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This article takes a look at Glutathione: known as the ‘master antioxidant’ and one of the most powerful tools within our bodies when it comes to defence against things ‘going wrong’. In fact low levels of it have been linked to the majority of chronic disease. Unfortunately, not only does the modern world pose more challenges to maintaining health and preventing things going wrong, but it also does a great job at depleting this very powerful natural defence mechanism. This article will tell you what Glutathione really is, why you need it, how it gets depleted and most importantly how you can ensure you have enough of it.
We all instinctively know that the modern world throws a lot of toxins, pollutants, stress etc our way. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Instead of dwelling on that however, what is much more powerful is knowing what to do about it and specifically how to fire up your body’s own defence against all of this.
This is where Glutathione comes in – probably one of the most powerful and important substances in the body. Something which you’ll likely hear a lot more about in the future. Click here for MUCH more – but in a nutshell, over the last decade or so we have learnt a lot more about just how powerful this is and how necessary it is for maintaining our general health – particularly in our modern world. Just to give you a sense – not enough of it has been said to ‘lead to almost every single disease’’ (2) as without it we are vulnerable to:
Oxidative stress (click for much more on why we don’t want this) and tissue damage.
Regulation of gene expression (the all important epigenetics)
DNA and protein synthesis (fundamental to most things)
Heavy metal detox
Detox of toxins and medications like Acetaminophen aka. Paracetamol (found in certain children’s painkillers)
Reproduction: specifically spermatogenesis and sperm maturation (1)
It also plays a role in ensuring that other antioxidants (like C&E) remain in their active form within the body (2)
Keeping the all important gut lining nice, tight and healthy.
In fact it has been referred to as the ‘master antioxidant’ by scientists (2).
Glutathione is produced within the body is the first thing to know. Found mainly in the liver but also elsewhere, built by a combination of three key amino acids: Glycine, Cysteine and Glutamate.
So: question is – how do you get enough??
Glutathione is readily available in fresh fruits, vegetables and meats (good sources include: apples, carrots, grapes, spinach, tomato, asparagus, avocado). However, before you reach for all of those, unfortunately that is not the way to go to increase your intake…
If only it was that easy!
Research suggests that consuming Glutathione rich food would ‘transfer only a small amount of reduced glutathione into the bloodstream because most of it is lost in the digestive tract.’ (3)
So – what can you do?
All is not lost! This is where the building blocks of Glutathione come in to play as ‘studies have revealed that blood glutathione levels increase by supplementing its precursors’ (3). This means we have to think about the key building blocks of Glutathione: those amino acids mentioned above – Glycine, Cysteine and Glutamate. Providing enough of these will allow the body to build more Glutathione itself.
Ok but where do we find these?
‘Foods rich in Sulfur containing amino acids are usually the best sources of Glutathione’ (2) that includes:
Eggs (the white – or albumen – contains the most)
Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Kale, Brussel sprouts (these are rich in Sulfur based substances known as: glucosinolates – which gives that lovely aroma!)
Onion and garlic
Meat is also a good source. However, of course when it comes to meat in today’s industrial world, being smart and selective remains key. Sadly, hand in hand with most conventional modern meat production is things like added artificial hormones, antibiotics, steriods which cause their own brand of havoc on our bodies over time so it is always worth going organic wherever you can. Once you have done that this can be a powerful support to the body’s own Glutathione production. This is where Bone Broth and Meat Stock come into their own. I wanted to really understand why people were marketing these ‘broths’ as some kind of wonder potion. The answer, I found, principally to the presence of certain amino acids and specifically two of the building blocks of Glutathione: Glycine, Cysteine and Glutamine. Click here for much more.
In fact Cysteine has been said to be particularly crucial with recent studies ‘providing convincing data to support the view that cysteine is generally the limiting amino acid for Glutathione synthesis in humans.’ (1)
Some good sources:
Beef and Lamb (again, go organic whenever you can)
Seeds and Nuts – particularly sunflower seeds, but also Walnuts which are a high source of another important antioxidant Selenium
Chicken and Turkey (see above)
Oats and Oat Bran
Fish and Shellfish
Cheese, Dairy and our friend the Eggs again.
Garlic, Red Peppers and Broccoli
Interestingly enough, it is not only what we put in to our bodies in the form of food that has an effect on the amount of Glutathione in the body – two important points to note:
Exercise: yet another reason to do it in the ‘right way’. What is the right way? Moderate exercise (vs vigorous which can deplete it) is the way to go. (3) Click here for more.
What takes it away: unfortunately our modern lifestyles actively deplete this defence: poor diet, pollution, toxins, medications (like Acetaminophen – click here to learn more), stress, trauma, aging, infection etc deplete the body’s Glutathione levels. (2) The obvious thing is to avoid those things as much as you can – ex the aging part – can’t really help that one sadly!
What about supplements?
Let’s be honest, most of us want a quick and easy pill to take to get what we need. However, supplements something to be very careful and cautious with. Particularly when it comes to Glutathione. Here’s why:
The supplement market as a whole is pretty unregulated so there is often wild variance between quality, what is in them, amounts in them. Not only that, but the way they are produced can limit our body’s ability to process them and in some cases (Glutathione being one) often they are unlikely to even work in supplement form! (Which sadly doesnt stop some companies from producing them):
‘Studies have revealed that circulating Glutathione could not be increased to a beneficial extent by oral administration….and has not significant benefit when taken as a supplement’ (2) Once again, it is likely to be lost within the digestive tract and therefore not make it into the bloodstream. So diet (focusing on the precursors) helping the body produce more of its own supply, moderate exercise and avoiding those things that deplete it is the way to go.
That being said – one supplement that has been shown to be effective plays on the idea that what can benefit is to add the building blocks of Glutathione to the body. Specifically N-Acetyl-Cysteine (also known as NAC) which is a precursor to Cysteine which is an essential building block for Glutathione production in the body. Click here for much more:
‘The antioxidant activity of NAC is attributed to its ability to maintain intracellular Glutathione levels.’ (4) It is a powerful precursor of Glutathione and ‘works extremely quickly and is very effective’ as well as having been tested extensively on a wide range of physical and mental disorders. (2)
That being said, as with all supplements it is always worth being mindful. Can you get what you need from food form which is often better processed with less additives by the body? If however you do need extra support (and there are certainly cases for this and where it can be of real benefit) it is always worth checking with a doctor or getting blood tests to find out what the real internal picture is ahead of time particularly when it comes to Glutathione as (in the words of the Journal of Biological and Information Sciences): ‘since it is synthesised within the cell, a proper diet would be a correct approach to maintain balanced Glutathione synthesis and prevent the body’s cellular dysfunction’.
WU G, FANG Y-Z, YANG S, LUPTON TURNER N: Glutathione Metabolism and its Implications for Health: Journal of Nutrition. Vol 134 Issue 3 March 2004: 489-492
DHIVYA H: Glutathione – a master antioxidant and an immune system modulator: Journal of Biological and Information Sciences. Vol 1 Iss.3 ‘12
BAINS VK, BAINS R: The antioxidant master glutathione and periodontal health: Dental Research Journal: 2015 Sept-Oct; 12(5): 389-405
JOZEFCZAK M, REMANS T, CUYPERS A: Glutathione is a key player in Metal-Induced Oxidative Stress Defenses. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2012: 13(3): 3145-3175
LIM J, NAKAMURA BN, LUDERER U: Glutamate Cysteine Ligase Modifier (Gilmore) Null Mice Have Increased Ovarian Oxidative Stress and Accelerated Age-Related Ovarian Failure: Endocrinology: 2015 Sep: 156(9): 3329-3343
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.
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