Along this recent string of newsletters featuring various compounds essential for wellness and longevity we are having a look at glutathione. Also a quick word of caution regarding over-supplementation:

Supplements (like medications) can be life and wellness enhancing but we too often see patients with an overload of supplements prescribed by multiple practitioners who are not acting in concert. We believe in integrative medicine and a certain dose of common sense. If you have taking more than a couple of supplements and no one looked at synergies or interactions between them you probably should rethink your supplementation strategy. More is not always better! Schedule a consult with me if you need help sorting it out! 

This newsletter in no way constitutes medical advice. Always consult with a board certified healthcare professional.

What is Glutathione?
Glutathione (GSH) is a small amino acid containing molecule (peptide) comprised of one molecule of L-glutamic acid, L-cysteine, and glycine each. It is a peptide antioxidant found in plants, animals, fungi and some bacteria. It is produced by the liver to protect the body against free radicals, peroxides, lipid peroxides and heavy metals. Glutathione also eliminates poisons such as drugs and pollutants from our bodies. Also GSH plays a role in metabolism of toxins and cancer-causing substances, natural creation and repair of DNA, production of protein and prostaglandin (important lipid for injury and illness) and, activation of enzymes.

Low glutathione levels have been associated with higher risks of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, hepatitis, and Parkinson’s disease. Adequate glutathione levels can be achieved through supplementation or by boosting glutathione production in the body. Taking curcumin, selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E can help the liver create glutathione. Sulfur-containing foods like meat and certain vegetables can also boost GSH production.

In effect, glutathione is an indirect and expensive way to provide dietary L-cysteine. Dietary protein itself, including L-cysteine rich sources such as Whey Protein, are effective but inefficient ways to increase L-cysteine intake in the diet and N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is both more efficient and cheaper than glutathione.

Although oral glutathione supplementation does not efficiently increase intracellular glutathione levels for the above reasons, it can be absorbed intact into the blood stream. Since increased glutathione levels in the blood have been shown to slow the breakdown of nitric oxide, glutathione supplementation may be useful to augment nitric oxide boosters such as L-Citrulline or L-Arginine.

There is limited scientific evidence to support the use of glutathione to prevent or treat any health condition.

Health Benefits

Glutathione is essential for the immune system’s proper functioning and is vital in building and repairing tissue. It acts as an important antioxidant, which helps protect your body from damage to cells caused by free radicals. Also, glutathione can provide health benefits such as:

Endothelial cells are responsible for controlling the relaxation and contraction of blood vessels, and the dilation and constriction of arteries affect blood pressure. People with or without atherosclerosis can develop a type of cardiovascular condition where endothelial cells become damaged and no longer function properly, increasing the risk of arrhythmia and stroke. Glutathione can help reduce blood pressure in people with coronary endothelial dysfunction. (increased blood vessel diameter and blood flow, which together significantly reduce coronary risk factors). 

Ear Infections
Many children suffer from ear infections. Glutathione offers hope as a possible treatment for chronic ear infections. In a clinical trial glutathione was shown to be effectiveness in reducing the incidence of ear infections. After receiving daily doses of aerosol glutathione administered nasally for two weeks, 66% of the treatment group reported significant improvement.

Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a disease where the body overproduces mucus. This disease affects the digestive system, the pancreas, and lung function. Research has shown that glutathione can help alleviate the symptoms of cystic fibrosis. In a study the treatment group showed a significant increase in measured peak expiratory airflow and patients reported improvement in their cough frequency, mucus production, stamina, and general well being.

Other Conditions
GSH has been reported as beneficial for atherosclerosis, autism, Lyme disease, Alzheimer's disease, chronic fatigue, colitis, hyperlipidemia, osteoarthritis, asthma, cataracts, diabetes, glaucoma, heart disease, hepatitis, liver disease, Parkinson's disease, alcohol use disorder.

Since increased glutathione levels in the blood have been shown to slow the breakdown of nitric oxide, glutathione supplementation may be useful to augment nitric oxide boosters such as L-Citrulline or L-Arginine.

Potential Risks
Glutathione is considered safe, but research is limited. Always consult with your physician before changing your supplements. Long term use has been linked to lower zinc levels, which might be a benefit if your levels are high but not if your zinc is low! GSH supplementation can also cause cramping and bloating. Also, some people may experience allergic reactions to glutathione supplements, such as a rash. There are no reported drug interactions with glutathione. Again always talk with your doctor! 

Glutathione supplements can be taken orally or through inhalation or injection. Inhalation is the preferred route for treating lung conditions. Intravenous glutathione is often administered to mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy.

There is no recommended daily allowance for glutathione. Some suggest that supplementing with N-acetylcysteine (NAC) may be more effective (and cheaper). Check supplement formulations with your doctor to make sure the dosages in them are appropriate for you. 

Food sources containing sulfur can help to boost glutathione production in the body. These foods include:

  • meat
  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • spinach
  • garlic
  • almonds

The Bottom Line
As an antioxidant, glutathione helps your body balance free radicals and stay healthy. It works at the cellular level to prevent inflammation and other cell damage that can make you sick. GSH is found in certain foods, but can also be taken as a dietary supplement, inhaler or injections. However it seems that NAC supplementation might be just as effective and cheaper as it contains L-Cysteine. 

This is a quick overview of what glutathione is. If you would like to learn more become a member, sign up for our longevity program or schedule a personal consultation. Be safe and be well! 

Dr Arno Kroner

2001 South Barrington Suite 220
West LA CA 90025
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