Glutathione is a naturally occurring protein that is made by the body. It’s made in the liver and functions to neutralize and remove toxins by binding with toxins into a water-soluble complex which can be excreted through the liver, enhance immune function, and protect all cells from free radicals and oxidative damage by acting as an antioxidant. Glutathione is different from other vitamins or antioxidants due to the fact that it works inside the cell, a fact that will make supplementing with glutathione supplements more difficult and complicated. Proper glutathione levels are required so that other antioxidants such as vitamins C, and E, and selenium are properly utilized in the body.
Glutathione is also an essential neurotransmitter and neuromodulator in the brain, and also protects neurons from free radical attacks and damage. Glutathione also has a role in DNA synthesis; in fact, a lot of studies have focused on its role in cancer and its prognosis due to this fact.
Natural glutathione levels are easily depleted by poor diet, stress, infections, medications, radiation treatments, and other toxins invading the body.
Depleted glutathione levels
- result in high levels of “pro-inflammatory cytokines
- activate apoptosis or cell death
- significantly decrease the liver’s ability to detoxify the body
- significantly reduce the immune cells’ ability to protect the body from invading organisms.
Many neurological and chronic conditions have been linked to reduced glutathione levels in the body; conditions such as Fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and even Depression.
Glutathione levels can be measured through a blood test, which is a great idea since glutathione is so crucial to our health. If glutathione levels are low, their production can be boosted through nutrition, or by taking special supplements.
How to Boost Glutathione Production in the Body
- Consume a nutrient-dense, organic diet, full of cruciferous green vegetables, rich in sulfur (sulfur-rich foods produce glutathione)
- Consume protein supplements that contain the precursors to glutathione; the amino acids cysteine, glycine and glutamine. Invest in purchasing a pure, cold-processed, unsweetened whey protein supplement, sourced from grass-fed cows, and without any additives. Fresh fruits and even vegetables can be combined with whey protein into a breakfast or dinner smoothie.
- Get some exercise. Strenuous exercise leads to extensive cell damage and free radical production. So, practice healthy fitness, maybe a twenty minute walk outside or on a machine, enough to boost ATP (adenosine triphosphate; needed for glutathione production) levels. Don’t over-exert yourself. “No Pain, No gain” is over-rated.
- Consume raw milk and eggs from a trusted farm. The process of pasteurization will completely take away the benefits of eggs and dairy on glutathione production. You can use Weston A Price Foundation, or relmilk.com as a resource for finding trust-worthy local farms for fresh, un-pasteurized produce.
- Consume red meat and organ meats from grass-fed animals
The alpha lipoic acid found abundantly in red meats and organ meats (from grass-fed animals!) has been shown to help regenerate glutathione and support the activities of vitamins C and E. If the idea of eating actual liver or other organ meats is not pleasant to you, you can take “desiccated liver” supplements and still get the same benefits. Make sure it’s pure and from a trustable and established company.
- Incorporate the spice Turmeric in your cooking. This yellow, Indian spice is widely available in the Western market now, and contains the active compound, curcumin, which is known for its healing qualities. It is an antioxidant and antiseptic, as well as an anti-inflammatory agent. Studies have shown that curcumin may also be helpful in enhancing glutathione metabolism. Add it in your soups and stews. Turmeric can even be added to hot water and taken as a tea (2 tablespoonfuls in an 8-oz cup of hot water significantly helps with arthritis pain and discomfort). It also comes as a supplement that you can purchase at a health food store. Just make sure it is an organic brand, without any additives or fillers.
While it’s important to boost and promote glutathione production, it’s also important to actively minimize the factors that contribute to its depletion in the body. Chronic stress, even low-level stress is a primary factor in losing glutathione in the body by way of prolonged cortisol and adrenaline release during periods of stress. Do what works for you; meditation, small nature walks or hikes, music, yoga, breathing exercises, etc.
Glutathione is available in IV injection and nebulized forms through your physician.
There are also many glutathione supplements on the market. However, for external glutathione to be effective, it has to get inside the cells. That means that the molecules either have to be small enough to get into the blood stream, through a spray inside the cheeks or under the tongue, or they have to be “liposomal.” A liposomal glutathione supplement means that the glutathione is tied to fatty acid molecules-made from the same material as our cell membranes-so it can get inside our cells where it needs to be. So, if you take straight glutathione, it needs to be a “liposomal” formula.
Another option would be to take the precursor supplements to glutathione and help the body produce its own glutathione inside the cells. These would be N-acetylcysteine (NAC), glycine, and Glutamine supplements which are available on the market and you again have to make sure come from a reliable, established company.
There is no doubt now that our overall health is very much dependent on the presence of glutathione. So, all measures need to be taken to make sure we have enough of it inside our cells.