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Glutathione (gloo-ta-thigh-own)

A Medical Perspective

Glutathione (GSH) is a peptide, composed of amino acid strings that are the basic building blocks of protein. This miraculous tripeptide (three amino acids) is probably the most important cellular defense that allows the body to prevent and fight infections and disease.

The immune system is an elegant and complex group of components that combine to fight disease, infections, and various pathogens. A healthy immune system differentiates organisms in the body as natural, which are untouched, or invaders that are rapidly destroyed. A healthy immune system is able to combat the attack, whereas a compromised immune system allows invading organisms to flourish.

The body's immune response relies on various white blood cells and natural barriers to block any attack any foreign invader. All cells normally produce damaged molecules called free radicals. These free radicals are highly unstable and steal components from cellular molecules, including fat, protein or DHA, that spreads the damage. Antioxidants are invaluable because they prevent widespread cellular destruction by willingly donating components to stabilize free radical damage. When there are not enough antioxidants to protect the cells, free radicals attack healthy cells and break down health. The 'Master Antioxidant' of the body that recharges all other antioxidants is Glutathione.

Glutathione is manufactured by every one of our trillions of cells, and the level of Glutathione in our cells is predictive of how long we will live. Glutathione also plays a crucial role in the regulation of many body functions required to sustain life. No other antioxidant is as imperative to overall health as Glutathione.

Glutathione boosts white blood cell production to fight infection, particularly the T-cells, which are called lymphocytes. T-cells are at the core of our immunity, and tailor the body's immune response to pathogens, viral and bacterial infections or anything the cells recognize as being invasive. T-cells directly attack and destroy infectious agents and guard the body against attack. T-cells are produced in the bone marrow and mature in the thymus, but are present in the blood and lymph nodes.

Studies have shown that Glutathione is food for the immune cells, boosting the strength of lymphocytes. B-cell lymphocytes identify the unwanted pathogen that the T-cells then attack. T-cells also shut down the immune response when the job is done. An overactive immune system can make mistakes as in the case of allergies, when a harmless substance is identified as dangerous. Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lou Gehrig's disease, Crohn's disease, Grave's disease and chronic fatigue syndrome are examples of autoimmune diseases, or the immune system not shutting down properly and actually in turn attacking the body.

Intracellular Glutathione fights inflammation and preserves cell health. It also works to improve cognitive function, improve circulation, increase energy, and improve heart and lung function. Glutathione has also shown to slow the aging process. Energy, healthy organs and skin (the skin is an organ) all require healthy cells. Glutathione is cell food.

Low Glutathione levels are linked to health challenges and diseases such as Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Atherosclerosis, Pregnancy Complications, Cataracts, Asthma, Autism, Bronchitis, Fibromyalgia, Insomnia, Male infertility, Migraines, Osteoporosis, Pain, Poor Eyesight, PMS, Psoriasis, Wrinkles, Low Sex Drive, Chronic Fatigue, Balding and Cirrhosis.

Glutathione is not only important to the natural detoxification process within the body that eliminates toxins and carcinogens but is also essential to heal the damage within the cells. Every moment Glutathione is defending our body against disease, toxins, poisons, viruses, pollutants, radiation, drugs and oxidative stress, then immediately works to repair any damage from free radicals. Glutathione is essential for DNA synthesis and repair, protein and fat synthesis, the regulation of enzymes and amino acid transport. Each cell in the body is responsible for its own supply of Glutathione and needs the raw materials to produce it.

One of Glutathione's primary jobs is to alleviate oxidative stress, which is a chemical reaction that occurs when cells are injured. Viruses, bacteria, exposure to environmental toxins, medications, or heavy metal toxicity can damage cells, as does the normal aging process. If sufficient Glutathione is not present, toxins can overload the liver and lead to excessive fat-soluble toxins depositing within our fatty cells. The brain, nervous system, breasts and prostate are mostly fat and can become receptacles for pollutants. Many researchers theorize that the increase in brain diseases (Alzheimer's, MS and Parkinson's) and cancers, such as Prostate and Breast cancer, are linked to depleted Glutathione.

