Food as medicine is a foundation of my wellness practice at Vitality. Consuming the proper nutrients, in combination with a healthy lifestyle, enables your body to grow, detoxify, and heal from most of life’s ills. To prevent or recover from deficiencies or disease, how should we decide what foods to focus on for optimal health?
One of the most important compounds that our bodies produce is called glutathione. It is a powerful antioxidant comprised of three amino acids—cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine—built from the elements of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur linked together in the following molecular structure: C10H17N3O6S.
As our bodies age, and depending on our environmental conditions, our natural abilities to produce many compounds like glutathione can slow down and become weaker. However, we can partially counteract the effects of aging and pollution by providing our bodies’ cells with the raw materials needed for vital processes to function in an optimal, healthy way.
The foods listed below are where I begin when building a diet to increase glutathione levels in my patients. Many of the foods on this list have numerous other health benefits due to their diverse array of nutrients that affect all the systems of our bodies.
- Sulfur-rich foods
- Vitamin C
- Foods naturally rich in glutathione
- Glutathione: An Anti-Cancer Agent?
- What is Glutathione?
- Functions & Benefits of Glutathione
- 1) Fights Oxidative Stress
- 2) Lowers Inflammation
- 3) Anti-Aging
- 4) Mental Health
- 5) Autism & ADHD
- 6) Protecting the Brain
- 7) Fighting Infections
- 8) Gut Health
- 9) Heart Health
- 10) Diabetes
- 11) Kidney Health
- 12) Protecting the Liver
- 13) Addictions
- 14) Lungs & Airways
- 15) Sleep Apnea
- 16) Skin Health
- 17) Eye Health
- 18) Healthy Pregnancy
- 19) Cystic Fibrosis
- Ways to Increase Glutathione
- Glutathione Side Effects & Safety
- Latest Articles:
- Glutathione in Review
- Glutathione Supplements: Do They Work?
- 7 Simple Ways to Enhance Glutathione Production
Glutathione: 14 Benefits of the Master Antioxidant [Plus Diet and Supplements]
- 1. Glutathione is a Potent Antioxidant
- 2. Glutathione and Detoxification
- 3. Glutathione and Energy
- 4. Glutathione for Skin
- 5. Glutathione and Brain Health
- 6. Glutathione and Heart Health
- 7. Glutathione Fights Inflammation
- 8. Glutathione and the Immune System
- 9. Glutathione and Athletic Performance
- 10. Glutathione and Autism
- 11. Glutathione and Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
- 12. Glutathione for COPD
- 13. Glutathione and Vitamin D
- 14. Glutathione and Methylation
- How to Achieve a Glutathione-Rich Diet
- Glutathione Supplementation
- Lifestyle Changes for Ideal Glutathione Levels
- In Conclusion
- 1. Increase your vitamin C and vitamin E intake
- 2. Take selenium-rich foods
- 3. Whey protein is the way to go
- 4. Consume sulphur-rich foods
- 5. Know your NAC
- 6. Exercise regularly
- 7. Get adequate sleep
- 8. Avoid smoking or drinking
- 9. Milk thistle
- Natural Sources of Glutathione
- Have you ever taken or experienced any of the following?
- The Role of Glutathione in the Body
- Glutathione Supportive Foods Help Detoxify the Body
- Select Glutathione Foods, mg per 100g (3.5 oz.)
- Sources: Glutathione in foods listed in the National Cancer Institute’s Health Habits and History Food Frequency Questionnaire. Jones DP Nutr Cancer. 1992;17(1):57-75.; Alan Pressman “Glutathione. The Ultimate Antioxidant”; Leo Nollet “Handbook of Analysis of Active Compounds in Functional Foods”, pp.73-74; Lester Packer “Handbook of Antioxidants”, pp. 551-552
- Select Glutathione Foods, mg per 100g (3.5 oz.)
- Foods That Stimulate Glutathione Production
- Food Sources of Glutathione Precursors Include the Following:
- Ways to Boost Your Glutathione Levels for Optimal Health
Sulfur is a chemical element found in many amino acids, including those needed to produce glutathione. Allium vegetables, including garlic, shallots, and onions are rich in sulfur-containing compounds that may help increase glutathione production.
Cruciferous vegetables contain a compound called sulforaphane, which has many health benefits. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts are popular cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli sprouts in particular provide a large amount of sulforaphane. Studies have shown that sulforaphane augments and restores blood and cellular glutathione levels.1,2
Another powerful antioxidant that your body needs is vitamin C. It helps maintain glutathione levels by attacking free radicals first, sparing glutathione. Studies have shown that increased intake of vitamin C also increases glutathione levels within red blood cells3 and white blood cells.4
Citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, papayas, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, and bell peppers are all examples of foods rich in vitamin C.
Selenium is a cofactor of glutathione peroxidase, an antioxidant enzyme active inside of cells that protects our cells from damage by free radicals produced during metabolism. As a cofactor, selenium enables glutathione peroxidase to function.
One Brazil nut typically provides an entire day’s worth of selenium. Other good sources of selenium include beans, sunflower seeds, brown rice, mushrooms, fish, oatmeal, and spinach.
The amino acids comprising glutathione—cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine—are not considered ‘essential’ to consume through food, because your body usually makes enough of them on its own. However, both cysteine and glycine are conditionally essential because you must ingest them in times of stress or illness to keep up with your body’s increased demands for raw materials to combat and heal from toxins or injury.
Whole grains are generally great sources of these three amino acids. Additionally, kombu provides glutamic acid, lentils and sunflower seeds deliver cysteine, and organic tofu or tempeh offer glycine.
Foods naturally rich in glutathione
Some foods contain high levels of glutathione and can provide it directly, but the compound is not absorbed well through the gastrointestinal tract, because digestive enzymes break it down into amino acids. Furthermore, cooking, processing, preserving, storing food generally causes the natural glutathione to deteriorate.
Fresh and frozen foods provide the highest levels of glutathione that, even if not fully absorbed, may provide some antioxidant activity. Asparagus, avocados, okra, and spinach contain high amounts of gluthathione, along with many other important vitamins and minerals.
The milk thistle plant, Silybum marianum, contains three antioxidant compounds that are collectively called silymarin. It is particularly studied for protecting the liver,5 which is the primary organ by which your body naturally produces glutathione. Consult with your doctor before taking any extract of milk thistle, as there may be side effects or contraindications based on your specific health situation.
Turmeric, a relative of the ginger plant, contains high concentration of the bioactive compound curcumin, which has been extensively studied for its human health benefits. Curcumin not only has powerful antioxidant activity, but it has also been shown to induce the biosynthesis of glutathione within cells.6
Beyond food, the way you live is an equally important factor in how your body produces and uses glutathione. Make sure to get enough sleep, generally at least 7.5 hours each night. Schedule (and do) exercise for 30 minutes each day, which can be part of your daily routine, such as walking or biking to work. Do not drink alcohol, or limit yourself to one drink once or twice per week.
If you would like to learn more about ways to boost your body’s glutathione levels, call Vitality to schedule a consultation. We offer intravenous (IV) infusions of glutathione and other nutrients directly into your system, as well as the most effective oral supplements.
5. α-Lipoic Acid
a-Lipoic Acid helps restore GSH levels with any immune system depletion. In fact, it’s part of my Reverse Diabetes Naturally plan. Only 300–1,200 milligrams of alpha lipoic acid daily helps improves insulin sensitivity and reduces symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. It has also been shown clinically to restore total blood GSH status and lymphocyte function in HIV/AIDS patients. (19)
6. Methylation Nutrients (Vitamins B6, B9, B12 and biotin)
In the words of Dr. Mark Hyman, methylation ingredients “are perhaps the most critical to keep the body producing glutathione.” (1) The best (natural) way to keep your methylation ingredients at optimal levels is to simply eat these top folate foods:
Selenium works as a powerful anti-oxidant and is required for your body to create GSH. Be sure to stock your refrigerator and pantry with these top selenium foods:
8. Vitamins C & E
Vitamin C helps raise glutathione in red blood cells and lymphocytes. (20) Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that works with GSH to prevent damage from reactive oxygen and protects glutathione-dependent enzymes. (21)
So working together, vitamins C and E help recycle glutathione and can help keep you disease-free. Eating these top vitamin C foods and vitamin E foods should be on all of our to-do lists. They together help keep glutathione at optimal levels, plus boost our immune systems and overall body function.
9. Beef Liver
Not only is beef liver in my list of top selenium foods, but it has been shown to boost selenium and gluthione production better than supplements. Studies have shown that because the nutrition has been concentrated in the liver, eating this organ from a local grass-fed, organic cow is a highly effective way to boost glutathione levels — plus the levels of selenium in beef and in beef liver are far more bioavailable than supplements.
I recommend only getting high-quality grass-fed beef liver either dried or raw and adding it to your diet to boost selenium and glutathione production. (22)
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Glutathione: An Anti-Cancer Agent?
One of the most promising areas of GSH research is the role that it plays in cancer. “By conferring resistance to a number of chemotherapeutic drugs,” an important 2004 study published in the Cell Biochemistry and Function highlights, “Elevated levels of glutathione in tumor cells are able to protect such cells in bone marrow, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.” (23)
The reverse is also true. According to Italian researchers from the Department of Experimental Medicine, Section of General Pathology (Genoa), GSH deficiency causes cells to be more vulnerable to oxidative stress, which contributes to cancer development. (7)
In fact, a growing number of researchers are now crediting the increase in neurological disease and cancer to glutathione deficiency. (7, 24, 25)
As researchers have continued to investigate these phenomena, they have actually discovered that GSH is a more potent anti-cancer agent than previously anticipated. In the words of Jeremy Appleton, ND, chairman of the department of nutrition at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon:
If you look in a hospital situation at people who have cancer, AIDS, or other very serious disease, almost invariably they are depleted in glutathione. The reasons for this are not completely understood, but we do know that glutathione is extremely important for maintaining intracellular health. (26)
Because no one knows for sure the exact reasons why GSH is depleted in these patients and why it’s so effective in fighting against cancer, some question its health benefits. Some even claim that it can harm you.
Naturally made by our cells, there is no record of people “overdosing” on glutathione when supplementing from the natural sources that I discuss below. There are, however, clinical trials highlighting one of the possible glutathione side effects, which is that it may constrict the airways of people with asthma when it is inhaled via a nebulizer. (27)
It’s also important to note that scientists are unsure as to how the body responds to a synthetic glutathione supplement and there is currently no standardized safe glutathione dosage. (28) My recommendation is to stay with the nine natural sources and skip the man-made stuff.
The bottom line, according to Appleton, is that,
There’s no evidence that supplementing with glutathione, even intravenously, is in any way going to make any cancer worse. In fact, the evidence we have suggests the opposite. It suggests that glutathione and other antioxidants, far from interfering with the activity of chemotherapy, appear to reduce side effects without decreasing efficacy and may, in fact, improve the efficacy of the chemotherapy in fighting cancer. (29)
Final Thoughts About Glutathione
While there aren’t glutathione foods per se, there are things you can eat and supplements you can take to naturally boost your glutathione levels.
Nine of the best foods and supplements you can consume to boost glutathione include:
- milk thistle
- whey protein
- high sulfur foods including cruciferous vegetables
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
- alpha lipoic acid
- methylation nutrients like vitamins B6, B9, B12 and biotin
- selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts and sardines
- vitamin C and vitamin E
- raw liver from organic grass-fed cows
Glutathione is absolutely crucial to so many vital aspects of our health including our immune system and longevity. Scientific research and many experts confirm that potent glutathione also acts as a potent anti-cancer agent in the body. In other words, it’s worth making an effort to increase your levels, as glutathione is highly beneficial to your overall health!
