Glutathione is the front line in our body’s defense system, a major intracellular antioxidant and an important driver in supporting immune function and detoxification.
Glutathione, or GSH, is a tripeptide consisting of three amino acids: L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid, and glycine; it is produced by your liver and recycled continuously by your body. While it is concentrated in your liver, it is actually found in every single cell throughout your body. The organs that are highest in glutathione levels are the eyes, ears, lungs, liver, kidneys, and skin. These organs have the highest concentrations of glutathione, for good reason, because these organs are subject to all of the toxins in the environment.
We are designed to maintain sufficient levels of glutathione from dietary sources, but our bodies produce and deplete this powerful detoxifier quickly. As we age, the body produces less glutathione.
Factors decreasing our natural production of glutathione
Inflammatory and allergenic diets
Stress and sleep deprivation
Prolonged intense physical activity
Toxins, environmental pollutants, toxic mold exposure, and heavy metal overload
Chronic illness and autoimmunity
Some of the many functions of glutathione include
Support detoxification and protect from xenobiotics and environmental toxins
Reduce oxidative stress and protect cells from free radical damage
Support regeneration of
gut barrier integrity
Promote a balanced inflammatory response
Modulate the function of the immune system
Encourage healthy aging
Impact athletic performance
Promote lean muscle mass
Modulate insulin resistance
There are times when the oxidative stress or toxic load may be more than your body’s current capacity to synthesize sufficient levels of glutathione.
Depleted glutathione levels increase the risk of
Heavy metal and chemical sensitivities
Inflammatory and immune disorders
Intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
Some warning signs of glutathione insufficiency include
Lack of energy
Joint and muscle aches and pains
Problems with memory and alertness
Low immunity, such as frequent infections
Supplementation with the right form of glutathione
For a glutathione supplement to work, it must reach the cells. This means it must pass unchanged through the entire digestive tract and into the bloodstream. From there, it needs to be deposited into the cells where it is able to support glutathione recycling.
Glutathione Support (extracellular)
These forms of glutathione delivery will help one’s antioxidant status but they do not raise levels of glutathione inside the cells:
Liposomal cream - for use in localized areas, such as an area of pain or inflammation (ex: over an inflamed joint or over the thyroid in the case of autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism).
IV drip - this method is highly effective, but expensive and time intensive.
Glutathione nebulizer - glutathione is administered via compressed air to create a fine mist for inhalation. Not recommended if you suffer from asthma or have a sulfite sensitivity.
S-acetyl glutathione - a newer and more accessible form of glutathione that the intestinal tract can efficiently absorb, S-acetyl glutathione may be effective in helping manage autoimmune disease.
Oral liquid liposomal glutathione - bioactive glutathione (GSH)
Glutathione recycling (intracellular)
It’s important to supplement glutathione with glutathione precursors to raise glutathione levels inside the cells.
Basic botanicals and nutritional compounds researchers have found support glutathione recycling pathways.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA)
Taken together these botanicals and compounds activate the glutathione peroxidase and reductase enzymes that promote a healthy glutathione recycling system. This way, the glutathione you do take is assured to stay in your body longer and get inside your cells where they can do their best work.
There are some common polymorphisms or SNPs that impact glutathione and associated processes. The GST genes, Methylation and Nrf2 pathways need to be supported for proper glutathione function. Having one or more of these polymorphisms is associated with an increased risk of certain diseases, especially when impacted by environmental triggers such as pollution, smoking, heavy metals, and other toxins.
Boosting your glutathione antioxidant status, supporting glutathione recycling, and reducing sources of glutathione depletion can play a profound role in managing autoimmune disease, inflammation, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, and other chronic health issues.
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