Updated: Mar 29
Are you familiar with the body's master detoxifier and all that it can do? Either way, we're here to take a closer look into this glorious nutrient and all it does to keep you healthy, young, functioning, and how to improve the glutathione levels in your body.
What is Glutathione?
Glutathione, or GSH, is an antioxidant found naturally in living things, and is composed of three amino acids: glycine, L-cysteine, and L-glutamate. In the body, it is produced by the liver and nerve cells in the central nervous system. It helps us metabolize toxins, break down free radicals, support immune function, and more. With all of glutathione's many incredible health benefits, it is widely believed to be a major key in longevity. Several published studies even show that glutathione positively impacts life span in mice and humans.
While our body produces glutathione on it's own, our GSH levels decrease over time with poor diet, exposure to toxins, medications, illness, and age. This is a concern because studies show that patients with autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis, have lower blood concentrations of glutathione than those without autoimmunity.
It's clear that glutathione plays an essential role in our metabolic functions, and that increasing GSH levels in the blood is beneficial to our health. Some specific benefits of glutathione are improved detoxification, defense against free radicals, reduction of oxidative stress, defense against autoimmune disease, improved energy, improved fitness, and boosted immunity,
Glutathione is the body's natural detoxification system and what many refer to as the "master detoxifier." One of the main pathways in phase II of detoxification is the conjugation with glutathione, where it binds to the toxins in the liver, lungs, intestines, and kidneys, and pulls them out of your system to be safely and effectively flushed from your body. This mechanism is key in ridding the body of environmental toxins such as many solvents, herbicides, fungicides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and lipid peroxides, that we are exposed to every day.
Defense Against Free Radicals
Glutathione is an antioxidant, meaning that it's main purpose is to neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are the unstable molecules that damage your cells and cause oxidative stress by stealing electrons from other molecules in a process called oxidation. Glutathione attacks the free radicals, prevents the formation of more, and donates electrons to the free radicals so they don't create oxidative stress by stealing the electrons from DNA or other cells.
Reduces Oxidative Stress
Since one of glutathione's main roles is to fight free radicals, it's no surprise that it is also a key component in reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is caused by the imbalance where free radicals outpace antioxidants in the body. Left untreated, oxidative stress is known to contribute to countless health conditions and chronic diseases (including Alzheimers, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and more). This is why supporting your body's ability to combat oxidative stress is essential for your health, and a great way to do so is with glutathione.
Boosts Immune System
Glutathione helps to fine-tune your immune response system and helps keep it strong without going into over drive. GSH has been found to be toxic against certain forms of bacteria, including tuberculosis bacteria. It can fight off infection by supporting T cells and natural killer cells, the white blood cells that help attack foreign invaders. A small clinical trial even found that individuals who take GSH supplements had increased levels of natural killer (NK) cells and lymphocytes - the body's front-line of defense to fight against infection (1).
Another potential benefit of glutathione is that is may enhance your gains. One study showed that men who received GSH prior to a workout performed better and felt less fatigued, with less muscle recovery time afterwards than those who did not (2). A separate study showed that increasing GSH levels in the body led to improvements in strength, speed, and over all body composition (3).
Glutathione coordinates the activity of antioxidants in your cells, including Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and free radical fighters CoQ10 and Ubiquinol. This works to clears your cells of toxins, while also protecting your cells and their mitochondria (the “power plants” of the cells that provide your body with fuel known as ATP) from oxidative damage, this allows them to function at optimal efficiency, and improves your energy.
Defense Against Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune diseases attach the mitochondria in some cells, and glutathione works to protect cell mitochondria by eliminating free radicals. Additionally, the strong link between oxidative stress and many autoimmune diseases, makes glutathione's antioxidant properties, ability to reduce oxidative stress, and decrease inflammation makes it an effective defense and protection against autoimmune diseases.
While research is still being done to examine the many benefits of glutathione, as well as the many health complications linked to glutathione deficiency, it's safe to say that this super antioxidant is essential to our health and metabolic function.
Read about the different ways to increase your glutathione levels here!