Consuming antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods are vital for good health. They support our cardiovascular system, our brain, our central nervous system, our vital organs, and our hormones. Without these valuable nutrients in our diet, we are at greater risk of developing chronic disease. But, did you know that we also have internal antioxidants? These anti-inflammatory enzymes are secreted by our body’s tissues to flood our bloodstream and support healthy cell activity, particularly in response to oxygen. Oxygen is life-giving to our body’s tissues. But at the same time, when we take a breath, the exchange of oxygen in the lungs produces oxidants that can also harm the body’s tissues. Enter internal antioxidants! These anti-inflammatory enzymes include Superoxide Dismutase, Glutathione Peroxidase, and Catalase:
Superoxide Dismutase: Produced and secreted inside and outside cell membranes. This enzyme is responsible for reducing inflammation, neutralizing damaging free radicals, and fighting chronic conditions, including atherosclerosis, chronic pain, arthritis, and other inflammation-based illnesses. It’s easily destroyed in stomach acids when taken orally, so it is best to consume whole foods, which can support the natural production of this antioxidant.
Glutathione Peroxidase: This is an antioxidant enzyme that supports liver detox. Production of this enzyme can decrease with age, increasing the activity of free radicals in the body. Selenium is an essential mineral in the steady production of this antioxidant. Again, eating foods naturally rich in selenium, like chia seeds, broccoli, spinach, brazil nuts, and brown rice, can support the production of this enzyme.
Catalase: This is an antioxidant enzyme that neutralizes free radicals and helps fight chronic and late-onset diseases, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, lupus, and cancer. Similar to the other antioxidant enzymes, the production of this antioxidant can be supported by a healthy diet rich in whole foods.
Suppression of these internal antioxidants can contribute to further oxidative damage and chronic illness. This suppression can take place when we over-supplement our diet, particularly with antioxidant pills, capsules, and formulas. Consuming too many of these can suppress the natural pathways that stimulate the production of internal antioxidants, which can ultimately warp the overall antioxidant effect(s). It’s important to balance our internal production of antioxidants and our intake from external supplemental sources. Targeted supplements that address specific inadequacies or deficiencies, rather than all-in-one capsules and pills (e.g. selenium supplement versus a multivitamin), can be more efficient and effective, and also be more supportive of the body’s natural cellular antioxidant pathways. Working with a Registered Dietitian or Naturopathic Doctor may help provide more specifics about your personal needs. I would also recommend asking your doctor for a blood panel that can provide comprehensive results about any specific nutrient needs you have. This is typically the best approach to determining how best to supplement your diet and support good health.