By Central Drug‘s clinical expert, Nayan Patel, PharmD
Glutathione is an antioxidant vital for health, yet it’s still little known in medical circles. Almost 90,000 medical articles have been written about it, and many of us today have a chronic deficiency of it. Glutathione is one of the main detoxifiers in our bodies, protecting us from free radicals, infections, and even cancer.
Our body produces its own glutathione, but-it becomes depleted by chronic stress, bad eating habits, medications, and infections. The liver becomes unable to cope with its job of detoxification and becomes overloaded and even damaged. It’s been found that almost all chronically ill patients have a deficiency of this vital molecule, particularly those with signs of a bacterial or viral overload such as those with shingles, warts, and hepatitis. Also, patients with cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and arthritis have too little of it in their bodies. Our ability to produce optimal levels of glutathione is crucial for our recovery from these types of illnesses.
What is this “Miracle Molecule”?
It’s a simple molecule that our bodies produce from just three protein and amino acid building blocks. Cysteine, glycine, and glutamine are combined in the correct ratio to form it. Glutathione’s magic lies in the sulfur that it contains. Sulfur attracts free radicals and toxins, which can then be disposed of. Our bodies usually recycle glutathione, unless there is too much of a toxic load, which is what is happening more and more today. Our bodies just aren’t genetically made to cope with the sheer volume of toxic industrial chemicals, electromagnetic radiation, and amounts of lead and mercury in our environment. Add to this our nutrient-depleted diets, and we have a big problem on our hands. Glutathione’s main job is to recycle antioxidants. However, the problem comes in when we are overwhelmed with too many toxins, and our glutathione becomes depleted before our bodies can regenerate the protective molecules.
More than this, glutathione helps our immune system to fight infection and protect us against cancer. In fact, studies have even shown that it can help with HIV treatment. Glutathione’s other job is detoxification. Toxins adhere to the molecule, and they are then transported into the stool and bile, from where they are removed from the body. Research continues to show other functions of this incredible molecule. For example, in times of physical performance, it keeps muscle damage to a minimum, decreases recovery time, and helps metabolism shift from fat production to the development of muscles.
How Effective is it Against Infections?
With that background in place, we can now go in to examine glutathione’s importance in terms of fighting bacterial and viral infections. Medical practitioners see more and more antibiotic-resistant infections. As more virulent strains of viruses and bacteria evolve, their resistance to all known antibiotics will only increase. It’s therefore becoming urgent to think innovatively and find alternatives to antibiotics. In this regard, researchers have turned their attention to glutathione, which has already earned its reputation as a vital antioxidant. It regulates immune cells, helping them fight infection, and may even have Inherent antibacterial properties, particularly at higher concentrations which create acidic conditions. This was proven for resistant strains such as S. aureus and E. coli, for example.
Our immune system relies on glutathione in the manufacture of white blood cells. It also stimulates the activity of natural killer cells, which are particularly useful to destroy cancer cells. As such, this molecule is critical for optimal immune function, part of which is the fight against bacterial and viral infections.
These results are exciting, suggesting the potential for using glutathione to prevent or treat infection, particularly in patients with a known deficiency of this antioxidant.
How Can I Optimize My Glutathione Levels?
Hopefully, by now, you’re convinced of the importance of this molecule in your body. There are several things you can do to increase your levels of it.
Diet: Eat foods that boost glutathione production. These include the allium family such as onions, garlic, and leeks. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage are also beneficial because of their high sulfur content. Whey protein contains the amino acid building blocks needed for glutathione to be synthesized. If you’re not vegetarian, beef, fish, and poultry are also good.
Exercise: Regular exercise seems to boost the levels of glutathione in the body, thus improving the immune system. Just half an hour a day of vigorous movements such as brisk walking or running is enough. Add half an hour of strength training a few times a week for maximum benefit.
Supplement: Take Topical Glutathione. It’s difficult to take oral glutathione by itself as a supplement because the body digests protein. However, you can take glutathione supporting supplements in lieu of Intravenous or topical glutathione to help your body
produce and recycle the molecule. Vitamin C supplements increase glutathione levels, probably because the body will then first use vitamin C to attack free radicals, thereby sparing the glutathione. It also helps because of the vitamin aids in recycling glutathione, converting the oxidized molecule back into its active.
Take Milk Thistle. Consuming this herb has been shown to boost glutathione levels. It’s an extract of the plant Silybum marianum which contains 3 active compounds, which together are known as silymarin. It’s known for its antioxidant properties. It’s thought to be able to optimize glutathione levels by preventing cell damage.
Take Turmeric Extract. This yellow-orange spice has been used as a medicine in India for hundreds of years. The medicinal benefits seem to come from the curcumin it contains. It’s better to take it as a concentrated extract to get the full benefit. Studies have shown that it raises glutathione levels.
Vast amounts of research show that glutathione does, in fact, have protective abilities against infection by microbes. It plays a vital role in the optimal functioning of the immune system and to health in general.