If you are interested in health supplements, there is a high chance that you’ve heard of glutathione. The nutrient is widely referred to as the “mother of all anti-oxidants,” and for a good reason. As we will discuss later in this article, boosting your glutathione levels facilitates a plethora of scientifically-proven therapeutic benefits in nearly every system in your body. Its deficiency is associated with chronic fatigue, liver disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and even cancer.
So, what is this multi-purpose nutrient that seems to hold the key to your wellbeing? Is it an expensive supplement or a mysterious superfood? In this article, we will analyze the science behind this life-giving molecule, its benefits, and how to balance its levels in your body.
What is Glutathione?
In a nutshell, glutathione (pronounced gloota-thigh-own) is a simple antioxidant molecule produced by all cells in your body. However, lack of this meta-oxidant would bring all your cellular functioning to a halt – due to a buildup of toxicity.
Figure 1. Chemical Structure of Glutathione (Source: ResearchGate)
As shown in figure 1 above, glutathione is a tripeptide. This means that it’s a combination of three amino acids or proteins, including glutamate, cysteine, and glycine. Although each of these amino acids plays a significant role in the human body, their combine form creates a supermolecule that protects your body from dangerous toxins and free radicals. The Sulphur-rich cystine attracts toxins and effectively eliminates them – hence, it safeguards your body from disease and dysfunction.
The dark side to the awesome power of glutathione is that radiation, infections, trauma, aging, stress, medications, toxins, pollution, and poor diet can deplete your glutathione levels. This leaves you exposed to infections, free radicals, and cell disintegration, courtesy of oxidative stress.
What are the Health Benefits of Glutathione?
According to a study published in the FASEB Journal by a team of researchers from the American Health Foundation, it is possible to predict the lifespan of a person based on the level of glutathione in their cells. With such an unparallel role in our health, maintaining a balance of the nutrient is of utmost importance! Preventing a drop in glutathione levels may help in the prevention and recovery from various health problems, as shown below:
- Combat Inflammation
Inflammation is responsible for rheumatoid arthritis, lung diseases, and other chronic health issues. According to multiple studies, restoring your glutathione levels helps in lowering the inflammation in your body. This works by blocking the production of inflammatory cytokines (product of immune response) and NF-kB (the main protein responsible for controlling inflammation).
- Potent Antioxidant
Oxidative stress can lead to severe DNA and cell damage. As the master antioxidant in your body, glutathione lowers chronically high oxidative stress. This reduces the risk of brain damage, inflammation, cancer, and various other health problems.
Additionally, a study in the International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research showed that glutathione facilitates the regeneration of other antioxidants, including lipoic acid, vitamin E and C. This one nutrient basically boosts the overall antioxidant defense of your body
- Mental Health
Did you know that your mind consumes up to 20% of the oxygen in your blood despite occupying a meager 2% of your body? This shows that your brain has extremely high oxidative metabolism (burns fuel). Glutathione, therefore, plays a critical role in protecting your brain from oxidative stress. In particular, studies show that it improves the symptoms of conditions caused by oxidative stress such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease.
Research also shows that low levels of glutathione are often reported in patients with stress, depression, anxiety, OCD, Schizophrenia, Autism, mood disorders, and ADHD. Restoring normal levels of glutathione may help stabilize most of the symptoms associated with these mental health issues. Increasing the level in this molecule in your body has even been shown to combat addiction.
- Skin Health
Cells that have a depleted level of glutathione are vulnerable to free radicals that accelerate aging and harm the skin. Oxidative stress due to lack of glutathione also triggers acne and other skin diseases. Luckily, a study in the Journal of Dermatology proved that increasing the level of glutathione promotes skin regeneration and neutralizes oxidative stress. This results in the reduction of wrinkles and the general health of your skin.
It also appears that the benefits of glutathione extend to the beauty and cosmetic industry. According to an Indian study, the nutrient reduces the activity of melanin (cells responsible for dark pigment), resulting in lighter-looking skin. This application may also extend to hiding dark patches associated with aging skin.
- Boosts Immunity – Fight Infections
According to a study in the Journal of Infection and Immunity, immune cells lose their ability to protect the body from infections when glutathione levels are low. This explains why people suffering from alcoholism, the flu, COPD, tuberculosis, and AIDS have low glutathione levels. Other studies show that maintaining healthy levels of Sulphur-rich cysteine stimulates the production of glutathione and helps immune cells in destroying microbes.
- Gastrointestinal Health
If you are among the 10-15% of people in the world who have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), studies show that you might also have depleted levels of glutathione synthesis. Most gastrointestinal health problems are associated with low levels of enzymes involved in glutathione production such as cysteine and glutathione peroxidase. The latter also helps protect the gut wall or mucus layers covering your intestines. This prevents a leaky gut and a variety of other gastrointestinal issues.
- Cardiovascular Health
A research article appearing in Volume 62 of Kidney International claims that oxidative stress in your heart in the leading cause of cardiovascular disease. This assertion is supported by other studies which show that low levels of systemic/cardiac glutathione and the glutathione peroxidase enzyme are strongly linked to an increased risk of cardiac arrest and oxidative stress. Therefore, we can only conclude that maintaining healthy levels of glutathione in your body is key to your cardiovascular health.
- Chronic Diseases – Cancer and Diabetes
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases are the leading cause of healthcare costs, disability, and death in the United States – they affect 60% of adults. Some of the main chronic diseases include cancer, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.
Unfortunately, high blood sugar and Type 2 diabetes reduce the level of glutathione in your body. This leaves you susceptible to nerve damage, heart problems, and a plethora of other complication associated with a buildup of free radicals. Additionally, some researchers have discovered a link between a lower risk of cancer and increase intake of glutathione. The master antioxidant profoundly impacts the survival and division of cancer cells – hindering their progression. The health benefits of glutathione have also been shown in other chronic diseases affecting the kidney and the respiratory system.
- Other Health Benefits
As wide-reaching as the health benefits highlighted above seem, they barely touch the tip of the iceberg regarding the capabilities of glutathione. Its therapeutic benefits even extend to the reproductive system, eye health, sleep disorders, and liver health – to name a few. There are thousands of medical articles that have attempted to explore this simple molecule.
How can you Boost Your Glutathione Levels?
We’ve talked about the benefits of glutathione to your wellbeing, but how exactly do you boost its levels? You can improve your health and live a long, healthy life by consuming foods that are rich in Sulphur – they support glutathione production. Examples of Sulphur-rich foods that are readily available in your nearest grocery store include watercress, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, kale, broccoli, avocados, melons, potatoes, onions, and garlic.
In addition to these vegetables, some of the building blocks of glutathione can be found in dairy and meat products. However, you should be careful to consume non-denatured and bioactive proteins. This means choosing non-industrially produced and non-pasteurized milk that is free of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides. Regular exercise has also been shown to boost the levels of glutathione in your body, hence enhancing antioxidant defenses and improving detoxification.
Intrigued by the potential benefits of Glutathione? Check out Kino’s Glutathione & CBD Infused Pain Relief Cream!
Featured Image: Stage 7 Photography via Unsplash
Article Image 1: Aiony Haust via Unsplash