Throughout our lives we suffer numerous injuries, and the body automatically removes old, injured tissues and replaces them with new cells. In fact, the way the human body heals is pretty astonishing.
A simple cut in the skin magically disappears — and in just a few days there’s no sign of it at all. Even the skin over a massive surgical incision more or less goes back to the way it had been before, with minimal signs of damage. That’s because the human body is designed to maintain a healthy structure well into old age.
Part of that design is the process of healing injured tissues and replacing aging cells. While we still don’t understand everything about this process, medical research continues to provide valuable clues about how it works.
To really appreciate the healing process, it’s important to know a little bit about biochemistry. Oxidants are compounds in which molecules have one more proton than electrons, meaning that they take electrons from other molecules. Oxidant molecules are highly reactive and can damage tissues and cells as they search for an extra electron. The body can become unbalanced if it has too many oxidants. Many chronic illnesses are linked with this kind of oxidative stress.
Antioxidants are compounds that have a full complement of electrons. They can donate an electron to an oxidant molecule, thereby neutralizing them. Examples of antioxidants include vitamins C and E, which are considered essential elements because human beings can’t live without them but can’t produce them in our bodies. Therefore, we must get them from our diet or risk health detriments.
For example, lack of vitamin C can cause a disease called scurvy, in which the body’s connective tissues begin to fall apart. This happens because connective tissue is formed primarily of collagen, which requires adequate vitamin C. Lack of vitamin C causes collagen to disintegrate — gums will bleed, teeth will fall out, and bleeding will occur. Those are all symptoms of scurvy.
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