The Modern Vital Podcast

Breathing Fire: Oxidative Stress, Inflammation & Immunity, with Dr. Heather Zwickey

September 27, 2023 Ben Reebs Season 1 Episode 31
The Modern Vital Podcast
Breathing Fire: Oxidative Stress, Inflammation & Immunity, with Dr. Heather Zwickey
Show Notes

In this episode of The Modern Vital Podcast hosted by Dr. Ben Reebs, the discussion with Dr. Heather Zwickey, an esteemed immunologist, centers around the detrimental effects of air pollution, including wildfire smoke, on human health through oxidative stress and inflammation. Dr. Zwickey elucidates the dangerous cascade initiated by reactive oxygen species (ROS), produced in response to various forms of pollution, leading to chronic inflammation and cellular damage, notably to the mitochondria - our cellular energy generators.

During the conversation, Dr. Zwickey explicates that an excess of ROS in the body signals danger to the immune system, initiating an inflammatory response analogous to that observed during severe physical damage, such as a house fire. This response activates the production of cytokines, which have behavioral effects, including fatigue, anxiety, and aggression, symptomatic of chronic inflammation prevalent in today's society. However, she also highlights the crucial balance needed between oxidative stress and antioxidant levels in the body. While oxidative stress is necessary for certain physiological processes and immune functions, excessive antioxidants can also be harmful, inhibiting essential immune responses to infections.

Dr. Zwickey sheds light on the delicate balance required between oxidative stress and antioxidants for maintaining health. With increasing environmental pollution and challenges such as wildfires exacerbated by climate change, understanding and managing the body’s inflammatory responses becomes imperative for public health. For listeners interested in learning more about her work, Dr. Zwickey can be reached through her website and Instagram account.

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