Produced naturally in the body, glutathione is made of three amino acids − cysteine, glycine, and glutamine. It functions as an antioxidant, helping to rid our bodies of free radicals – molecules that can damage our body and contribute to chronic illness.
In addition to clearing free radicals, it plays important roles in boosting the work of other antioxidants, nutrient metabolism, the immune response, and the detoxification process that neutralizes drugs, chemicals, metabolic wastes, and other toxins and carcinogens. Because it can regenerate itself, and because it is used by every cell and tissue in the body, glutathione is considered “the Master Antioxidant.”
A deficiency of glutathione contributes to oxidative stress which plays a key role in aging and the development of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease to name just a few. While not considered part of “mainstream” medicine, there are a number of lab tests that can be used to check glutathione levels. These are known as Oxidative Stress Analysis tests. Your best resource for investigating these types of tests is your holistic healthcare practitioner.
For general health, the best approach is to enhance the body’s levels of nutrients needed for boosting glutathione levels through a whole foods diet. This includes broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, garlic, and onions as well as walnuts and avocado. Eating foods rich in B vitamins and selenium also supports the body’s natural glutathione levels. This includes beets, garbanzo beans, spinach, and lentils for the B vitamins; and for selenium include foods such as wild-caught yellow-fin tuna, halibut, grass fed/ organic boneless turkey and beef.
In order to gain the best benefit from an oral glutathione supplement there are two important things to consider: the form and cofactors (helpers). The best forms are L-glutathione, acetyl glutathione or liposomal glutathione. In addition, glutathione works better when it is paired with other substances that help the body absorb and use it, i.e. cofactors. These include N acetyl-L-cysteine, B vitamins, selenium, magnesium, alpha lipoic acid and vitamin C. For serious respiratory illnesses, glutathione might provide its best medicinal effects when it is inhaled. Deciding on the appropriate dose and whether to use oral or inhaled glutathione to gain the most benefit can be challenging so consider working with a healthcare practitioner to determine what is best for you.
- Wu, G., Fang, Y., et al., “Glutathione Metabolism and Its Implications for Health.” Jn of Nutrition (2004) Accessed 18 Sept 2017: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/3/489.long
- Medscape.com. Prousky, “The Treatment of Pulmonary Diseases and Respiratory-Related Conditions With Inhaled (Nebulized or Aerosolized) Glutathione.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. (2008) 5(1):27-35 Accessed 18 Sept 2017: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/574687
- Flagg EW1, et al. Dietary glutathione intake in humans and the relationship between intake and plasma total glutathione level. Nutr Cancer. (1994) Accessed 18 Sept 2017: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8183721
- Genetics Home Reference: “Glutathione synthetase deficiency.” (posted 9/12/2017) Accessed 18 Sept 2017: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/glutathione-synthetase-deficiency
- Kovacs-Nolan, Jennifer, Prithy Rupa, Toshiro Matsui, Mitsuru Tanaka, Toru Konishi, Yusuke Sauchi, Kenji Sato, Shin Ono, and Yoshinori Mine. 2014. “In Vitro and ex Vivo Uptake of Glutathione (GSH) across the Intestinal Epithelium and Fate of Oral GSH after in Vivo Supplementation”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 62 (39): 9499-9506. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25198144
- Richie, John P., Sailendra Nichenametla, Wanda Neidig, Ana Calcagnotto, Jeremy S. Haley, Todd D. Schell, and Joshua E. Muscat. 2015. “Randomized controlled trial of oral glutathione supplementation on body stores of glutathione”. European Journal of Nutrition. 54 (2): 251-263. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24791752