The master antioxidant
Most of our clients have never heard of glutathione, so they have no idea if they’re getting enough of it or how important it really is to our health.
Glutathione, also known as GSH, is an antioxidant made from the amino acids glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid. In fact, it has been nicknamed the “master antioxidant” because it is so good at protecting the body from oxidative stress caused by toxins and free radicals. It’s hard at work in every cell of your body, even giving powerful antioxidants like vitamins C and E a run for their money.
The liver and nerve cells in the central nervous system produce glutathione. The body produces less of it as you get older, yet your body needs increasing levels of glutathione as you age. It has several key functions in the body. It helps metabolize toxins, breaks down free radicals, supports immune function, and much more.
Glutathione’s important connection to brain health
Carla knows all about these important antioxidants as a Certified Functional Nutrition Counselor, but I’ve been learning a lot about glutathione because of my interest in preventing cognitive decline. I’ve especially loved reading and highly recommend Dr. Bredesen’s book, The End of Alzheimer’s.
He mentions glutathione several times because of its importance for the brain. For example, he had several patients who had mycotoxins in their urine. But after treating them with glutathione intravenously, they all saw marked improvement in their cognition. We’ll talk more about this later.
Signs of a glutathione deficiency
Inadequate glutathione is associated with frightening neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cystic fibrosis. Low glutathione is also associated with an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, and hepatitis. Additionally, it is strongly linked to other age-related diseases and the aging process in general. So it’s important to watch for signs of a glutathione deficiency.
Low levels can be caused by poor nutrition, environmental toxins, stress, and getting older. Inflammation, alcohol consumption, genetics, and illness can also cause glutathione depletion. Early signs that you may have a glutathione deficiency are frequent infections like cold or flu, difficulty managing weight, allergies, and chronic fatigue. More serious symptoms include seizures, cognitive decline, and loss of coordination.
Our mission at More Than Healthy is to help you see early signs of a deficiency and get back to healthy levels before you experience anything like cognitive decline. Hopefully, with all the information we share today, you can get on top of this important antioxidant before you have serious health issues.
Next, let’s talk about five benefits of the right amount of glutathione as well as some great sources of this important antioxidant.
Five benefits of the right amount of glutathione
Benefit #1: Improved brain health
The first benefit is one we’ve already touched on above. Brain health is something that is always on my mind, but even more since I got the results back from my most recent brain scan. I have some white matter in my brain that is probably from brain injuries I sustained years ago, but I’d still like to see if there’s any way to reverse that before my next scan. That’s why we did the post a couple of weeks ago on exercising your brain – be sure to check that out if you missed it.
As previously mentioned, low levels of glutathione in the brain have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In a small study of patients with early, untreated Parkinson’s disease, they administered high-dose intravenous glutathione twice a day for 30 days. All participants showed symptom improvement that lasted for 2-4 months after the treatment ended.
I watched my father-in-law struggle with Parkinson’s for years. How we wish we would’ve known about this study years ago when Carla’s father was first diagnosed with this horrible disease.
The brain and oxidative stress
We’ve talked a lot about oxidative stress in previous posts. Oxidative stress means there is an imbalance of free radicals and contributes to aging and chronic disease. It breaks down cell tissue and causes damage to the DNA, resulting in inflammation. This inflammation can lead to lifelong diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Brain tissue is even more at risk for oxidative stress than other tissues in the body. A study from 2017 found that cells in the hippocampus (which is the part of the brain that houses memory and learning) and amygdala (the part of the brain in charge of emotional regulation) may be most susceptible to oxidative stress.
Promising research suggests that even healthy brains could get a cognitive boost from improved glutathione levels.
One study showed that when healthy adults were given glyNAC, a supplement that increases glutathione levels, they had lower oxidative stress and inflammation levels after 24 weeks of treatment. That’s the kind of research we’re really interested in when it comes to my brain health.
Benefit #2: Boost your immunity
It’s not a big surprise that glutathione affects your immune system, given what we just discussed about its role in fighting free radicals and reducing oxidative stress.
Glutathione helps your immune system stay strong so that it can better fight infection. One way it does this is by supporting T-cells and natural killer cells. These white blood cells help phagocytic cells, like macrophages, attack foreign invaders and protect you from infection. These macrophages also help stimulate the action of other immune cells, and they all need glutathione to function.
Another study found that glutathione “fine-tunes” your immune response, keeping it ready to jump into action when needed without going into overdrive.
As we age, we tend to become more vulnerable to a variety of health issues and diseases. Studies show that one reason for this is that the body’s ability to produce glutathione also decreases as we age. Reduced GSH is linked to a slew of conditions and issues, including:
- Autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, Crohn’s disease)
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Chronic liver disease
- Cognitive impairment
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- High blood pressure
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Mental health disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Thyroid disease
Keeping our immune system in tip-top shape will help us avoid these and many other health problems, and glutathione is an important part of that.