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Glutathione, often referred to as “the mother of all antioxidants,” is one of the most talked-about supplements in the healthcare industry. It has a range of purported benefits that include enhancing heart, liver, and brain health. Read on to learn about the science behind glutathione and how to naturally increase it for optimal health.
What is Glutathione?
Why do Some Call it “the Master Antioxidant?”
Glutathione (GSH) is your body’s strongest antioxidant. It has an enormous capacity to combat oxidative stress and neutralize harmful free radicals. Chemically speaking, glutathione is a tripeptide made up of 3 amino acids :
- Glutamic acid
The body uses glutamic acid to make glutamine .
When these three amino acids are combined into glutathione, they gain the power to detox dangerous free radicals, toxic drugs, and heavy metals. This mechanism protects your entire body from dysfunction and disease .
At first glance, glutathione is similar to other well-known antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. What’s remarkable is that unlike most antioxidants – think resveratrol and quercetin – your body can make its own glutathione. It just needs the right building blocks.
In fact, your body needs to make glutathione in order for you to live a healthy life. Scientists have even suggested its levels as a great predictor of one’s lifespan .
Glutathione deficiency increases susceptibility to oxidative stress, which may be the underlying cause of many diseases including cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s .
Glutathione is your body’s master antioxidant. It helps you detox various chemicals and maintain optimal health.
- Great antioxidant
- Enhances detox
- Supports the liver
- May help with diabetes
- Supports the brain, gut, kidneys, and lungs
- Unpleasant taste
- Poor absorption and bioavailability
- May disturb digestion
- Insufficient evidence for medical use of supplements
- Incomplete safety profile and possible unknown side effects
Functions & Benefits of Glutathione
Glutathione is a broadly beneficial compound that the human body makes on its own. It is available as a supplement, but supplemental glutathione has poor bioavailability, meaning that not a lot of it is absorbed from the gut to the bloodstream. Plus, the FDA has not approved glutathione supplements for any medical purpose.
Thus, this section focuses primarily on the benefits of healthy glutathione levels in the body, not on the effects of taking it as a supplement.
1) Fights Oxidative Stress
Glutathione reduces reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress in the body, which would otherwise damage cells and DNA. This benefit underlies all the other ones we’ll cover in more detail below .
Essentially, oxidative stress is associated with cancer, inflammation, brain damage, and a range of other health problems.
Glutathione is equally important for the regeneration of other antioxidants your body needs, such as vitamin C and vitamin E. It increases your overall antioxidant defense, a task that can never be accomplished just with one substance .
Glutathione has superb antioxidant potential. It scavenges free radicals throughout the body and recharges other antioxidants, thus preventing chronic diseases.
2) Lowers Inflammation
Glutathione (GSH) blocks the production of most inflammatory cytokines. If you suffer from chronic health issues, cytokines may keep you in a state of constant low-grade inflammation .
Glutathione deficiency caused inflammation in mice. Blocking inflammatory pathways (MAPK and iNOS) restored its levels. This suggests that glutathione and inflammation are in a very tight, mutual relationship .
On the other hand, glutathione blocks NF-κ, the master controller of inflammation in the body. This protein complex increases the activity of various inflammatory genes and their products .
A number of airway and lung diseases are caused by excessive inflammation, and they can benefit from restoring healthy glutathione levels .
Raising your glutathione levels will lower inflammation, but you also have to address the underlying cause of your inflammation for complete recovery. However, clinical studies are lacking and the evidence is considered insufficient.
With less glutathione, free radicals may harm the body and accelerate the aging process and cognitive decline. Multiple studies uncovered that the body makes less of this antioxidant as it ages .
In women, its levels drop at the beginning of menopause and remain lower after. Increased oxidative stress from low levels in older people can make the bones more fragile and contribute to osteoporosis .
Cells depleted of glutathione are susceptible to damage. Low levels trigger a cascade that ultimately leads to cell injury and death, which accelerates aging .
Replenishing glutathione levels may slow the aging process, strengthen the bones, and prevent age-related cognitive decline. Future human studies will be required to confirm this potential benefit.
4) Mental Health
Anxiety, Depression & Stress
Research uncovered that people with depression have low glutathione levels .
Accordingly, glutathione prevented depression in animals under stress. What’s more, anti-anxiety drugs may work, in part, by raising its levels .
Some people with anxiety, depression, and chronic stress have low glutathione; restoring optimal levels may help calm the mind.
OCD and Schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia have low glutathione levels. NAC, which increases glutathione levels in the brain, improved symptoms of schizophrenia in clinical studies .
People with OCD may have low GSH levels in certain parts of their brain and high blood levels of free radicals. Boosting glutathione may improve antioxidant defense, stress resilience, and overall symptom severity .
Since multiple drugs used to treat bipolar disorder work by increasing glutathione levels, naturally boosting it may also help stabilize mood and symptoms .
People with OCD and schizophrenia often have low glutathione levels.
5) Autism & ADHD
Children diagnosed with autism have about 20-40% lower levels of glutathione than their non-autistic peers. They have different abnormalities in making and restoring the active form of glutathione .
Oral and transdermal glutathione are being developed to restore levels in autistic children .
People with ADHD have low glutathione and high oxidative stress levels. Pycnogenol, another natural GSH booster, normalized glutathione and overall antioxidant levels in children with ADHD .
Until additional studies come out, you should be cautious with glutathione supplements for children with autism or ADHD. The bioavailability of most commercially-available products is problematic, and some have not been tested in children.
NAC, pycnogenol, cysteine-rich and sulfur-containing foods may be safer options for raising glutathione levels in children. Remember to talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your own regimen, let alone a child’s.
Glutathione is depleted in children with autism and ADHD. They will benefit more from sulfur-containing foods than from glutathione supplements.
6) Protecting the Brain
Reactive oxygen species are continuously generated while the brain burns fuel for energy. The brain needs to detox them to stay healthy, and glutathione plays a key role in making this possible .
Alzheimer’s disease is, in part, caused by oxidative stress. Antioxidants may prevent or slow the disease. Several clinical studies showed that oral vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant) slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s .
The buildup of toxic proteins in Alzheimer’s further lowers GSH levels, making the patients more likely to be deficient .
In mice with Alzheimer’s, increasing glutathione could boost memory, reduce plaque buildup, and improve overall symptoms .
Oxidative damage contributes to Alzheimer’s disease; thus, some researchers have proposed investigating antioxidants like glutathione to help, but human studies have not yet been conducted.
Glutathione may help combat the oxidative stress that damages dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s have low glutathione levels in the brain, and boosting GSH may be an early measure to prevent this disease .
In one study, a drug (3,4-dihydroxy-benzalacetone) prevented Parkinson’s disease by increasing levels of glutathione .
Supplement Considerations for Brain Health
If you have a brain disorder or poor cognitive function, it’s crucial to supply the brain with enough of the building blocks it needs to make glutathione and other antioxidants.
If you decide to supplement, you need to go for glutathione-boosting products with superior bioavailability that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Remember to talk to your doctor before adding supplements of any kind, including glutathione, to your daily routine.
7) Fighting Infections
Viral infections flood the body with oxidative stress due to inflammation, using up more glutathione .
In many chronic diseases, poor immunity and an increased rate of infections are linked to low GSH levels .
Once glutathione is depleted, immune cells lose their ability to fight infections. NAC, which boosts glutathione in the body, restored the ability of immune cells to kill the bacteria that cause tuberculosis .
In another study, maintaining cysteine levels helped keep glutathione in check. In turn, immune cells regained the power to destroy microbes .
Older AIDS patients produce less GSH, which weakens their already fragile immune systems and decreases insulin sensitivity. Increasing glutathione levels may help improve symptoms and reduce the incidence of bacterial infections .
Microbial infections deplete glutathione. Early research suggests that increasing glutathione levels may strengthens your immune response against bacteria and viruses, but more research will be required to confirm this.
8) Gut Health
People with IBS have decreased activity of the enzymes involved in glutathione synthesis. They also tend to have lower levels of its main ingredient, cysteine .
The most important enzyme involved in quenching free radicals is called glutathione peroxidase. This enzyme uses glutathione and requires selenium to work with harmful substances. High levels of this enzyme point to more oxidative stress that needs to be neutralized .
This enzyme also helps renew and strengthen the gut lining. In animals, glutathione protected the gut lining, which may help prevent leaky gut .
Optimal levels of glutathione, cysteine, and selenium may strengthen the gut lining.
9) Heart Health
Low activity of glutathione peroxidase and low levels of glutathione are linked with high oxidative stress and an increased likelihood of heart attack .
Cardiovascular disease is largely caused by oxidative stress in heart tissues. Glutathione can reduce free radicals and, in turn, may prevent stroke or heart attack .
Type 2 diabetes and high blood sugar lower glutathione in the body. As a result, the buildup of harmful free radicals causes many complications, such as heart problems, brain and nerve damage. Boosting glutathione may prevent or limits these issues .
11) Kidney Health
Oxidative stress in the kidneys can cause mild kidney problems or even full-blown kidney failure, depending on its severity. In a study of 20 people with chronic kidney disease on hemodialysis, glutathione improved kidney function and reversed anemia .
In rats, the glutathione-booster NAC prevented kidney disease from the artificial sweetener aspartame .
12) Protecting the Liver
Glutathione keeps the liver healthy by neutralizing the oxidative stress that can lead to liver disease. It plays an important role in detoxing the liver and protecting its sulfur-rich antioxidant pathways .
When faced with harmful substances, the liver will make more glutathione to prevent damage .
Various drugs of abuse (such as cocaine and methamphetamines), as well as alcohol, increase the production of reactive oxygen species. These, in turn, can alter the brain and behavior or cause damage.
Some studies suggest that increasing glutathione can help overcome addictive behaviors, which span from eating disorders to alcohol/drug abuse .
Increasing antioxidant defense not only protects the brain, but it also helps detox harmful substances from the body. Chronic alcohol abuse reduces glutathione in the liver. Raising the GSH levels improved liver function during abstinence .
Alcohol abuse also increases oxidative stress in the lungs, which can often lead to infections such as pneumonia. Glutathione may be able to protect the lungs by reducing oxidative stress .
Glutathione can reduce oxidative damage caused by drug and alcohol abuse.
14) Lungs & Airways
Low glutathione levels can increase inflammation in the airways and cause asthma. In mice with asthma, increasing glutathione with NAC lowered inflammation and improved the symptoms .
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lung disease caused by long-term oxidative damage. Increasing glutathione lowers free-radical damage in the lungs, which reduced the likelihood of developing COPD .
15) Sleep Apnea
People with sleep apnea have high levels of oxidative stress and, consequently, depleted GSH levels. In one study, increasing the levels to normal improved their sleep quality .
16) Skin Health
Oxidative stress lowers glutathione in people with acne. Increasing glutathione levels may clean your acne by neutralizing oxidative stress and promoting skin regeneration .
Spots & Aging
Glutathione lightens the skin in healthy women. It reduces the activity of skin cells that make dark pigments (melanin). As such, glutathione may help even out the appearance of dark skin patches that appear with aging .
