There’s one antioxidant in your body, glutathione, that does so much for you that it’s been called your body’s master antioxidant.
Glutathione repairs DNA... prevents cell damage (which causes cancer and other diseases)... enhances immune function... and breaks down toxins. Your body makes glutathione in every cell, but many people still don’t have enough glutathione in their bodies.What you may not know: Glutathione supplementation can help people who have chronic diseases feel better and help people who are healthy prevent disease.
One study published a decade ago in The Lancet found that healthy young people had the highest levels of glutathione... healthy elderly people had lower levels... and sick elderly people, even lower levels. In addition to aging and illness, other factors that deplete our body’s reserves of this important antioxidant include environmental toxins, medications and alcohol use. Here’s what glutathione can do for you...
Kill free radicals. Free radicals attack cells, damage DNA and contribute to aging. They also are involved in every disease. While vitamins such as C and E help to neutralize free radicals, glutathione deactivates the most destructive free radicals. Other antioxidants are helpful, but they don’t fight as many free radicals as glutathione.
Revitalize other antioxidants. When vitamins such as C and E neutralize free radicals, their "free-radical poison" gets used up. Glutathione works to restore the activity of these antioxidants so they can tackle more free radicals. Glutathione also helps to recycle coenzyme Q10, an enzyme found in the energy-producing mitochondria of all cells, back to full strength after it neutralizes free radicals. This is important work, since every cell in your body suffers about 10,000 free-radical hits daily.
Help detoxification. The vast majority of glutathione is found in the liver, where it plays a crucial role in the breakdown and removal of environmental toxins (such as food additives and pesticides) from the body. These toxins are known to cause cancer if they are left to roam freely through the body. Glutathione also helps dispose of hazardous by-products of normal metabolism, such as cellular waste products and excess hormones.
Protect the liver. An example of glutathione’s ability to protect the liver comes from two recent studies of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who were treated with chemotherapy. Like many drugs, whether prescription or over-the-counter, chemotherapy drugs increase the risk for liver damage and hepatitis. But studies published inAdvances in Hematology and Cancer found that either of two glutathione boosters—N-acetylcysteine (NAC) combined with vitamin E... or silymarin, the active ingredient in the herb milk thistle—protected against liver damage in these patients. Glutathione enables the liver to break down these drugs and to bounce back from its own toxic exposure.
Glutathione is available in several types of healthy foods, although not in therapeutic amounts. Because of this, I generally have patients improve their glutathione levels through supplementation rather than diet. Still, it’s helpful to know that certain foods contribute to increased glutathione levels. These include proteins that contain the amino acids glutamate, cysteine and glycine (such as those found in fish, turkey, eggs and whey protein, but not dairy products that have been pasteurized because pasteurization breaks down the protein). While I believe that everyone can benefit from supplementing with glutathione, the best way to determine how deficient you are is with a blood test. This can be helpful if you are ill and not getting better. Low glutathione levels may be preventing your recovery. Depending on your health, there are different ways to boost your glutathione levels.
For patients with chronic diseases. Most patients with chronic diseases (such as chronic fatigue, Parkinson’s disease, mercury and lead toxicity, and immune system problems, including those due to cancer and chemotherapy) can be helped by glutathione supplementation. I often prescribe a pure form of glutathione delivered via an intravenous (IV) solution. Glutathione delivered directly into the bloodstream enables the body to get higher levels of this nutrient, compared with ingesting it. Patients who have had chronic fatigue for several years often improve their strength and vitality after just one or two treatments. These patients have about 10 treatments, either once a week or once every other week. Treatments have a cumulative effect—and the results can last from weeks to months, depending on the patient’s condition.
For patients who are temporarily ill, have liver disease or take lots of medications. Take any combination of the supplements below to boost your glutathione levels. This can include, for example, people who have colds, flu or asthma flare-ups.
For healthy patients. Patients at any age who are healthy can benefit from taking any one of the supplements below daily. I usually have healthy patients start out by taking NAC, since it is a great all-around antioxidant.
A variety of supplements work to boost glutathione levels. All of these supplements are safe to take—on their own and in combination. There are no side effects, except as noted.
Liquid glutathione. After IV glutathione, the most effective form of this antioxidant comes in liquid form. (I don’t recommend glutathione in capsules because it is not well-absorbed by the body.) Liposomal liquid glutathione uses technology that reduces the particle size of glutathione and enhances its absorption by the body. Brand to try:Vitamin Research Products Lipoceutical Glutathione (800-877-2447, www.vrp.com). Dose: One teaspoon daily. It costs $60 for four fluid ounces, which equals about 24 teaspoons.
For patients who want a less expensive way to boost glutathione, there are several supplements that help the body make glutathione on its own. These supplements are not as effective as the IV and liquid forms of glutathione, but they do provide a huge health benefit by boosting glutathione levels...
NAC. This antioxidant, which helps prevent flu and reduces the severity of respiratory infections, contains cysteine and sulfur, which increase levels of glutathione. Take 500 mg to 1,000 mg daily. There is no better illustration of glutathione’s—and NAC’s—ability to protect the liver than in the case of acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose. Unless treated quickly, the liver of a person who has overdosed loses its ability to detoxify, which can lead to liver failure and death. NAC, the standard medical treatment for acetaminophen overdose, restores normal liver function.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). This sulfur-rich antioxidant boosts the liver’s glutathione levels. Take 100 mg to 300 mg daily. ALA can reduce blood glucose levels, so patients with diabetes should be monitored by a physician.
Silymarin. The active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin helps liver function and increases glutathione levels. Take 100 mg to 200 mg daily.