Antioxidants play a crucial role in protecting your cells against free radicals, which may cause disease in the body. Free radicals attack the cells in our body and damage the internal structure of the cell.
There are simple measures to prevent the damage caused to your eggs and sperm cells.
How are cells made up?
We were made from cells dividing; the human body is like a giant jigsaw puzzle with billions of cells which make up every part of our body. Our cells are molecular structures made up of the cell membrane, the nucleus and the cytoplasm. Of course, it’s not as simple as these three elements and so here is a breakdown:
- The Cell/Plasma Membrane is the outer skin of the cell made up of fats protecting the cell, proteins to help form the rigid support of the cell membrane, which acts as the passage from the extracellular (external to the cell) and the intracellular (inside the cell) and maintains the integrity of the cell. The cell membrane acts as a bouncer by controlling what comes in and out of the cell.
- The Nucleus and Nucleolus are the cells control centre, telling the cell how to function and determines the structure. The nucleus formed by the nuclear membrane around fluid called the nucleoplasm. The nucleus contains the DNA, which is the cells genetic material, like an instruction book for the cell. The nucleolus is made of the ribonucleic acid which, contains information copied from DNA.
- The cytoplasm is the fluid-like substances that support and suspend organelles and other cellular molecules like mitochondrion. It is also where protein synthesis occurs and dissolves waste.
- Cytoplasmic Organelles are the cells very own organs are suspended within the cytoplasm. The organelles have various roles to play within the cell; for example, the mitochondrion is the powerhouses (rich in proteins, fats and enzymes) of the cell, making the cells energy work properly. Ribosomes help form proteins in linking amino acids. The Golgi prepares lipids and proteins molecules for use inside and outside the cell. Lysosomes help break down cellular components that need to be destroyed.
“Every cell in your body is eavesdropping on your thoughts.” Deepak Chopra
The cells function depends on what proteins are present and how it’s structured. You have different types of cells that work in harmony to keep the body functioning; these functions include:
- Neurons cells that carry messages from the brain to the body and vice versa.
- Muscle cells to make movement possible.
- Sperm cells are necessary for human production.
- Red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.
- White blood cells to keep the body free of infection.
The survival of the cell depends on the difference between extracellular and intracellular material. Free Radicals react with cells within our body and can cause cell damage.
Egg and Sperm cells
The egg and sperm cells are known as Gametes and referred to as sex or reproductive cells. The female is born with a specific number of eggs, whereas the male produces sperm cells all the time.
Both cells contain 23 unpaired chromosomes, and when they come together (fertilisation), they produce an embryo with the blueprint of a whole unique person. Like the most cell, they can be affected by free radicals.
What are Free Radicals?
No, they are the not part of the 90’s American music band. Free radicals are produced through several lifestyle factors such as poor diet or exposure to smoke or harsh chemicals.
Free radicals are molecular oxygen-containing unpaired electrons roaming alone around the body looking for other electrons to react with. They form when atoms or molecules gain or lose electrons. These free radicals also collide with other cells and trying to steal electrons to pair with. The cells that lose electrons may begin to degrade, which is where your cells age.
Free radicals attack, damage and age the cells by latching onto them through a process called oxidation and can be linked to disease such as; cancer.
What is Oxidative Stress?
Although oxidation is a normal process in the body, like your body using oxygen, can create free radicals as a consequence, the damage caused is called oxidative stress (OS). OS occurs when there are more free radicals than antioxidants in your body. Therefore, the free radicals will begin to attack and damage the cells DNA, lips, and proteins, leading to disease and ageing.
What role do antioxidants play?
Antioxidants are substances that protect our cells against free radicals and oxidative stress. They can prevent or slow down the damage caused to our cells.
Antioxidants can be natural or artificial, but help neutralise free radicals in our bodies and in turn, boosted our overall health.
How does this help with fertility?
Antioxidants cancel out the effects of too many free radicals, meaning egg and sperm quality can improve. It can also improve menstrual health and of course, overall health.
There are many causes of an imbalance of free radicals, here are some examples:
- Toxins such as bisphenol-A (BPA) are found in plastics, parabens found in scented skincare, herbicides, and pesticides sprayed on foods during farming.
- Psychological Stress.
- Poor nutrition leading to obesity or being underweight.
- Not enough exercise or too much activity.
- Drinking excess amounts of alcohol or caffeine.
- Increased temperature in a man’s scrotum.
- Imbalance in blood sugar levels from overeating food high in refined sugars, where your body struggles to make insulin.
Egg and Sperm health/quality
If you live an unhealthy lifestyle and surround yourself with a stressful environment, you can probably guess that your sex cells are taking a hit.
You can reverse this damage and optimise egg and sperm health by lowering the effects of oxidative stress. Incorporating antioxidants into your life can be one way of improving egg and sperm quality.
How can I improve my antioxidant levels?
Antioxidants can come to be natural nutrients such as eating a well-balanced diet rich in antioxidants foods or synthetic form from supplements.
The antioxidants come from nutrients such as vitamin A, C and E and minerals like; copper, zinc and selenium. Good sources of food:
Vitamin A – Liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, and egg yolks.
Vitamin C – Oranges, kiwis, blackcurrants, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, blueberries and strawberries.
Vitamin E – Vegetable oils, avocadoes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Zinc – Seafood, lean meats, milk and. Nuts.
Copper – Seafood, lean meats, milk and nuts.
Selenium – Nuts (brazil nuts), seafood, whole grains.
Flavonoids – Tea, red wine citrus fruits, onions and apples.
Lycopene – Tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit.
Allium Sulphur Compounds – Leeks, onions and garlic.
Isoflavonoids – Soybeans, tofu, lentils and peas.
There is plenty of information in books and on the internet about improving egg and sperm quality using supplements. I would suggest ensuring it’s through dietary influence in the first instance and then uses supplements as an extra measure.
The information usually given on supplementation is generic and not taking your individuality into account. Therefore, it is advised to seek guidance from a trained nutritional practitioner who has the right knowledge about fertility health.
Here are some supplements that people do take if they cannot get the right amount through diet alone.
It is essential to look at your environment and improve the toxins you may take in. Secondly, to ensure you get a well-balanced diet with plenty of antioxidants containing food.
If you ensure that your fridge has a range of different colour fruits and vegetables, you really can’t go wrong with getting enough antioxidants.
Lastly, you can obtain most of your antioxidants from your diet; a nutrition specialist should be able to provide you with a personalised plan of any supplements you may need.