WHAT IS OXIDATIVE STRESS
From the moment we take our first breath we are aging. Getting older is inevitable. The critical question is, “How will we age?” For some, the answer lies in good health. For others like me, the answer is rooted in disease. Disease is an abnormal cellular change caused by infection, stress, or inflammation that results in illness. Over time, science has been increasingly studying something called oxidative stress which has been widely recognized as a contributing factor in the aging process and disease.
Simply put, oxidative stress is the metabolic process that in essence causes your cells to corrode when exposed to oxygen. Although you need oxygen to live, high concentrations of it are actually toxic to your molecules. Contributing factors include environment and diet. Although unproven, it is suspected that oxidative stress contributes to the neurodegeneration that is the trademark of multiple sclerosis, among other chronic diseases.
In an abstract, the NIH states that, “Multiple sclerosis exhibits many of the hallmarks of an inflammatory autoimmune disorder including breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, the recruitment of lymphocytes…the presence of multiple lesions…and the presence of immunoglobulin in the central nervous system and cerebrospinal fluid. The inflammatory environment in demyelinating lesions leads to the generation of oxygen…and can lead to oxidative stress.”
To regulate this imbalance focus is placed upon the transcription factor called nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2, or Nrf2. Nrf2, according to Molecular Aspects of Medicine, is referred to as the “master regulator” of the antioxidant response; modulating the expression of hundreds of genes. This helps to control the immune and inflammatory responses to which oxidative stress is linked.
WHAT IS PROTANDIM
A few of you may have seen the 2012 interview on ABC News Primetime by John Quinones in which he investigates and tries a supplement called Protandim.
Protandim, discovered by Dr. McCord of University of Colorado, is a natural source of Nrf2 so it works without side effects or potential damage to your liver and bone marrow. Key ingredients of this dietary supplement include Ashwagandha root, Green Tea, Bacopa, Milk Thistle, and Turmeric extracts. These five botanicals work by signaling the DNA in your body to increase the production of its own natural antioxidant enzymes to combat oxidative stress and aging on the cellular level. It is NOT FDA regulated.
Animal studies indicate that Protandim increases the glutathione 300% in cells which basically helps you prevent oxidative stress. Glutathione maintains intracellular health. It’s a small antioxidant molecule found in every cell that neutralizes free radicals which can build up in your cells and cause damage within a cell. Glutathione can neutralize free radicals thereby fight disease, especially those associated with aging. If you consume a diet high in fresh vegetables, fruit and meat, you probably get adequate glutathione. However, most people’s diets are poor so they don’t get enough.
Tecfidera, a pharmaceutical or synthetic medication that is FDA-approved, historically was used to treat psoriasis and most recently is being used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Like Protandim, it uses the Nrf2 pathway to create antioxidation. However, it also mutes the immune system in ways that have been linked to serious infections.
As I interviewed Dr. Gene DeLucia, board member for and user of Protandim, he explained that Protandim was a natural Tecfidera and everyone with MS ought to consider taking it. He takes it himself as well as prescribes it to patients, family and friends. He claims to see results proven by functionality, feeling, and MRI. He has seen proof of fewer relapses and even disease reversal. Dr. DeLucia went on to say that discovering how to activate Nrf2 is the “biggest breakthrough” in Western medicine.
It seems that one main reason more people haven’t gotten onboard with this is that 21st century medicine is trying to step away from pharmaceuticals while the current industry is driven by profit margins. As for me, I’m always a bit skeptical without proven research. To date, because Protandim is a nutraceutical and not a pharmaceutical, clinical trials have only been performed on animals. Only pharmaceuticals can be researched for a specific disease on humans.
Has the Holy Grail of eternal youth been discovered in Nrf2? And if so, is it safer and/or better to take a nutraceutical (Protandim) non-FDA approved or a pharmaceutical (Tecfidera) that is FDA approved? Many people’s knee-jerk reaction is to immediately choose one or the other based on their own assumptions. Does that mean either option is correct? My plan is to bring this up in conversation with my neurologist (who is a pioneer in treating people with MS) and then have a follow up conversation with Dr. DeLucia to obtain further information. For now, in my opinion the jury is still out. One thing we do know for sure; decrease your oxidative stress (via antioxidants of some sort) and you will increase cellular function and health.