Reviewed by Dr Nurul Aishah Jamaludin, Physician Chu I Ta and Physician Brandon Yew
5 Ways to Manage Oxidative Stress
Published | 5 min read
Oxidative stress was prevalent during the COVID-19 epidemic. Taking steps to calm the tension build-up is crucial towards preventing physical symptoms.
Undergoing stress can make you prone to physical symptoms like exhaustion, a dry mouth, a knotted feeling in the stomach, and sweaty palms. Burdensome events or tasks can aggravate oxidative stress – an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body – and lead to cell and tissue damage. It can lead to diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, male infertility and inflammatory disorders.
In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic can bring continuing effects that disrupt this balance. These include the fear of infection, economic downturn, or the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19.
While these factors might be out of your control, here are several proactive steps that you can take to regulate oxidative stress.
Nutrition, the Foundation of Good Oxidative Stress Control
Multiple clinical controlled trials involving people with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, or dyslipidaemia – unhealthy levels of fats in the blood – have been performed to observe the relationship between dietary interventions and oxidative stress. Eating foods rich in antioxidants and plant compounds called polyphenols can decrease stress levels in people with these conditions.
Your body produces endogenous antioxidants to fight free radicals. A diet rich in antioxidants coupled with a healthy weight range for obese or overweight people helps increase a person’s endogenous antioxidant capacity. Hence, a calorie deficit diet coupled with an abundance of antioxidants and polyphenols can have protective effects against obesity and its comorbidities, lessening the severity of a COVID-19 infection.
Foods that are rich in antioxidants include:
- Dark, leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach
Get Restful Slumber
During sleep, your body performs many reparative and maintenance processes. It can help manage stress by ensuring that you’re mentally and physically refreshed for the day’s events or tasks. It encourages the production of growth hormones that heal tissues and cells in the body and cytokines – a type of molecule – which helps the body fight infections. Alternatively, a capsule derived from cracked Lingzhi spores (灵芝) can be consumed to fend off infections by regulating the immune system.
Sleep is necessary for controlling weight. The action stimulates the production of appetite-reducing hormones called leptin and inhibits the making of appetite-inducing hormones called ghrelin. Seven to eight hours of sleep every night improves cardiac health by slowing down your heart rate and regulating blood pressure. It also ensures better control of blood glucose levels.
A Calm Mind Starts with Proper Breath Control
Chu I Ta, Chief Physician at Real Health Medical’s clinic in Singapore, proposes a breathing exercise known as “tortoise resting” to calm stress. Its technique prioritises the duration of breath and not its frequency.
To perform the exercise, lie down or sit up and overlap your palms on the lower abdomen, below the navel. Next, breathe in slowly through the nose. Push the inhaled air deep into the abdominal and lower back area. Try to extend the inhalation procedure from ten to 15, 30, or 60 seconds.
Exhale slowly through a slightly opened mouth. Your diaphragm should ascend when your abdomen retracts. Repeat this step over a 15, 30, or 60-second duration until the last breath is exhaled from the mouth. Do this twice a day, five to ten repetitions at a time.
Unlock the Remedial Properties of Traditional Chinese Herbs
A plant-rich diet can help minimise oxidative stress levels. Likewise, herbal ingredients in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can also achieve the same effect. Real Health Medical Senior Physician Brandon Yew recommends a few options as part of a holistic treatment regimen. These are:
- Bupleurum (chai hu, 柴胡)
- Poria (fu ling, 茯苓)
- Turmeric root-tuber (yu jin, 郁金)
- Weeping forsythia (lian qiao, 连翘)
- Lily bulbs (bai he, 百合)
- Rose buds (mei gui hua, 玫瑰花)
- Red sage root (dan shen, 丹參)
- Nutgrass Galingale rhizome (xiang fu, 香附)
- Silktree albizzia bark (he huan pi, 合欢皮)
Before taking these herbs, Physician Yew cautions, “Some herbs can be very potent and have unintended side effects. Therefore, it’s important to remember to use them with guidance from a licensed TCM professional.”
Relieve Stress by Kneading Acupressure Points
Research shows that acupuncture is remarkably effective in modulating oxidative stress. The treatment not only elevates the number of free-radical fighting antioxidants in the body but also shows promise in repairing damaged tissues.
It comes as no surprise then that Physician Yew is a proponent of acupuncture, as well as tuina – an ancient Chinese therapeutic massage – and cupping therapy. However, if these treatments are inaccessible, you may choose to self-stimulate certain acupressure points.
A few of the points that can be activated are:
- Yin tang (EX-HN3, 印堂)
- Tai yang (EX-HN5, 太阳)
- Shen men (HT7, 神门)
- Da ling (PC7, 大陵)
- He gu (LI4, 合谷)
- Zu san li (ST36, 足三里)
- Tai chong (LR3, 太沖)
- San yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交)
Understandably, a hectic urban lifestyle can bring about a great deal of stress for everyone. As such, take charge of your health, including steps that’ll prevent the consequences of oxidative stress. Speak to a TCM practitioner if you wish to use herbal remedies. In doing so, you’ll be assured about their suitability and avoid potential contraindications.
This is an adaptation of an article, “ Ways to Manage Oxidative Stress During COVID-19″, which first appeared on the All Things Health website.
- National Library of Medicine. 2020. Obesity – a risk factor for increased COVID-19 prevalence, severity and lethality. [online] [Accessed 10 June 2022]
- Sleep Foundation. 2022. Eight Health Benefits of Sleep. [online] [Accessed 10 June 2022]
- Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017 Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health, [online], [Accessed 15 June 2022]
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