Glutathione benefits are far ranging for the human body and can include:
Glutathione is a powerful tri-peptide that functions as your body’s master antioxidant. It is found in every cell. Your body uses glutathione to protect your cells from free radical damage, to eliminate toxins, to support energy production, and to help enhance immune system functions. That’s the good news. The bad news is that after you reach your 20s your glutathione levels decrease at a rate of approximately 10 to 12 percent per decade. This has a negative effect on glutathione benefits especially as it applies to disease protection.
Why the Decrease?
There are several factors for the decrease in glutathione levels with age. Stress is a factor. As stress goes up from work, relationships and the pressures of life, it takes a toll on your body’s health. Greater levels of glutathione are needed to offset the increased free radical production caused by these stress factors. Add to this a diet of convenience foods which include many artificial ingredients, colorings and preservatives. All of these challenge your liver to increase its need for glutathione to offset the added toxins. Additionally, convenience foods don’t contain the necessary nutrients needed to help create and maintain your glutathione benefits.
To compound the problem, your body’s ability to absorb nutrients decreases with age. At the same time your body’s exposure to environmental toxins begins effect your overall health. All of these factors play a role in decreasing your glutathione levels unless you take steps to offset this process. Before we talk about the steps you can take to help maintain healthy levels of glutathione let’s examine how glutathione benefits you in disease protection.
Since glutathione is found in all cells and is your master antioxidant, it plays a significant role in helping the body stay well and protecting it from diseases like:
Cataracts – According to the April 2000 Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics “The reducing compound glutathione (GSH) exists in an unusually high concentration in the lens where it functions as an essential antioxidant vital for maintenance of the tissue’s transparency.” Sunlight and UV radiation is a very potent oxidizing agent. To protect the cornea, lens and retina of the eye, glutathione is directly utilized by the lens of the eye to offset the potential free radical damage of sunlight. Glutathione benefits the eye to help prevent cataracts from forming.
Brain and Nervous System Disorders – According to Dr. Gutman M.D., “The brain is particularly susceptible to free radial attack because it generates more oxidative-by-products per gram of tissue than any other organ. The brain’s main antioxidant is glutathione – it’s importance cannot be overstated.” The number of brain and nervous system disorders that has been linked to oxidative stress includes:
Again, according to Dr. Gutman M.D., “Many neurological and psychiatric disease processes are characterized by high levels of oxidative stress and free radical formation, as well as abnormalities in glutathione metabolism and antioxidant defenses.” Unfortunately, many antidepressants and other medications deplete the body and brain of glutathione to reduce glutathione benefits. There are numerous studies which show that increasing this important molecule in the body has been extremely helpful in treating brain and nervous system disorders.
Liver Disease – According to Dr. Parris Kidd of Thorne Inc. in a 22 page overview of glutathione benefits published in the 1997 edition of Alternative Medicine Review, “GSH (glutathione) depletion has been suggested to represent an important contributory factor to liver injury. . .” If you review the two articles on liver health published on this website you will understand why glutathione depletion would affect the liver. One of the main functions of the liver is to filter out toxins and convert them to water-soluble compounds that your body can eliminate through bile and urine. There are two detoxification pathways in the liver and both heavily depend on glutathione. If glutathione is deficient in either or both of these detoxification pathways, then these toxins can have extremely detrimental affects on your liver.
Lung Disease – Your lungs are directly in the path of airborne contaminants such as cigarette smoke, atmospheric pollutants and other environmental toxins that can be inhaled. It is important to note that glutathione is present in the epithelial lining of the lower respiratory tract. Glutathione deficiencies have been documented in several lung diseases such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pulmonary fibrosis!
