Have you heard of glutathione? It is known as your body’s “master antioxidant” and also your body’s “master detoxifier” because it is such a powerful disease-fighting molecule! It’s been featured on Dr. Oz and many other shows, blogs, websites, and books on every health topic from fighting cancer, to slowing down the aging process, to preventing DNA damage. Glutathione (pronounced glue-tah-thigh-own) is a tripeptide of amino acids that is found inside every cell in your body, and it’s one of the most important factors and measures of your overall health.
Glutathione, or GSH, is comprised of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamate, and glycine. It is different than other antioxidants (like vitamins A, C, E, CoQ10, Zinc, Selenium, etc) in the fact that it is intracellular, or found inside the cell, and it can even help some other antioxidants work better! Your body builds it’s own GSH from these building blocks, but as you age your body’s ability to produce glutathione decreases. Because GSH is used to fight oxidation and cellular damage as well as stimulate detoxification processes, it can be rapidly depleted when a person is fighting an acute infection or especially a chronic disease like diabetes, HIV/AIDs, cancer, autoimmune disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, when a person has chronic toxicity such as heavy metal toxicity, or chronic inflammation due to a leaky gut. This includes most people in our society! 6
The main function of GSH is to protect your cells, your DNA, and your energy-producing mitochondria from oxidative damage while also playing a central role in defense from infection, free radicals, and carcinogens like radiation. GSH also detoxifies xenobiotics, or foreign compounds like chemicals and toxins. It plays an important role in both phase I and phase II of liver detoxification, your body’s main filtration of toxins. Glutathione is found in every cell, but it is found in highest concentration in the cells of the liver, which is no surprise considering what it does. GSH is your body’s most effective cellular protective system because it participates directly in the destruction of reactive oxygen compounds which damage your cells, while also maintaining and improving the antioxidant capacity of other molecules like vitamin C and E. 1
Glutathione isn’t just an antioxidant fighting free radicals and DNA damage, its synthesis depends on Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP, your body’s main source of energy, and low glutathione levels are closely related with energy deficiency or low ATP. This is one reason why many people with chronic diseases lose much of their energy, their cellular energy is quite literally being used to fight disease! Because glutathione is so crucial to effectively fight toxicity, oxidative stress, DNA damage and aging, significantly lower levels of GSH have been associated with:
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Inflammatory Conditions like Arthritis
Atherosclerosis (Heart Disease)
Asthma and Allergies
Neurodegenerative Diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Low levels of GSH have been associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and some have hypothesized that low levels of GSH combined with toxic environmental exposures combined with genetic predisposition will trigger a regression into autism. This theory would explain why some kids become autistic while others do not while receiving the same vaccinations. Another potent depletor of GSH is Acetaminophen, best-known brand Tylenol, which is often doctor-recommended for our infants and children. Our kids are fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. When you combine toxins from Mommy’s body (found and proven in umbilical cord blood studies, read our past articles) + toxins from the environment (air pollution, water, baby formula, etc - read past articles) + antibiotics in the first couple years of life for an ear infection (destroy the gut flora) + children’s Tylenol for teething (depleting GSH) + THEN a child goes in for a standard round of vaccinations with known toxins like Aluminum and Formaldehyde into a child’s bloodstream and crosses their not-yet-formed Blood-Brain-Barrier - THAT SCARES ME! And we wonder why the numbers have gone from 1 in 1500 children to 1 in 88 to now 1 in 45 children on the Autism Spectrum? 2,3
Wait! Don’t rush out and buy glutathione tonight! Glutathione is naturally produced by your body and is poorly absorbed when taken in a supplement form. For this reason, it’s more important to give your body the right building blocks to manufacture its own GSH and help your body fight disease. Several supplements may help boost GSH - including turmeric, vitamin D, alpha-lipoic acid, glutamine, and N-Acetyl Cysteine. 4,5 There are definitely times when supplementing to build your GSH stores could be necessary! We recommend a product called GCEL by Systemic Formulas which provides all the necessary specific GSH building blocks in a proprietary blend along with many other vitamins, minerals, and herbs which are all designed to aid your body’s ability to boost glutathione and detoxification capacity.
The first step is always to start with your food. Your body knows what to do when it’s given the right building blocks and power supply. A balanced diet rich in real, whole foods will provide your body with the right building blocks for glutathione while also keeping out the sugars, trans fats, chemicals, additives, and toxins that will deplete your body’s GSH stores. The foods that provide the most GSH-boosting benefits are:
-Sulfur-containing foods: cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale), raw garlic, onions, leeks, shallots
-Pastured/Grass-Fed Red Meats and Organ Meats contain Alpha Lipoic Acid which may help boost GSH - especially liver meat!
-Pastured Free-Range Eggs (raw is best)
-Pastured/Grass-Fed Raw Milk Products - GSH occurs in the highest concentrations in fresh, uncooked meats and raw milk and cheese and is almost non-existent in pasteurized products!
-Grass-Fed Whey Protein - The best way to boost GSH! Quality (cold-pressed, non-denatured, grass-fed organic source) whey protein provides all the key amino acids and is the most bioactive source of protein available. Whey has also been shown to stimulate metabolism and weight-loss among other benefits. It truly can be a super-food! 6
Your body will create enough glutathione to keep you healthy as long as you don’t deplete it too rapidly. Avoid toxins in your food supply, personal care products, minimize stress (physical, chemical, mental), exercise regularly, get adjusted and look for the cause of any health issue rather than the symptom - and your glutathione will be good to go!
- Glutathione metabolism and its implications for health.J Nutr. 2004 Mar;134(3):489-92. Wu G1, Fang YZ, Yang S, Lupton JR, Turner ND.
- Glutathione-related factors and oxidative stress in autism, a review. Curr Med Chem. 2012;19(23):4000-5.
- The Impact of Neuroimmune Alterations in Autism Spectrum Disorder.Front Psychiatry. 2015 Sep 9;6:121. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00121. eCollection 2015. Gottfried C1, Bambini-Junior V2, Francis F3, Riesgo R4, Savino W5.
- Deficient synthesis of glutathione underlies oxidative stress in aging and can be corrected by dietary cysteine and glycine supplementation.Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;94(3):847-53. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.003483. Epub 2011 Jul 27 Sekhar RV1, Patel SG, Guthikonda AP, Reid M, Balasubramanyam A, Taffet GE, Jahoor F.
- Effect of increasing glutathione with cysteine and glycine supplementation on mitochondrial fuel oxidation, insulin sensitivity, and body composition in older HIV-infected patients.J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Jan;99(1):169-77. doi: 10.1210/jc.2013-2376. Epub 2013 Dec 20. Nguyen D1, Hsu JW, Jahoor F, Sekhar RV.
By Dr. Taylor Krick BSc DC