Oxygen is an atmospheric gas with 2 unpaired electrons in its outer shell which makes it highly reactive. It is the terminal electron acceptor for humans and animals. This means when it reacts with other molecules, it looks to magnetically take 2 electrons to fill its shell. Anytime a molecule takes electrons, it becomes chemically reduced. On the contrary, when a molecule loses or gives away electrons, it becomes chemically oxidized.
Loss of electrons lowers the energy potential of the molecule. A measure of this is called pH (potential of hydrogen). As electrons are gained in a substance, the pH rises which increases energy potential and alkalinity. On the contrary, as electrons are lost in a substance, the pH drops and this decreases energy potential and alkalinity while increasing acidity. Alkaline substances have a net negative charge while acidic substances have a net positive charge. This is important to note, because light can only interact with electrons in a substance which means that life favors alkalinity over acidity to increase energy. Biologically speaking, alkalinity is tied to good health and energy, while acidity is linked to inflammation. This means that illness and inflammation is tied to energy loss (electron loss).
Oxygen’s main source of electrons come from hydrogen in the body. 2 hydrogen electrons will chemically reduce oxygen to water (H2O) which is not only essential for life, but is not reactive. This is precisely what occurs in mitochondria through cellular respiration. Sometimes oxygen does not receive adequate electrons to be reduced to water, and instead can produce reactive chemicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals. These free radicals can damage components of cells by inducing oxidative stress (stealing electrons from other tissues) that lower the pH and subsequently increase inflammation. ROS however does play an important role in cell signalling, and luckily the body has natural defenses (anti-oxidant enzymes) that are able to neutralize free radicals.
There 3 primary types of ROS produced in cells:
- Superoxide (neutralized by superoxide dismutase)
- Hydrogen Peroxide (neutralized by catalase)
- Hydroxyl Radical (no defense)
We need to produce some level of ROS in cells in order to generate the appropriate signals to:
- Repair/recycle damaged cells (autophagy)
- Get rid of/replace irrepairable cells (apoptosis)
Chronic diseases occur when oxidative stress is chronically elevated. This shifts the body’s metabolism from oxidation of fatty acids to fermentation of sugars to purposely lower oxygen levels to protect from excessive damage. When oxygen levels are low, we cannot adequately burn fuels to make sufficient energy in our mitochondria, so our cells do not function optimally. This is the consequence the body has to live with until the environmental stressors pass and we can begin to restore oxygen levels. If those environmental stressors remain, oxygen levels remain low, and we lose the ability to generate the proper signals to repair or replace our poorly functioning cells that have shifted their metabolism. This is precisely how cancer manifests, as well as the aging of cells.
If we can lower the amount of oxidative stress in our own environment, we can restore oxygen levels to generate the signals to repair and replace our bad cells that inadequately produce energy.