17) Eye Health
Glaucoma and cataracts can gradually lead to blindness. Since oxidative stress underlies both, boosting glutathione may protect the eyes. Clinical studies would need to look into this benefit, though .
18) Healthy Pregnancy
Low glutathione levels may predispose pregnant women to depression and impair fetal brain development. Increased oxidative stress in the fetus has been linked to preterm labor .
Boosting glutathione and antioxidants through sulfur- and cysteine-rich foods may help maintain a healthy pregnancy. Supplements are not recommended unless prescribed by your doctor.
19) Cystic Fibrosis
People with cystic fibrosis have low glutathione levels and high oxidative stress. Low GSH levels in the lungs impair breathing and trigger airway damage. Glutathione inhalation may improve the symptoms of cystic fibrosis .
Ways to Increase Glutathione
Glutathione is made in the body from 3 amino acids: glutamate, cysteine, and glycine. Once produced and used, it is broken down by an enzyme called gamma-glutamyl transferase, GGT.
If you take a glutathione supplement, it has to pass the liver before it reaches your bloodstream. The liver can contain high amounts of GGT, which will break down GSH. As a result, most oral forms of glutathione will not achieve the desired effects .
There are several ways and supplement forms to bypass this limitation :
New formulations are being researched every day. These include patches, creams, nanoparticles, and other advanced products that may maximize its concentration in the body.
Your liver quickly breaks down glutathione, so oral supplements usually don’t work. Advanced supplement forms, such as sublingual or liposomal, bypass the liver, but there isn’t enough evidence to know whether they’re effective.
Out of three amino acids that make glutathione, cysteine is the most important one; the amount of cysteine governs the speed and quantity of produced GSH. Supplemental cysteine is available as L-cysteine and N-acetylcysteine (NAC).
Selenium is important for maintaining healthy glutathione levels as it supports the enzyme that uses GSH to neutralize free radicals: glutathione peroxidase.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
R-Lipoic acid is one of the main boosters of glutathione levels .
S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM-e) is a supplement that contains methionine and can also help boost glutathione levels.
A lot of glutathione-boosting supplements will contain all 4 of the above. Selenium is not included in some products and you may wish to take an additional supplement or ensure you get enough from the food you eat (read: Brazil nuts).
Nutrients and supplements that boost glutathione include cysteine (NAC), selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, and methionine (SAM-e).
A number of foods contain the building blocks for glutathione. These can be a great addition to your diet.
- Garlic, asparagus, and cruciferous vegetables boost glutathione through their sulfur components.
- Animal food sources, which are higher in cysteine and methionine, can also help increase glutathione levels. Calcium and riboflavin also increase glutathione, dairy being a source of both .
Glutathione Side Effects & Safety
Taking GSH supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding is not recommended.
If you experience side effects, the glutathione-boosting supplements may be over-stimulating your immune system. Always carefully track your response to determine if they are working or not.
This often means keeping track of your labs and symptoms, especially if you struggle with unrelenting inflammation that’s hard to pinpoint.
Side effects of 4-week oral glutathione (1 g/day) in clinical trials included :
- Loose stools
- Weight gain
Side effects of higher doses (up to around 150 mg/kg/day) in people with cystic fibrosis included chest tightness, diarrhea, and fever. These may not apply to the general population and lower doses .
In rare cases, GSH supplements may cause flatulence, diarrhea, weight gain, and inflammation flare-ups. Pregnant women should avoid them.
Boosting your glutathione levels is a great way to enhance your antioxidant and immune defense.
Glutathione will help your body detox and protect your liver, brain, and heart. However, taking glutathione supplements may not be the best way to go.
Only specialized liposomal and sublingual formulations may reach your bloodstream. Oral supplements don’t work as the liver breaks them down before they can have an effect.
To boost your glutathione levels, get enough of its building blocks: NAC (cysteine), alpha-lipoic acid, and SAM-e (methionine). Eat more sulfur-rich foods like garlic and cruciferous vegetables and make sure you get enough selenium. Additionally, aim to de-stress and avoid toxins that deplete your glutathione levels.
Serving Size – 3 Capsules
Setria® L-Glutathione (reduced) – 100 mg
Glutathione (GSH), the most abundant endogenous antioxidant, is a
critical regulator of oxidative stress and immune function.
Glutathione helps fortify your immune system in two important ways.
*First and foremost, it plays a central role in the proper function of
T-cell lymphocytes (white blood cells), the frontline soldiers of the
immune system, by increasing their numbers.
* Second, there is evidence that glutathione stimulates the production
and activity of natural killer (NK) cells.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine – 100 mg
Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC) Acetyl L-Carnitine is a Carnitine derivative produced
naturally in the body and is widely studied for its anti-aging effects particularly
with regard to the degeneration of the brain and nervous system. Highest
concentrations are found in the brain, nerves, heart muscle and liver.
The Acetyl element allows Carnitine to be supplemented by becoming fat
soluble and able to cross the blood brain barrier. ALC is involved in the
carbohydrate and protein metabolism and the transport of fats to the
ALC is known to increase natural production of both serotonin and dopamine,
and provide improved tolerance to stress. It has been used to slow progression
of Alzheimer’s disease, lessening deterioration in memory, attention, language,
spatial abilities and can be used to treat cognitive disorders including depression.
ALC levels naturally begin to decrease with age and it is supplemented
to support memory and nerve integrity, enhance the immune system,
stimulate anti-oxidant activity, protect cell membranes, and slow cerebral aging.
(S-Acetyl)-L-Glutathione – 100 mg
Glutathione (GSH) Glutathione is called the “mother of all antioxidants”, you literally cannot survive without it. A protein manufactured in your cells with the highest concentration found in the liver, GSH acts as your master antioxidant. A regular supply of this critical substance (GSH) helps protect your body from free radicals, disease and toxins. Glutathione inhibits the formation of free radicals and protects against cell damage. It is the regulator and regenerator of immune system cells, making it the most valuable detoxifying agent in every single cell of your body. Being recognized as possibly the most important healing agent and immune support found in your body has catalyzed exploration in the role of GSH in preventing aging, cancer, heart disease, macular degeneration, dementia and a myriad of disease and health issues. Glutathione is produced naturally within the body, but most people are deficient due to depletion by poor diet, stress, toxins, pollution, etc. Most importantly, as we age, our body produces less and less glutathione.
Regular glutathione as a supplement (unless taken intravenously) is not stable and not absorbed by the body; it is quickly broken down by the peptidosis process in the stomach. (S-Acetyl)-L-Glutathione, unlike plain Glutathione Acetyl, is the first orally stable form of glutathione that is absorbed intact and increases intercellular glutathione levels. Once attached the Acetyl group makes a lipid-like molecule that is protected from peptide breakdown. Once it has reached the blood stream the Acetyl group carries glutathione through the cellular membrane more easily than the glutathione can enter by itself. Once inside the cell the Acetyl element is naturally removed, depositing the GSH directly in the cell where it can play its role in detoxification, energy production, immune system support and anti-inflammation. Acetyl is the transport mechanism through the cell membrane that delivers Glutathione to the mitochondria in every cell of the body.
Bioperine® – Black Pepper 95% – 20 mg
Bioperine® is used to enhance the bio-availability of the nutrients in SynergyGSH, contributing to gut health and assisting nutrient absorption. A natural Thermonutrient and bio-availability enhancer important to all metabolic processes in the body. Increasing absorption of other ingredients, making them all more effective, with less waste. Bioperine® is the only product sourced out of piperine to obtain a patented status for its ability to increase the bioavailability of nutritional compounds. Secondly, it is the only source from piperine to have undergone clinical studies in the U.S. to substantiate its safety and efficacy for nutritional use. Bioperine® is a registered trademark of the Sabinsa Corporation.
CoQ10 (Ubiquinol) – 100 mg
Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant particularly critical for heart health. A fat-soluble anti-oxidant produced naturally and crucial for cellular energy creation in the mitochondria. CoQ10 Ubiquinol specifically is used to strengthen the cardiovascular system, increase energy, defend against oxidative stress and free radicals, promote healthy blood pressure, and a healthy immune system. Part of a recharging cycle, CoQ10 can ‘recharge’ other vitamins and minerals when they are used up, so they are recycled and used again. Natural production of CoQ10 declines with age. Many prescription drugs deplete CoQ10 including diabetes medications, blood pressure medications, diuretics, antidepressants, chemotherapy, surgery and radiation to name a few. Statin drugs stand out as depleting Coenzyme Q10 levels quickly by as much as 50 percent within 30 days.
Curcumin C3® – Complex 95%® Curcumoids – 100 mg
Curcumin has antioxidant properties that prevent formation of and neutralized existing free radicals. Stops precancerous changes within DNA and interferes with enzymes necessary for cancer progression. Stops the oxidation of cholesterol and protects against formation of plaque in arteries. Blocks toxic compounds from reaching or reacting with body tissues and may prevent cataracts.
Green Tea 95% Polyphenols – 100 mg
Green tea is added for its antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and health enhancing properties. It may protect against cancer, lower cholesterol levels, and reduce blood clotting. Green tea also assists in weight loss, promotes burning of fat and helps regular blood sugar and insulin levels.
L-Methylfolate (Vitamin B9) – 800 mcg
Vitamin B9 or Folic Acid is non-stored used to convert food to energy, help the body use fats and proteins. The complex B vitamins together promote healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver, and assist the nervous system in proper function. B9 helps produce healthy blood cells, and synthesizes DNA and RNA. B6, B12 and Folate (B9) work together to combat homocysteine which is strongly associated with heart disease. It is common to have low levels of B9, and it is critical for proper brain function, emotional and mental health.
Magnesium Citrate – 100 mg
Magnesium citrate is a mixture of magnesium carbonate and citric acid. Your body needs magnesium, an essential mineral, to burn carbohydrates and fats, synthesize proteins and DNA, give you more energy and provide structural support to the skeletal system.
Milk Thistle 80% Silymarin – 100 mg
It is believed that Milk Thistle, and the Sylymarin compound within, alter and stabilize liver cells. Having antioxidant and anticancer effects, and potentially protecting against Alzheimer’s disease. It is used to prevent and treat alcohol induced liver damage, treat gastrointestinal upset, treat cirrhosis of the liver, and as supportive therapy for chronic inflammatory liver diseases like hepatitis.
N-Acetyl L-Cysteine – 250 mg
Your liver needs glutathione, an all purpose antioxidant and detoxifier that is not only produced in the liver, but has also been studied as a liver protectant. Cysteine deficiency can lead to decreased production of peptide glutathione, leading further to edema, liver damage, muscle loss, lethargy, skin lesions, and weakness. Your liver also needs cysteine to detoxify acetaldehyde, a by-product of alcohol metabolism that is more toxic than alcohol itself.
Phosphatidylcholine (Lecithin) – 50 mg
Because the body uses phosphatidylcholine to make a brain chemical called acetylcholine, there is some interest in using it for treating “brain-centered” conditions such as memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, manic-depressive disorders, and a movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia. Lecithin is used as a Liposome. Liposomes are made from Phosphatidyl Choline (PC) which has been extensively studied for several important body functions such as for liver and nervous system health
Phosphatidylserine 70% – 100 mg
Phosphatidylserine is used to help age related decline in mental function, Alzheimer’s disease, and seems to improve senile dementia. Though Phosphatidyl serine can be manufactured in the body it is often supplied through food sources, and there are studies working to show it as effective for depression, stress brought on by exercise, improving thinking ability, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and more.