Antioxidants are nutrients or substances that prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. Glutathione is referred to as the 'Master Antioxidant' because it recharges all other antioxidants in the body.

Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that modify, disrupt and impair the stable structure within our body. The oxygen we breathe helps to burn sugar and fat inside our body cells to produce energy. But about 2% of the converted oxygen remains as free radicals. If these reactive elements are not neutralized, cell membranes breakdown and DNA is damaged, resulting in a compromised immune system, disease and rapid aging. Many environmental and ingested agents spur free radical production – air pollution, pesticides, radiation, alcohol, sugar, cigarette smoke, illegal drugs and prescription medications.

To combat the hostile effects of free radicals, our bodies use antioxidants (free radical scavengers), which help to extinguish the biochemical fire. Bruce Ames, Ph.D., at the University of California, Berkeley, estimates that every single one of our cells suffers from 10,000 hits by free radicals daily.

Glutathione is used more than any other antioxidant in the body, and is the most abundant natural antioxidant that protects our vision, boosts the immune system, helps turn carbohydrates into energy and prevents the buildup of oxidized fats that contribute to heart disease. Glutathione supports us at the cellular level by protecting every cell of the body, but our levels decline dramatically with age. By age 20 we are losing Glutathione at 8-12% per decade. But compromised health and excessive use of medications can deplete the body stores more rapidly. Some scientists estimate that a 30% reduction of Glutathione is enough for cellular dysfunction to set in.

The brain consumes about 20% of the oxygen utilized by the body but constitutes only 2% of the body weight and is therefore particularly susceptible to free radical attacks. Glutathione acts to prevent and protect the brain from the damage of free radicals.

Our bodies are constantly replacing and repairing free-radical damaged cells, but the demands of the modern age have created high levels of free radicals with limited supplies of intracellular Glutathione to correct the damage. Without Glutathione, other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E cannot perform their functions adequately to protect the body against disease.

Glutathione even protects both the mother and the developing fetus from the damaging effects of free radicals, and minimizes the oxidative stress that occurs during labor and the birth process. The placenta contains a significant amount of glutathione to filter pollutants before they reach the baby.

In the last 75 years, clean and healthy food supplies have been replaced by sugar, processed food, chemicals, genetically altered fruit and vegetables, chemical and hormone laced dairy products, hormone and preservative laden meats, high saturated fats with sugar, thousands of medications and pesticides.

There are tens of thousands of confirmed toxic substances in our environment and as a result, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, allergies and mental health issues are rampant. The liver is our ultimate filter and has two critical functions: to process nutrients and eliminate toxins from the body. It does this by cleansing the blood at about two quarts a minute. Approximately 25% of all the blood in the body is filtered through the liver at any one time. Some glutathione is released directly by the liver into the bloodstream where it helps to maintain the strength of red blood cells while also protecting the white blood cells.

Large quantities of Glutathione are found in the eyes, lungs, kidneys and also the liver where a two-stage detoxification process takes place. Phase One begins the chemical conversion of harmful compounds that are mainly fat-soluble into intermediate forms. But Phase Two is where the final transformation takes place to help convert the intermediate toxins into water-soluble substances that can be excreted through the bowel or kidneys. Only water-soluble substances can be excreted. If there is not enough Glutathione to generate the Phase two enzymes, toxins will build to dangerous levels in the liver.

Unlike unnatural detoxification supplements, the use of Glutathione is a natural process that allows our body to perform its filtering capability organically and comfortably. Many herbs that detoxify will also deplete valuable minerals and vitamins. Glutathione inherently builds and nourishes.

Glutathione is a critical element for good health, strong immune function, cancer prevention and the slowing of the aging process. Glutathione is necessary to neutralize free radicals, repair cell damage, detoxify toxins and to recharge all other antioxidants. Basically, increasing Glutathione levels enhances life.