Benefit #3: Improved insulin resistance
If you’ve followed us here at More Than Healthy for any length of time, you know we’re all about managing the effects of sugar in our bodies. You can do many things to lower your sugar intake, but another way to help you metabolize sugar is to improve insulin resistance.
Higher levels of glutathione may in fact lower your risk for diabetes. Because of its link to insulin sensitivity (which is how sensitive your body is to the effects of insulin), GSH is associated with a lower risk of this disease. Additionally, according to Dr. Vishwanath Venketaraman, a professor of microbiology and immunology who had researched glutathione for over 20 years, people with type 2 diabetes have lower levels of glutathione.
In one study, when mice with type 2 diabetes took glutathione for three months, their levels of inflammation and free radicals went down while levels of glutathione were increased.
Another study on aging mice also found that eating foods that were high in cysteine and glycine (both of which are used to make glutathione) boosted their ability to burn fat and improved insulin resistance. We’ll include information about these foods later in the post so you can get an idea of what you should be eating to get that same boost.
Benefit #4: Improved liver health
It’s hard to overstate how important liver health is. The liver is the largest solid organ in the body. It performs over 500 vital functions, including removing toxins and waste from the bloodstream, regulating blood sugar and clotting, and creating essential nutrients.
A lack of glutathione may lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, the most common form of chronic liver disease in the U.S., affecting about 25% of the population. One study found that people with this disease who took high doses of glutathione intravenously for four months saw positive improvements in their liver health.
Another clinical trial found that glutathione is effective in treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease because of its antioxidant properties and potential for detoxification.
My labs show I’m at risk for this disease, so I do all I can to eat the foods that support my liver function. My doctor had me add a few supplements since it seems I’m not getting enough of these important amino acids from my diet.
Benefit #5: A longer life
That’s right, the right amount of glutathione may help extend your life.
Large-scale research about glutathione connected problems in GSH levels with everything from cancer to metabolic, immune, and inflammatory diseases. All of these conditions are linked to oxidative stress. So if you can hold them off, you have a better chance of living longer.
Another study from Baylor College of Medicine found that glutathione increases lifespan in mice by 24 percent.
Carla and I have shared about the epigenetic testing we’ve recently done. The results are worth bragging about, because although chronologically I’m 66 years old, my biological age is 43. I’m taking years off of aging and extending my life as we work so hard to live all of these tips we share with you.
And Carla is, too. She tests 11 years younger than her actual age. We believe that most of this success comes from our work to decrease the oxidative stress on our bodies.
Additional benefits of glutathione
The list of potential benefits from the right amount of glutathione is long. There is evidence that children with autism have lower levels of glutathione in their systems. Researchers have found that glutathione supplementations reduce some of the effects of autism.
Additionally, research shows that glutathione can help prevent cancer, boost fertility, decrease heart disease, help with inflammatory bowel disease, treat illnesses like Covid, and even turn up your physical performance.
Wow. Sounds like GSH deserves its nickname. It truly is the master antioxidant!
Foods high in glutathione
We always recommend trying to get increased levels of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants through food whenever possible. Fresh and frozen foods provide the highest levels of glutathione. But it’s important to know that cooking, processing, preserving, and storing food will cause the natural glutathione it contains to deteriorate.
Foods that are high in glutathione are also high in glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid.
There are lots of healthy and delicious foods that are high in glutathione. Some of my favorites are almonds, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, red meats, turkey, chicken, eggs, pork, and fish.
You can also get it by taking milk thistle and turmeric. Other foods like dairy, walnuts, and tomatoes can help you get your glutathione up, but those foods don’t work for me because of my food sensitivities.
That’s what I love about what we teach here at More Than Healthy. Everybody is different, and what works for one person might not work for another. You’re the scientist, and your body is the lab experiment you need to work on to determine what foods heal you and which make you feel worse.
Are you getting the right amount of glutathione?
If you don’t know if you’re getting enough glutathione in your diet, then a great way to find out is with hair analysis testing, an amazing, informative service now offered at More Than Healthy. It will show you if you’re low in glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid (the amino acids that help make glutathione), so you can add more of those foods to your diet if you need to.
With just a few strands of your hair, you receive a full report looking at toxins, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, electromagnetic frequency exposure, chemicals, radiation, parasites, immune factors, and foods you should avoid.
Go to our website to learn more. You can schedule a local hair analysis or order it online to be mailed to you today.
Let us help you reclaim your health
I hope this helped you to learn a lot more about this powerful antioxidant that can make such a difference for your health. As always, if you have any questions about glutathione, or anything else about your health, you can find us on Facebook or Instagram at @morethanhealthyliving. We try to respond to all questions.
We’d love to become your health coaches as you work to become “more than healthy” and achieve optimal health.
Tune in next week for more helpful tips on how to reclaim your health.
Remember, we’re not doctors. We’re just sharing what’s worked for us on our health journey. You will want to consult your doctor before significantly changing your diet and supplementation.