Nrf2 Pathway: The Body’s Emergency Response Team

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The Pure TheraPro Team

The Pure TheraPro Education Team is comprised of researchers from diverse backgrounds including nutrition, functional medicine, fitness, supplement formulation & food science. All articles have been reviewed for content, accuracy, and compliance by a holistic integrative nutritionist certified by an accredited institution.
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What are pathways?

A metabolic (biochemical) pathway is a set of chemical reactions that occur within the body’s cells. The reactions take place in a particular sequence, and accomplish one of metabolism’s three purposes.
  1. To convert fuel from nutrients into energy necessary to carry out cellular processes
  2. To convert fuel from nutrients into molecules suitable for building other essential molecules (such as proteins), or for performing a function (like storing energy or sending signals)
  3. To eliminate unused (waste) material
There are two types of metabolic pathways. 
  • Catabolic pathways: release energy available in carbohydrates, fats, proteins and other molecules to perform other functions
  • Anabolic pathways: use energy to build more complex molecules (such as nucleic acids and other proteins) from smaller ones
Energy released from a catabolic pathway is used in an anabolic pathway. Pathways function to:
  • maintain homeostasis (a state of equilibrium, e.g. body temperature and oxidative stress)
  • manage the rate at which new molecules are generated (the rate of cell growth and replacement)

If homeostasis can’t be maintained, or the optimal rate of new molecule generation can’t be achieved, the body suffers. Serious and life-threatening disease may result.   Pathways are activated by enzymes, which are a type of protein. An enzyme incites a molecule (substrate) to bind to it in a specific way. The substrate becomes transformed into another necessary product (either RNA or protein). That product becomes the substrate for the next binding, which produces the next product, and so on, until the desired end-product is formed. An enzyme provides the energy needed to jump-start a pathway and each of its successive links. Enzymes are typically specialists at catalyzing a particular pathway.


What’s so special about the Nrf2 pathway?

The Nrf2 pathway serves to:
  • Regulate production of crucial antioxidants, such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase, or SOD
  • Regulate detoxification enzymes, including glutathione- S transferase
  • Down-regulates inflammatory factors, such as NFkB
  • Modulate numerous other genes responsible for inflammatory response, rebuilding tissue, immune system response, inhibiting cancer production and preventing its spread, cognitive processes

While an enzyme provides the jump-start, information from the body’s genetic code serves as a blueprint for what the process and its end-product should look like. The genetic code provides a map; an enzyme starts the bus. If the gene’s code is transmitted improperly, or mistranslated, there’s trouble ahead.

Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress:

When an oxygen containing molecule has an electron that isn’t paired with another electron, that molecule is a free radical. Electrons want to be in pairs, so they are attracted to other electrons. Sometimes lone electrons pair with electrons from harmful bacteria and viruses, which can be helpful by disarming the bacteria or virus, so to speak. The body’s metabolism produces some free radicals as a natural byproduct. Antioxidants inhibit the production of free radicals, which helps keep free radicals within acceptable limits: not too few to manage harmful bacteria and viruses, not too many to cause problems.

Remember, the Nrf2 pathway is responsible for regulating the production of antioxidants. When the body’s free radical off-balance warning signal is activated, Nrf2 is designed to spring into action, returning the system to balance. But, certain conditions can inhibit the Nrf2 activation process.  

Environmental conditions (such as smoking and air pollution) and biological conditions (like stress, high cholesterol or blood pressure) can cause more free radicals to be produced than the body can keep in check. The result is a condition known as oxidative stress.   Some of the many diseases that may result from oxidative stress are:

  • Nerodegenerative Diseases:
    • Multiple Sclerosis
    • ALS, or Loe Gehrig’s Disease
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Gillan Barre Disease
  • Cardiopulmonary Diseases, including atherosclerosis with its secondary complications
  • Inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Fibromyalgia

Eat Your Vegetables:

Nrf2 is dubbed the master regulator because our bodies rely on it to modulate so many life sustaining genetic processes. Mother was right when she told us to eat our veggies! Our bodies are designed to produce the necessary enzymes from certain foods, when they are functioning optimally—and when we eat the right foods. Foods that activate and support the Nrf2 response include:

✓Broccoli ✓Cauliflower ✓Kale ✓Bok choy ✓Brussel sprouts ✓Cabbage ✓Cumin ✓Turmeric ✓Garlic ✓Tomatoes ✓Green tea ✓… the list goes on

Today’s distressed farmlands, the use of chemicals, the length of time from field to table make it difficult to get enough quality foods to support good health.

To activate your Nrf2 pathway, try our Nrf2 Boost™


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