Glutathione is one of the body’s most important and potent antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that reduce oxidative stress by combating free radicals in the body, Dr. Magdy Badran says.
While most antioxidants are found in the foods you eat, one unique thing about glutathione is that the body can make it, which is not true of most antioxidants.
It is found in every cell in the body. It is primarily made up of three amino acids: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. Poor diet, pollution, toxins, medications, stress, trauma, aging, chronic age-related diseases (cataracts, macular degeneration, hearing impairment, and glaucoma), infections, chronic disease and radiation.
The functions of glutathione are complex and remain the subject of current research. They include making DNA, supporting immune function, forming sperm cells, breaking down some free radicals, helping certain enzymes function, regenerating vitamins C and E, transporting mercury out of the brain, helping the liver and gallbladder deal with fats.
Glutathione is a Very Strong Antioxidant
Free radicals may contribute to some diseases. It has been estimated that 10,000 oxidative interactions occur between DNA and endogenously generated free radicals per human cell per day.
Proteins, lipids, and DNA make up a large part of your body so that damage can lead to a vast number of diseases over time.
When there are more free radicals present than can be kept in balance by antioxidants, the free radicals can start doing damage to fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in your body.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants.
Free radicals are not only generated internally in our body system but also trough external sources in the environment. Some sources include ozone, certain pesticides, and cleaners, cigarette smoke, radiation, and pollution. A diet high in sugar, fat, and alcohol may also contribute to free radical production.
There is ample evidence that allergic disorders, such as asthma, rhinitis and atopic dermatitis, are mediated by oxidative stress.
In bronchial asthma, oxidative stress aggravates airway inflammation by inducing diverse inflammatory mediators, enhancing bronchial hyperresponsiveness, stimulating bronchospasm and increasing mucus secretion.
Glutathione in Liver Disease
Hepatic glutathione plays a key role in detoxification, protecting against toxins and carcinogens. It reduces cell damage in alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Cell death in the liver may be exacerbated by a deficiency in antioxidants, including glutathione. This can lead to fatty liver disease in both those who misuse alcohol and those who don’t.
It has been shown to improve protein, enzyme, and bilirubin levels in the blood of individuals with alcoholic and nonalcoholic chronic fatty liver disease.
Hepatitis, alcohol abuse, and fatty liver disease all damage the cells of the liver. Glutathione could help treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease due to its antioxidant properties and potential to detoxify.
Glutathione Decreases in Diabetes
The decrease in glutathione level and impairment in its metabolism have been reported in the erythrocytes of diabetics.
People with insulin resistance tend to have lower glutathione levels, particularly if they have experienced complications, such as neuropathy or retinopathy.
Insulin resistance can result in the development of type 2 diabetes. Patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes have a severely deficient synthesis of glutathione.
It improves insulin sensitivity. Dietary supplementation with glutathione precursor amino acids can restore glutathione synthesis and lower oxidative stress and oxidant damage in the face of persistent hyperglycemia.
Glutathione and Autism Treatment
There is some evidence that children with autism have lower levels of glutathione than those without autism. In some cases, up to 80% of this important antioxidant has been depleted resulting in higher levels of oxidative stress.
Glutathione is important in the biomedical treatment of autism for four main reasons: it acts as the body’s master antioxidant, it plays a central role in detoxification of harmful substances, the latest research on glutathione showed it has a role in regulating immunity and it also manages the brain chemical glutamate.
As a reduction agent, it helps maintain other key vitamins that also act as antioxidants such as vitamins C and vitamin E.
While both vitamins are very important for cell health, vitamin E has been shown to reduce the damage to the cell membrane and is used in biomedical treatment to support motor planning which is needed for optimal language, social, cognitive and motor skills.
Other heavy metals like aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, gadolinium barium, antimony, etc. are also detoxified with the help of glutathione. Incredibly small amounts of these metals can cause damage to cells.
Children diagnosed with autism have a different balance of microflora, which results in changes in the way the brain and immune system are functioning.
Alternations in the microbiome play a significant role in the pathophysiology of autism.
Bacteria, yeasts, and viruses have to be removed from the body after they are killed or immobilized by the immune system.
Detoxification of microbial metabolites is highly dependent on glutathione status. Over 100,000 chemicals are polluting our air, water, and land. Mothers exposed to higher levels of air pollution have higher rates of children with autism. It helps to remove harmful chemicals from the body.
It also mops up excess glutamate, preventing it from making the brain excitable to the point of causing toxicity.
Natural Ways to Increase Glutathione
Eat sulfur-rich foods: Mushrooms are one of the foods richest in sulfur amino acids. Sulfur occurs in several amino acids, two of which — methionine and cysteine are precursors for glutathione.
Other sulfur-rich foods include meat, eggs, fish, grains, onion, garlic, broccoli, and cabbage.
Dairy products contain protein beta-casein, which has the potential to increase glutathione levels in the body. Consume more whey protein as it contains large quantities of cysteine so it increases its levels.
Increase your vitamin C intake, it is an antioxidant and it also maintains the body’s supply of other antioxidants.
Fish, organ meats, and Brazil nuts are all selenium-rich foods that may help increase your levels naturally.
Dietary glutathione is not fully absorbed by the body. However, including foods naturally high in glutathione, like avocados, spinach, and okra, may help decrease oxidative stress.
Alcoholism decreases glutathione levels throughout the body, especially in the lungs.
People who regularly consume excessive amounts of alcohol can have an 80–90% decrease in lung glutathione. Luckily, you can maintain appropriate glutathione levels by increasing your physical activity and getting enough sleep.