What is Glutathione?
Learn about the basics of Glutathione, it's vital role in the body, importance to remove toxins, prevent disease and improve quality of life.
What is Glutathione?
How does Glutathione work?
Why do we need Glutathione?
Factors that lower Glutathione levels
Maintaining healthy levels of Glutathione
What is Glutathione?
We live in a toxic world filled with dangerous chemical substances that threaten mankind, whether it be by inhalation, swallowing or direct contact. Thanks to eras of evolution and research, it was finally discovered that a molecule, Glutathione, is an effective antioxidant tool that eliminates harmful substances from our cells.
Glutathione is a nutrient compound and one of the most versatile and important protective substances in the human body. It is found in different degrees within all tissues, body fluids, and organ systems. It is a small protein, a tripeptide, present in almost all the cells of the body and a critical regulator of oxidative stress.
Glutathione protects cells from the action of very harmful compounds in the body: free radicals. Glutathione plays a very important role in the detoxification of the body, it helps regulate the function of many proteins and the activity of many enzymes, as well as the function of the immune system.
Glutathione is called the Antioxidant Master for its powerful action to eliminate free radicals, and for its ability to reactivate vitamins C and E, which also helps in this task.
No other compound has the capacity to do these jobs within the body.
Glutathione is found in all cells of the body, and it helps in maintaining overall good health and wellbeing. However, levels of Glutathione can be easily reduced when the body is exposed to harmful elements found in food, the environment, medicines, alcohol, drugs, etc.
Our body has an army to defend itself, a detoxification system which helps to keep us healthy. This defense system includes: the skin, which acts as the first line of defense against invasion; the liver, which breaks down the toxins before they can begin to harm our body; the kidneys, which filter and remove those toxins through the urine; and the immune system, which essentially eliminates what other organs have overlooked. Nonetheless, sometimes stress and external factors diminish certain key nutrients in the body that are important for detoxification. When this happens, we can take supplements that compensate for this deficiency. To give these vitamins an added boost and support our system, we can integrate the use of a Glutathione supplement.
The growing interest in the scientific area around Glutathione – as one of the most important antioxidants – has awakened greater knowledge by young people, adults, and the elderly.
Glutathione has become an increasingly well-known pillar in the health field, demonstrating its benefits to maintain the body's natural defenses and eliminate toxic free radicals. Although the human body can endogenously produce Glutathione, environmental factors such as pollution, exposure to ultraviolet light, stress, and a poor diet tend to produce a significant decrease in our natural reserves, making its supplementation much more necessary and urgent. The most recent scientific research has shown very positive results of the activity of this powerful antioxidant, for the health of the skin, the levels of performance in sports (promoting blood flow and carrying oxygen to the muscles after exercise), as well as in the nutritional field. Hence, we still have much to learn from the potential benefits of this powerful molecule.
How does Glutathione work?
Through two mechanisms: it helps eliminate toxins, ingested chemicals and possible carcinogens that the body has already absorbed, and it also intercepts and neutralizes the toxins in the gastrointestinal tract before they are even absorbed.
Everything that the body recognizes as a foreign chemical goes to the liver to be metabolized into something that the body can process or excrete. Detoxification is one of the most important functions performed by the liver in the body, and this is where some of the highest concentrations of Glutathione are located.
Additionally, Glutathione in combination with other ingredients for immune support, such as vitamin C, ensures a healthier immune system. Glutathione and vitamin C work well together, as these two antioxidants recycle each other.
The liver and the kidney are the main organs involved in the synthesis and degradation of GSH, as well as the inter-organ circulation of which the spleen, erythrocytes, leukocytes, and the lens also participate (this is where the largest amount is found of Glutathione in the body).
Likewise, its presence in the mucous lining of the intestine prevents the absorption of reactive chemicals. Therefore, Glutathione not only acts directly to prevent oxidative damage to cells but also indirectly supports a powerful team of antioxidants.
Another advantage of the Glutathione molecule is its speed. When a chemical can potentially cause cancer, it threatens to damage a cell's DNA and cause a mutation. Glutathione can act as a protective shield faster than the invader can attack. This way, Glutathione intercepts and neutralizes many toxic substances that are enemies of the body.
