Glutathione, a natural detoxifier and antioxidant, is needed by every cell in the body. It clears toxins from our bodies and is the most powerful antioxidant we have to fight oxidative stress which can promote many chronic diseases.
“Glutathione is generally agreed to be the most significant endogenous antioxidant, though it plays many metabolic roles beyond arresting oxidative damage….” — from a Comparative Study on Glutathione and Oxidative Stress Markers
Having Enough Glutathione
All cells in a healthy body synthesize glutathione — it’s one of the most important substances that our bodies make. We just need to have the necessary building blocks and well-chemical processes to make it.
But glutathione levels commonly fall short, especially as we age. By age 65, there is a 50% reduction in our active glutathione levels.
Stressors like disease and environmental factors tax glutathione levels as well. The greater the stressors, the greater the need for glutathione.
We can’t get glutathione from food in a ready-made form. But there are several reasonable options to increase those levels to help maintain good health:
1. eat more foods with glutathione’s building blocks like garlic and onions and sulfur containing cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage. Of course the success of making glutathione from these building blocks depends upon the success of the conversion. Age and health are important factors.
2. take a nutrition supplement that provides glutathione precursors, like milk thistle (silymarin), N-acetylcysteine (NAC) or curcumin. Many people find this beneficial as well, but again it is dependent upon successful conversion to glutathione.
3. take an active glutathione nutrition supplement (e.g. Clinical Glutathione in my supplement store) that is absorbed directly into the blood stream without going through the digestive tract. This active form is also referred to as reduced glutathione.
(Without this protected delivery system, if swallowed, glutathione would be oxidized during the digestive process, and actually add to the overall burden of free radicals in the body!)
Glutathione plays a major role in detoxification – ridding our bodies of damaging materials and byproducts. It helps take toxins we get from our environment out of circulation and prepares them for disposal out of your body, either through the stool (via bile) or urine.
Our bodies have to deal with an increasing number of environmental toxins and their cumulative effects. You don’t have to live near a manufacturing plant or in polluted air conditions to be affected by environmental toxins. Exposure to chemicals from fertilizers, pesticides, cleaning supplies and detergents, drug metabolites, alcohol, xenoestrogens like BPA are routine. There are also heavy metals like mercury and lead that accumulate in our soils and water supplies and make their way into our food supply.
The liver is the organ in charge of keeping toxins from accumulating in the body. Based on glutathione’s role in the body, it’s no coincidence that the highest concentration of glutathione resides in the liver.
Glutathione works as an incredible member of the body’s cleanup crew. Can you imagine what your house would look like if you never cleaned it?!
Glutathione as the Master and Super Antioxidant
Glutathione is the most powerful antioxidant in our bodies. Antioxidants fight oxidative stress. Unchecked, chronic oxidative stress is associated with many diseases including cancers, neurodegenerative diseases and heart disease.
Antioxidants stabilize the free radicals naturally produced in our bodies during chemical reactions and neutralize free radicals in foods such as when we consume food that has gone rancid.
Antioxidants like glutathione actually donate one of their own electrons, essentially removing free radical intermediates. In a way they are “heroes,”– they put themselves into the line of fire to be oxidized themselves, thereby inhibiting other harmful oxidation reactions.
There are two forms of glutathione…the active form (also referred to as reduced) and the oxidized form, which is the form it after it “does its job” donating its electron. The body has a pathway to recycle the oxidized form back into the active form. Having a healthy ratio of active glutathione to oxidized glutathione is very important to good health.
Without antioxidants, free radicals (due to their unstable molecular composition) could initiate chain reactions that damage cells and their cellular DNA. This oxidative stress can cause excessive inflammation, may kill cells, affect cellular replication and regeneration, and if the situation becomes chronic, may play a significant role in many human diseases.
Glutathione could be called a Super antioxidant. Not only does it work as an antioxidant, but it also boosts the power of other antioxidants in our bodies, such as vitamins C and E. In other words, glutathione regenerates or recycles these vitamins after they have been “spent.”
Glutathione and the Immune System
If that were not enough, glutathione also supports the immune system and is needed to make white blood cells. Clearly, glutathione plays a key role in maintaining optimal health and preventing disease.
A link between numerous chronic diseases such as diabetes, gout, Alzheimer’s, and low glutathione levels has been reported. Of course, link or association is not the same as causation.
Clinical research with active glutathione, often in the intravenous form, shows promise for reducing chemotherapy’s adverse effects on the nervous system and brain, and for treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.