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Conventional medicine considers disease and a decline in health as a natural process of aging. Advocates of natural health care view this decline over time as the accumulation of toxins and chronic disease, not as an accepted byproduct of aging itself.

 Oxidation

As oxygen interacts with the body’s cells, oxidation occurs. While this is a natural process and the body metabolizes oxygen well, 1% to 2% of its cells will become damaged by that oxygen and become free radicals.

Free radicals are damaged cells. They are missing a critical molecule and they then seek out to replace that molecule from other cells very aggressively. When free radicals rob other cells of their molecules, they damage the DNA in that cell and this creates the basis for disease. When a cell’s DNA is changed, the cell becomes mutated: it grows and reproduces abnormally and quickly.

Generally, the body has a good defense against free radicals and they are controlled with antioxidants.  Problems arise when there are too many free radicals for the body to manage.

Free radicals are dangerous because they trigger a damaging and rapid chain reaction that can quickly overwhelm the body’s natural defense system. This damage leads to chronic disease, including cancer, joint disease, heart, liver and kidney disease, and cognitive decline.

Control Free Radicals

Toxins that are introduced to the body can generate free radicals and trigger the spiral into chronic disease. Pesticides, antibiotics and other toxins in your dog’s food will harbor free radicals. Environmental pesticides and cleaning chemicals are also an important source. Vaccines and pharmaceuticals also trigger substantial free radical production.

With time, the free radicals these toxins will accumulate and the body won’t be able to stop their damage. This is why avoiding these toxins is the biggest step you can take to preserve your dog’s health.

 Antioxidants And Diet

While reducing your dog’s exposure to vaccines, pesticides and chemicals your dog is critical to his health, he will still be exposed to some environmental toxins. Getting antioxidants into his diet will help fight this oxidative damage.

A healthy diet will contain plenty of antioxidants that will help prevent free radical chain reactions or stop them after they have started.

Vitamin C is able to capture free radicals and neutralize them. Dogs are typically able to produce their own vitamin C.

Vitamin E will sit in the cell membrane and break free radical chain reactions. Animal sources generally have low levels of vitamin E whereas plant based oils contain the highest concentrations.

Flavonoids are especially powerful antioxidants that are found in most fruits, vegetables and herbs, and in high concentrations in berries. Green tea also contains very high amounts of flavonoids. In general, the more brightly colored the food, the higher the concentration of flavonoids.

Polyphenols, or phenols, are a smaller class of antioxidants that can be found in highest concentrations in dark red fruits.

A well rounded, healthy diet is the best approach. Avoid supplementing your dog with synthetic sources of vitamins C and E as these are treated as drugs by the body and may trigger further free radical production. A fresh, whole diet complete with organ meats, nutritional herbs and some berries, and perhaps a little green tea, should help your dog manage oxidative stress.