Lastly, a fundamental and evolutionary role of Glutathione is to supply the amino acid cysteine to maintain protein synthesis in case of nutritional deficiency. As a reservoir of this essential amino acid, Glutathione acts as a shield of nature that saves the body in times of deficiency.
Why do we need Glutathione?
Oxidative stress, or what is called oxidation in the body, is caused by an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the defenses responsible for eliminating these free radicals. Free radicals are a type of unstable molecule that is produced during the normal metabolism of cells. If for some reason they are not eliminated as they should be, they can accumulate and damage the genetic material of cells, lipids, and proteins, which increases the risk of cancer and other diseases. This imbalance gives rise to chronic diseases and conditions that include cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, other brain-related diseases, diabetes, age-related eye diseases, asthma, and inflammatory disorders.
We breathe in oxygen, which is metabolized to fuel the basic processes of life. Most of it is reduced to water, but about 5% escapes and becomes free radicals. Other common sources of free radicals include ultraviolet radiation, X-rays, tobacco smoke, air pollutants, alcohol, and saturated fat. Some immune cells generate free radicals to kill bacteria; inflammation is a sign of chain reactions of free radicals.
As a way to counteract the above, all living things have evolved with an antioxidant defense system that keeps the reactions of free radicals under control. Vitamins C and E, for example, are powerful antioxidants in the human body, both having the ability to donate electrons without becoming harmful radicals.
But Glutathione is the most powerful antioxidant of all, and nature has endowed us with this protective molecule throughout our bodies, both within the cells and in the fluids surrounding the cells, constantly patrolling for free radicals.
Multiple scientific studies have shown the benefits of dietary supplementation with antioxidant vitamins and Glutathione in neurodegenerative diseases.
Factors that lower Glutathione levels:
The Glutathione cycle follows a diurnal pattern, with lower levels in the morning. The levels increase about six hours after each meal and reach their peak between 2:00 and 3:30 in the morning, followed by a sharp decrease.
This cycle results in a relative deficiency of Glutathione in the morning hours. There is a more pronounced difference between these increases and decreases in Glutathione in people that are older than 60, which could be important given that the "downfalls" of Glutathione are periods of vulnerability for oxidative stress and chronic diseases related to age.
Levels of Glutathione in the body usually start to fall around 45 years of age and decrease quickly after 60 years. With aging, the enzymatic activity and the efficiency of cellular signals that trigger the synthesis of Glutathione decreases.
For this reason, around the age of 45, the body does not have the same capacity to produce enough Glutathione. This loss makes us more vulnerable to the oxidation processes that underlie the chronic diseases of aging (heart disease, cancer, and other eye diseases related to aging).
In one study, it was observed that the optimal levels of Glutathione in the body of individuals older in age were directly proportional to good health, which was determined by multiple measures: lower number of diseases, lower cholesterol, lower body mass index, and lower blood pressure. Conversely, those with lower health conditions, diagnosed with arthritis, diabetes or heart disease had lower levels of Glutathione in their systems.
Another study of 87 healthy women of ages 60 to 103 found that high levels of Glutathione in the blood were characteristics of long-lived women who had excellent physical and mental health.
Given that fresh foods are a good source of Glutathione, the Mediterranean diet, abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables and freshly prepared meats, is the best way to maintain a good level of Glutathione. However, many diets today rely heavily on processed foods. These diets don’t provide Glutathione because most food processing methods destroy it. Also, cereals and dairy products are not good sources of this important nutrient. Therefore, many diets commonly consumed in the USA are not the best aides when it comes to providing Glutathione for maintaining optimal health.
Smoking cigarettes and excessive alcohol consumption are detrimental to the maintenance of normal levels of Glutathione in the body because they drastically increase the body's need for its use. High levels of Glutathione are normally maintained in the lining of the lungs (alveolar fluid) to detoxify and neutralize the harmful compounds that are inhaled. Glutathione is extensively oxidized in smokers compared to non-smokers. On the other hand, alcohol makes the lungs more susceptible to oxidation injuries.
Acute respiratory distress syndrome has been linked in the past to a history of alcohol abuse. Recent studies suggest that it can happen because alcohol depletes Glutathione levels in the alveolar space by up to 80 to 90 percent. In those who not only drink in excess but also smoke, the potential defense offered by the Glutathione is almost nonexistent.