Potassium Iodide – 150 mcg
Potassium iodide is known as the thyroid mineral. It helps in keeping iodine levels in the thyroid in proper balance. When iodine levels are not optimal, it can lead to both hyper or hypothyroidism, two conditions whereby the thyroid gland produces too much or too little iodine. For this reason, potassium iodide acts as a powerful treatment and preventative mechanism for both forms of thyroid disorder through a mechanism of counteracting any less-than-optimal iodine levels due to dietary deficiencies. Potassium iodide also boosts colloid accumulation in the thyroid follicles, contributing to more healthy functioning in the important gland.
R-Alpha Lipoic Acid – 100 mg
R-Alpha Lipoic Acid (R-ALA) is a powerful antioxidant that stimulates production of glutathione. Alpha Lipoic Acid is both water and fat soluble allowing it to move into all parts of the cell and deactivate free radicals. ALA can help detoxify the liver, protect nerve tissues from oxidative stress, reduce blood cholesterol levels, The more expensive R form of ALA used in SynergyGSH significantly out classes regular ALA in multiple clinical studies.
Seleno-L-Methionine (Selenium) – 100 mcg
This is a vital antioxidant, especially potent combined with Vitamin E. Its principle function is to inhibit oxidation of lipids (fats) as a component of the enzyme glutathione-peroxidase. It protects the immune system by preventing formation of free radicals, regulates effects of thyroid hormone on fat metabolism. Selenium functions as a preventative against certain types of tumors and works with Vitamin E to aid production of antibodies that help maintain a healthy heart and liver.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin-5-Phosphate) – 10 mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) helps the body convert carbohydrates into glucose to be used as energy for the body. Working as an antioxidant it is also necessary to allow the body to turn Vitamin B6 and Folate into forms it can use. Studies show potential in cataract prevention and reducing migraine headaches.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate) – 20 mg
Vitamin B6 affects both physical and mental health, benefiting water retention and absorption of fats and proteins. Aids in maintaining sodium and potassium balance, promotes red blood cell formation. Necessary for normal brain and nervous system function. Inhibits the formation of homocysteine – a toxic chemical that attacks the heart muscle.
Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin) – 800 mcg
B12 is necessary to prevent anaemia, required for proper digestion, absorption of foods, the synthesis of protein and metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. B12 prevents nerve damage, maintains fertility and promotes normal growth and development. Assists memory and learning, and promotes a more restful and relaxing sleep,
Vitamin C (Calcium Ascorbate) – 100 mg
Vitamin C is an antioxidant required for tissue growth and repair, healing of wounds, adrenal gland function, and healthy gums. Vit C can aid in production of anti-stress hormones, reduce symptoms of asthma, prevent against infection, and enhance immunity. Essential in formation of collagen and protects against abnormal blood clotting and bruising.
Vitamin D3 – 3000 IU
D3 is fat soluble and has the properties of both a vitamin and a hormone. Required for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, D3 protects against muscle weakness and involved in the regulation of the heartbeat. D3 is the most natural and active form of Vitamin D, which is important in prevention and treatment of various cancers, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, hypoglycemia, immune system function, thyroid function, and normal blood clotting.
Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols – Natural Sources) – 100 IU
An important antioxidant in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Necessary for tissue repair, promotes normal blood clotting, healing, reduces scarring from wounds, reduces blood pressure, helps cataracts, improves athletic performance and relaxes leg cramps. Promoting healthy skin and hair, some studies show long term use can reduce prostate cancer risk in smokers and may slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
VitaMK7® – Vitamin K2 (MK-7) – 150 mcg
Vitamin K2 has many health benefits that are missed out on due to deficiency. Known to maintain the bodies ability to adequately clot blood, it is also being studied for osteoporosis and bone health, cardiovascular disease, varicose veins, arterial calcification, cancers including prostate, lung, and leukemia, as well as brain function including dementia. Vitamin K2 also has synergistic benefits working with Vitamin D.
Zinc Citrate – 15 mg
Zinc citrate is a combination of zinc and citrate which is a derivative of citric acid. Zinc is an essential mineral that is required by every cell in the human body, however, the body doesn’t manufacture zinc on its own, because of this, we must intake the mineral through water, the foods we eat, or by the use of supplements.
Zinc has a very important role in hundreds of our bodily processes; one function, is that the mineral has an effect and aid in supporting the human immune system, tissues, and joints, as well as helping in cell growth, and the mineral is also known in to help with the combat of the common cold. Zinc has also been known for improving peoples sex life’s by improving sexual function. The mineral also helps with the health of our hair, and it helps heal skin wounds and skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
Other Ingredients: Magnesium Oxide, Stearate (35 mg), Silicon Dioxide
Setria® L-Glutathione (reduced) is a registered trademark of Kyowa Hakko Bio Co., Ltd
Bioperine® & C3 Complex® are registered trademarks of Sabinsa Corporation
Emothion® and VitaMK7® are registered trademarks of Gnosis S.p.A
Bursting onto the health scene as “the master antioxidant,” glutathione has been in the spotlight recently for its ability to enhance the immune system and increase energy. With this rise in popularity has come a boisterous parade of glutathione supplements to pharmacy shelves, all packaged in clinical-looking pill bottles and marked with claims of their incredible health benefits. Often discussed using dizzyingly-complex scientific jargon, it can be exceedingly difficult to sort through the convoluted information available on glutathione. Amidst the mishmash of sales pitches, are there any wholesome, all-natural ways to boost your levels of the antioxidant glutathione? Let’s take a bit of time to discuss what glutathione is, its role in health and how to keep your glutathione at peak levels using real food and lifestyle practices.
Glutathione in Review
Glutathione is a substance found in every cell in the body, where it acts as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals and prevent cellular damage. Chemically, glutathione is a simple molecule composed of three protein building blocks or amino acids- cysteine, glutamine and glycine. While certain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals also act as antioxidants, glutathione is different because it is intracellular and produced inherently within a well-nourished and healthy body. Proper glutathione levels are actually required so that the other antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, selenium and carotenoids, can be properly utilized within the body. Not solely an antioxidant, glutathione is also essential in other vital biochemical functions such as energy utilization, immune system activity, detoxification and disease prevention. Natural glutathione production is easily disrupted however, and stores can become quickly depleted by the ravages of poor diet, stress, medications, infections and radiation and other toxins. Therefore, in a modern world that is often tumultuous and oh-so-far from natural, taking special care to maintain proper glutathione levels in the body is of particular importance. For detailed information on the importance of glutathione and causes of deficiency see our blog What is Glutathione and Why Do We Need It?
Glutathione Supplements: Do They Work?
If glutathione is so fantastically important, it makes sense that we should be able to incorporate a bit extra with asimple supplement and wallah! feel instantly revitalized. The problem with this desirably convenient solution however, is that oral glutathione supplements have repeatedly performed poorly in studies testing their absorption. Although some practitioners have reported a success with intravenous glutathione formulations, this method is invasive, expensive and often inaccessible to the average individual.
Another concern with glutathione supplementation is that by introducing large quantities of artificial glutathione, the body’s natural system for production will be disrupted. When a surge of compounds is introduced via synthetic supplementation, the body may cease its own production under the false perception that there are already adequate stores available. Over time, this mis-signaling could lead to a dependency on supplements as natural production screeches to a halt.
7 Simple Ways to Enhance Glutathione Production
While scientists clamor away, trying to find a marketable form of artificial glutathione, there are many effective ways to enhance glutathione levels naturally. By supporting the body with the proper nutrients and movement that it needs to reside in a state of harmonious balance, one can optimize glutathione production over the long-term.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Including an array of fresh, organic produce in the diet is helpful in providing the body with the nutrients it needs to create glutathione. Sulfur-rich vegetables such as garlic, onions, parsley and cruciferous vegetables are particularly helpful in addition to avocados, squash and tomatoes. Be aware that cooking reduces the glutathione content of vegetables by 30-60%, and canning eliminates it completely.
High Quality Whey Protein
Nondenatured, native whey protein contains the highest levels of the full range of naturally-occurring glutathione precursors: covalent bonded cysteine, lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, and active peptides. Not all whey proteins are created equal: be sure that whey is from grass-fed cows, cold-processed and without sweeteners or other additives as these factors have a deleterious effect on the delicate glutathione-boosting proteins. We incorporate it by adding into our Radiant Life Superfoods Smoothie Recipe in the morning.
Healthy Exercise and Recovery
Glutathione production is dependent on adenosine triphosphate or ATP, the molecule which supplies cellular energy. Kick start your energy system by including a healthy amount of physical activity into your routine. Ironically, exceedingly strenuous exercise can lead to extensive cellular damage and free radical production however. So, contrary to the popular “no pain, no gain” dogma, take care to practice healthy fitness and discover the balance that currently works for you, including adequate rest and recovery. Rebounding is one very effective way of enhancing cellular metabolism, while minimizing injury risk.
Raw Milk and Raw Eggs
Fresh, raw milk and raw eggs promote glutathione production, however these benefits are completely lost during pasteurization. High-heat processing obliterates the useful proteins, cofactors and cultures. Obtain raw milk and eggs from pastured chickens at a trustworthy local farm. For resources on finding farms near you, connect with the Local Chapter Leaders at the Weston A Price Foundation or visit realmilk.com
Red Meat and Organ Meats
Alpha lipoic acid, as found abundantly in red meats and organ meats from grassfed animals, has been shown to help regenerate glutathione and support the sustained activity of vitamins C and E in the body. If you are leery about incorporating actual organ meats into your diet, desiccated liver is a helpful way to reap all of the benefits of organ meats without the sensitivities about taste or texture.
This delicious Indian spice contains curcumin, an active compound known for its potent healing qualities. In addition to acting independently as an antioxidant and antiseptic, some studies have indicated that curcumin may be very helpful in enhancing glutathione metabolism. Incorporate turmeric into your diet by adding it into soups, stews and salad dressings or by using the capsule form. Be sure to find a high quality source of turmeric that is organic, properly ground, and additive free.
While practicing methods to promote glutathione production, it is also important to actively minimize the factors contributing to its depletion. Chronic low-level stress is one of the primary means by which glutathione is lost. Our bodies simply weren’t designed to handle the prolonged cortisol and adrenaline release experienced as a result of unchecked stress responses. Find a means to reduce stress through practices of mindfulness, yoga, time spent outside, reading or laughter. Although simply stated, finding a way to manage stress can be very difficult. It is one of the most genuinely healing steps you can take towards vibrant wellness.
The Biochemical Magic of Raw Milk and Other Raw Foods: Glutathione
Glutathione in Whey
Curcumin Induces Glutathione Biosynthesis
The Biological Activity of Undenatured Whey Protiens: Gluathione Synthesis
*All articles and information on this website are for educational purposes only. They are not to be regarded or relied upon as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease. Results may vary per person. Consult your health practitioner if you have health problems.
Glutathione: 14 Benefits of the Master Antioxidant [Plus Diet and Supplements]
1. Glutathione is a Potent Antioxidant
Many people know the chef’s trick of sprinkling a little lemon juice over fruit to keep it from turning brown. Antioxidants are like that lemon juice. By consistently “sprinkling” your body with antioxidants like glutathione, you can prevent your body from “browning” or “oxidizing” which causes damage and aging of cells. Antioxidants are the “anti-agers” of the nutrient world, working to protect your body from free radicals, and the oxidative damage they cause.
