What Are Antioxidants?
“Antioxidant” is probably a term you have heard before. It is used commonly to refer to health beverage ingredients, so-called ‘superfoods’, and supplements as an anti-aging tool. But what is an antioxidant?
To understand how antioxidants work, you will need to understand what “free radicals” are. Free radicals are unstable atoms that are naturally made in the body. They are unstable because they do not have enough electrons, so they want to steal electrons from other atoms. When they steal electrons from our body’s atoms, it causes “oxidative stress” on our cells.
Oxidative stress, or free radicals stealing electrons from our bodies’ atoms, has been linked to a number of diseases such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Inflammatory diseases such as cancer and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
In addition to all of these conditions, oxidative stress from free radicals also causes the effects of aging such as wrinkles, gray hair, vision decline, and hair loss. As we get older, our bodies produce more free radicals and have a harder time fighting them.
Now that you understand how free radicals cause oxidative stress, you will understand how antioxidants work. Free radicals need to steal electrons in order to become stable and stop causing damage. Antioxidants are special atoms that can donate their own electrons to the free radicals. Check out the image below to see how this works:
Some common antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), and our focus for this article: alpha lipoic acid (ALA).
How Antioxidants Help Autoimmunity
Oxidative stress from free radicals has been known to lead to autoimmunity because it messes with the immune system and causes inflammation. Here’s how:
Immune cells use free radicals to destroy bacteria, but when they start to produce too many, T-regulatory cells use them to suppress the immune cells. This is one way that T-reg cells ‘police’ the immune system. When immune cells are dysregulated (T-reg cells aren’t working right), they produce more free radicals, which increases inflammation. This is how oxidative stress dysregulates the immune system.
In fact, one study found that oxidative stress was a huge contributor to damage done by the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common type of lupus. Free radicals increased inflammation, organ damage, and the chance of developing a second disease.
Since we know that oxidative stress can cause autoimmunity, it makes sense that antioxidants may help with managing autoimmune diseases. Studies have actually shown that this theory is true.
ALA and Autoimmunity
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that our cells make naturally. We can also supplement with it and get great results, as some scientists have already tested.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects your body’s nervous system. The version of this disease that mice can get is called EAE. When mice with this disease were given high doses of ALA early on, the disease was completely suppressed. The ALA helped regulate the immune system in the mice and was able to completely stop it from attacking their central nervous systems. The implications for humans with MS are very exciting. Even in mice that already had very serious symptoms, the ALA slowed down their disease progression and reduced their symptoms.
Similar research shows us that ALA can be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, psoriasis, autoimmune small-vessel vasculitis, and more.
ALA in Immunoxym
Our very own Dr. Ian Hollaman (a.k.a Dr. Autoimmune) developed a supplement formula for his autoimmune patients. Immunoxym is specifically made to support your T-regulatory cells, which are the ‘police’ of your immune system. One of the most important ingredients is ALA.
For the month of June, you can purchase Immunoxym for 10% off online using code IAN10 at checkout, and 15% off if you purchase in the office.
With an 85% success rate for resolution of symptoms, we are confident that we can get to the root cause of your condition and develop a custom plan with you that will help you reach your health goals. If you are ready to be brave and take the Dr. Autoimmune challenge, click “Start Your Journey” at the bottom of this page!