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Glutathione antioxidant and detoxifier

Updated on February 15, 2015

Glutathione is a cellular antioxidant and a detoxifier. But it is actually much more than that.

Dr. Mark Hyman calls gluthathione the "mother" of all antioxidants because it replenishes the other anti-oxidants. And the body can then recycle and replenish the gluthathione again and again. He raves about it in his book The UltraMind Solution where he says glutathione ...

"is critical for immune function and controlling inflammation; it is the master detoxifier, and the main antioxidant, protecting ourselves and making our energy metabolism running well. Glutathione is the center of good health because it is the key to protecting us against oxidation, controlling inflammation, and getting rid of toxins." [page 241]

Glutathione is found in virtually every cell and defends us from free radicals and oxidative stress. Glutathione is needed for a strong immune system. It keeps your liver healthy and detoxifies pollutants. It is also involved in the storage and transport of amino acids (which are the building blocks of protein).[2]

Sheila Dean says in a Hawthorn University webinar on YouTube ...

"Glutathione, which we know is probably the single most powerful antioxidant in the mammalian system"

In a YouTube video, Steven Fowkes explains how glutathione acts both as an antioxidant and a detoxifier. Free radicals are natural by-products of the body's natural processes. However, they can be damaging to cells because free radicals have unpaired electrons and want to steal electrons from other atoms and molecule and causing damage. Glutathione donates an electron to these free radicals so they do not have to steal and cause damage to other vital components.

Mercury is highly toxic to the body and the brain for that matter. Because of its sulfur group in its molecule, glutathione binds to mercury making it a less dangerous form. This is how glutathione detoxifies mercury.

Fowkes goes to say that "Alzheimer's is caused by loss of glutathione cycling". [reference] Glutathione is the cell's primary antioxidant. It helps recycles the antioxidative capacity of vitamin C and vitamin E. What is special about glutathione is the SH group in its molecular structure. This is the structure responsible for it antixodiative capability as well as its ability to bind to and detoxify mercury.

Glutathione is a tripeptide consisting of the amino acids: glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine.

Getting More Glutathione By Food

Okay, if it is so great, how do we get more of it?

Luckily our body knows how to make it. It is produced by the liver. The body uses three amino acids in order to produce glutathione: glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine. And the body gets these amino acids from foods.[2]

However around age 40, our production of glutathione starts to decrease -- and maybe dropping 20% by the time we are 60.[2]

Certain foods are better at stimulating glutathione production more than other foods. Asparagus, avocado, broccoli, watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit are a good way to boost of glutathione levels. Sulfur containing foods can help boost glutathione levels. These include garlic, onion, kale, and other broccoli family foods.

Dr. Hyman says that ...

"Broccoli sprouts are the biggest inducer of glutathione production, but you can load up on all the members of the broccoli family daily. Take your pick: collards, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, mustard greens, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, arugula, horseradish, radish, wasabi, and watercress." [page 241-242 The UltraMind Solution]

Article on says ...

"Asparagus is a leading source of glutathione. Broccoli, avocado and spinach are also known to boost glutathione levels. Garlic helps to maintain optimal glutathione levels. Other foods with naturally high levels of glutathione are grapefruit, squash, potatoes, cantaloupe, peach, zucchini, spinach, watermelon, and strawberries."

Selenium aids in the production of glutathione. Brazil nuts, eggs, and fish such as sardines and salmon are a good source of selenium. [reference] However, too much selenium can be toxic so eat Brazil nuts in moderation (a couple a day for example). Selenium is a trace mineral, that means you do not need to much of it.

Exercise can also help boost glutathione.

Dr. Al Sears gives 5 tips on boosting glutathione on his site and it includes eating meat, fish, and eggs.

Dr. Jockers writes article Boost Glutathione Levels Naturally where he says that you want to consume glutathion precursers such as glycine, glutamic acid, and cysteine. And the best sources come from non-denatured grass-fed animal products. Vegetable sources includes avocados, onions, spinach, and asparagus.

Glutathione Supplements?

Glutathione supplements are not as common at your grocery stores as say vitamin C or vitamin D. But some specialty shops may have it.

Your body makes glutathione inside the cells from raw ingredients. Glutathione taken orally is not readily absorbed. A lot of it would get destroyed in the stomach. And if it did not, its molecule is large and have difficulty passing through the cell membrane.[4]

Although it is true that glutathione supplements are not readily absorbed. That is not to say that none of it gets through. A certain amount is able to get through and provide a bit of benefit. [reference: Steven Fowkes at GoogleTechTalk]

Alternatively you can take that compounds that help your body make more glutathione. These includes alpha lipoic acid, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), or milk thistle. N-acetylcysteine can be absorbed easily by your body and have been shown to boost glutathione levels.

The book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals" says ...

"We recommend cysteine supplements in the form of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). This form is easily absorbed by your body." [page 313]

Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant in its own right and will help recycle the glutathione that you already have.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) and vitamin C can also help boost glutathione.

However, there is a caution that NAC can feed yeast for those people with yeast overgrowth issues.

Stephanie Seneff on Sulfur

Sulfur is an essential atom in glutathione. Dr. Mercola and Dr. Stephanie Seneff talks about the importance of glutathione in the below video.

Glutathione's other effects

Article on MedScape writes that some studies show that glutathione and other antioxidants such a vitamin C and E and alpha lipoic acid can improve insulin sensitivity.

Chris Masterjohn's lecture below also explains why depletion of glutathione can result in insulin resistance.


Article was written in April 2011 and is only opinion at the time of writing. Author is not a medical professional and may receive revenues from display ads and links within article. Not all supplements are suitable for all individuals and may have interactions with other medicines or drugs. Check with your doctor first.


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