Glutathione deficiency contributes to Oxidative Stress

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The Link between Chronic Disease and Glutathione Deficiency

There is one major similarity between chronically ill patients: glutathione deficiency. Whether you've heard of glutathione or not, it's one of the most powerful detoxifiers for your immune system and makes a huge difference in the living habits of those who are dealing with a chronic disease.

Patients who are chronically ill include those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, asthma, autism, autoimmune diseases, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic infections, diabetes, heart diseases, HIV/AIDS, kidney issues, liver disease or Parkinson's disease.

Although glutathione is naturally produced in the body, if the wrong steps are taken, people who suffer from any of the illnesses above can severely decrease the production of glutathione (GSH). The production decrease is usually from eating a poor diet, living in a polluted neighborhood, working in an environment that is exposed to deadly toxins, ingesting some medications, not taking steps to reduce a high stress load or the effects of a traumatic event.

Of course there are a few instances where people suffering from glutathione deficiency may have a more difficult time controlling it, such as with natural aging.

Another example of a "naturally" occurring illness is someone who is born with a disease. Although safe sex, using clean needles and abstinence are three ways to prevent the risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), there is also a population who may have no control over this diagnosis, such as those who were born with the disease or were diagnosed with HIV from a blood transfusion. Unfortunately they will also be at risk for glutathione deficiency.

Imagine glutathione as a magnet. What the simple molecule does is use its sulfur to go through the body and grab onto any free radicals, toxins, heavy metals and other toxic items in the body.

Glutathione recycles antioxidants. Vitamin C becomes Vitamin E, then lipoic acid becomes glutathione, which utilizes free radicals to recycle other antioxidants. These waste items are then transferred into the detoxification system, which gets rid of the bad toxins in the form of feces.

However, if the body is too full of toxins or stress, then the glutathione is depleted. Going back to the magnet analogy, glutathione becomes a magnet with very little or nothing to stick to. It becomes the magnet that just slides down the refrigerator door. The magnetic elements are still there, but something has to be done to fix the adhesive. If there's nothing for toxins to "stick" to, this is when infections or disease risk occurs. This can also be when HIV becomes full-blown AIDS.

Younger, healthy people are most likely to have the highest amount of glutathione by eating glutathione-heavy foods, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale and watercress. Exercising is also another way to make sure glutathione is able to properly develop and be recycled within the immune system.

These foods are not only highly encouraged for HIV/AIDS but also for other common diseases, such as diabetes. Glutathione improves and corrects the way the body distributes and controls blood sugar (glucose) for Type II diabetics. Exercise is one of the ways that it does so. Although diabetes also doesn't currently have a cure, it can be easily controlled by proper nutrition and fitness.

So what happens when the immune system is weak, such as for someone with a more fatal and incurable disease like HIV/AIDS?

Abnormally low plasma cystine and glutamine levels, low natural killer (NK) cell activity, muscle fatigue and skeletal muscle wasting are symptoms of those with HIV/AIDS. Having and keeping a steady amount of GSH is the key factor in survival for HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases.

The symptoms above are also found in people who suffer from cancer, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. With all of these issues going on, glutathione doesn't just disappear from these patients. It just may take some extra work to get glutathione to work efficiently in the bodies of those actively fighting against the molecules.

One major action that must be taken for patients suffering from chronic diseases is to stop ingesting items that fight against glutathione, such as ingesting certain acetaminophens, drinking alcohol or caffeine (tea, coffee, soda), smoking and using any drugs with warnings that will decrease the amount of GSH.

While coffee and tea have countless perks for someone with a healthy immune system, the downside for someone with a lower immune system is it creates more of a risk by losing body fluid. Water, on the other hand, is a highly recommended fluid to take the place of the other drinks. Water is also a consistent go-to for the digestive system regardless of high or low glutathione.

Although it may seem counterproductive to tell someone who has HIV/AIDS to avoid vigorous exercise considering this is one of the ways that healthy people continue to utilize GSH, the reasons for this are simple. GSH is also decreased from exhaustion. So while exercising is an important way to control body mass index (BMI) and teams up with nutrition to stay healthy, if a body with a weak immune system is pushed too hard from exhaustion, this does not help with developing GSH. Consistently exhaustive exercising actually works against GSH.

Examples of ways to increase GSH through exercise are low-cardio fitness activities, such as bicycling, brisk walking, dog walking, jogging, stair climbing, swimming, weight training and yoga. Keep track of your heart rate to avoid exhaustion, and start with small time increments to measure how much can be handled for a light-to-moderate workout.

While healthy people who do not suffer from glutathione deficiency may wonder if they should increase their levels, the answer is no. Studies have confirmed that ingesting additional glutathione or amino acid cysteine doesn't give them a one-up on infection resistance or being able to skip vaccines. However, the lack of it certainly makes a difference in HIV/AIDS patients.

Taking active measures to increase glutathione may restore natural killer cell activity. While glutathione is not to be confused with a "cure" for HIV or AIDS, the toxic-fighting molecule is incredibly important to impair T cell functionality and help increase a person's survival rate.