What is Glutathione?
You know something is extremely crucial for your health when you realize that every cell in the body has the mechanism of producing it. This is glutathione. This peptide has even been coined as the “Mother of All Antioxidants” due to effectiveness and the vital role in protecting your cells against free radicals. Of course, when a compound is that important, it grasps the attention of scientists and that is why there are thousands of scientific journals containing published trials and other details pertaining to glutathione. The great news is that with all that research, we are in a position to understand the importance of glutathione, reasons for its deficiency in the body and how we can supplement it to ensure that none of the crucial functions it performs are affected.
No one should ever have to deal with glutathione deficiency but the reality is that thousands of people don’t produce as much glutathione as is needed. There are so many factors that reduce the levels of this peptide exposing us to serious dangers. Chronic stress, infections, premature aging and environmental toxins are just but a few of the causes of glutathione deficiency. Excessive use of antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, and genetically modified foods have also been linked to this deficiency. For cancer patients, the radiation they are submitted to have also been seen as a contributory factor to diminishing glutathione levels in the body.
Functions of Glutathione
This peptide is made up of three amino acids that perform crucial roles in your body. In summary, it is responsible for:
- Linking up with the drugs you take making them digestible and absorbable to reach their target sites in what is known as conjugation.
- Reduces levels of peroxides (bleaching agents) in the body
- It functions as a cofactor helping other enzymes in the body to perform their functions
- Metabolism usually leaves behind by-products and one of them is methyglyoxal. This and other by-products are toxic and it makes sure that they are detoxified before they cause trouble
Sources of Glutathione
For healthy and young individuals, glutathione deficiency is very rare. For the sick and elderly, the glutathione deficiency is a serious problem. The good news is that you can supplement glutathione levels naturally without injecting any engineered supplements. Yes, there are foods that will help in increasing glutathione levels to counter the loss caused by infections and other factors. The good thing about natural sources of glutathione is that even the young and healthy get access to this peptide. The great thing is that from natural sources, you are never going to experience any forms of side effects.
The problem, however, is that if you have a severe deficiency, then natural sources are a long short that takes time (which you may not have). If you are in this group then supplements are your best options.
For everyone else, it can be obtained from thistle milk, methylation nutrients, vitamin C and E, beef liver, selenium foods such as chicken, spinach, egg brazil nuts and turkey, methylation nutrients from lentils, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, asparagus, broccoli, beets, black-eyed peas and sulfur foods like arugula, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, Brussel sprouts, watercress, turnip, mustard greens and turnip.
Benefits of Glutathione
So, what should anyone supplementing glutathione expect?
- Fights Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is as a result of excess production of free radicals in the body. When there is an excess of these radicals and your body is unable to fight them, the radicals attack cells in the body affecting the structure and performance. Glutathione fights chronic oxidative stress which has been linked to neurodegeneration diseases, certain types of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.
A study published in the Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy showed that glutathione deficiency was linked to more oxidative stress. The study also established that the product was able to increase antioxidant levels in cancer cells.
- Prevents damage of liver cells
In most cases, the damage of liver cells is attributed to alcoholism. In other cases, liver cells damage and death is caused by glutathione deficiency which reduces the cells ability to fight invaders. In these instances, the cells will be damaged regardless of whether one is an alcoholic or not.
Glutathione supplementation has been seen to offer effective protection to liver cells in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic individuals. It increases levels of bilirubin, enzymes, and proteins helping to fight fatty liver disease.
According to scientists, both oral and intravenous supplementation of glutathione assists in fighting fatty liver disease. They, however, point out that intravenous usage is more effective especially when administered to alcoholics. Additionally, they noted that when it is used intravenously, it also managed to reduce the levels of malondialdehyde, a known cell-damaging compound.
If you are a non-alcoholic, you probably don’t have as much liver cell damage as alcoholics. That is why it’s advisable that you use oral supplements where 300mg daily is enough.
- Boosts your Immunity
In 2014, The European Journal of Nutrition published a study by J.P Richie which sought to establish the effects of oral supplementation of glutathione to the immune system. This study produced fascinating findings showing just how critical glutathione is to your immune system. The trial showed that glutathione was useful to the immune system in two key ways.
Firstly, this compound helps in increasing the number of lymphocytes in the body. Lymphocytes or T-cells make up the frontline of your immune system. They help in fighting off foreign invaders and infections. By increasing in number, your body’s ability to fight diseases increases drastically helping to keep you healthy.
Secondly, they also established that glutathione supplements influenced the secretion of natural killer cells (NK). The compound was also seen to enhance the performance of these cells. It, therefore, offered extra protection to your cells and tissues.
- Improves Skin Health
Your skin endures harsh surroundings both externally and internally. While harmful sun rays and other factors are damaging your skin from the outside, free radicals in the body are making an even bigger damage to your cells. This affects the structure of the skin tissues and after some time, the impact starts to become visible from outside. This leads to dark spots, acne breakouts, discoloration and even abnormal darkening of the skin.
It all becomes an aesthetic nightmare and this is where glutathione supplements come in. The ingredient gives your skin cells extra protection and the ability to fight off all free radicals passing nearby. Trials have also shown that glutathione improves the overall health of your skin cells which consequently helps to eliminate fine lines and wrinkles. Glutathione is, therefore, able to reduce the symptoms of aging restoring a youthful looking skin.
According to studies in Thailand, the ingredient can also be used in skin lightening. In these studies, scientists claim that 250mg daily oral supplementation helped to mildly brighten the skin among the elderly. It is still not clear how exactly it achieved this and hence we’ll need more trials before we start using it for skin lightening.
- May help in treating Autism
Various studies have hinted at the possibility that glutathione supplementation can help in treating autism disorders or at least, reducing the symptoms of the condition. One study published in 2010 by the Medical Science Monitor involving 26 children aged between 3 to 13 years diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The children were placed under glutathione supplementation or transdermal glutathione for eight weeks. The outcomes showed a decrease in most autism spectrum disorder symptoms and an improvement in overall quality of life. The scientists suggested further studies to identify ways of making this form of treatment even more effective.
Taking glutathione supplements at prescribed dosages is usually very safe and free from any complications. Unfortunately, if you take too much of glutathione supplements you are likely to experience some adverse reactions that include rashes, bloating, flushing, chest tightness, diarrhea, and fever. Inhaling glutathione can also lead to asthma.
Breastfeeding and pregnant mothers are discouraged from using this supplement. the ingredient can also react negatively to certain allergies. To ensure your safety, you are advised to consult a physician before you start using glutathione or any other supplement.
Conclusively, the ingredient is an essential peptide that is so important for the body that scientists believe they can even predict one’s aging process by simply studying its levels in the body. This compound doesn’t just fight diseases but it also helps in making sure that all cells and tissues are healthy and functioning youthfully. Just make sure that you get high-quality supplements and that you stick to the recommended dosages and you’ll be able to safely enjoy the vast benefits of the ingredient.
Sol Ruiz heads our Research Digest department. He graduated from the New York University where he obtained his Master’s Degree in Public Health.