Glutathione: The Master Anti-Oxidant:
The human body is under oxidative stress from a variety of sources at all times. To combat this stress and damage the body utilizes anti-oxidants of all different varieties. Glutathione (GSH) is a very special peptide molecule that provides the greatest anti-oxidant protection and recharges other anti-oxidants within the body (1).
Every cell in the body produces glutathione. Many longevity scientists believe that the level of glutathione in our cells is predicative of how long we will live (2, 3, 4). This is logical considering the wealth of essential bodily processes that glutathione plays a critical role in.
Glutathione has been coined with the term “master anti-oxidant” due to its essential role in maintaining exogenous anti-oxidants such as vitamin C & E in their active form (5, 6). Glutathione is like the cell’s security guard protecting the genetic equipment from outside attack. It is estimated that each cell in the body withstands 10,000 hits by free radicals each day. Glutathione disarms these free radicals before they wreak havoc and cleans up the oxidative stress related damage that has occurred.
Glutathione’s Role in Immunity and Detoxification:
Glutathione plays a significant role in immune function (7). Studies have shown that glutathione strengthens T cells which are critical for modulating the immune system appropriately (8). These are the cells that coordinate the attack against pathogenic bacteria, viruses, etc. while keeping tissue damage and auto-immune responses in check. An overactive immune system can trigger allergies and auto-immune disease processes.
Glutathione fights against cellular toxins and works to eliminate carcinogens from the intracellular environment while healing damaged cells. Glutathione is constantly in action protecting the body against disease, toxins, viruses, pollutants, radiation, drugs and oxidative stress (9). When damage does occur, it immediately goes to work repairing the free radical damage.
Glutathione Protects the Brain:
If sufficient glutathione is not available, the toxins will overload the liver and lead to fat soluble toxins being stored in fatty tissues. The central nervous system, breasts, & prostate are the most susceptible areas. Many researchers credit the increase in neurological disease and cancer to depleted cellular glutathione (10, 11, 12). The brain produces more free radicals than any other tissues and is therefore in need of more glutathione than any other region.
Levels of glutathione begin to decline with aging as the majority of individuals in our society become more toxic and deficient. Additionally, our society has more environmental toxicity than ever before so there is a significant need for more glutathione production. Unfortunately, our modern world diets are void of the necessary precursors for this critical agent.
Aging Declines Glutathione Production:
By age 20, scientists estimate that the average person loses glutathione at 8-12% per decade (13). Increased health challenges from infection, poor diet, smoking, increased toxic load, medication usage, etc. can deplete these stores at a much faster rate. Scientists estimate that a 30% reduction of glutathione is enough for cellular dysfunction to occur (14, 15).
Studies have shown that adequate vitamin D is necessary for optimal glutathione production (16). The vast majority of our society is extremely deficient in vitamin D (17). Optimal vitamin D levels should be between 60-100 ng/ml.
Glutathione Precursers in the Diet:
Glutathione precursors such as glycine, glutamic acid and cysteine should naturally be consumed through our diet. The best vegetable sources include avocados, onions, spinach, & asparagus. Herbs such as turmeric have also been shown to boost glutathione content. Unfortunately, vegetable sources are still very low in these critical amino acids.
The best food sources are through high quality, non-denatured animal products. These include non-denatured grass-fed whey protein and cultured, raw grass-fed dairy products and raw, organic eggs. These cultured, raw grass-fed dairy products are an incredibly good source of highly bioavailable amino acids and offer more cysteine than any other food source.
As a clinican, I recommend supplements to boost glutathione stores for nearly everyone. This is because our society is so bombarded with toxins in the form of mental/emotional stressors, environmental chemicals in our air, water and food. We are depleting our glutathione stores.
When we hit a critical mass where all of a sudden our glutathione levels are unable to keep up with the oxidative stress from our environment, our health goes down hill quickly! This is when all of a sudden we have a significant rush of anti-body formation and the maturation of an auto-immune disease develops, we develop chronic pain or we have absolutely no energy anymore and/or tumors grow quickly (whether we know we have cancer or not).
21st century health is all about boosting our bodies anti-oxidant defense systems to protect the body from the onslaught of toxins and oxidative stress. The best ways to boost glutathione from supplements includes formulated compounds that have key precursers such as glycine, glutamic acid and cysteine. We can also look for herbs such as turmeric and milk thistle and sulfur compounds like MSM, N-acetyl cysteine and lipoic acid. This is why I like the Maximized Living Daily Detox product which contains many of these key compounds.
I also like to use a transdermal glutathione cream called Super Oxicell for fast delivery. This is an ultra-fast delivery system for these key nutrients which help to modulate the immune system and control inflammation. I use this with high level athletes, auto-immune cases as well as cancer patients and those looking to slow down the aging process. I have used it for my own athletic injuries by rubbing it on the areas that were sore. I also like to have individuals with auto-immunity thyroid issues rub it on their thyroid to dampen the inflammation and help them function and heal better.