Every time you eat, breathe, or move, your body uses fuel created from the food you eat to produce energy. But just as a car releases harmful byproducts as exhaust, so too does your own body’s energy-producing efforts produce a dangerous byproduct: free radicals.
Free radicals are highly reactive forms of oxygen that are missing an electron. When they come into contact with normal molecules, they steal an electron, damaging the healthy cell and its DNA.
In fact, some estimates show that your DNA takes 10,000 oxidative hits daily. Antioxidants work to counteract the damage caused by free radicals.
Glutathione is the “master” antioxidant, directly binding to oxidative compounds that damage cell membranes, DNA, and energy production. It directly neutralizes a wide range of oxidants, including superoxide, nitric oxide, carbon radicals, hydroperoxides, peroxynitrites, and lipid peroxides.
Glutathione offers the all-important antioxidant defense like few others can.
2. Glutathione and Detoxification
The role of glutathione in your body’s detoxification system is vital. But your natural processes sometimes need a boost from increased glutathione from your diet or supplements.
Here’s how the detoxification system works, in three phases.
During Phase 1 detoxification, all sorts of toxins and xenobiotics are partially processed by specialized proteins inside mitochondria called cytochromes.
Unfortunately, Phase 1 is an incomplete processing and can turn toxins into dangerous free radicals. These are not only damaging, but they can single handedly deplete glutathione, creating an imbalance between Phase 1 and Phase 2 activity.
In Phase 2 detoxification, various enzymes act directly on the toxins partially degraded and processed in Phase 1. These enzymes use glutathione to neutralize the toxins.
Phase 3 detoxification is the elimination of toxins and xenobiotics. Toxins are removed from your body, mainly by the kidneys (urine) and liver (bile).
Without glutathione, your body would not be able to neutralize and eliminate toxins effectively.
3. Glutathione and Energy
Energy production occurs within all cells (except red blood cells) via the mitochondria. Glutathione protects mitochondria from free radicals and the oxidative damage they cause. In this way, glutathione is paramount to energy production.
If mitochondria are damaged, they slow down and start to make less energy. The affected “diseased” mitochondria leads to decreased bodily function and efficiency.
To make things worse, damaged mitochondria output more free radicals. In turn, these free radicals cause further mitochondrial damage and create a vicious cycle of less energy and more damage.
GSH binds these free radicals and relieves oxidative stress — not just on the mitochondria, but on the rest of the cell.
4. Glutathione for Skin
Whether concerned with acne, wrinkles, dryness, eczema, or puffy eyes, many are seeking flawless, youthful skin. Science says that glutathione is an effective answer.
Fortunately, you don’t have to empty your wallet to restore the youth and health of your skin. You can solve the problem from the inside out. Cells can heal and regenerate themselves, thanks to glutathione.
Glutathione not only decreases the melanin (pigmentation) in your skin, but has also been found to decrease wrinkles and increase skin elasticity.
Glutathione works on the skin pigment production by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in making melanin.
In one study, both GSH and GSSG achieved a skin lightening effect — though it takes a few weeks to develop. The effect on pigmentation is transient, so you would need to continue using glutathione to maintain the skin-whitening effect.
A scientific review of multiple studies confirmed that the use of glutathione results in skin lightening.
Glutathione has also been shown to decrease psoriasis. The glutathione levels in this clinical trial were increased by consumption of whey protein, which contains glutamylcysteine, a precursor to GSH.
The same studies also show that glutathione doesn’t just lighten skin, but it improves skin elasticity and decreases wrinkles.
5. Glutathione and Brain Health
How do low levels of glutathione affect brain and mental health? There is a between low glutathione levels and decreased brain health.
As we age, it’s not uncommon to experience a bit of forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating. These are just two examples of neurodegeneration, a process by which the neurons in our brains become damaged and may even die.
This leaves us with “shrinking” brains that don’t function to their full capacity. While this process is unavoidable as we age, it can be slowed, or even reversed, and glutathione (GSH) plays an important role.
Accelerated neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s diseases exhibit high levels of oxidative stress damage to the brain as well as low active glutathione (GSH) levels. GSH can ease and decrease the rate of damage to brain tissue.
While these results are promising, a 2017 study involving Alzheimer’s patients using intranasal GSH found that GSH and placebo had equally good results — after three months. Glutathione produced positive results. However, so did the placebo.
Other neurological illnesses like Lyme disease weaken when your body experiences higher levels of glutathione.
6. Glutathione and Heart Health
The number one health related cause of death in the United States is still a heart attack. A lesser known fact is that glutathione may prevent heart attack and other heart disease, thanks to its ability to neutralize the “lipid oxidation” (fat oxidation) process.
Virtually all heart disease starts with the accumulation of arterial plaque inside the artery walls. Bad cholesterol (LDL) is lipid oxidized and damages the lining of the blood vessels, forming a plaque (atherosclerosis).
When these plaques eventually rupture and break off, they can clog your blood vessels and block blood flow that causes heart attacks or strokes.
With the help of an enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, glutathione stops the superoxides, free radicals, hydrogen peroxides, lipid peroxides, and peroxynitrites that cause this lipid oxidation and wreak havoc on your health.
In this way, glutathione helps to prevent damage and lowers the risk of heart attacks.
In a study of 643 cardiac patients who underwent coronary angiography in Germany, those who died of heart attacks had much lower levels of glutathione peroxidase than those who survived.
If we don’t have enough glutathione to neutralize damage to our arteries, we are at increased risk of heart disease and cardiovascular events.
7. Glutathione Fights Inflammation
Does glutathione help with inflammation? As a matter of fact, glutathione is great at fighting chronic inflammation!
Inflammation has been a hot topic in the natural health world for the past decade; however, many people still don’t fully understand exactly why inflammation lies at the root of most of the health concerns plaguing Americans today.
High levels of inflammation are present in virtually every chronic illness, like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. However, inflammation is also healthy and necessary (in short bursts) to fight infectious invaders.
Injury can also incite an inflammatory response. Whether you are talking about trauma, infection, toxins, or allergies, your immune system answers the same.
First, the blood vessels in the injured area begin to expand and open wide to allow your body’s natural healing compounds to get the injured site as quickly as possible. Because of the increased blood flow, fluid and immune cells flood the area often in overwhelming amounts.
This increase in permeability of the blood and lymph vessels is what causes the physical manifestations of acute inflammation, namely redness, pain, stiffness, and swelling. After the infection or injury is repaired the acute inflammatory response normally subsides and goes away.
The inflammatory response comes to your rescue when it’s needed and cools itself off once the healing is complete. But we don’t live in an ideal world.
In the real world, environmental toxins, your diet, stress, and other lifestyle issues have disabled the checks and balances of this system and inflammation doesn’t subside and go away as it is meant to. As a result, many people suffer from chronic, systemic inflammation.
When this happens, you’re in trouble. You need a lot of extra protection. That’s where glutathione can help.
Glutathione (GSH) controls when inflammation increases or decreases as needed, by instructing and influencing our immune white cells. This is a completely separate mechanism from its antioxidant properties.
Rebalancing glutathione levels reduces chronic inflammation and restores immune function.
8. Glutathione and the Immune System
Glutathione helps your immune system stay strong and ready to fight infections. While vitamin C seems to get all the accolades when it comes to immunity, glutathione is the under-recognized supporting actor who deserves the starring role.
Research shows that active glutathione (GSH) primes white cells such as natural killer (NK) and T cells, your body’s front-line infection fighters. GSH-enhanced T cells are able to produce more infection-fighting substances, controlling both bacterial and viral infections.
One clinical trial in particular found that GSH doubled NK cells’ ability to be cytotoxic (kill invaders) after just six months of use. Glutathione actually has a potent antibacterial effect as it helps the immune cells called macrophages fight the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
In another study, researchers found that GSH modulates the behavior of many immune system cells, affecting adaptive immunity and protecting against microbial, viral and parasitic infections.
There are many chronic infections such as EBV, hepatitis, herpes viruses and Lyme, to name a few, which can deregulate and suppress the immune system. Glutathione can modulate and reverse this suppression.
Autoimmune diseases also appear to be hallmarked by imbalanced glutathione levels.
9. Glutathione and Athletic Performance
Glutathione can boost athletic performance when used before workouts. Best of all, you don’t have to be an ultramarathoner or a bodybuilder. Anyone from the average runner to the weekend warrior can benefit from this exercise enhancer.
In a study of eight men receiving 1,000 milligrams of glutathione before exercise, the glutathione group performed better, felt less fatigued, and had lower blood lactic acid levels than the placebo controlled group.
This is key, since increased lactic acid in the body can result in fatigue, low blood pressure, muscle aches, a drop in body temperature, and respiratory problems.
Glutathione combined with L-citrulline boosted nitric oxide production (NO) better than placebo or L-citrulline alone.
Nitric oxide is well known to dilate blood vessels improving blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles and tissues. This improves athletic performance and exercise output.
10. Glutathione and Autism
1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism. It’s important to do everything you can to alleviate the more harmful symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. Supplementing glutathione should prevent the oxidative stress that is common in children dealing with autism.
How does glutathione help autism?
Low levels of glutathione are a common finding in autism, among other biomarkers. Promising new research shows that liposomal and transdermal glutathione might help raise levels of GSH in plasma in children with autism. Some evidence suggests that glutathione support may improve function in autism, but double blinded large scale studies are needed to scientifically support this.
11. Glutathione and Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
Glutathione supplementation has been linked with reduced symptoms of peripheral vascular disease (PVD). Since PVD affects 10% of Americans, glutathione offers a much needed solution to this circulatory system disease.
PVD occurs when narrowed blood vessels do not supply enough blood supply to muscles when needed — most often muscles in the legs. Fatigue and pain with walking are hallmark symptoms of PVD.
In a double blind study, 40 PVD patients were given IV infusions of either GSH glutathione or placebo, twice a day. The patients receiving GSH were able to walk pain-free much further than the patients receiving placebo injections.
IV clinics which offer glutathione injections, are gaining in popularity. However, these aren’t quite mainstream yet. The extra work of finding such a clinic may be a worthwhile pursuit for those afflicted by PVD.
12. Glutathione for COPD
Low serum glutathione seems to lead to abnormalities in the lungs. Preliminary research suggests a clear link between low glutathione and occurence of COPD.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. As damage from smoking or even pollution accumulates to the respiratory tract and the lungs, oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange suffers, making it difficult to breathe.
Low glutathione levels have been linked to abnormalities in the lining of the lungs, which can lead to COPD. Having normal glutathione levels protects lung tissue from free radical damage, such as inflammation.
Additionally, animal studies found that intravenous glutathione supplementation maintained normal lung function, when exposed to otherwise toxic levels of oxygen. It also increased lung compliance, decreased swelling, and increased lung tissue.
Researchers concluded that glutathione supplementation promotes normal airflow and lung tissue, as well as lowering the risk of “oxygen-induced lung injury.”
13. Glutathione and Vitamin D
Vitamin D3 — the most active form of vitamin D — has been a hot topic in medicine because it controls and modulates the immune system. And when glutathione levels are low, vitamin D3 doesn’t work as efficiently.
Initially thought to play a role in calcium metabolism and bone formation only, we now know that low vitamin D3 levels can increase your risk of:
High blood pressure
Decreased brain function
What happens to vitamin D with glutathione deficiency? In fact, low vitamin D3 levels have been correlated with simultaneous glutathione deficiency.
