The Role Glutathione Plays in Your Body
There has long been widespread recognition of the massive importance of antioxidants, detoxification, and immune system strength for general health and wellness. Only recently, however, has it been recognized that all three of the above goals cannot be optimally met without maintaining high levels of glutathione. Glutathione is a nutrient that is naturally produced in every cell of our bodies. It consists of a combination of three amino acids: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. It contributes in numerous essential ways to fighting oxidative stress, cleansing the body of harmful elements, and fending off weakness and disease.
King of Antioxidants
Not only is glutathione the most common and most important of the body's antioxidant arsenal in its own right, but it is also serves to re-activate and recycle a number of other antioxidants the body needs. For this reason, many have proclaimed glutathione the "master antioxidant."
Quencher of Free Radicals
Closely related to the above benefit is glutathione's status as "master detoxifier." Oxidative stress results from the build-up of harmful free radicals. Vitamin C captures these pesky invaders and then passes them on to vitamin E, which transfers them to lipoic acid. Lipoic acid hands them off to glutathione, which uses its sulfurous cysteine to make the free radicals cling to its surface. Finally, glutathione dumps off these toxins into the bile and stool so they can be cast out of the body. In the process of ridding the body of free radicals, glutathione loses an electron and is put out of commission, but it is quickly recycled so it can work its wonders all over again.
Bolsterer of Immune Health
A study published in a reputable British medical journal, the Lancet, reveals that the highest levels of glutathione are found in the young and healthy, and the lowest levels are found in the sick and elderly. Glutathione production naturally slows down as we age. Furthermore, numerous chronic diseases are associated with depleted levels of glutathione: cancer, liver disease, auto-immune disorders, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, kidney malfunction, asthma, and arthritis.
Even as low glutathione levels are a concomitant of poor health, high levels of this nutrient have been shown to help patients recover faster from ailments. Increased energy, greater resistance to disease, and better metabolism are all associated with bolstered glutathione quantities.
The Problems Associated with Low Glutathione Levels
Due to poor diet and infrequent exercise, many in our modern society suffer from a lack of proper amounts of glutathione. There are over 80,000 industrial chemicals in existence today that are toxic to our health and can make their way into our systems. The abundance of processed, artificially preserved foods and the corresponding sparsity of healthy, natural food items makes it difficult to maintain a balanced diet. With computers, televisions, automobiles, and other modern conveniences making it possible to get by in life with little physical activity, many indeed fall into that trap. All of this tends to overload the glutathione in our bodies with more toxins than it can handle.
With glutathione stuck at low levels, free radicals find little opposition in doing their damage. The immune system falters, and any of the diseases above-listed that glutathione prevents may well appear. Oxidative stress gets out of control. Your body becomes less able to defend itself, and the effects of aging take their toll with greater rapidity.
The Importance of Glutathione to the Body
The body as a whole, as shown above, needs to keep up healthy glutathione levels if it is to flourish. Below we shall look, however, at how glutathione is important to particular parts of the body.
Glutathione and the Brain
The brain uses a fifth of the oxygen in the body, creating many free radicals in the process. It is glutothione that disposes of these excess free radicals. Many neuro-degenerative diseases are linked to free radical damage within the brain.
Glutathione and Heart Health
When peroxidation, the oxidation of lipids by free radicals, occurs in the heart, arterio-sclerosis may ensue. This disease involves arteries losing their elasticity and becoming hardened. An enzyme that is partly formed from glutathione, glutathione peroxidase, serves to detoxify these troublesome lipid peroxides.
Glutathione and Hearing Loss
The cochlea, one of the main components of the inner ear, can suffer oxidative damage from free radicals. This can then lead to the gradual loss of hearing as one ages. Glutathione present in the cochlea helps to counteract this process as well as to protect against ear damage caused by loud noises.
Glutathione's Effect on Eyesight
The near-exorbitant levels of glutathione in the lenses of the eyes assist in shielding them from UV radiation, which generates free radicals. Unless proper levels of glutathione and other antioxidants are maintained in the lenses, eye opacity could develop over time.
Glutathione and the Lungs
Our lungs inhale daily an alarming amount of harmful chemicals. Glutathione residing in the lungs, however, detoxifies and removes these elements.
Glutathione and the Kidneys
The kidneys filter the blood, removing waste products. Glutathione assists the kidney in carrying out this detoxification process.
Glutathione and the Liver
The liver is the most important organ in the body for removing dangerous toxins before they have a chance to reach the blood stream. Glutathione is the single most important element that aids the liver in its detoxification functions. Additionally, if glutathione levels are down body-wide, your system can become overloaded. This then overloads the liver and can lead to liver damage.
What Can I DO to Bolster My Glutathione Levels?
There are three things everyone can do to build up their levels of glutathione:
- Eat healthy foods
- Live active lives
- Take helpful supplements
Eat Foods High in Sulfur
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are high in the sulfur that glutathione is partly made out of. Other foods that increase glutathione production include: garlic, onions, avocados, and walnuts. Another great help is to consume bioactive whey protein found in all-natural, non-pasteurized milk.
Get Plenty of Exercise
By exercising, you will heighten your levels of glutathione. Aerobics, jogging, walking, weight lifting, sports activities, etc. are all good ways of getting this needed exercise.
Consider Taking Some Supplements
Since glutathione is absorbed into the body very poorly, it does little good to take it directly. But you can take a number of supplements that will help the body manufacture more glutathione. Some of these supplements include:
- N-acetyl-cysteine, a glutathione precursor
- Alpha lipoic acid, which boosts glutathione synthesis
- Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP)
- Folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12
- Selenium, Zinc and Magnesium
- Milk thistle, which is used to fight liver disease
- Vitamins C and E
- Calcitriol, which increases glutathione levels in the brain
Glutathione is a little-known but highly essential bodily nutrient. It has a vast array of important functions to support the good health of numerous body organs. In fact, it is necessary in every cell of the body. It is the body's premier antioxidant and detoxifier, and it is also a great help for immune health. You can increase your body's glutathione levels through a high-sulfur diet, regular exercise, and indirect supplementation.