Promoting Glutathione (GSH)

Approximately 50% of the body’s Glutathione production is achieved through the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Prior to the modern age, our food sources used to be sufficient to handle the demands placed on our bodies. But eating enough glutathione-rich foods only works in an idealized world where medications, stress, toxins and fast food are not factors. The depleting elements have grown exponentially in our environment while our food sources have become compromised with pesticides, genetically modified foods and limited availability of organic fruits and vegetables. Only a small amount of reduced Glutathione from foods can reach the bloodstream, while most is lost in the digestive tract. So the need for Glutathione production has risen dramatically while our ability to produce it naturally has diminished.

Many synthetic medications and supplements claim to raise Glutathione, but some can cause toxicity, troublesome side effects and many can interact with various medications. Bioactive microfiltered undenatured whey Protein isolates can be an efficient and cost-effective manner to raise this critical antioxidant.

Below are the most frequently used methods to raise Glutathione:

Whey Protein Isolates
Milk is inherent to all mammals, including humans, and Whey Protein is an element of milk. All mammalian breast milk contains naturally high amounts of Glutathione to protect the infant. Human breast milk is no exception, and also contains high levels of healthy bacteria to colonize the baby's gut region with Probiotics, the healthy bacteria that helps sustain life.

Cows milk contains 5-10% protein - 20% whey and 80% lactose and cheese fat (caseine). Most allergies to milk are from the lactose and cheese caseine. Only a tiny percentage of the public has a true allergy to whey. 

In the 1930s, the compulsory pasteurization of milk caused high temperature processing that denatured (damaged) the protein structures. Denaturation causes less bioactive availability of the critical active components to the cells. All commercial milk today is pasteurized and as a result, the potent Glutathione precursors have been rendered ineffective.

Most whey protein that is found in natural food or sports nutrition will not increase Glutathione levels. Whey proteins can contain anywhere from 20%-90% whey, a few are bioactive while most are not. Many use high temperature processing to extract the whey, which damages the delicate protein structure.

Only specialized Undenatured (intact) whey protein isolates that employ unique filtering and processing methods to extract the whey from the protein can generate intracellular Glutathione. This microfiltering process ensures the two Cysteine molecules remain linked together and can sustain the trip through the digestive system to convert to Glutathione.

Using bioactive whey protein isolate is a safe, comfortable and effective way to generate Glutathione without side effects.

The famous Louis Pasteur Institute for Research issues a book every year that goes to all the major medical schools in the U.S.A., Europe and Canada. The book, entitled “Oxidative Stress in Cancer, Aids and Neurodegenerative Diseases,” was co-authored by Luc Montagnier, co-discoverer of the AIDS virus. Chapter 42 is entirely devoted to a discussion of the Immune Enhancing Whey Protein. It states, “Nutraceutical Modulation of Glutathione with a Humanized Native Milk Serum Protein Isolate, Bioactive Whey Protein: Application in Cancer and AIDS.”

Oral Glutathione
Ingesting direct Glutathione does not raise Glutathione levels since it is poorly absorbed through the digestive system. The fragile tripeptide (3-amino acid) structure of Glutathione makes surviving the digestive tract a near impossibility. Additionally, your cells must generate their own Glutathione to be effective.

Reduced Glutathione
Glutathione must breakdown to its reduced form to work properly within the cells. But introducing the reduced form directly to the body is much like taking oral Glutathione – the effectiveness is lost. Supplementation with reduced Glutathione does not raise tissue levels of this critical antioxidant. Reduced Glutathione is also expensive and not metabolically active. Many doctors report that the clinical benefits achieved with intravenous reduced glutathione are not reproduced when it is taken orally.

