In This Article
Ayurveda’s Strategies for Oxidative Stress
What is oxidative stress? According to Healthline, it’s an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons. The uneven number allows them to easily react with other molecules. Free radicals can cause large-chain chemical reactions because they react so easily with other molecules. These reactions are called oxidation, which can be beneficial or harmful, in which case it is called oxidative stress.1
Ayurveda outlines a comprehensive approach to living a long healthy life. Thousands of years ago, Ayurvedic experts employed specific therapies now studied to offset oxidative stress.
Mental, emotional, physical, or environmental stress (including diet) are all contributing factors to disturbing the balancing between the body’s natural antioxidant response and circulating free radicals. When imbalanced, they have been linked to accelerated aging and a host of chronic degenerative health concerns.
To balance the number of free radical and antioxidants, a variety of Ayurvedic strategies are used that support normal antioxidant production. An antioxidant is a molecule that can donate an electron to a free radical, rendering it less reactive or more stable.
Ayurvedic Food for Oxidative Stress
Ayurveda suggests a diet of whole, non-processed, unrefined foods, cooked slowly with low heat, and eating in season according to one’s body type! Whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, along with berries; nuts; seeds; and spices like turmeric, garlic, saffron, and others classically used in Ayurveda are rich in naturally occurring antioxidants, such as proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, beta-carotenes, polyphenols, flavonoids, organosulfides, vitamins E and vitamin C, and many more.2
The natural benefits of these antioxidants are mostly deactivated when foods are processed or refined,3 reminding us of the Ayurvedic mandate of no processed foods. Ayurveda even frowns on leftovers. It is well documented that storing foods, particularly processed foods, increases the rate of free radical formation.7
When foods are heated too fast or overheated, they produce toxic chemicals called acrylamides, linked to increased oxidative stress and degenerative health concerns.4
Ayurvedic Massage for Oxidative Stress
Ayurveda recommends a daily sesame oil-based massage throughout one’s life for optimal health and longevity. Sesame oil has been studied to be rich in vitamin E and other naturally occurring antioxidants.4
Learn more about the benefits of a daily abhyanga (sesame oil massage) here.
Meditation for Oxidative Stress
The amount of research on benefits of meditation is staggering. From increasing telomere length, linked to less stress and a longer life,8 to increasing levels of oxytocin, our bonding, love, and longevity hormone.9,10 Studies demonstrate that this time-tested technique reduces oxidative stress levels.11
Yoga for Oxidative Stress
The practice of yoga is well known as a tool for fitness, flexibility, and mental and emotional stress, along with many studies citing numerous other health benefits. Yoga is perhaps not well known for its ability to reduce oxidative stress. In one study, regular yoga practice remarkably attenuated oxidative stress and improved antioxidant levels. Yoga also beneficially affects stress hormone release as well as supports healthy immune function.12
Breathing (Pranayama) for Oxidative Stress
Breathing techniques have been well studied to reduce oxidative stress, along with delivering a host of other health benefits. In one study, oxidative stress was measured and compared between two groups: 30 volunteers in the breathing group and 30 in the non-breathing group. Free radicals decreased significantly in the breathing group compared to the control. The study concluded that yogic breathing exercises not only help relieve the stresses of life, but also improve antioxidant status.13
Ayurvedic Adaptogens for Oxidative Stress
Finally, one of Ayurveda’s primary ways to deal with oxidative stress is with adaptogenic herbs. These herbs help us respond to stress without overstimulating the body to make more stress hormones. They support the body’s reserves to cope with stress in a more effortless and calm manner.
In one study, ashwagandha, one of the world’s most well-known adaptogens, was found to promote physical and mental health, augment resistance against health concerns and adverse environmental factors, revitalize the body in debilitated conditions, and increase longevity.14
Oxidative stress is a pervasive side effect of our stressful lifestyles. Try out some of these techniques to protect your body!