Glutathione “The Master Antioxidant”
Glutathione is known as the “Master Antioxidant or “mother of all antioxidants” Without antioxidants, nature’s free radicals would cause endless damage to our bodies and living healthy would be quite difficult. Fortunately, we have a built in system of antioxidant power that when operating optimally, the dreaded effects of aging can be thwarted and youth preserved. Glutathione is a very simple molecule that is produced naturally all the time in your body. It is a combination of three simple building blocks of protein or amino acids — cysteine, glycine and glutamine.
The secret of its power is the sulfur (SH) chemical groups it contains. Sulfur is a sticky, smelly molecule. It acts like fly paper and all the bad things in the body stick onto it, including free radicals and toxins like mercury and other heavy metals. Because glutathione exists within the cells, it is in a prime position to neutralize free radicals. It also has potentially widespread health benefits because it can be found in all types of cells, including the cells of the immune system, whose job is to fight disease.
Normally glutathione is recycled in the body except when the toxic load becomes too great. And that explains why we are in such trouble
It’s the most important molecule you need to stay healthy and prevent disease. It’s the secret to prevent aging, cancer, heart disease, dementia and more, and necessary to treat everything from autism to Alzheimer’s disease. There are more than 89,000 medical articles about it but your doctor doesn’t know how address the epidemic deficiency of this critical life-giving molecule.
The good news is that the human body produces its own glutathione. The bad news is that poor diet, pollution; toxins, medications, stress, trauma, sleep deprivation, aging, infections and radiation all deplete your glutathione levels. This leaves you susceptible to unrestrained cell disintegration from oxidative stress, free radicals, infections and cancer. When your liver gets overloaded and damaged, it makes it unable to do its job of detoxification.
Research has showed that glutathione deficiency is found in nearly all very ill patients. These include people with chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, cancer, chronic infections, autoimmune disease, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, asthma, kidney problems, liver disease and more. Our ability to produce and maintain a high level of glutathione is critical to recovery from nearly all chronic illness and to preventing disease and maintaining optimal health and performance
Glutathione is revered because of its amazing power over free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules in our body that cause damage to our tissue and organs because of their erratic behavior. Glutathione, like other antioxidants, grab on to the unruly free radical and remove an electron, the bad influence on the free radical, and render it harmless. Glutathione is our most abundant antioxidant found in our cells and livers, and even stored in our protein. Science has observed that when there is marked illness, glutathione levels plummet. It is crucial to maintain adequate levels of glutathione, especially for those with chronic disease and autoimmune conditions. Those with autoimmune conditions are often low in glutathione levels.
Key Points About Glutathione
- Low levels of glutathione are a harbinger for illness and premature death
- It is the primary water-soluble antioxidant and able to restore Vitamin C to it’s usable form
- Glutathione levels are boosted by lipoic acid (another antioxidant)
- Glutathione is crucial for the detoxification of drugs and other pollutants, and for the health of the liver.
- Promote heart health
- Protect your body from mold toxins and alcohol damage
- Glutathione is key to a strong immune system
- Glutathione assists in the storage and transport of amino acids, our building blocks for proteins
- The best way to boost glutathione levels is to take 100 mg of alpha lipoic acid daily.
Glutathione (GSH) is produced out of these three precursors in every cell of the human body and performs many important roles, such as:
- Regulation of cell growth and division – For cells to grow and divide they go through several very complex stages. Glutathione reduces the oxides, such as hydrogen peroxide, inside the cell that would otherwise prevent cell division and growth.
- DNA synthesis and repair (synthesis – reproduction/creation of a new copy) Glutathione protects the DNA from oxidative stress during cell division, which allows for DNA synthesis (division). When the DNA is mutated by a free radical stealing an electron from the DNA, glutathione repairs the mutated DNA by giving up an electron to the DNA (replacing the DNA’s missing electron).
- Protein synthesis – Glutathione maintains our proteins in their proper form. Its sulfur atom reacts with unnatural sulfur-sulfur bonds in proteins, breaking them and allowing the proper pairings to form.
- Amino acid transport (transport – movement into, out of, within a cell, or between cells, by means of some agent such as a transporter) –Glutathione is predominately located in the cell, whereas a major fraction of the cellular y-glutamyl transpeptidase (glutathione enzyme) is on the external surface of cell membranes. This means intracellular glutathione is translocated out of many cells – glutathione moves substances, such as amino acids, in and out of the cell.