Observing animals deficient in vitamin D3, researchers found that supplementing vitamin D3 and cysteine (a GSH precursor) restored glutathione levels, increased the bioavailability of vitamin D3, and lowered inflammation.
Researchers noted that the vitamin D supplements widely consumed by the public “are unlikely to be successful unless the GSH status is also corrected.”
In other words, simply taking vitamin D isn’t enough. You need to be sure you have adequate glutathione levels to make sure that your vitamin D3 is working as it should.
14. Glutathione and Methylation
Glutathione production starts with the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine usually comes from homocysteine, a major product of the methylation cycle. Making glutathione depends on a well functioning methylation cycle.
Methylation is critical for human survival. It’s like an electrical switch that turns genes on and off. Methylation regulates neurotransmitters, brain function, mood, energy, and hormone levels.
Conversely, if the glutathione production process (or the “trans-sulfuration” pathway) is not functioning properly, the process backs up and homocysteine levels accumulate putting additional strain on the methylation cycle to remove it.
This is not ideal since high homocysteine levels have been linked to heart disease and atherosclerosis.
In many instances , people can have mutations in the enzymes that catalyze the production of glutathione from homocysteine.
One such enzyme is cystathionine beta synthase (CBS), which catalyzes the first and most important (rate limiting) step in trans-sulfuration from homocysteine to cystathionine. Individuals with CBS mutations will be slow to make glutathione.
Flipping this around, individuals who have poor-functioning methylation cycle enzymes will have lower homocysteine levels. Since it’s the first step in making glutathione, slow methylation can directly lower your levels of glutathione.
By now, you may have heard of the most famous enzymes — MTHFR and MTR — regulating the speed of the methylation cycle. For those of you who know you have MTHFR, MTRR, or CBS mutations, you are likely experiencing low glutathione levels without realizing it.
Clearly, methylation is a critical process — as well as a complicated one. The key message to remember here is that low methylation equals low glutathione and that low glutathione slows methylation. They are interdependent.
Tough stuff, right? But before you run for the hills, take comfort in the fact that there are a few simple steps you can take to restore and replenish your glutathione levels.
How to Achieve a Glutathione-Rich Diet
There are a handful of foods that naturally contain glutathione or glutathione-boosting nutrients.
A variety of factors can affect the levels of this vital nutrient, including storage and cooking. Cooking these foods can reduce their glutathione content by up to 60 percent.
Here are some easy examples of foods you can add to your diet to ensure your glutathione levels are at a healthy level.
Eating grass-fed whey protein can make it easier for your body to make GSH.
Whey protein contains gamma-glutamylcysteine, which is glutamine bound to cysteine.
Because this combination bypasses the tough first step to making glutathione in your cells, it is key in supporting higher glutathione levels through diet.
Allium is a genus of plants rich in sulfur, a precursor to glutathione synthesis. The more sulfur, the more natural glutathione production.
Plant foods belonging to the allium genus include:
Cruciferous vegetables are packed with glucosinolates, which will increase your body’s glutathione levels. These compounds give Brassica plants their distinctive sulfuric aroma.
Great cruciferous vegetables include:
Alpha Lipoic Acid-Rich Foods
Alpha lipoic acid regenerates and increases levels of glutathione within the body. Adding it to your diet should afford you all the health benefits of glutathione.
Good food sources of alpha lipoic acid include:
Selenium is a trace mineral that is part of the building blocks that make up antioxidant enzymes. It is also key in the production of glutathione.
Good dietary sources of selenium include:
While diet is the most natural way to boost glutathione levels, there are a variety of glutathione supplements available. Glutathione supplementation is a growing trend, especially in America, India, and the UK. Glutathione supplements come in many forms.
Glutathione can be taken orally in its plain powder form. However, powdered glutathione metabolism cleaves glutathione into the three amino acids it is made up of (glycine, glutamine, and cysteine).
This digestive cleaving process is so effective that nearly all of the plain glutathione you would take by mouth would never make it into circulation.
A better option for oral supplementation is to take liposomal glutathione on an empty stomach.
Liposomes are microscopic spheres with an active ingredient like glutathione contained in the center of the sphere. Randomized trials show that liposomal formulations increase GSH levels and absorption.
To use liposomal glutathione, start with 500 milligrams and increase to between 1,000 and 2,000 milligrams per day. Be sure to wait 45 minutes before eating or drinking or taking other supplements to allow for absorption of liposomal glutathione.
Glutathione can also be taken in an inhaled form called a nebulizer. A physician would need to write you a prescription for this form.
Additionally, you can use targeted nutrients to increase your body’s natural production of glutathione indirectly. These include selenium, vitamin E, alpha lipoic acid, NAC, and SAMe.
Glutathione Supplements: A Brief Summary
Oral glutathione powder is the most commonly found form, though it can have a poor absorption rate.
Liposomal glutathione formulation is the most powerful and absorbable form, for which you need no prescription.
Inhaled GSH with special nebulizer requires a prescription, but it’s effective in some people. If you have asthma, avoid using inhaled GSH.
Transdermals and lotions have various levels of absorption, sometimes unreliable.
IV is the most direct method of glutathione supplementation, but also the most invasive. Levels spike and diminish quickly.
Some targeted nutrients can boost your body’s natural glutathione production — such as N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), selenium, vitamin E, and alpha lipoic acid.
Side Effects to Glutathione Supplementation
Use of glutathione as a supplement may bring about rare side effects: abdominal cramps, bloating, loose stools, gas, and possible allergic reactions. These adverse effects are uncommon.
Always consult your healthcare provider before taking dietary supplements, but especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Lifestyle Changes for Ideal Glutathione Levels
If you’re worried about your glutathione levels, there are some common sense lifestyle changes we can all apply to our daily lives. Keeping the body healthy means glutathione is less likely to fall out of balance.
Not only can you add cruciferous veggies and selenium-rich foods to your diet, but you should cut out processed foods and processed sugars. Processed foods (such as cheese, cereal, and potato chips) can lead to heart disease, among other things.
It’s also wise to drink eight cups of water every day. That’s half a gallon.
Reducing stress makes it easier for your body to function properly, including your mitochondria.
The US government recommends half an hour of exercise five days a week — and for good reason. The exercise keeps your body healthy and your glutathione levels normalized.
Get your 7-8 hours of sleep every night. As a side note, you shouldn’t exercise within an hour of when you go to sleep.
Consult a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes.
Glutathione is the master antioxidant, the knight in shining armor to your mitochondria.
Glutathione possesses so many life-changing health benefits:
There are some lifestyle changes that can ensure your natural glutathione levels stay healthy:
Eat a glutathione-rich diet. Avoid processed foods and sugar.
Drink 64 ounces of water a day.
Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Exercise at least five days a week.
Glutathione supplementation is also an effective way to enhance glutathione levels.
Seek medical advice whenever making major changes to your lifestyle or diet.
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Glutathione is an antioxidant that is present in every cell of the body and composed of three amino acids: glycine, cysteine and glutamine. Being a great antioxidant, it plays a vital role in neutralising free radicals and prevent cellular damage. In addition to that, it controls many biochemical functions like detoxification, energy utilisation and immune system activity.
These are the powerhouses molecules which are needed to keep people healthy as they prevent diseases like cancer, heart diseases, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and HIV. Glutathione levels decrease because of an unhealthy diet, infection, injuries, premature ageing, environmental ageing, radiations, stress, medications, and trauma.
Below are the natural ways to enhance the glutathione levels naturally.
1. Increase your vitamin C and vitamin E intake
To enhance the glutathione levels in the body it is necessary to take such foods which are rich in vitamin C and vitamin E. Vitamin C increases the glutathione levels in the red blood cells and in the lymphocytes. Vitamin C fight against the free radicals to keep the level of glutathione at its best. Vitamin C transforms the oxidised glutathione back to its active form in the adults.
Vitamin E increases the glutathione levels by working with GSH to prevent damage from reactive oxygen and secures glutathione-dependent enzymes. Taking 500mg of vitamin C and 500–1000 mg of vitamin E daily boost the glutathione levels and the immune system.
To fulfil the levels of glutathione in the body you can take the following foods: oranges, broccoli, avocado, green pepper, sunflower seeds, palm oil, strawberries, grapefruit, olive oil, spinach, trout, sweet potato, almonds, kale, kiwi, guava, wheat germ, butternut squash, green vegetables and Brussels sprouts.
2. Take selenium-rich foods
Selenium is an antioxidant that boosts the levels of glutathione in the body. Taking 400mg selenium per day boost the health of the body and prevent diseases like chronic kidney diseases. For adults, selenium rich foods are best to save against the effect of free radicals.
The following foods are rich in selenium, for better health, you can add these foods to your daily diet: fish, beef liver, chicken, egg, spinach, Brazil nuts, yellow fin tuna, and boneless turkey.
3. Whey protein is the way to go
Whey protein is the best supplement to enhance the glutathione levels in the people where glutathione deficiency occur. Whey protein is enriched in cysteine, this cysteine rebuilds the glutathione for the body when the immune response gets weak. You should purchase the extremely right type of whey protein that is natural and organic.
It should be free from all chemicals, pesticides, hormones, artificial sweeteners and antibiotics. The processed or unhealthy type of whey protein is damage for your immune system. According to recent studies, immunocal is the bioactive non-denatured whey protein that should take to improve the physical defence system of the body.
4. Consume sulphur-rich foods
Sulphur is an important mineral that occurs in plants and protein foods. Sulphur is necessary to increase the amount of glutathione in the liver and the kidney especially when the body is ageing. Sulphur-rich foods keep the immune system of the body active and protect against several diseases like cancer, arthritis etc. Some of the sulphur-rich foods are: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard, turnip, radish, mustard greens, shallots, onions, Brussel sprouts, arugula, bok choy, and watercress.
5. Know your NAC
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is useful to increase the glutathione levels in the body and saves from several diseases. It prevents the respiratory attacks and neurocognitive issues like compulsive behaviours, schizophrenia, addiction and bipolar disorder. It contains the amino acid cysteine and sulphur which are most efficient in boosting the glutathione and thinning the bronchial mucus.
Taking 200–500mg of NAC daily is much fruitful to avoid premature ageing and boosting the immune system. Good sources of NAC are broccoli, red pepper, onion, wheat germ, bananas, garlic, soybean, linseed, pork, chicken, turkey, cottage cheese, ricotta, yogurt and eggs.
6. Exercise regularly
Exercise increases the movements of the body and makes the immune system strong. Exercise boosts the glutathione levels of the body and prevents the oxidative stress which is responsible for lowering the glutathione. Taking sufficient nutrition together with regular exercise maintains the activity of the body at its best. Regular walk, jogging, the combination of resistance training and cardio exercise are best to prevent the free radical damage.
7. Get adequate sleep
Long-term lack of sleep can cause oxidative damage and lowers the glutathione levels of the body. Inadequate sleep is responsible to give a headache migraine, mood swing, depression as it imbalance the hormones. Proper diet, regular exercise and proper sleep are the best keys to avoid the diseases. Good sleeping pattern is essential to maintain the activity of the antioxidants.
8. Avoid smoking or drinking
Smoking or drinking affect the functions of the body as well as they damage the body organs. Liver, kidney, brain, pancreas lost their functionality and their tissues get more burst by smoking drinking. Lungs are part of respiratory system as they responsible for normal breathing process. Healthy lungs can have 1,000 times more glutathione than other parts of the body but when they get damage by the alcohol they become unable to carry out the glutathione.
