Free radicals are oxidizers which can damage cells from within. A cell’s nucleus is surrounded by electrons. If one of these negatively-charged electrons is affected by external factors such as stress, depression, food toxicity and other environmental factors, the electron changes the atomic structure of the cell, making the atom into a free radical which damages and eventually kills the cell it occupies.
Free radicals are one cause of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, asthma and rapid aging. This is why antioxidants are critical to health. Anti-oxidants “donate” extra electrons to cells to restore balance and health.
The human body can produce antioxidants but much of the time, the quantities are insufficient to ward off the damage caused by modern lifestyles - stress, pollution and the toxins found in processed food and food grown with chemical pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer and so forth. Eating a healthy diet high in fresh foods (the best source of antioxidants) is important, as is the reduction of stress.
Meditation helps restore balance in the body by reducing the excess production of stress hormones, by stimulating the digestive system (to aid in flushing out toxins) and by promoting deep, restful relaxation. The “rest and digest” effect of increased activity in parasympathetic nervous system is how meditation helps the body heal and regenerate.
A study conducted by David Orme Johnson, PhD found that Transcendental Meditation and other meditation practices lowered free radicals by an average of 22% in sixty 40-50 year old male subjects.
A dedicated meditation practice results in less free radical creation, simply by significantly reducing stress. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system, and deactivating the sympathetic nervous system, has many far-reaching physical benefits - among them, reduction in disease-causing free radicals!