- Enzyme catalysis – Glutathione provides the mechanism by which many enzymes are changed (reduced, transformed or changed from one state to another state). Glutathione is the bridge (catalysis) in the chemical reaction between some enzymes.
- Enzyme activation – The highly reactive sulfide bond in glutathione wakes up or activates enzymes so that they carry out their function or are moved from one phase to the next.
- Metabolism of toxins (metabolism or biotransformation – breaking down, activating or transforming) – In the liver, the enzyme glutathione S-transferase takes the sulfur from glutathione and attaches it to toxic molecules, this makes the toxin more water soluble (it is diluted in water easily). Once a toxin is water soluble, it is transported to the body’s elimination systems and is excreted from the body.
- Metabolism of carcinogens - Glutathione enzymes transform carcinogens, through chemical reaction, to unreactive and non-genotoxic compounds that can be eliminated without causing damage to the cell or DNA.
- Metabolism of xenobiotics (xenobiotics – chemical components (drugs and poisons) foreign to the body) – Glutathione interacts with foreign chemicals (primarily, it is a scavenger of harmful xenobiotics that have been oxidized) compounds to neutralize and break them down, then eliminate them from the body.
- Conjugation to heavy metals (conjugation – joining with and transforming by becoming part of) Glutathione joins with heavy metals to neutralize them and eliminate them from the body.
- Conjugation to xenobiotics – In some instances, depending on the state of the xenobiotic, glutathione joins with it instead of metabolizing it.
- Enhancement of systemic immune function – The immune system works best if the lymphoid cells have properly balanced glutathione. The cloning of T-cells consumes large quantities of cysteine. Macrophages (type of white blood cells), which are only present in sufficient quintiles when there is sufficient glutathione, provide the cysteine for the T-cell cloning. Glutathione regulates the binding, internalization, degradation and T-cell proliferation by increasing, as much as two times, the number of binding cellular receptors. More receptors equates to more T-cells being produced simultaneously (multiple T-cell cloning). Cellular GSH also affects the growth and replication of T-cells through growth stimulating cytokines.
- Enhancement of humoral immune function – The role of glutathione in the humoral response is that it protects the cells taking part in the humoral response all along this complex process. A quick synapsis of the humoral immune response: “humoral” means circulating in the bloodstream. This is an immune response (chiefly against bacterial invasion) that is mediated by B cells and involves the transformation of B cells into plasma cells that produce and secrete antibodies to a specific antigen. The process in a nutshell: macrophages engulf and digest the invading pathogen. The digested pieces activate helper T cells which in turn activate the proliferation of B cells that are programed for the specific invading pathogen
- Resistance to UV radiation – Glutathione detoxifies reactive oxygen radicals created by radiation, which reduces the damage to the cell. Glutathione also interacts covalently and non-covalently (neutralizes the reactivity in several ways) with parts of the cell that keep the cell from triggering apoptosis (cell death).
- Decreases radiation damage – The action of glutathione in decreasing the damage from radiation is the same as in resistance to UV radiation above.
- Decreases free radical damage – The crucial cysteine molecule is the key to the protection afforded by glutathione. Its sulfur atom scavenges destructive molecules (peroxides and free radicals) converting them to harmless compounds, such as water.
- Decreases oxyradical damage – Glutathione detoxifies reactive oxygen radicals by giving them an electron, which effectively neutralizes them, or glutathione joins with the oxyradical, which again neutralizes it.
- Metabolizing of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) – Glutathione biotransforms hydrogen peroxide by turning it into harmless water.
- Recycling of other antioxidants (master antioxidant role) – Glutathione recycles oxidized lipoic acid, vitamin C and E by restoring them to an active state, mostly by donating the electrons that they used in metabolizing (neutralizing) free radicals. So, instead of having this army of antioxidants flushed out, they are recycled by glutathione and sent back out to work.
- Storage and transport of cysteine – Glutathione is a tripeptide made up of amino acids CYSTEINE, glycine and glutamate. Glutathione provides and determines the amount and availability of neuronal cysteine.
- Regulation of homocysteine – The methionine cycle and the transsulfuration sequence compose the mechanisms for homocysteine metabolism. Trans-sulfuration sequence requires large quantities of cysteine. It is suspected that the rapid turnover of glutathione in the liver, kidneys, small intestine and pancreas accounts for the metabolism of homocysteine in these organs. Homocysteine metabolism also involves multiple enzymes. Excessive homocysteine is a known contributing factor of hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis).
