What is Glutathione?
If you’re tuned into the world of anti-aging medicine, it might be possible that you have heard that word before Glutathione, it is an antioxidant that is produced by cells in the human body. Primarily, it is mostly composed of three amino acids: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. Levels of this antioxidant within the body can be reduced by a number of factors, including poor nutrition, environmental toxins, and stress– however, there is also a natural decline of Glutathione levels in the body that is related to old age.
In addition to being produced by the body, however, medical science has evolved to the point where it can be manufactured artificially and administered to patients intravenously, topically, or even as an inhalant. It’s also available as an oral supplement in both capsules and liquid form, however there are some studies that have revealed that the oral ingestion of glutathione may not be as effective as intravenous administration for certain conditions (1)
An antioxidant is a substance that can prevent or slow the damage caused to cells by things that are known as free radicals (2), which are unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures– these free radicals are waste substances that are produced by cells, and if the body cannot remove these free radicals effectively, a oxidative stress can result, which can harm cells and, as a result, impair or cause stress to the higher functions of the body. Glutathione is one of the more powerful antioxidants available exogenously, or outside of the body, and we have decided to outline some of the benefits of Glutathione within the body below:
Benefits of Glutathione IV Therapy:
- Reduces Oxidative Stress
- Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of free radicals within the body, which have been outlined above, and the body’s ability to fight them off– an ability that is largely tied to the amount of antioxidants like Glutathione within the body.
- An article that was published in the Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy (3) indicates that a deficiency in glutathione can lead to increased oxidative stress, which may lead to cancer. It also stated that increased levels of glutathione within the body correlated to an increase in disposable antioxidants within the body, and therefore improved resistance to oxidative stress in cancer cells.
- May Improve Psoriasis
- A small study indicated that whey protein, when taken orally, could improve the condition psoriasis either with or without additional treatment, as the study was was definitive for both cases. A possible reason for this is the previously demonstrated ability of whey protein to increase levels of glutathione levels in the body. Participants in the study were given 20 grams of whey protein orally for three months, but researchers stated that increased observation was needed.
- Reduces Cell Damage in Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- The death of cells in the liver can be made worse due to a deficiency of antioxidants present within it, and among these antioxidants is glutathione. When cells die in the liver, it can lead to fatty liver disease, which is characterized by an increased buildup of fat in the liver, and can progress to cirrhosis in rare cases, if left untreated. Glutathione has been shown to improve levels of proteins, enzymes, and bilirubins in the blood of people with either form of fatty liver disease.
- A study reported that glutathione was extremely effective in people with fatty liver disease, especially when administered intravenously and in high doses (5) Participants in this study also showed reductions in a marker of cell damage in the liver that is known as malondiadehyde. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that orally administered glutathione has had positive effects on people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease following proactive lifestyle changes, which means that it is a valuable treatment option when combined with things like diet and exercise(6).
- Improves Insulin Resistance in Seniors
- As people age, the body’s natural processes for the production of glutathione slow down, and as a result there is less glutathione present within the body to counteract free radicals. Researchers at the Baylor School of Medicine (7) used a combination of human and animal studies to explore the role of glutathione in weight management and insulin resistance in older individuals. The results of these studies generally trended towards the fact that low glutathione levels were associated with a lower rate of fat burning and higher rates of fat storage in the body.
- This was measured by adding cysteine and glycine, two of the amino acids that make up glutathione that are yielded in lower amounts when people begin to age. This is the reason that levels of glutathione decline as humans age, and the thinking behind this above study.
- Increased Mobility for People with Peripheral Artery Disease
- Peripheral Artery Disease occurs when the peripheral arteries, the ones that serve the legs, stomach, arms, and head, are clogged by plaque. Although it can affect any of the peripheral arteries, it most often occurs in the legs. One study (8) reported that glutathione administered to patients that suffered from the disease in their legs caused an improvement in circulation, increasing the ability for patients to walk without pain for longer distances.
- This was measured against a saline solution placebo, and patients were given these infusions twice daily for five days, then analyzed for mobility.
- Reduces Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
- Parkinson’s disease is one that affects the central nervous system of the body(9). Damage of nerve cells within the brain causes levels of dopamine to drop, which is the reasoning behind the most common symptom exhibited– tremors. It currently has no cure. One older study documented that glutathione-based IV therapy had positive effects on symptoms including tremors and rigidity. While more research is needed in regards to glutiathone’s effectiveness on Parkinson’s Disease, this case report suggests that glutathione may help reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s. For a disease that causes extreme deficiencies in motor function like Parkinson’s, a reduction of symptoms would be a huge increase to quality of life for the poor people who suffer from it.
- May Help Fight Against Autoimmune Diseases
- The chronic inflammation that is caused by autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), celiac disease, and lupus, can increase oxidative stress significantly. In fact, one study (10) found that glutathione helped reduce oxidative stress in the body by either stimulating or reducing the body’s immunological response, in correspondence with the patient’s pathology.
- According to this study, Glutathione is the principal component of the antioxidant defense system in the living cells, and has been demonstrated to change its response in the immune system in an attempt to control inflammation.
- Autoimmune diseases such as the ones mentioned above are also harmful because they attack the mitochondria in specific cells, a process which glutathione works to prevent by eliminating free radicals.
- May Reduce Oxidative Damage in Children With Autism
- Several studies indicate that children with autism have higher levels of oxidation damage and, perhaps correspondingly, lower levels of glutathione in the brain (11). This increased risk of neurological damage may form from substances such as mercury.
- An eight-week clinical trial on children aged three to thirteen used either oral or transdermal applications of glutathione. Symptom changes relating to autism were not evaluated as a part of the study, but children in both groups showed improvement in cysteine, plasma sulfate, and whole-blood glutathione levels.
- May Reduce the Impact of Uncontrolled Diabetes
- Long-term high blood sugar is associated with reduced amounts of glutathione in the body– which can lead to oxidative stress and, eventually, the possibility of tissue damage. A study (12) found that supplementation of one’s diet with cysteine and glycine, the two primary components required for glutathione synthesis in the body, boosted glutathione levels in the body. Additionally, it lowered oxidative stress and damage present in people diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes, despite high sugar levels.
- Study participants were placed on 0.81 millimoles per kilogram (mmol/kg) of cysteine and 1.33 mmol/kg glycine daily for two weeks, and were recorded for signs of oxidative stress and damage, as well as glutathione levels present in the body.
- May Reduce Respiratory Disease Symptoms
- N-acetylcysteine is a medication used to treat conditions such as asthma and cystic fibrosis. Generally used as an inhalant, it helps to thin out the mucus present in the body and make it less paste-like, and has the added benefit of reducing inflammation. It is a byproduct of glutathione (13), and is well-known for its use in regulating glutathione maintenance and metabolism.
Sources and Forms of Glutathione
Although glutathione is found in some foods, cooking and some modern cooking practices such as pasteurization diminish its levels significantly– the highest glutathione concentrations available in food are:
- Raw or very rare meat
- Unpasteurized milk or other dairy products
- Freshly-picked fruits and vegetables, such as avocado and asparagus
Additionally, it is a known fact that glutathione contains sulfur molecules, which may be why foods that are high in sulfur help boost its natural production in the body. These foods include:
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy
- Allium vegetables such as garlic and onions
- Lean protein such as fish or chicken
- Milk thistle
- Guso Seaweed
Additionally, it is also important to note that the body’s natural ability to produce glutathione is inhibited by insomnia, and getting enough rest can therefore help increase levels in the body .