Age related illnesses, Immune, Liver | July 19, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
Glutathione is known as the “master antioxidant” and is produced by every cell of the body. It is a tri-peptide made up of the amino acids glycine, glutamic acid and cysteine. Because it can be formed from these amino acids, glutathione is not considered an essential nutrient in the diet. Instead, glutathione production occurs within the cell, making it a key antioxidant for cellular metabolism, energy production, and more:
Glutathione exists within the cell in two states – reduced (known as GSH) and oxidised (GSSG). Looking at the molecules, oxidised GSSG appears to be two GSH molecules combined, bound together with two sulphur atoms. The ratio of GSH:GSSG tells a lot about the wellbeing of a cell. High ratios of GSH:GSSG indicate a healthy cell, while cells that are suffering from heavy oxidative stress show a much lower GSH:GSSG ratio. To deliver more GSH to bump up this ratio, the body can either produce more GSH or regenerate the oxidised glutathione back into its reduced state. Both the creation and regeneration of glutathione can only be achieved with the help of vitamin B1. 
Glutathione is a major player in healthy liver detoxification and is involved in at least seven reactions within the phase II detox pathways. In its reduced form, GSH, glutathione conjugates (a form of molecular “binding”) with many toxins, drugs and metabolic bi-products in the liver. By conjugating with these nasties, glutathione renders them harmless and then escorts them into bile, through the gall bladder and finally out of the body through the intestines and kidneys.
The liver is able to regenerate its glutathione supply as long as there is adequate amounts of cysteine, niacin and other cofactors available. 
Glutathione may also be a key detoxifying agent in other tissues, beyond the liver. It is able to protect the body against damage from heavy metals such as mercury in three ways:
1. Glutathione binds to the heavy metal and stops it from causing damage to any cells, proteins or tissues.
2. The glutathione-metal complex can be moved through the liver, gall bladder and kidneys to excrete the metal from the body.
3. Glutathione increase the antioxidant capacity of cells, giving them a defence against free radical damage produced by heavy metals. 
The immune system needs glutathione to function properly. The master antioxidant is required for the growth and function of white blood cells, including the “presentation” of pathogens to the immune system so that the good guys can identify which bad guys to fight. Low glutathione levels are associated with susceptibility to infection and many conditions including AIDS, COPD, cystic fibrosis, alcoholism and even the flu . Boosting glutathione levels may help in many conditions. For example, increasing glutathione levels has been shown to improve lung capacity and breathing quality in patients with pulmonary fibrosis .
A 2012 systematic review and meta-analysis found that the available data shows that children with autism spectrum disorders are more likely to have low total glutathione levels, and reduced GSH levels with significantly increased GSSG levels, leading to a lower GSH:GSSG ratio – a major indicator of cellular oxidative stress.  The reviewers also showed that cysteine levels are often low in children with ASD, too. While these findings are interesting, they don't indicate that glutathione is an effective “treatment” for ASD. Speak to a qualified nutritionist or naturopathic for personalised advice before taking any nutritional or herbal supplements for ASD.
Many aspects of ageing may be due to oxidative stress and damage to cellular components such as DNA, telomeres and transcription proteins. As a powerful antioxidant found within the cell, glutathione can protect against this damage.Longevity research has identified a link between glutathione and life span. The more glutathione found in the cells of the body, the longer we are likely to live!
Glutathione can also help with the aesthetics of ageing. A 2017 study found that taking 500mg of supplemental glutathione per day for 12 weeks improved skin quality and significantly reduced wrinkles in healthy women .
When it comes to antioxidants, vitamin C and glutathione are a perfect pair. Vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant in the human body and it has a reciprocal relationship with glutathione – they regenerate each other from their oxidised forms into the reduced (and active) forms. Vitamin C also helps to boost glutathione levels by attacking free radicals, leaving GSH intact to do other work like conjugating heavy metals and controlling the immune system! Taking at least 500mg of vitamin C per day can boost glutathione levels in the blood .
St Mary's thistle or Silybum marianum is a traditional detoxifying herbal medicine. The seeds of the thistle are rich in antioxidants and can directly boost levels of glutathione. Studies have shown that silymarin, an active constituent of milk thistle, directly regenerates GSSG into GSH. Bonus – it can also regenerate vitamin C, which in turn boosts glutathione!  Milk thistle is available as a herbal tea, or more potent extracts can be taken as a liquid tincture or in capsules and tablets.
Sulphur is needed for glutathione synthesis. It is found in cystine and methionine – two amino acids that are found in abundance in animal meats. But for extra liver support, you want to go the veggie route – opt for cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress and mustard greens for plenty of sulphur and other glutathione cofactors. Studies have shown that these types of veggies quickly boost GSH levels throughout the body !
You've probably caught onto the turmeric craze by now – this bright orange root is rich in antioxidants and powerful constituents such as curcumin. Research shows that curcumin is able to boost glutathione levels in the liver and support the activity of glutathione enzymes, while also doing some of the heavy lifting by quenching free radicals itself . While turmeric is a delicious addition to your daily diet, potent curcumin extracts are probably required for a tangible therapeutic change – speak to a qualified herbalist or naturopath for personalised advice.
Dietary sources of glutathione aren't much help – naturally occurring glutathione is not well absorbed during human digestion. Glutathione supplements are currently only available in Australia by prescription. Speak to a health professional a naturopath, nutritionist, or pharmacist for personalised advice and access to glutathione supplements.
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