Sources and Supplementation
Glutathione is probably not well absorbed into the body when taken by mouth. One way to get around that is to take it by vein. A more practical solution is to take the precursors that is, the molecules the body needs to make glutathione rather than glutathione itself. Glutathione is abundant in many fruits, vegetables and fresh cooked meats. However, the digestive process breaks it down. It is believed that the molecule of glutathione is too large to pass through the digestive tract, allowing only small amounts to be absorbed into the body. For this reason, oral glutathione supplementation is not recommended. There are topical creams that do deliver a beneficial dosage of glutathione when applied to vascular areas of the body.
One of the best ways to boost glutathione levels are to supplement with nutrients that assist the body in recycling already used glutathione. As mentioned, glutathione takes an electron from a free radical to calm it down. Once it has accepted that electron, it is no longer able to perform again unless the body recycles it. Fortunately for us, many of our antioxidants work in tandem. Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) works well with glutathione. ALA is easily absorbed in supplements and it partners with glutathione to restore its antioxidant power. The amino acid N-Acetyl Cysteine is also able to boost glutathione levels, but not nearly as efficiently as ALA. Supplements with ALA and NAC work well at boosting our miracle antioxidant.
Lifestyle choices like smoking and eating too many nitrate-laden foods (i.e., luncheon meats) can work against your glutathione levels. Alcohol consumption also robs our stores of glutathione in our liver. If you are concerned about cancer and inflammation in the body, work heartily at keeping your glutathione levels in check.
You’ve probably heard that free radicals are a big part of the human’s aging process. Gluathione is probably nutrition’s greatest defense against the battle of aging and loss of vitality. A diet high in the other key antioxidants that work with glutathione, like Vitamin C and E, and alpha lipoic acid, as well as a simple supplementation with a glutathione recycling supplement can ensure a healthier more respectable aging process.
The Importance of Glutathione in Protecting Against Chronic Illness
Glutathione is critical for one simple reason: It recycles antioxidants. Dealing with free radicals is like handing off a hot potato. They get passed around from vitamin C to vitamin E to lipoic acid and then finally to glutathione which cools off the free radicals and recycles other antioxidants. After this happens, the body can “reduce” or regenerate another protective glutathione molecule and we are back in business.
However, problems occur when we are overwhelmed with too much oxidative stress or too many toxins. Then the glutathione becomes depleted and we can no longer protect ourselves against free radicals, infections, or cancer and we can’t get rid of toxins. This leads to further sickness and soon we are in the downward spiral of chronic illness.
But that’s not all. Glutathione is also critical in helping your immune system do its job of fighting infections and preventing cancer. That’s why studies show that it can help in the treatment of AIDS.
Glutathione is also the most critical and integral part of your detoxification system. All the toxins stick onto glutathione, which then carries them into the bile and the stool and out of your body.
And lastly, it also helps us reach peak mental and physical function. Research has shown that raised glutathione levels decrease muscle damage, reduce recovery time, increase strength and endurance and shift metabolism from fat production to muscle development.
If you are sick or old or are just not in peak shape, you likely have glutathione deficiency.
In fact, the top British medical journal, the Lancet, found the highest glutathione levels in healthy young people, lower levels in healthy elderly, lower still in sick elderly and the lowest of all in the hospitalized elderly.
Keeping yourself healthy, boosting your performance, preventing disease and aging well depends on keeping your glutathione levels high.
It is critical for immune function and controlling inflammation. It is the master detoxifier and the body’s main antioxidant, protecting our cells and making our energy metabolism run well.
And the good news is that you can do many things to increase this natural and critical molecule in your body. You can eat glutathione-boosting foods. You can exercise. And you can take glutathione-boosting supplements. Let’s review more specifics about each.
WHAT DOES GLUTATHIONE DO IN OUR BODIES?
- Antioxidant – GSH is the body’s master Antioxidant, our bodies depend on GSH for the removal of toxins and GSH is at the heart of all immune functions. Other antioxidants in our body depend on GSH to function properly.
- Detoxification – GSH detoxifies a large number of pollutants by binding to carcinogens, heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides and radiation by forming a soluble compound with the toxin that can then be excreted through the urine or bile.
- Immune system – Healthy growth and activity of immune cells depends on the availability of GSH. The protective activity of GSH is two-fold – it enhances the activity of immune cells and also functions as an antioxidant within them.