Glutathione levels decline by doing smoking and drinking alcohol. For proper lung functioning
and a stronger immune system, you should limit your smoking or drinking.
9. Milk thistle
Milk thistle has been used by centuries to treat the immune dysfunction, liver damage and biliary tract disease. This is the herbal product that is extracted from the silybum marianum. This plant contains three active compounds out of which milk thistle is in high concentration.
Studies have shown that taking milk thistle increases the glutathione levels. Milk thistle saves the liver from toxicity which is the result of alcohol. It not only boost the levels of glutathione but also secures cell from oxidative damage. However, using GRS Ultra supplement is one of the greatest ways to improve glutathione level naturally with no side effects at all.
10. Methylated nutrients
According to Dr Mark Hyman, methylated foods are the best supplement to increase the glutathione levels. These foods keep the immune system strong and protect against the attack of diseases. These methylated nutrients are fruitful to keep the glutathione at its optimum: beets, back eyed peas, broccoli, lentils, pinto beans, liver, garbanzo beans, okra, spinach, asparagus, nuts, and avocado.
Alicia Saville studied for the Advanced Diploma in Counselling at the Open University. She has an ongoing interest and passion for wellness and mental health.
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Natural Sources of Glutathione
Have you ever taken or experienced any of the following?
- Prescription drugs
- Radiation-based diagnostic or therapy measures
- Immunization shots
- Over the counter drugs
- Still have, or had, silver-mercury amalgam fillings in your mouth
- Been exposed to house, farm or commercial use herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or cleaning fluids
- Used non-organic cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, sunscreens, or toothpastes (the ones with poison control warnings on the label!)
- Been exposed to work related chemicals or radiation
- Have been in the military
- Lived near nuclear power plants, munitions manufacturing plants, chemical manufacturing plants, or toxic waste disposal sites
- Use commercial airlines
If one or more of these apply to you, then you need to ensure you are consuming glutathione supportive foods daily.
The Role of Glutathione in the Body
Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant and detoxifier. Foods that boost glutathione levels can help the body rid itself of heavy metals, chemicals and other toxic substances.
Glutathione plays at least eight fundamental roles in metabolic and biochemical reactions including:
- DNA synthesis and repair
- Protein synthesis
- Prostaglandin synthesis (controls vascular smooth muscle constriction or dilation and many other vital functions)
- Amino acid transport and enzyme activation
- Maintaining other antioxidants like Vitamin C and E in their active forms
- Modulating (regulating) proper immune response
- Increasing lymphocyte presence (T cells, B cells and Natural Killer Cells) while improving their effectiveness
- Regulating apoptosis (the death of cells that occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism’s growth or development.)
Thus, every system in the body can be affected by the level of glutathione, especially the immune system, the nervous system, the gastrointestinal system and the lungs.
In animal experiments, increased glutathione consumption increased longevity by about 40%.
The more toxic the body is, however, the faster glutathione levels in the body are used up.
As an example, in experimental animals, glutathione was reduced 70 to 80% within four hours after administering acetaminophen (Tylenol). – Drug Chem Toxicol 81;4(1):37-48. A similar conclusion can be drawn regarding all other pharmaceutical drug-based therapies.
Glutathione Supportive Foods Help Detoxify the Body
A steady, daily intake of glutathione supportive foods is the best way to maintain high levels of glutathione in the body and chip away at the stockpile of toxins that have accumulated over the years (and you continue to take in daily).
Food sources that increase glutathione do so by providing the precursors of glutathione, or enhance its production by some other means.
The amount of dietary glutathione is very small compared to the amount of glutathione found in live tissues.
Daily glutathione intake from glutathione foods averages 100-150 mg. A healthy adult has about 10g of glutathione circulating in the body tissues. Thus, dietary intake comprises only 1-1.5% of circulating GSH. The rest of glutathione is manufactured inside the cell, or within the liver, from its three precursor amino acids: Glycine, glutamic acid, and cysteine.
Although dietary glutathione has low impact on glutathione levels, glutathione foods are still an integral part of a glutathione boosting protocol.
The main reason is that some dietary glutathione does get absorbed into the cells of the intestines, particularly the inside space of the intestines’ tubular structure. This luminal glutathione participates directly in detoxification in the small intestine boosting the health of the digestive system.
Since your immune health depends greatly on how effectively you absorb all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals from food, we can confidently state that immune health depends on the health of the intestines and the whole GI tract.
Also, studies have shown that glutathione foods decreased the risk of getting mouth cancer (Dietary glutathione intake and the risk of mouth and pharyngeal cancer. Flagg EW et al. Am J Epid. 1994. 139(5), 453-465) and prevented renal and neuronal dysfunctions induced by oxidative stress in diabetic rats (Dietary glutathione protects rats from diabetic neuropathy and neuropathy. Ueno Y et al. J Nutr. 2002. 132, 897-900).
Foods that are high in glutathione precursors and therefore help boost glutathione levels naturally are best when eaten raw or fermented (like in sauerkraut) since they are heat sensitive.
Cooking reduces glutathione content in foods, so do the length and conditions of storage and farming practices. Only uncooked raw vegetables, fruit, raw unpasteurized goat milk are rich in glutathione. Cooked, pasteurized and processed foods contain far less glutathione or none at all.
For example, one study showed 73-80.6% reduction in glutathione content of human breast milk after merely 2 hours of being frozen (80.6%), refrigerated (79.1%) or kept at room temperature (73%) for later use as food for infants. This is a significant drop compared to fresh un-stored breast milk, considering the fact that breast milk is the only source of glutathione for newborns and babies as they do not yet produce much on their own (Human breast milk storage and the glutathione content. Ankrah NA et al. J Trop Pediatr. 2000 Apr;46(2):111-3).
Table of some of the raw (uncooked) glutathione foods:
Select Glutathione Foods, mg per 100g (3.5 oz.)
|Asparagus-highest glutathione of any food||28.3|
|Red bell pepper||5.5|
|Green bell pepper||3.4|
Foods That Stimulate Glutathione Production
Certain chemicals (found in foods and spices are known to contribute to glutathione production in the body, assist in recycling oxidized glutathione back to its reduced (non-oxidized) form, and also boost the synthesis and the activity of important glutathione enzymes – glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and glutathione S-transferase (GST).
Food Sources of Glutathione Precursors Include the Following:
- Milk thistle helps to prevent glutathione depletion in the liver. It is also a natural liver detoxifier and liver protectant.
- Asparagus is the highest plant-based source of glutathione.
- Okra is also naturally high and assists in the elimination of the mucoid plaque in the small intestines.
- Rice bran, high in Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) promotes the synthesis of glutathione in the body.
- Several spices found in Indian curry including turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, black seeds (black cumin), and curcumin contain glutathione.
- The sulfur containing vegetables (kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, garlic, cauliflower, bok choy, watercress, mustard, horseradish, turnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi) assist in the making of glutathione in the body (glutathione is a sulfur containing molecule).
- Pink Sulfur Salt(Black Salt)
- Grape seed extract
- Ripe seeds of the green bean
- Red beets
- Aloe Vera
- Peaches, and watermelon
- Goat whey protein powder (Raw)
- Pycnogenol from pine bark.
- Brazil nuts – the highest natural source of selenium. Selenium is a co-factor for the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. (1-2 Brazil nuts per day – no more).
If you want to get the most glutathione out of raw, uncooked foods be sure your gut is healthy. If that means you must take a daily probiotic or even change your diet to eliminate candida, then work on your gut so you can maximize your glutathione potential. This major antioxidant is a primary necessity for your body to maintain vibrant health.
Ways to Boost Your Glutathione Levels for Optimal Health
Have you heard of glutathione? It has become increasingly popular in health and wellness circles as a panacea, a solution for a myriad of symptoms and health conditions.
Why has it become such a favorite for health? The answer is complex, but it is likely in large part due to the combination of its ubiquity in the body and the significant role it plays. Glutathione is found in all tissues and plays a role in fighting oxidative stress, the body’s detoxification process, and your immune system, to name just a few.
Glutathione plays a hand in so many processes, many of which we probably have yet to identify. Some of the many functions of glutathione include:
- Cell proliferation and apoptosis (cell death)
- Epigenetic mechanisms
- Free-radical scavenging and redox balance
- Metabolism of xenobiotics involvement
- Modulates the function of the immune system
- As one of the conjugators for Phase II biotransformation (detoxification)
Your body produces and recycles glutathione, but that does not mean there is an endless well. There are times when the oxidative stress or toxic load may be more than your body’s current capacity to synthesize sufficient levels of glutathione or other underlying reasons for lower glutathione levels, such as poor nutrition or chronic stress.
Research has found that many chronic diseases are associated with a reduction in glutathione levels, leading to the hypothesis that increasing glutathione levels can help prevent and/or mitigate the progression of these diseases. Below is a list of some of the diseases and issues associated with glutathione deregulation or deficiency:
- Aging and related disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cancer (ovarian, bladder, etc.)
- Chronic liver disease
- Cognitive impairment
- Cystic fibrosis
- Diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes
- Infertility in both men and women
- Mental health disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neurodegenerative disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
There are some common polymorphisms or SNPs that impact glutathione and associated processes. These code for the enzyme glutathione S-transferase, or GST, which conjugate the reduced glutathione to substrates during the detoxification process. During times of oxidative stress, the GST genes are upregulated. One of the most common polymorphisms, affecting 20 to 50% of certain populations, is an absence of the GSTM1 gene (GSTM1 null), which decreases detoxification ability among other possible outcomes. GSTT1 (null) and GSTP1 (AB/BB) are additional polymorphisms related to a reduction in GST activity. Having one or more of these polymorphisms is associated with an increased risk of certain diseases, especially when impacted by environmental triggers such as pollution, smoking, heavy metals, and other toxins. A few examples of associated disorders include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Asthma and allergies
- Cardiovascular disease
- Reproductive disorders
Nutrition to Support Glutathione Levels
Luckily, you do not have to sit back and watch your glutathione levels diminish as your oxidative stress, inflammation, and toxic load increase beyond your capacity to make glutathione. There are several nutrients of note necessary to produce glutathione and for which studies have found that increasing the amount relates to a boost in glutathione levels. Let’s see what the evidence has to say about the best nutrition and/or supplementation to support your glutathione levels.
Foundations: Glycine, Cysteine, and Glutamic Acid
The amino acids glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid combine to form glutathione, so the body requires all three to make sufficient quantities of glutathione. Cysteine is frequently identified as rate-limiting, or limiting the ability of glutathione synthesis based on lack of availability. That is one reason why NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is frequently studied and suggested as a supplement for glutathione support. Below is a snapshot of some supporting research:
- In one very small study on five people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease and three controls, a high dose of NAC (a total of 6,000 mg/day taken orally which diminished the bioavailability of the dose) for a period of 4 weeks led to an increase of cysteine levels and antioxidant measures (GSH/GSSG—a ratio of the reduced to oxidized glutathione which relates to oxidative stress with higher ratio levels associated with healthier cells—and catalase), but it did not demonstrate any improvement in the oxidative stress measurements (4HNE and MDA) nor did it increase the level of glutathione in the brains. Additionally, some of the participants actually experienced a worsening of the Parkinson’s symptoms that were then alleviated upon stopping the NAC supplementation.
