understood, but we do know that glutathione is extremely important for maintaining intracellular health."
Glutathione not only hinders oxidative stress, but also plays a helper role for many critical enzymes, fights cancer by slowing apoptosis (programmed cell death), boosts t-cells, shields environmental toxin damage, guards against drug resistance, while super charging immunity.
The thing is, GSH is not well absorbed into the body when taken as a supplement (capsule). While intravenous results are more promising, there is no need to become a pin cushion.
Why? Because meditation supercharges your body with glutathione!
Study: Meditation Boosts Glutathione By 41%!
A well-cited 51 person study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Sinha et al, 2007) showed that, alongside yoga, meditation boosts this powerhouse peptide by a whopping 41%! (235 -> 332).
Like the mythical Li Ching-Yuen, can meditation help you live a demigod-like 256 years? (Side Note: While his actual lifespan hasn’t been officially proven, he did credit his longevity to Tai-Chi, a form of moving meditation.)
What can be confirmed is that by neutralizing free radicals faster than Rambo, meditation plants you firmly in the driver seat for a long, healthy life.