Cysteine or L-Cysteine
Glutathione is a tripeptide (3-amino acid) comprised of Cysteine, Glutamic Acid and Glycine. Consuming these three amino acids independently does not ensure Glutathione production and can actually be harmful. Cysteine is the precursor to Glutathione and extremely important to Glutathione production, yet taking Cysteine is ineffective since it is potentially toxic. Cysteine is spontaneously oxidized in the gastrointestinal tract and the bloodstream and cannot reach the cells. Cysteine that does make it into the bloodstream can be further oxidized and do more damage than good. Cysteine may be one of the building blocks of Glutathione, but alone has a negligible impact on raising Glutathione levels.

N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC)
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a synthetic version of Cysteine that is rapidly converted to the amino acid Cysteine. NAC supplements are moderately effective, but dosing is limited due to the toxic side effects (such as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision) associated with Cysteine Supplementation. NAC decreases Zinc, so supplementing with additional zinc and copper is recommended along with Vitamin C to help prevent the Cysteine from converting to Cystine, which can form kidney and bladder stones.

Recent Study on NAC:
According to recent research at The University of Virginia, N-Acetyl-Cysteine forms a red blood cell derived molecule that makes blood vessels think they are not getting enough oxygen. This leads to pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a serious condition characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries that carry blood to the lungs. The results appeared in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Many supplements include N-Acetyl-Cysteine:

Max GXL uses N-Acetyl-Cysteine (see N-Acetyl-Cysteine), but also has Alpha Lipoic Acid, Vitamin C, Quercetin, L-Glutathione (see oral Glutathione), N-Acetyl-d-Glucosamine, Milk Thistle and N-Acetyl Cysteine (see Cysteine).

Along with the danger of toxicity from direct Cysteine (see Cysteine), people with diabetes mellitus and allergies to eggs, milk or wheat should not supplement with Cysteine. Anyone with kidney or liver disease should consult their physician before taking Cysteine supplements due to the risk of bladder and kidney stones. Additionally, several items in Max GXL may interact with some medications.

For example, Milk Thistle may interact with antipsychotics,  Phenytoin (seizure medication), Halothane (used during general anesthesia), Allergy medications, Statins (cholesterol), Anti-Anxiety medications, Antiplatelet and Anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners) and some cancer drugs.

Quercetin interacts with Cyclosporine (immunosuppressant), Antibiotics, and medications that are broken down by the CYP2C8 liver enzymes. This includes some diabetes medications, hormones, anticonvulsants, Antidepressants, Antifungal, Ibuprofen, Potassium Channel Blockers and High Blood Pressure Medications, to name a few.

Glutathione IVs
Delivering Glutathione through an IV is effective but expensive and uncomfortable, and requires infusions two times per week using an Intravenous (IV) line. Glutathione precursors are a better solution.

Topical Glutathione Creams / Gels
Using a cream or Glutathione gel to raise Glutathione levels is ineffective and can have significant side effects. Glutathione is a highly sensitive molecule that must be created within the cells. Absorbing direct Glutathione to the skin does not allow the cells to produce this critical antioxidant.

The small benefit is lost when the active ingredients, such as direct Glutathione, decompose when it is added to creams or gels. Evaluation of topical Glutathione applications does not show any significant effect on Glutathione production.

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  1. Oral GSH
  2. Pub Med - Metabolism and functions of glutathione in brain.
  3. Pub Med - clinical trial of glutathione in cases of hepatic cirrhosis.
  4. Nutritional Advisor – glutathione
  5. Free-RadicalsAntioxidants – Your Defense Against Them
  6. The importance of glutathione in human disease
  7. Importance of Glutathione for Growth and Survival of Escherichia coli Cells: Detoxification of Methylglyoxal and Maintenance of Intracellular K+
  8. Topical GSH
  9. GSH, Your Body's Most Powerful Protector by Dr. Jimmy Gutman (book) not a link
  10. One Type Of Antioxidant May Not Be As Safe As Once Thought

  11. Glutathione
  12. Glutathione in the treatment of liver diseases: insights from clinical practice.

  13. Glutathione in liver diseases and hepatotoxicity


*While great care has been taken in organizing and presenting the material throughout this website, please note that it is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as Medical Advice. More...

*You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, before reducing any medication or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. More...