Several investigations have described a very obvious correlation between the low intake of natural antioxidants and obesity. In a study carried out on obese and normal weight women, a significant difference in the amount of Glutathione was determined between both groups: higher in women with normal weight. It was also found that Glutathione levels increased as weight decreased.
On the other hand, the degree of oxidative stress caused by obesity on the system is supported by several studies, both in humans and in animals.
Other possible mechanisms that may contribute to the increase in oxidative stress associated with obesity may be:
1. The increased activity of the respiratory chain in the mitochondria.
2. Oxygen consumption associated with physical exercise.
3. Increase in body weight, hyperglycemia, or the state of chronic inflammation associated with obesity, among others.
All of them together lead to an increase in oxidative stress associated with obesity.
Why does obesity correlate with oxidative stress? Because the metabolic processes create a low-level inflammation in white adipose tissue (fat reserves). It is believed that this chronic stress is an important factor that contributes to the development of insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and diabetes. In obese people, antioxidant defenses, including Glutathione, are depleted.
Glutathione levels are low in people with diabetes. The hyperglycemia that characterizes diabetes causes metabolic changes that accelerate the production of harmful free radicals, and it is believed that oxidative stress plays an important role in the development of complications of the same, such as kidney damage, nerve damage, and blindness.
Other Risk Factors
Any condition that increases the level of oxidation in the body means there is already a need for Glutathione. Oxidative stress is related to a series of diseases and disorders common today, such as cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular accidents, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, other brain-related diseases, diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, HIV, hepatitis B, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other pulmonary diseases and inflammatory disorders.
In fact, oxidative stress has been associated with more than 250 diseases that are all related to the levels of Glutathione and other components of the body’s antioxidant defense system.
Beyond tobacco and alcohol, there are other oxidizing agents in our environment, such as ultraviolet radiation, ionizing radiation, smoke derived from hydrocarbons, saturated fats, pollutants, and chemical products.
Maintaining healthy levels of Glutathione:
The best way to maintain healthy levels of glutathione in the body is by keeping a healthy lifestyle and especially including a balanced, fresh diet and exercise.
Some of the most Glutathione Rich foods are fresh meats, fruits and vegetables such as:
Beef, chicken, fish and pork.
Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, raw tomatoes, watermelon, pumpkin, acorn, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, raw carrots, potatoes , spinach, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, vegetables containing allylic (garlic, onion, leeks, chives)
As mentioned before, levels of glutathione in most people tend to decline after 45 years of age. That is why it is recommended to add a glutathione supplement to help raise the declining levels not maintained by diet and exercise alone.
Each living cell contains Glutathione, but taking supplements provides an extra level of safety and well-being to avoid problems that occur when these levels decrease.
Glutathione is available is several different forms. Research affirms that glutathione supplements in liquid especially the reduced form (L-GSH) is currently the most absorbed by the body.
It is the fastest way to get Glutathione into the system. It only takes between 1 and 4 minutes to integrate, while capsules or tablets can take more than 30 days to be absorbed.
It’s easy to digest. As a person ages, they cannot digest pills and capsules with the same ease. In fact, some capsules can go through your system completely intact.
People who take antacids may have even more difficulty digesting, due to the reduction of stomach acids. For this reason, the liquid supplement is the best option.
Through its antioxidant action, Glutathione helps to diminish the harmful effects that free radicals cause within the cell.
It reactivates other antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, which increases the ability of cells to neutralize and eliminate harmful free radicals.
Research suggests that Glutathione has beneficial effects on the immune system, which increases the body’s ability to defend itself against different pathogens and polluting products.
It has been shown that Glutathione has positive effects on the process of detoxification at the liver level, which is an aid for the body to eliminate toxins, chemicals, and other polluting products.
Using Glutathione as a supplement helps in the prevention of diseases such as: cardiovascular diseases, cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, age-related eye diseases, asthma and inflammatory disorders, the consequences of bad habits such as smoking cigarettes or alcohol use, as well as obesity and its negative effects in the body.
Likewise, Glutathione helps the skin combat the adverse effects of wounds and reduces infection, as well as decreasing the melanin levels of the skin when taken in small doses.