“Antioxidant” is definitely one of those nutrition buzzwords. You know that you’re supposed to be getting enough antioxidants, and every product that promises to have them seems enticing. Well, I can safely say that antioxidants are worth the hype, especially in light of this new study that suggests antioxidants are powerful tools in treating thyroid disorders. Researchers used a strong prescription antioxidant on hypothyroid-induced mice and measured the subsequent levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory cells. The results showed that inducing animals with thyroid disease increased their oxidative stress, which led to an increased level of inflammatory immune cells and free radicals. After the antioxidant prescription was given to the mice, the oxidative stress decreased. So can we recreate these results in humans? Let’s take a look.
Friendly Fire: Attacks Against Your Thyroid
Over 90% of individuals with an underactive thyroid are actually suffering from an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In the cases of this autoimmunity, your immune system has mistakenly identified your thyroid cells as invaders and launched an attack to eradicate them. The damage that ensues after the attack leads to an imbalanced immune system, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Beyond that, it’s the reason so many of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid cause you to feel exhausted.
What Is Oxidative Stress?
In order for you to understand antioxidants’ impact on oxidative stress, it’d be beneficial to give you an idea of what oxidative stress is. Whenever you inhale oxygen, your body uses the oxygen to create energy. Oxygen by-products, known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) help your body regulate cell signaling and other functions. However, if we collect too many of these by-products, we’ll encounter some major health problems. There’s a specific group of ROS called free radicals, and these guys are unstable and run amok in your body, causing damage to bodily tissues.
If the term “free radical” seems familiar to you, it’s most likely because they’ve been indicated in cancer development as well as in the progression of other chronic illnesses.
Whatever the cause--and there are many potential ones (poor diet, stress, obesity, smoking, pollution, etc.)-- inflammation will increase the presence of free radicals. Oxidative stress is the result of an overabundance of free radicals that your body can no longer keep track of.
Upping the Antioxidant
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for-- where we break down the definition of an antioxidant once and for all.
Antioxidants are molecules that can neutralize free radicals, meaning that they won’t be able to wreak havoc on the other tissues in your body.
This is crucial in autoimmunity cases because an abundance of free radicals are created when your immune system attacks your own tissue. Researchers even believe that accumulating too many reactive oxygen species may be the first step in the inflammatory response that occurs in Hashimoto’s.
So now that you know what antioxidants actually do (make sure to impress all of your friends with the definition), here’s a list of three easy ways you can up the ante, and add more antioxidants to your daily routine to combat oxidative stress.
- Reduce your exposure to tobacco, processed food, sugar, air pollution, and pesticides to lessen oxidative stress.
- Add antioxidant-rich foods to your diet. Include foods like blueberries, artichokes, cranberries, cilantro, blackberries, elderberries, goji berries, dark chocolate, and pecans.
- Supplement antioxidants in your daily routine! Look for supplements like NAC (n-acetylcysteine), quercetin, lutein, vitamin C, resveratrol, selenium, and astaxanthin.
Everyone can benefit from some antioxidant action in their life, whether they’ve been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s or they’re suffering from symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, low mood, and dry skin and hair.
Of course, you’ll need to do more than add antioxidants to your diet if you’re going to feel 100% like yourself again.
I recommend working with a functional medicine practitioner who can utilize state-of-the-art testing and cutting-edge research to help you pinpoint the sources of imbalance in your body. At our clinic, we’ll do just that and create a treatment plan based on your unique needs so that you can go back to living your best life.