- Increased Energy – Our energy levels are a result of many factors – everything from the biochemical reactions taking place within our cells, to muscle function and even your sense of well-being. GSH enables the mitochondria of a cell to remain fully charged, enhancing muscle strength and endurance. Clinical trials have shown that lowering GSH in the mitochondria results in cell death.
- Repair – Our body is constantly under attack from free radicals, some from external sources and some generated in our own body. Free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, “stealing” its electron. A molecule that loses an electron then becomes a free radical itself and attacks the next nearest stable molecule, this begins a chain reaction. Once the reaction is started it can cascade through hundreds of molecules. As this occurs over and over again the cell eventually dies or mutates. Sometimes the mutated cell mutates to a point that we know as cancer. GSH performs a vital role in repairing the damaged DNA by replacing the missing electron. Normal to elevated GSH keeps the repair of our cells at a maximum and reduces the number of cell mutations that would occur otherwise.
NOTE: GSH is at the heart of all immune functions and low GSH levels are seen in many diseases such as AIDS, advanced diabetes, and cancers. Raising and maintaining GSH levels can help minimize the risk of diseases.
Glutathione exists in reduced (GSH) and oxidized (GSSG) states. In healthy cells and tissue, more than 90% of the total Glutathione is in the reduced form (GSH) and less than 10% exists in the oxidized form (GSSG). An increased GSSG-to-GSH ratio is considered indicative of oxidative stress. The ratio of reduced Glutathione to oxidized Glutathione within cells is often used scientifically as a measure of cellular toxicity.
What depletes glutathione in our bodies?
Many toxic and harmful substances that we are exposed to on a daily basis require considerable amounts of Glutathione for detoxification.
Some of these substances are listed below:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and other pharmaceuticals;
- Acetone, solvents, paint removers, fuels, fuel by-products;
- Heavy metals (mercury (dental amalgams, vaccines, tattoos), lead, cadmium, copper, etc.)
- Pesticides, herbicides
- Nitrates and other food preservatives of chemical origin (in salami, hot dogs, hams, bologna, smoked foods, etc.)
- Artificial sweetener aspartame
- Benzopyrenes (tobacco smoke, barbequed foods, fuel exhaust, etc.)
- Household chemicals (synthetically scented and colored detergents and fabric softeners, air fresheners, mothballs, mildew removers, cleaners and bleach, lawn and plant fertilizers, etc.)
- Housewares chemicals (non-stick coating of pans and skillets, plastic containers and linings of tin cans and other food packaging
- Formaldehyde and styrene (photocopiers and toner printers);
- Chlorine in treated water
- Medical X-rays
- UV radiation
- Industrial pollutants.
Other external factors that deplete Glutathione:
- Poor diet – in this case Glutathione has to work hard to cover for missing or insufficient nutrients and antioxidants;
- Strenuous exercise – though not a toxic substance but produces a lot of free radicals within the body;
- Chronic stress
- Light pollution which lowers Glutathione levels by suppressing melatonin production at night (bedside night lights, street lights);
- Age – after the age of 20 natural glutathione production decreases at the rate of 10% per decade on average in healthy adults.
Glutathione deficiency occurs when your body is unable to produce enough glutathione to cover all the functions, which this master antioxidant performs. Decreased glutathione levels are usually the result of a lifestyle that is characterized by the many factors that deplete glutathione.
Glutathione deficiency leads to;
- Increased oxidative stress
- Greatly reduced ability to detoxify
- Accumulation of toxins and heavy metals
- Inability to repair DNA
- Cell mutations
- Weakened cell membranes
- Reduced supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells
- Eventual cell death
Symptoms of Glutathione Deficiency
The symptoms may include:
- Weakness/lack of energy
- Brain “fog”
- Joint pain
- Dry skin
- Sleep disorders
- Frequent colds
- Onset of a more serious health condition
Immune System and Diseases
Diseases that produce any symptoms that we are aware of are a direct failure of the immune system to adequately respond to the intruding organism. Immune system disorders are tied together in many ways. The following will try to lay out some of the ways immune disorders and diseases are tied together in common and easy to understand terms.
The immune response seeks out, identifies and attacks threatening microorganisms, allergens and cancer cells collectively called antigens. The back bone of the immune system is made up of – B-cells, helper T-cells, killer T-cells and suppressor T-cells. When this system is disrupted the doors to diseases and infection are open and health is compromised.
