Coined “The Mother of All Antioxidants” by Mark Hyman, MD, glutathione (GSH) is one of the hottest topics in both natural health and medical circles today. Pronounced “gloota-thigh-own,” nearly 117,000 articles have addressed this powerhouse molecule, and experts are now recognizing that an alarming rate of people are deficient.
What is Glutathione?
Glutathione (GSH) is a peptide consisting of three key amino acids that play several vital roles in the body. Longevity researchers believe that it is so pivotal to our health that the level of GSH in our cells is becoming a predictor of how long we will live!
The key to understanding why GSH is so crucial for health is that every cell in our bodies produces it. In the words of Gustavo Bounous, MD, retired professor of surgery at McGill University in Montreal, “It’s the [body’s] most important antioxidant because it’s within the cell.” Although it is absolutely essential to maintaining a healthy immune system, it is not technically an “essential nutrient” because the body can create it from the amino acids L- cysteine, L-glutamic acid, and glycine.
Beyond the vague duty to “detox the cell,” glutathione more specifically plays several roles in the body. Some of the more significant examples:
- Conjugates (“links together”) with drugs to make them more digestible as well as bind with foreign compounds so they can be excreted.
- It is a cofactor (“helper molecule”) for some important enzymes including glutathione peroxidase (which protects you from oxidative damage).
- Is involved in protein disulfide bond rearrangement (which is critical for the biogenesis [or creation of new compounds from raw materials within the body] of 1/3 of all human proteins).
- Reduces peroxides (natural bleaching agents that are harmful to the body).
- Participates in leukotriene production (a vital component for inflammatory and hypersensitivity reactions).
- It helps the liver detoxify fat before bile is emitted, which takes stress off of the gallbladder.
- It helps detoxify methylglyoxal, a toxin that is naturally produced as a byproduct of metabolism.
- Cancer apoptosis (“programmed cell death”). This is a big one because when cells start bypassing apoptosis, that’s effectively cancer. Glutathione is, therefore, a major defense against developing cancer.
The problem is that most people are dangerously deficient in glutathione. For the most part, the reasons are preventable. The primary causes of glutathione deficiency are:
- Environmental toxins
- Chronic stress
- Overuse of antibiotics
- Radiation therapy
- Physical injury
- Some “health foods” that aren’t actually healthy
- Genetically modified foods
- Sometimes an infection can lead to a glutathione deficiency as well
How to support and boost your glutathione
First, manage the list above.
- Minimize environmental toxins by checking for mold in your home, using organic cleaning, hygiene and beauty products
- Don’t take antibiotics at the drop of a hat like most people
- Manage your stress through meditation, prayer, good sleep and enjoyable activities
- Rather than eat “health foods,” eat organic, whole vegetables and fruits, and grass-fed, free-range and wild-caught beef, poultry, and fish (respectively)
- Avoid processed foods
Secondly, make it a point to include these foods and nutrients in your diet:
- Milk Thistle – It boosts glutathione levels and helps protect the liver from toxicity, which can cause glutathione levels to drop.
- Whey Protein – It replenishes glutathione by boosting cysteine, a crucial component of rebuilding glutathione after an immune response has depleted it.
- Sulfuric foods – Foods high in sulfur support glutathione at the molecular level. This includes Brussels sprouts, arugula, carrageenan, eggs, coconut oil, broccoli, cauliflower…
- Nutrients that help with methylation, a process that is critical for helping the body create new glutathione. These nutrients include Vitamins B6, B9, B12, and Biotin.
- Selenium – This works as a powerful antioxidant and is required for your body to create GSH. Eat things like sardines, grass-fed beef, turkey or beef liver, and eggs.
- Vitamin C – This helps raise glutathione in red blood cells and lymphocytes.
- Vitamin E – an important antioxidant that works with GSH to prevent damage from reactive oxygen and protect glutathione-dependent enzymes.
- Raw liver – If you can get it from a local, grass-fed cow, fresh, and you have the stomach for it, this is perhaps the most effective way to boost glutathione.
Having enough glutathione makes a world of difference. In a health environment where there are so many things to know, remember, understand and implement, try to put this one near the top of your priority list.