Understanding Oxidative Stress (And How Breathwork Can Help!)

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical conditions. It is always best to consult a healthcare provider if you or your clients are experiencing any symptoms related to oxidative stress or are making health-related lifestyle changes.

If you’re a coach, healer, or facilitator, chances are you’re always on the lookout for ways to help your clients get healthier and happier! And one of the key areas you need to be aware of is oxidative stress.

It may sound complicated, but in reality, it’s a simple concept. Oxidative stress refers to the damage caused to cells and tissues due to the excess production of certain substances known as free radicals (and an imbalance of antioxidants). You can kind of think about it as the “rusting of your body”, and it can lead to disease and inflammation (yikes!).

In this blog post, we’ll explore in more depth what oxidative stress is, its causes, and most importantly, how you can prevent it (spoiler alert: breathwork can help 😉).

What is Oxidative Stress?

As mentioned, oxidative stress is when the production of free radicals is greater than the body’s natural antioxidant defenses. This imbalance can cause cellular damage in the body. Free radicals occur when oxygen in the body splits into single atoms that can then cause damage to cells, proteins, and DNA. These free radicals can multiply at an alarming rate and disrupt the normal balance of our body’s systems leading to inflammation, disease, and accelerated aging.

According to Medical News Today, some conditions linked to oxidative stress are:

  1. cancer
  2. Alzheimer’s disease
  3. Parkinson’s disease
  4. diabetes
  5. Cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and stroke
  6. inflammatory disorders
  7. chronic fatigue syndrome
  8. asthma
  9. male infertility

Causes of Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is caused by factors such as pollution, ozone, smoking, physical stress, industry chemicals, radiation, and lifestyle.

Lifestyle factors that can cause oxidative stress include poor nutrition – particularly the consumption of processed foods and those high in sugar. Too much alcohol consumption can also induce oxidative stress, as well as a lack of physical activity.

Other factors that make us more prone to oxidative stress include poor sleep and chronic stress. Both of these issues can cause the body to produce higher levels of inflammation-causing hormones like cortisol – leading to increased free radical production in the body.

Additionally, physical stressors like intense exercise, injury, or surgery can produce oxidative stress. The production of free radicals is typically balanced by antioxidants in the body; however, when the production of free radicals outpaces our body’s natural defense mechanisms, oxidative stress occurs.


Prevention of Oxidative Stress

The best way to prevent oxidative stress is to make lifestyle changes that are conducive to a healthier, balanced life. Incorporating antioxidant-rich foods into the diet such as leafy greens, berries, nuts, and seeds, and vitamin supplements such as C and E may also help to reduce the production of free radicals in the body. Also, cutting back on drinking alcohol and avoiding smoking can provide some serious health benefits and help reduce oxidative stress.

Also, don’t forget to get your zzzzz’s in! Getting enough quality sleep is important. Also finding ways to reduce stress, like practicing relaxation methods such as meditation, breathwork, and yoga can help boost your body’s natural antioxidant defense system. Regular exercise (that is not too intense) can also help combat the production of free radicals.

Finally, it is important to be mindful of our environment – avoiding exposure to pollutants, toxins, and other potentially damaging substances. Taking preventative measures like using natural beauty products and cleaning supplies can go a long way in protecting our bodies from oxidative damage.


How Breathwork Can Help Combat Oxidative Stress

Deep breathing has been proven to be an effective tool for reducing stress and anxiety. Breathwork (or the practice of conscious controlled breathing) can reduce oxidative stress by increasing oxygen intake and decreasing levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body. This promotes balance and helps to protect our bodies from inflammation and cell damage associated with free radical production.

It can also help with insomnia and sleep disruption by calming the central nervous system (CNS). When our CNS is in a relaxed state, melatonin production increases, which helps us get better quality sleep. Studies have also shown that deep breathing can help reduce blood pressure and increase circulation, both of which are important for overall health.

And finally, regular breathwork can help develop greater awareness of self and allow us to better manage our daily stressors and lifestyle choices. Breathwork can also help us heal past trauma, and release challenging emotions, that may be causing unhealthy lifestyle choices that contribute to oxidative stress.

So if you’re looking for a way to reduce stress and protect the body from oxidative damage, breathwork is a great option. Try incorporating simple breathing exercises into your own practice, or with your clients today, by downloading the free Guided Breathwork Cheatsheet. It will give you three different techniques you can use to get started.

>> Download the Guided Breathwork Cheatsheet Here <<


To Wrap it Up

Oxidative stress can have serious health implications if left unchecked. Fortunately, incorporating breathwork into your routine or your professional services can help reduce oxidative stress and promote overall well-being. 

Start with the Guided Breathwork Cheatsheet and if you’d like to go deeper with breathwork, you can become a certified facilitator

With regular practice, breathwork can help reduce stress, improve sleep, and protect the body from oxidative damage.

I hope this article helped you better understand oxidative stress and how breathwork can help!

With love & happy breathin’,

Samantha Skelly + The Pause Breathwork Team


P.S. Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before using any of the techniques presented in this article.

Please Note: The Guided Breathwork Cheatsheet is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace medical advice or procedures.


Sources & Additional Resources:

Pizzino G, Irrera N, Cucinotta M, Pallio G, Mannino F, Arcoraci V, Squadrito F, Altavilla D, Bitto A. Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:8416763. doi: 10.1155/2017/8416763. Epub 2017 Jul 27. PMID: 28819546; PMCID: PMC5551541.

Medical News Today: How does oxidative stress affect the body?

Bashir S, Harris G, Denman MA, Blake DR, Winyard PG. Oxidative DNA damage and cellular sensitivity to oxidative stress in human autoimmune diseases. Ann Rheum Dis. 1993 Sep;52(9):659-66. doi: 10.1136/ard.52.9.659. PMID: 8239761; PMCID: PMC1005143.

Uttara B, Singh AV, Zamboni P, Mahajan RT. Oxidative stress and neurodegenerative diseases: a review of upstream and downstream antioxidant therapeutic options. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2009 Mar;7(1):65-74. doi: 10.2174/157015909787602823. PMID: 19721819; PMCID: PMC2724665.

Reuter S, Gupta SC, Chaturvedi MM, Aggarwal BB. Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer: how are they linked? Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Dec 1;49(11):1603-16. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2010.09.006. Epub 2010 Sep 16. PMID: 20840865; PMCID: PMC2990475.

Catherine N. Black, Mariska Bot, Peter G. Scheffer, Pim Cuijpers, Brenda W.J.H. Penninx. Is depression associated with increased oxidative stress? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology. Volume 51, 2015, Pages 164-175, ISSN 0306-4530, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.09.025

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