Glutathione (GSH) is a potent antioxidant that is naturally produced in the liver, from the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. It inhibits the formation of free radicals, as well as protects cells against the damage they create. In this way, glutathione protects against harmful effects of the sun, the aging process, exposure to radiation, toxins such as alcohol, and chemotherapy treatment. GSH detoxifies heavy metals and can neutralize carcinogens, helping to prevent burden on our immune system. It has many powerful effects in the body that help to protect and support the health of our arteries, brain, heart, eyes, liver, lungs, and immune cells. Glutathione defends against harmful substances, and mitigates damages caused, protecting our bodies on a cellular level, from the inside out.
As we age, our ability to synthesize glutathione from amino acids diminishes, potentially due to a decrease in the enzyme needed for its production. This decrease in naturally produced antioxidants is believed to be closely tied to the aging process, and reduced resilience of the cells that make up our body. It is important to recognize when our bodies need more support in the form of antioxidants either from diet or supplementation. Other times when we need more antioxidant support, are times of increased sun exposure due to free radical damage from the UV rays, increased athletic activities where higher oxygen intake results in increased oxidation to cells, and different types of toxic exposures such as alcohol, smoke inhalation, or other environmental pollutants.
The largest stores of glutathione are in the liver, where it functions to detoxify harmful compounds, and alter their chemical structure to facilitate proper elimination from the body. GSH may also protect the liver from alcohol induced damage.
In the blood stream, once released from the liver, GSH maintains the integrity of our red blood cells and protects our white blood cells that make up the immune system and are responsible for inflammation. GSH helps with the breakdown of oxidized fats, which is helpful in prevention and potentially the management of atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries that leads to elevated risk of cardiovascular events).
In the lungs, GSH may help reduce the damage caused by tobacco smoke by altering aldehydes, a harmful chemical found in tobacco.
Deficiencies in glutathione are associated with disorders affecting the nervous system that lead to difficulties with coordination, mental disorders, tremors, and trouble maintaining balance.
Glutathione has a very protective effect on the brain, and has been used successfully as a part of nutrient therapy for conditions such as Alzheimers, and memory decline.
So, how do we boost this natural powerhouse? As an oral supplement, GSH is not well absorbed and is very expensive. Liposomal GSH is available as a gel formulation, that requires you to swish it around in the mouth in order to be absorbed into the mucous membrane, and then into the blood stream…. BUT… it tastes awful! and is also very expensive. So, the best ways to boost glutathione is either through intravenous administration, and/or through making a conscious effort to include the foods that support its natural production in the body. Some of these foods include garlic, onions, eggs, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts- all sulfur containing foods. Spices like cinnamon, cardamom and curcumin also help to support production of GSH. We can also supplement with nutrients that either make up this compound, or are involved in the metabolic pathways that support its production. Some of these include NAC (N-acetyl cysteine), methionine, vitamin C, B vitamins, selenium, zinc, and alpha lipoid acid.
Glutathione is a powerful nutrient that aids in our body’s defense against the multitude of offenders that come our way. Whenever we can support the resilience of our cells, we optimize immune function and this allows our bodies to use that energy for better things. A healthy immune system, allows our cells to carry out their normal roles, and avoid dysfunction on a larger scale. In this way, a strong defence system is imperative for a long, and healthy life, and glutathione is a very powerful contributor in this realm!
Dr. Brett Simpson has a special focus on stress and anxiety management, hormone balance, and digestive health. Book online or call us at 604-974-8999 for your initial consultation with Dr. Brett.