The immune system relies on chemical warfare and overwhelming numbers to destroy most intruding invaders. To achieve overwhelming numbers the immune cells go through cloning. For chemical warfare they produce highly reactive oxidizers. The limiting factor in cell reproduction is the availability of the food required for this to take place – Glutathione (GSH). Surrounding cells can be and are sometimes damaged by the immune response. What the cells do to protect themselves is they bring as much available GSH to the cell wall as possible. This neutralizes the oxidants before they can damage the cell. A healthy immune system with all the available food it needs to mount a proper response can defend itself against most diseases. The available GSH corresponds directly to the effectiveness of the immune response. A good example of this is when a baby is being breast feed – mother’s milk is loaded with all the things a baby needs to have a strong immune system and response, and babies rarely get sick as long as they are breast fed.
A more scientific way of saying this is: When a lymphocyte attacks a pathogen, it releases powerful oxidizing chemicals such as peroxide and protects itself against these chemicals by neutralizing them with GSH. In addition, lymphocytes must replicate themselves over and over again in order to attack the whole pathogen population. This requires the use of oxygen and releases further oxidants. In order to continue multiplying efficiently GSH is once again required and to counteract the effects of oxidation even additional GSH is required. So fighting off infection and diseases consumes GSH in two ways – by using it to stabilize free radicals and also to grow immune cells.
Glutathione and Cancer
The immune system and cancer are tied together at the most fundamental level. Healthy cells have a built-in mechanism that only allows cellular replication for three purposes: normal growth, healing of injured tissue and replacement of cells lost in normal metabolism. Cancer starts with a mutation in the genetic code of the cell that results in uncontrolled growth. There can be many causes for a cell to mutate: pollutants, ionizing radiation, diet, and certain viruses. When the immune system is operating properly it repairs the mutations and prevents the cancer from starting this way, but when the immune system is compromised, the repairer does not occur and cancer gets a foothold. Cancer and the immune system are so closely tied together that our best and first line of defense against cancer is a healthy immune system.
Hundreds of medical articles have been written describing the role of GSH in cancer prevention, cancer treatment and as an alternative treatment for cancer. GSH plays a major role in cancer prevention as a detoxifying agent and as an antioxidant agent for higher immune response. A special role for GSH in chemotherapy and radiotherapy is because it enhances the effectiveness of arduous treatments while minimizing their side effects. Cancer patients are typically heavily dosed with pharmaceutical drugs and suffer from poor appetite and low energy especially when undergoing chemo or radiation therapy. Undenatured whey proteins are an ideal way to increase GSH levels and simultaneously address protein requirements. While increasing your glutathione is considered one of many alternative cancer treatments, it is really one of the most researched and proven ways to complement general medical procedures while providing your body with the essentials it needs to fight and improve your quality of life. Elevated glutathione replenishes antioxidant defenses, contributes to synthesis and repair of DNA and helps detoxify numerous carcinogens and mutagens.
Prostate cancer and lung cancer are two particular cancers that benefit greatly for raised GSH. The reason that increasing your GSH works for prostate cancer is that prostrate cancer progresses very slow. Elevated GSH levels take time to work and time to restore natural prostate health. It is seen that in the first 4 to 5 months of use of Cysteine-Rich Protein the mortality rate is about the same, but there is a very remarkable difference after that amount of time. Understanding how our bodies work, how the immune system fights cancer and what it needs to fight cancer provides information as to why this is. In simple terms it is a war going on within the body; cancer cells on one side and your body’s defenses on the other. You only have a limited amount of resources to fight the war and both sides are drawing from the same resources. When resources are high the cancer can remain dormant or advance a slower rate, but your defenses, your immune system can all but collapse when resources are low. This gives the cancer the edge it needs to win. But it does not have to be this way; you can beat the cancer at its own game. “When GSH production is over stimulated in cancer cells, they shut down glutathione production in a process called negative feedback inhibition, making them more susceptible to destruction. Meanwhile, normal tissue uses the precursors to make glutathione, leaving it with better defenses. The slow moving prostate cancer can then be dealt with much more effectively over the long run when GSH is kept at optimum levels.
Lung cancer is very insidious to the body, in that like other cancers it is using your resources to destroy your body but in an additional way it is also trying to limit one of your most vital resources- oxygen. As the lung cancer progresses it can cause shortness of breath (dyspnea) and greatly increase the already high oxidative stress that occurs in the lungs. Next to the liver and kidneys the lungs have the highest GSH content (2.9 u-mol/g). “An impressive amount of research has clarified the critical importance of antioxidants and GSH in all these pulmonary diseases. Unlike most tissues, the lungs can use GSH as-is – through direct contact-rather than having to first absorb its precursors and then manufacture it. There are many ways to elevate pulmonary GSH, including oral, intravenous and inhaled therapies.”