- Another study looking at those with neurodegenerative disorders found that an infusion of NAC led to an increase of the blood GSH/GSSG ratio and levels of glutathione in the brain. Those who had the greatest percent change in that ratio also had a greater percent change in their levels of glutathione in their brains.
- A systematic review on NAC supplementation for neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative diseases found that there are promising studies demonstrating the potential of NAC, but more studies are necessary due to the differences in the studies.
- Another trial on children with autism found that although there was no significant impact on the social impairment associated with autism, there was a significant impact on boosting the glutathione levels in the children. The trial period was 12 weeks and the dose was 60 mg/kg/day in three doses with a maximum of 4,200 mg/day.
- GST polymorphisms may play a role in the efficacy of NAC. In one study looking at the impact of NAC on noise-induced hearing loss, taking 1,200 mg per day for 14 days led to a significant reduction of noise-induced temporary threshold shift. Upon looking at the impact on the GST genotypes, only those with the null genotypes experienced a significant effect from taking NAC.
Although NAC is promising as a supplement to both boost glutathione levels and potentially mitigate some of the issues related to oxidative stress, the research is not conclusive, and some of the findings are disease-specific. There have also been studies with no significant impact by taking NAC.
When it comes to supplementing with substrates, glycine may be just as important as cysteine. The formation of glutathione begins with the conjugation of cysteine and glutamate, then glutathione synthase links this molecule with glycine. When the availability of glycine is lower than necessary for sufficient glutathione synthesis, the initial molecule of cysteine and glutamate converts into a compound that is excreted. Thus, sufficient quantities of glycine may be just as necessary and rate-limiting as cysteine.
It may be best to supplement with both cysteine and glycine to see a boost in glutathione, especially among those who may not have sufficient quantities of the amino acids or require higher levels of glutathione. For example, a small study with eight healthy elderly adults and a control group of eight younger subjects had the elderly take 0.81 mmol NAC per kg per day (around 132 mg/kg/day) and 1.33 mmol glycine/kg/day (roughly 100 mg/ kg/day) for 14 days. In the beginning, the elderly had 55.2% less glycine and 24.4% less cysteine in their red blood cells. They also had a 46.2% lower glutathione level than the controls.
After the supplementation, the glycine levels increased by 117.6% and the cysteine by 55.1%. Furthermore, they had a 94.6% higher glutathione concentration in their red blood cells, which also led to no statistical difference between the young controls and the elderly subjects in their glutathione levels. The researchers surmised that the typical reduction of glutathione in the elderly was due to a lower supply of glycine and cysteine, the precursors to glutathione synthesis, and that upon supplementation, they had the ability to stimulate synthesis and restore levels. Although impressive, it is important to recognize that this was a small study.
Additional Amino Acids and Protein
The precursors and foundation of glutathione are amino acids, so getting sufficient protein may ensure there is a sufficient pool from which to draw to synthesize glutathione. Changes in protein consumption, including reducing protein levels but remaining within the safe levels, may alter plasma glutathione synthesis levels contributing to a reduction in antioxidant capacity. In this study, the researchers found that while individuals were able to bounce back from a reduction in protein (that remained above the lowest amount considered safe) in terms of nitrogen balance, it took longer for the changes in glutathione levels to balance.
An additional concern is the capacity for an individual to properly break down and absorb the protein consumed. Protein digestion begins in the stomach when your stomach acid (hydrochloric acid or HCl) starts to break down the protein and also activates digestive enzymes known as proteases. Then, in your small intestine, more enzymes are released to further break down the protein into amino acids. Thus, if you have low levels of HCl (known as hypochlorhydria), or if you have low levels of your digestive and/or pancreatic enzymes that target protein, you may not be able to absorb sufficient levels of the amino acids required for glutathione synthesis even if you consume adequate levels. Hypochlorhydria is more common in the elderly, and certain medications can also impact your HCl levels. Stress and certain nutrient deficiencies may also contribute to low stomach acid levels.
Although it is not necessary for most people to supplement with protein to get sufficient levels, one potential beneficial source when additional protein is necessary is whey protein, likely due to its higher cysteine content. In one small randomized control study on cancer patients, consuming 40 grams of whey protein isolates along with zinc and selenium increased the glutathione levels as well as immunity markers, including an increase of 4.8% in their immunoglobulin G levels compared to the control. Another small study on patients with Parkinson’s disease found that supplementing with whey protein led to a significant increase in the glutathione levels in the blood and the GSH/GSSG ratio, although there was no significant impact on the clinical markers of the disease.
There are other amino acids beyond the glutathione precursors that support glutathione synthesis. Some studies point to the ability of serine, a nonessential amino acid, to boost glutathione production, potentially through increased cysteine availability and a decrease of hypermethylation.
Cysteine is a sulfur amino acid, so in those who can tolerate sulfur foods, consuming sulfur-rich foods, especially those containing the sulfur amino acids, may also support glutathione synthesis.
Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Support
In addition to its work as an antioxidant, glutathione plays a role in the immune system and maintaining a healthier inflammatory response, and chronic inflammation can contribute to oxidative stress and exhaust glutathione stores. As such, other compounds known for their anti-inflammatory properties can also help support glutathione levels.
One such anti-inflammatory agent is omega-3 fatty acids. In one study, taking 4,000 mg of omega-3 supplements daily for 12 weeks led to a better GSH-creatine ratio and reduced depressive symptoms in older adults who had a higher risk of developing depression. Another study looking at patients with Parkinson’s disease found that taking 1,000 mg omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed oil along with 400 IU of vitamin E for 12 weeks led to an increase in the glutathione concentrations as well a total antioxidant capacity and a reduction in C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker.
One study looking at the impact of the GST polymorphisms on the relationship between omega 3 fatty acids and breast cancer risk found an increased protective effect of dietary intake of fish omega-3 fatty acids in the women with the genetic polymorphisms for reduced GST activity. The high consumers of marine sources of omega 3 fatty acids with the reduced GST activity polymorphisms had at least a 64% reduction of risk compared to the low consumer counterparts, with some polymorphisms experiencing an even greater protection.
Similarly, curcumin has also been found to provide support to glutathione through enhancing antioxidant capacity and relieving inflammation, at least in animal and mechanistic studies.
Glutathione may be the mother of all antioxidants, but it does not work by itself. It is part of a complex antioxidant system that works synergistically to retain redox balance. Therefore, ensuring adequate levels of other key antioxidants can also support glutathione levels. A few key ones include:
- Selenium: Selenium is a known antioxidant and the right balance is essential to health. One reason may be its role as a cofactor of glutathione peroxidase. In a mouse study, selenium supplementation increased the expression of certain glutathione enzymes as well as increasing their activity. Another study found a positive relationship between selenium levels and selenium supplementation and glutathione levels, although there may be a racial component to the effects of selenium. However, excess selenium may contribute to oxidative stress rather than relieve it.
- Vitamin C: In one study, taking 500 or 1,000 mg per day of vitamin C for 13 weeks led to an increase of 18% of the glutathione levels in lymphocytes. Another study found that taking 500 mg for weeks two and three and 2,000 mg per day for weeks four and five in a six-week trial led to an increased level of glutathione in red blood cells. In another study, purple grape juice supplementation and its high vitamin C content and antioxidant capacity had a significant impact on smokers with GST polymorphisms, leading to a significant reduction in DNA damage for all participants. Plasma vitamin E was increased in the GSTM1-null group, while glutathione levels were increased in the GSTM1-present group, and blood vitamin C levels were increased in the GSTT1-present genotype, demonstrating the antioxidant impact of the grape juice differed based on the genotype of the participants. The impact on blood pressure also differed based on genetic type. Likewise, consuming kale juice for six weeks had a different impact based on GST subtype, especially in the vitamin C levels and DNA damage, with the GSTM1 null genotype experiencing the best impact from the kale juice.
Additional antioxidant support linked to enhanced glutathione levels includes ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) and Vitamin E. Increased fruit and vegetable intake, especially to levels higher than 500 grams per day, has been linked to positive modification of GST polymorphisms that bring the GST activity closer to normal levels and improve antioxidant parameters.
There are other ways to support your glutathione levels as well as your overall health. A few that have research support behind them include:
- B vitamins – Riboflavin is a necessary coenzyme for the activity of glutathione reductase, which converts the oxidized glutathione into its reduced form, which is the antioxidant function. Thus, it is likely that a riboflavin deficiency would impact glutathione function and may even impact the levels in the body. Pantothenic acid may also help support glutathione synthesis through its position in ATP production. B12 deficiency is associated with lower glutathione levels.
- Gut microbiome – Maintain a healthy microbiome, as the gut microbiota may just modulate glutathione metabolism
Additionally, taking the steps to reduce your oxidative stress and inflammatory levels through healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise and sufficient sleep may also support your overall glutathione levels.
Can you just skip the above and simply take glutathione supplements to increase your levels and see a difference? The results are inconclusive, but there are some promising results so far:
In one small study with just 12 (healthy middle-aged non-smoker) subjects (taking either 500 or 1,000 mg per day liposomal glutathione for four weeks), there was a trend for increasing glutathione levels, although it only became significant in the 500 mg dose after two weeks, which was also the largest increase at 25%. There was also an improvement in the ratio of GSSG to GSH, with the largest decrease in this ratio among those taking the higher dose in the first and second weeks. There was also a decrease in the biomarkers for oxidative stress and an improvement in immune markers.
In another small study in healthy men with cardiovascular risk factors, those with abnormal reactive hyperemia index (RHI) which measures peripheral endothelial function and stiffness, experienced a significant reduction in arterial stiffness after taking sublingual glutathione.
In another study, oral supplementation of 50 mg/kg of glutathione led to an increase in the protein-bound fraction of plasma glutathione levels but did not impact the glutathione content in the blood cell or deproteinized plasma.
One six-month, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial found that taking oral glutathione at either 250 or 1,000 mg/day led to significant increases in the body stores of glutathione in a dose-dependent manner. There was also a decrease in the markers for oxidative stress.
Similar to NAC, not all studies confirm the efficacy of glutathione supplementation. There is also debate as to the best delivery system, whether liposomal, oral, or intravenous. IV and liposomal can bypass the breakdown that may occur in digestion, which is why some recommend them more than oral supplementation.
Below is a table bringing together all the above glutathione support nutrients and the recommended dosage based on research studies. Most people do not require all of these to get their glutathione levels to the optimal level, and you may just need one or two depending on your circumstances. It is best to talk with your doctor, nutritionist, or another healthcare practitioner about the best option for you—and whether you have different dosing requirements.
Whether glutathione is truly the panacea its reputation currently promotes remains to be seen, but it is definitely an important component of overall health and wellbeing, especially in terms of your antioxidant capacity and redox balance. Additionally, there are promising studies supporting the potential for nutritional support and possibly supplementation to improve glutathione levels and possibly symptoms of chronic disease. Therefore, it may be beneficial to take a look at your current diet to determine whether you have sufficient levels of the foundational nutrients of this key antioxidant discussed above.
If you worry that your glutathione levels are not sufficient to counter the oxidative stress, toxins, inflammation, and other potential problems you may have, or if you have a chronic disease and are looking for natural ways to support the body and counter some of the symptoms and other effects of the disease, then talk with your doctor, nutritionist, or another healthcare provider. You can discuss ways to support your endogenous glutathione synthesis through diet and lifestyle changes, including some of the nutrients discussed above, or whether it may be best to supplement.