It’s been called the “mother of all antioxidants,” and best-selling author Mark Hyman, MD, says it is the most important molecule we need to stay healthy—yet many people have not even heard about it. This amazing nutrient is glutathione, and Hyman says there is an epidemic deficiency of it that can contribute to everything from autism to Alzheimer’s, cancer to cardiovascular disease.
Glutathione is a nutrient-like compound found in varying degrees in all tissues, fluids, and organs in the human body. It is one of the most important protective weapons we have in our fight to stay healthy and prevent a wide range of illnesses. Its role in immune health as a critical antioxidant that also helps regenerate other antioxidants is imperative. However, its role in detoxification is equally compelling.
In fact, as we head into the season of “spring cleaning,” ensuring proper glutathione levels is absolutely critical to enhance detoxification and cleansing.
The Detoxification Connection
The highest amounts of glutathione are found in the liver and kidneys, which are organs responsible for processing everything we ingest and eliminating toxic compounds. High amounts of glutathione are also found in the fluid lining the lungs, which protects against airborne pollutants, and in the mucus lining of the intestine, which prevents the absorption of reactive chemicals that can become toxic.
“Glutathione promotes the health of the entire airway,” says Dean P. Jones, PhD, of Emory School of Medicine.
“It may be very useful for those most at risk of contracting influenza—children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.” Studies conducted by Jones at Emory University found that glutathione lessened the viral load in both the lungs and trachea.
When it comes to optimum detoxification, it begins and ends with the health of the liver. That’s why glutathione is so important—it “feeds” the liver what it needs to perform all of its duties effectively. The liver, which is the largest organ in the body, screens compounds to determine if they are toxic. The liver will then either convert those compounds into harmless substances or useful forms to be used by the body.
The liver produces about 100 different enzymes and proteins that carry out the two phases of detoxification. Many factors influence the power of each phase of detoxification, including glutathione levels. In fact, glutathione is so important for liver function that if the body isn’t getting enough of it, it will start to steal precursor amino acids from muscle tissue to help maintain liver glutathione levels.
“Glutathione is critical for the elimination of environmental pollutants that we are all exposed to,” says Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO,
coauthor of Five to Thrive: Your Cutting-Edge Cancer Prevention Plan. “Several studies have shown that glutathione intercepts and neutralizes many toxic substances quickly before they can damage a cell’s DNA.”
Absorption and Dosage
Alschuler warns that not all glutathione supplements are created equal. In fact, there is controversy over whether oral glutathione is absorbed at all, which is why many people focus on taking the nutrients that make glutathione in the body—namely glutamate, cysteine, and glycine. However, according to both Alschuler and Jones, studies have shown that glutathione is absorbed directly by cells in the lungs, intestines, kidneys, and immune system. At other sites, such as in the liver, Jones says glutathione taken orally is broken down into the three amino acids and then reassembled as glutathione in the target organs, or is used up by the intestinal cells themselves.
Alschuler recommends 250 mg a day for healthy individuals and 250 to 500 mg a day for people who may have health issues or require more intense detoxification and immune support. Research shows glutathione is safe at levels higher than 1,000 mg daily.
“Glutathione levels are the lowest in the morning,” says Alschuler, “so it’s best to take this supplement first thing in the morning.” Fruits and vegetables are great dietary sources of glutathione. Many vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus, and spinach, help activate the enzymes that assist the body in making glutathione.
It makes sense to add glutathione to the top of your body’s spring cleaning “to-do” list. In addition, for gentle ongoing detoxification support all year long, add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your daily diet especially in the morning when, as mentioned above, glutathione levels are at their lowest.
Good Buys ...
THE VITAMIN SHOPPE L-Glutathione squelches free radicals and assists in the detox process with 250 mg of Setria glutathione, a high-quality, proprietary form of the nutrient.
ALLERGY RESEARCH NUTRICOLOGY Glutathione adds naturally sourced antioxidant vitamin C from cassava root for synergistic cell support.
CARLSON LABORATORIES Glutathione Booster is formulated with 10 mg of glutathione plus a blend of herbs, vitamins, and minerals that promote glutathione production.
Karolyn A. Gazella is the coauthor of Five to Thrive: Your Cutting-Edge Cancer Prevention Plan and The Definitive Guide to Cancer; the co-creator of the Five to Thrive Plan (fivetothriveplan.com); and the co-host of Five to Thrive Live! radio show (w4cs.com). She is also the publisher of the Natural Medicine Journal (naturalmedicinejournal.com).