Immune System Disorders – The growth and differentiation of immune cells is dependent on glutathione. In numerous experimental studies, when glutathione is purposely depleted there is a marked reduction in immune cell function. This, combined with other important findings, clearly shows that intracellular levels of glutathione play a central role in the functioning of immune cells. Two examples of immune system disorders that seem to have a correlation with low glutathione levels are lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Cardiovascular System Disorders - The endothelial cells that line the blood vessels are critical to the proper function of your cardiovascular system. They are involved in the production of nitric oxide which helps to regulate blood flow and blood pressure. These endothelial cells are extremely vulnerable to oxidative stresses. Atherosclerosis seems to be linked to oxidative damage to the endothelial cells especially when glutathione levels are low. This damage is even more prevalent in diabetics who typically have lower glutathione levels.
Sickle Cell Anemia – Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder in which the lifespan of the red blood cell is markedly decreased from an average of 120 days to 17 days. Although the research in this area is small, there does seem to be a relationship between lower levels of glutathione and increased susceptibility of the red blood cell to change from oval to sickle. Oxidative stresses seem to trigger this shape change which can be life-threatening for the individual with sickle cell anemia.
Aging – Although not considered to be a disease, aging does have its challenges. Numerous studies have shown that glutathione levels decrease with age. This allows for greater oxidative stress and free radical damage to occur. It has been documented that higher levels of glutathione concentrations are associated with good health. People with chronic diseases had lower mean glutathione concentrations than those that were disease free.
Steps to Maintain and/or Increase Glutathione Levels
The evidence is clear that glutathione levels are important for cellular health and clearly aid the liver in detoxification. What is not so clear is how to help your body maintain and/or increase your glutathione benefits. Because of the growing popularity of this nutrient, especially as it applies to slowing down the aging process, there have been numerous glutathione supplements appearing in the marketplace.
It is important to note that most glutathione supplements do not appear to increase glutathione levels. This is because as a tri-peptide it is not well absorb by your body. In the digestive system it is usually broken down into its amino acids. Additionally, most cells in the body cannot directly absorb glutathione because of its size and shape. Most cells absorb the component parts and then synthesize glutathione inside the cell.
The essential amino acid L-methionine seems to have a positive effect on increasing glutathione benefits in the body. This is because your body can convert this amino acid into cysteine which is a necessary component for the formation of glutathione. It seems that L-cysteine is the precursor that most limits the body’s ability to synthesize glutathione.
WARNING: Stay away from supplements that promote L-cysteine. By itself, cysteine is easily oxidized into toxic products that can negatively affect your brain, retina, and other areas of the body.
A safe alternative to L-cysteine is N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) which is a precursor for cysteine. It is well absorbed by the intestine. It does not raise glutathione levels if they are already within a normal range. But it will help to raise abnormally low glutathione levels to bring them back to normal. NAC has been widely used in Europe because it has anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties in addition to being a powerful antioxidant.
Because the majority of the body’s glutathione is made in the liver from its essential amino acid building blocks, a complete dietary protein or amino acid source is important. One such clinically proven amino acid source is called Immunocal. This is a bioactive whey protein and bonded cystine dietary supplement derived from lactose free organic milk. Research seems to indicate that glutathione benefits can be achieved from this product.
One additional supplement that is gaining national attention for glutathione benefits is MaxGXL formulated by Robert Keller, M.D. As you can see from the chart below, it has been clinically proven to increase glutathione levels.
The patented formula is designed to optimize glutathione production in the cells by taking a holistic approach to the problem. MaxGXL includes L-glutamine which is an amino acid that helps repair the gut lining. Together with N-acetyl d-glucosamin, they improve your body’s ability to absorb nutrients which typically decreases with age. Alpha lipoic acid and vitamin C support energy production in the cells and help to recycle used glutathione so that it can become functional again. N-acetyl cysteine is included as one of the amino acid building blocks for glutathione. Additionally, sylimarin, cordyceps and quercetin are included to help synthesize and process glutathione production.
Glutathione benefits can be maintained as we age if we take a proactive approach to supporting our liver and glutathione levels. This will require that you make some choices in your food supply and/or supplementation program. If you choose supplements to help you increase your glutathione levels, then ask for clinical documentation showing their effectiveness. An effective program to help you increase your glutathione levels will have positive results in helping you slow down the aging process and prevent disease.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully!
P.S. As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the following liver articles:
The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.