Glutathione and Aging
One of the major contributors to premature aging is oxidative stress. Glutathione prevents oxidative stress in most cells and helps trap free radicals that can damage DNA and RNA. There is a direct correlation with the speed of aging and the reduction of glutathione concentrations in intracellular fluids. As individuals grow older, glutathione levels drop, and the ability to detoxify free radicals decreases. Several studies have found a high level (higher than normal for the age group) of GHS in the blood occurs in persons in there golden years who are in excellent physical and mental health.
Nine Tips to Optimize your Glutathione Levels
These 9 tips will help you improve your glutathione levels, improve your health, optimize your performance and live a long, healthy life.
Eat Foods that Support Glutathione Production
- Consume sulfur-rich foods. The main ones in the diet are garlic, onions and the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, etc.).
- Try bioactive whey protein. This is great source of cysteine and the amino acid building blocks for glutathione synthesis. As you know, I am not a big fan of dairy. But this is an exception — with a few warnings. The whey protein MUST be bioactive and made from non-denatured proteins (“denaturing” refers to the breakdown of the normal protein structure). Choose non-pasteurized and non-industrially produced milk that contains no pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics. Immunocal is a prescription bioactive non-denatured whey protein that is even listed in the Physician’s Desk Reference.
Exercise for Your Way to More Glutathione
- Exercise boosts your glutathione levels and thereby helps boost your immune system, improve detoxification and enhance your body’s own antioxidant defenses. Start slow and build up to 30 minutes a day of vigorous aerobic exercise like walking or jogging, or play various sports. Strength training for 20 minutes 3 times a week is also helpful.
Take Glutathione Supporting Supplements
One would think it would be easy just to take glutathione as a pill, but the body digests protein so you wouldn’t get the benefits if you did it this way. However, the production and recycling of glutathione in the body requires many different nutrients and you CAN take these. Here are the main supplements that need to be taken consistently to boost glutathione. Besides taking a multivitamin and fish oil, supporting your glutathione levels with these supplements is the most important thing you can do everydayyou’re your personal health.
- N-acetyl-cysteine. This has been used for years to help treat asthma and lung disease and to treat people with life-threatening liver failure from Tylenol overdose. In fact, in the emergency room it is even given to prevent kidney damage from dyes used during x-ray studies. It is an amino acid that is required for the production of Glutathione directly in the cells – that’s where Glutathione is most needed and produced by the body itself. Cysteine is usually the limiting factor in the production of Glutathione because of its shortages. Cysteine can be found at health food stores as a supplement. It is also present in many fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs bonded with other amino acids to form proteins, however, cooking destroys it. Most cysteine from raw produce does not survive the trip from the stomach to cells either. The bacteria in our intestinal tract quickly eat up the cysteine that does survive – all living organisms use cysteine, so it is useful in that it helps our flora to stay healthy.
- Alpha lipoic acid. This is a close second to glutathione in importance in our cells and is involved in energy production, blood sugar control, brain health and detoxification. The body usually makes it, but given all the stresses we are under, we often become depleted. It is a disulfide compound with several functions: it acts as an antioxidant, it neutralizes several toxins including heavy metals lead and cadmium, it acts as a co-enzyme for recycling other antioxidants including Glutathione and also vitamins C and E. Lipoic acid is produced in the body but also available as a supplement. It plays an important role in converting Glutathione back and forth from its oxidized form to its reduced or non-oxidized form (GSH). This ability of lipoic acid to enhance Glutathione function leads to improved levels of GSH in cases of Glutathione deficiencies – most known diseases show Glutathione deficiencies especially in their chronic state. Recommended dosages of supplemental lipoic acid are 100 to 200 mg/day.
- Methylation nutrients (folate and vitamins B6 and B12). These are perhaps the most critical to keep the body producing glutathione. Methylation and the production and recycling of glutathione are the two most important biochemical functions in your body. Take folate (especially in the active form of 5 methyltetrahydrofolate), B6 (in active form of P5P) and B12 (in the active form of methylcobalamin).
