Each and every part of our body is made up of cells, which again, are made up of molecules. Each and every molecule consists of various atoms. Each atom consists of a center known as the nucleus which consists of neutrons which have no charge; protons which have a positive charge; and electrons which are particles with a negative charge. Electrons always move in pairs within the molecule. However, due to certain causes, which will be explained later, these electrons tend to become unpaired and then, are referred to as free radicals. Once these electrons lose their pair, they become highly reactive and unstable. They would do anything possible to get paired again, and for that they may damage the normal cells in the body. This is the reason why free radicals are considered to be the main causes of aging, heart problems, autoimmune diseases, and even certain kind of cancers! You must also know that our body needs free radicals as they play a very important role in fighting against germs and infections. So ironically, although the free radicals can be a potential threat to the body, our body wouldn't be able to survive without their absence either.

What Causes Free Radicals to Form?

Our body will form free radicals as a part of the natural process of oxidation, which is bound to occur when the molecules in the body are exposed to oxygen. Many times, our immune system also creates free radicals as they help the body fight against serious infections from parasites, virus, germs, and bacteria. Apart from that, there can be many other causes of free radicals, the answers to which may be found in our lifestyle, diet, and the resulting health from the same. Have a look at some of the common causes of free radicals in the body.

Physical or Mental Stress
According to the USDA,"Oxidative stress results from free radicals produced during the normal metabolism of oxygen as well as from external sources... Oxidative stress has been associated with the development of many chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease".

I really don't mean to scare you, but yes, one of the main cause of formation of free radicals in the body is stress, which can be both physical and mental. Now you may find this weird, but too much of physical exertion and exercise can lead to stress in the body and make it want more oxygen, which in turn leads to more free radicals. The same is the case when we are emotionally stressed. This is the reason why people who are involved in a lot of physical exertion are advised to consume a lot of anti-oxidants as they help in balancing and stabilizing the process.

Fats and Cholesterol
Another cause of formation of radicals in the body is intake of too much of fats and cholesterol. Let us speak about fats first. Consuming a lot of polyunsaturated fats can increase the production of free radicals and cause many health issues including the formation of colon cancer! Therefore, one must stop consuming these fats and instead go for monounsaturated fats which are present in sources like mustard and olive oil. Too much of 'oxidized cholesterol' can also cause formation of free radicals. So make sure that you consume foods and drinks that are minus these kinds of fats and cholesterol.

Smoking and Alcohol
Didn't I say that your lifestyle also contributes to the formation of free radicals? So, does your lifestyle involve a lot of drinking and smoking? If it does, then trust me, you are actually speeding up the number of free radicals in your body. Smoking not only increases your chances of lung damage, the free radicals caused by it can actually speed up the aging process, cause bronchitis, and colon cancer. Speaking of alcohol, it is one of the major causes of the condition. Alcohol influences the functioning of the brain, thereby breaking the cell to cell connection in the brain. So, the time you are getting high, your body is actually forming free radicals eventually causing health issues like liver damage, heart problems, and brain damage.

Environmental Factors
Our body is exposed to so many chemicals present in the surroundings. Let's start from the sunlight, the harmful rays from the sun can also cause free radicals and lead to problems like sunburn and aging. Even the fumes coming out from the cars or the factories contain harmful gases and chemicals which can again cause the formation of free radicals. The preservatives in the food that we eat are put with the intention of killing germs through free radicals. So, if you eat foods that contain preservatives and pesticides, you can still expose your body to more free radicals.

Radiation Exposure
If your body has been exposed to any kind of radiation, or if you have been taking treatments that include radiation, like chemotherapy, then this can accelerate the formation of free radicals.

Although free radicals can be a potential threat and can cause a lot of health concerns, living without their presence is also not possible. Which is why it is important to keep their formation under control and balance them out by consuming a lot of antioxidants. Eating a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle is the key. It is also important to avoid mental stress. Physical activities are fine as long as you are fueling your body with a lot of anti-oxidants which can be done by eating a lot of fruits like apples, pomegranate and berries. Vegetables rich in vitamin A, E, and C are also good. Consuming multivitamins will also help in keeping a balance of the oxidation process in the body. So make sure you do all that you can to live a healthy, younger, happy and long life. Take care.