Glutathione the " Master" of Antioxidants

November 16, 2015

    If biochemistry were like the stuff in comic books, antioxidants would be the superheroes — with glutathione (gloota-thigh-own) being  a cross between Superman and Underdog. As the most powerful antioxidant in the body, glutathione works around the clock to fend off these despicable characters. And yet, few people recognize its importance.

    Glutathione is a substance found in every cell in the body. It neutralizes free radicals, enhances the immune system and detoxifies the liver.  Glutathione is a simple molecule composed of three protein building blocks or amino acids- cysteine, glutamine and glycine.

     While certain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals also act as antioxidants, glutathione is different because it is intracellular and  it's produced within a well-nourished healthy body. Proper glutathione levels are actually required so that the other antioxidants such as vitamin C, E, selenium and carotenoids, can be properly utilized within the body. Natural glutathione production is easily disrupted and stores can become quickly depleted by poor diet, stress, medications, infections, radiation and other toxins. Low glutathione levels have been linked with close to 70 diseases associated with aging including cancers, heart diseases, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, arthritis, auto-immune diseases and strokes. Glutathione has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and immediately gets rid of potentially damaging free radicals as they are produced in the cells. This prevents cellular inflammation, thus slowing down aging as well as the keeping the body healthy and the immune system strong.  Starting at age 20 Glutathione production in your body will start reducing and at about age 45, our glutathione levels start to slip even more dipping as much as 50 percent below optimal as we age.

What About Supplement Versions?

    It makes sense that we should be able to incorporate a bit extra with a simple supplement and feel instantly revitalized. The problem with this is that oral glutathione supplements have repeatedly performed poorly in studies testing their absorption. Although some practitioners have reported a success with patients receiving glutathione intravenously, this method is invasive, expensive and often inaccessible to most of us. A concern with the supplement is that large quantities upset the body's natural system causing disruption. The body may stop creating it's own production assuming falsely that there is enough stored already.  Over time, this mis-signaling could lead to a dependency on supplements as natural production ceases to exist.

 What foods are high in Glutathione?

    Several spices found in Indian curry including turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and curcumin, and rosemary. Sulfur containing vegetables such as kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, garlic, cauliflower, bok choy, watercress, mustard, horseradish, turnips, rutabagas and kohlrabi. Other foods included are asparagus, green beans, spinach, avocado, red beets, peaches, watermelon, raw eggs and grape seed extract. Aloe vera,whey protein, raw goats milk (should be hormone and antibiotic free), milk thistle, okra, rice bran and brazil nuts are also great sources.

 Disease fighter

      Glutathione has been tried on a wide range of diseases and conditions including cancer and these studies have yielded promising results. A scottish study of one hundred and fifty women with cancer, being treated with standard chemotherapy cisplatin, were supplemented to raise their GSH(Glutathione) levels. In this study the building blocks of glutathione are introduced into the system of a cancer patient, it then raises GHS in normal healthy cells but triggers the opposite reaction in cancer cells, it effectively shuts down their GSH production.This means your healthy cells get stronger, and your cancer cells get weaker. This enhances the effectiveness of the chemotherapy or radiation treatment while reducing or eliminating side effects since your healthy cells are not as vulnerable to damage. The group raised their GSH and had statistically less: depression, vomiting, hair loss, shortness of breath, neurotoxicity and wasting. Their mental concentration and kidney function improved measurably and a healthier outcome was much more promising. 

What other practices will help with promoting Glutathione?

    It is also important to actively minimize the factors contributing to its depletion in your body. Chronic low-level stress is key in the loss of glutathione. Our bodies simply weren’t designed to handle the prolonged cortisol and adrenaline release experienced as a result of unchecked stress responses. Find a way to reduce stress through practices of mindfulness, yoga, time spent outside, reading and laughing. I know finding a way to manage stress can be difficult.... but it is one of the most healing steps you can take towards having a healthy life.