Glutathione has long been referred to as the mother of antioxidants, and for good reason. It exists in every cell in the body and fights free radicals, which are molecules in our bodies that damage our organs and tissues.
Like most antioxidants, glutathione works against free radicals by removing an electron within the molecule that causes damage and turns it harmless. Our bodies produce it from our liver. Its fame is founded on its many health benefits, including boosting our immune system, fighting oxidative stress in the body, controls the death of cells, and an anti-aging and whitening agent.
The cosmetics and healthcare industry have manufactured glutathione in many forms, but the most popular ones are beauty products infused with glutathione and health supplements. If you’re curious whether taking glutathione supplements are for you, here are some of the many amazing benefits of this antioxidant and the various ways you can take it.
Glutathione battles oxidative stress, which is an imbalance of the body, making it difficult to battle or detoxify free radicals. Cataracts and glaucoma, for instance, are in part caused by oxidative stress. These lead to vision loss, but taking glutathione by mouth may be able to reduce the risks.
During oxidative metabolism, oxygen is used to make energy from the carbohydrates in our body. This chemical process continuously produces reactive oxygen species, which are unstable molecules containing oxygen that easily interact with other molecules. Too much reactive oxygen species cause damage to the cell, DNA, RNA and other proteins, making them a free radical.
Our brain cells take up about 20% of the oxygen used by the body. In this regard, glutathione can limit the risks of developing neurodegeneration like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease accumulates TDP-43, a DNA-binding protein is found in the nervous system, which lowers the body’s glutathione levels. Another antioxidant that can slow down Alzheimer’s is vitamin E. On the other hand, studies have shown that patients in the preclinical stages of Parkinson’s disease have low glutathione levels in the part of the brain called substantia nigra. People with Parkinson’s lose dopaminergic neurons in this region of the brain as well.
Heart diseases are caused by oxidative stress in the tissues of the heart. Research has found that low levels of glutathione peroxidase, and systemic and cardiac glutathione, are among the causes of heart attacks and strokes. Glutathione has also been proven to help prevent complications in people with Type 2 Diabetes and high blood sugar levels.
Glutathione is most popularly known for slowing down aging. Humans produce less glutathione as we age, particularly during the menopausal stage, where we see prominently the aging that occurs in women. By taking supplements, our body is able to restore glutathione levels and fight free radicals. A steady level of glutathione in the body can also strengthen our immune system in return.
Since glutathione is produced in the liver, chronic alcohol consumption can affect the body’s glutathione levels. Studies found that the antioxidant actually improved the liver function of alcoholics when they abstained from drinking and took glutathione orally. Other supplements also exist in the market that specifically supports the liver outside its relation to glutathione levels.
Data shows that AIDS patients produced low levels of glutathione in the mitochondria. The presence of glutathione in these patients allows NAC to block the effect of TNF on replicating the HIV disease. People with AIDS already have weak bodies, and a deficiency in glutathione can further weaken their immune systems. In this case, adding glutathione to their oral consumption can help them regain balance in their immune systems.
Glutathione deficiency can affect the amount of damage caused by oxidative stress, which plays a part in the progression of cancer. There’s a significant link between a high glutathione intake and lower risks for oral and throat cancer. For the case of patients undergoing chemotherapy, this antioxidant also plays a key role in reviving and repairing the cells damaged by cancer drugs.
Arteriosclerosis is caused by low glutathione levels. Our arteries, blood cells, and platelets also need antioxidants like vitamin E but require high levels of glutathione to recover from oxidative stress.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is caused by long-term oxidative damage to the lung tissue and leads to its inflammation. Because of this, people who suffer from COPD experience coughing and shortness of breath. Since glutathione is capable of battling oxidative stress and damage, it has the capacity to decrease the person’s risk of developing COPD.
Cystic fibrosis releases oxidative reactants to inflamed cells and lowers glutathione levels at the same time. Glutathione has been found to increase lung capacity through its inhalation. People who employ this method also restore the balance between their oxidant and antioxidant levels, particularly those with cystic fibrosis.
Dosage, Options, and Risks
There have been studies that say it’s better to take glutathione through injections as opposed to taking them orally to get the best amount of glutathione. The Physician’s’ Desktop Reference advises taking 10 to 20 grams of precursor molecules to glutathione. These are glycine, glutamate, and cysteine. On the other hand, patients suffering from cancer or HIV/AIDS must increase the dosage to 30 to 40 grams daily.
Warnings have been set for those with lactose intolerance to avoid taking glutathione supplements since the antioxidant has milk-based proteins. Taking glutathione for illnesses like cancer should be as a preventive measure and not a cure.
When choosing your supplements, make sure you look for reduced glutathione (L-glutathione), liposomal glutathione, or acetyl glutathione because they are most easily and readily absorbed by the body.
Keep in mind that a quality glutathione supplement will not only have the antioxidant itself but contain other properties that help your body produce more glutathione by itself. These are glutathione complexes with Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), vitamin E, magnesium, milk thistle, B-vitamins, vitamin C, and ubiquinol CoQ10 enzymes. These ingredients work hand in hand with the antioxidant for cellular synthesis and increase the body’s glutathione levels.