- Selenium. This important mineral helps the body recycle and produce more glutathione. It is a trace element that functions as an antioxidant. It also participates in protein synthesis and other metabolic processes and acts together with other antioxidants, especially vitamin E. Selenium elevates the levels of glutathione peroxidase; the cysteine molecule appearing in the process of digestion of plants grown in selenium-rich soil contributes to GSH production. Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for adults is 55 mcg. Best dietary sources are Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, oatmeal, tuna, turkey, chicken breast, beef, eggs and brown rice.
- A family of antioxidants including vitamins C and E (in the form of mixed tocopherols), work together to recycle glutathione.
- Milk thistle (silymarin) – A plant used by herbalists for many centuries to treat various liver disorders as it seems to stimulate the growth and regeneration of injured liver cells. The active component of milk thistle called silymarin prevents lipid peroxidation of GSH and maintains its levels. Recommended dosages vary quite a bit from 50 to 500 milligrams three times a day. Toxic reactions can develop with overdose: cramps, gas and diarrhea. Milk thistle should not be used without a professional medical advice.
- L-Glutamine – Free amino acid found in the body in abundance. It is common in blood, muscles and the brain. Glutamine is very closely related to glutamic acid (glutamate) – second most important Glutathione precursor after cysteine. Glutamine and glutamate have the ability to metabolize into one another which means glutamine supplies the body with glutamate – that is an important function. The studies have shown that when taken orally or intravenously glutamine raises Glutathione concentrations. Glutamine is crucial to the metabolism and maintenance of muscles. It serves as a primary nutrient for the cells of the GI tract lining; supports liver metabolism and function; can boost the immune system – all due to its ability to promote Glutathione production. One study led by Dr. Rouse of University of Arkansas showed that glutamine as a supplement was able to lower Glutathione levels in tumors making them more susceptible to chemotherapy while raising Glutathione in healthy cells making them more resistant to such harsh cancer treatments. Glutamine is abundant in plants and meats but gets easily destroyed by cooking. Good sources are fresh parsley, spinach and sushi with uncooked fish (make sure the restaurant is reputable and serves quality fish). Glutamine supplements vary in dosages from 500 mg to 5,000 mg. They come in pill or powder form, and are often labeled “L-glutamine”. Supplemental glutamine can lead to gastrointestinal side effects. Elderly and patients with kidney and liver diseases should be very cautious when taking this supplement. The use of supplemental glutamine, especially long-term, should be monitored by a doctor.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is necessary for proper functioning of enzyme gamma glutamyl transpeptidase, which is important in the synthesis of Glutathione. RDI is 400 mg, but optimum daily intake is considered at 490- 700 mg. Best dietary sources are halibut, spinach, squash, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, toasted sesame seeds, beans, walnuts, almonds, peanuts and Brazil nuts.
- Zinc – Zinc deficiency leads to low concentrations of reduced (non-oxidized) Glutathione, especially in red blood cells. This is detrimental to Glutathione metabolism. However, high levels of zinc may reduce Glutathione because zinc has certain toxicity. RDI for adults is 8-11 mg. Best dietary sources are oysters, beef shanks, chicken legs, pork shoulder and tenderloin, and Alaskan King crab. Zinc from beans, legumes and grains have very low bioavailability compared to meat sources.
Note: Raising GSH level has been CLINICALLY PROVEN to be beneficial for people afflicted with: AIDS, Alzheimer’s, asthma, burns, all CANCERS, cataracts, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, diseases of liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, and digestive system, flu, fibromyalgia, glaucoma (open angle only, closed angle not effected), hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, physical trauma, skin disorders, seizures, tumors, and more. To state something is beneficial to your health is one thing but to prove it clinically is to give it validity. Do not underappreciate the profound meaning of this statement – raising your GSH level is CLINICALLY PROVEN TO BE BENEFICIAL for a very wide array of health concerns.
NOTE: Oral Glutathione is useless as most of it gets broken down in the digestive system and does not reach cells. Only very small amounts of Glutathione make it into the bloodstream. One study showed an increase in plasma GSH after administering dietary Glutathione to rats with chemically inhibited Glutathione synthesis; however, no increase in liver was observed where it is most needed since liver is the largest and most important detoxifying organ.
Note: In case of Hyperhomocysteinemia, the primary vitamin used to lower homocysteine levels is folate and studies have clearly shown a decrease in homocysteine levels with folate. Taking folate and vitamin B12 can lead to an additional decrease in homocysteine levels above that seen with folate alone.