What is Glutathione?

Glutathione is known as the “Master Antioxidant.” Without antioxidants, nature’s free radicals would cause endless damage to our bodies and living healthy would be quite difficult. Fortunately, we have a built in system of antioxidant power that when operating optimally, the dreaded effects of aging can be thwarted and youth preserved.

Glutathione is revered because of it’s amazing power over free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules in our body that cause damage to our tissue and organs because of their radic behavior. Glutathione, like other antioxidants, grab on to the unruly free radical and remove an electron, the bad influence on the free radical, and render it harmless. Glutathione is our most abundant antioxidant found in our cells and livers, and even stored in our protein. Science has observed that when there is marked illness, glutathione levels plummet. It is crucial to maintain adequate levels of glutathione, especially for those with chronic disease and autoimmune conditions.  Those with autoimmune conditions are often low in glutathione levels.

Benefits of Glutathione

Glutathione Protects Against Serious Disease

Antioxidants are nature’s antidote to oxidative stress, the accumulation of free radicals that underlies a vast number of diseases and the functional impairments associated with aging. Glutathione and its related enzymes are our most prolific antioxidants because, in addition to directly scavenging free radicals, they also reactivate other antioxidants.

But that’s just one of the benefits of glutathione. It also plays crucial roles in the immune response, DNA repair, and the detoxification process that neutralizes drugs, chemicals, radiation, metabolic wastes, and other toxins and carcinogens.

Given this broad range of activities, it makes sense that glutathione depletion is associated with disease and aging—and that increasing glutathione levels is not only a smart move for health maintenance but also an effective therapy for a host of serious diseases.

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:

  • Brain injury and trauma
  • Stroke
  • Ischemia
  • Toxicity of lead and mercury
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Sleep deprivation

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.

Glutathione is also an excellent treatment for emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, and other serious lung diseases, but again, getting therapeutic amounts into the lungs is a challenge. The solution: nebulized (converted into a fine spray) inhaled glutathione. Before Roger started using inhaled glutathione, COPD made every breath a struggle. He was constantly coughing up phlegm and was on continuous oxygen therapy. Glutathione cannot cure this chronic condition, but it reduced Roger’s oxygen requirements, coughing, and phlegm and dramatically improved his quality of life.

Inhaled glutathione requires a prescription and can be ordered from compounding pharmacies such as Wellness Pharmacy and McGuff Compounding Pharmacy.

Other Benefits of Glutathione

Maximizing glutathione status is also a proven treatment for chronic fatigue, autoimmune disorders, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, environmental sensitivities, autism, and more. Disease aside, it’s a ticket to better health and longevity.