Glutathione: Meet the Mother of Antioxidants
The quest for immortality is nothing new. People for thousands of years have searched high and low for solutions to their aging bodies. Even if you’ve accepted the aging process, you’d like to do so as pain-free and comfortable as possible.
Part of keeping your body and mind youthful is a daily intake of antioxidants – a term that started trending in the 1990s when scientists began to understand the role free radicals had in atherosclerosis (1).
There are thousands of different classes and categories of antioxidants found in nature. Many are found in plants, and some are produced in your own body.
One of the most powerful antioxidants you produce is what is often referred to as “the mother of antioxidants”.
Say hello to glutathione.
What is Glutathione
Glutathione (GSH) is a small, molecular combination of the amino acids glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid. These amino acids are made in your liver and sent out to the rest of your body.
Also called a thiol-tripeptide, it’s a centerpiece in the balance of redox reactions. The term redox is short for “reduction” and “oxidation”, which happens when atoms are changed during chemical processes within the body (3).
As more research comes out, it’s becoming clear just how important glutathione is to living well now, and in the future.
Some of its critical roles include (2, 6):
Neutralizes free radicals
Assists with detox processes
Supports your immune system
A crucial aspect of your mitochondria working properly
Transports mercury out of your brain and other cells
Contains several antioxidant enzymes
Fights oxidative stress
Helps to regenerate vitamins C and E
Can reduce anxiety and depression (4)
Protects the brain
Along the lines of having antioxidant enzymes, research also shows that glutathione has anti-melanogenic properties (2). This is great news for those looking for an even skin tone and a nice complexion.
Because of its powerful inflammation-fighting abilities, countries around the world have used glutathione to help address a variety of health conditions, like (2,5):
Alcohol fatty liver
Alcohol liver fibrosis
Alcohol liver cirrhosis
Reduce neurotoxicity due to chemotherapy.
With its many uses, glutathione clearly has a lot to offer. But are there any risks associated with taking it?
Safety & Risks
How safe is glutathione? When taken orally or applied topically, most tolerate it well. If applying a topical cream or serum results in mild skin irritations, wash it off immediately and discontinue use.
Glutathione given by IV administration is also a popular modality, but proper administration is crucial. If not administered properly, some rare but severe side effects can occur (2), like:
Necrosis of the skin
Allergic reactions that lead to skin eruptions, such as Stevens-Johnsons syndrome
While these risks are small, they do happen. Make sure it’s done under the right circumstances and by health professionals only.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, there isn’t a lot of research out there on whether it’s ok to take or not. One study showed it actually helped to prevent birth complications (8). Studies are still ongoing.
Boosting your Levels
If glutathione is something that decreases in amount as you age, how can you continue to reap the benefits of this powerhouse antioxidant?
There are many ways you can boost your glutathione levels. You can boost it naturally by exercising and eating certain foods (7).
There are also a variety of supplements on the market. Some include under the tongue supplements, inhalation formulas, dissolving tablets, methylated tablets, and IV injections.
There are also creams and topical applications to try.
Nutrition: Foods and herbs like milk thistle, whey protein, sulfur-rich foods, liver, and foods high in vitamin e and c (like almonds, spinach, olive oil, trout, green peppers, kiwi, sunflower seeds, and sweet potato) give your liver the building blocks it needs to keep producing glutathione on its own.
IV: The most popular and controversial mode of administration. If you choose to receive IV doses of glutathione, the most recommended doses range between 600mg-1200mg, one to two times per week (10).
Tablet: If you’re looking for a more practical way to take glutathione, tablets or capsule versions may suit you better. Supplements may come in a wide range of doses. The most common instructions for oral glutathione are between 100mg - 500mg every day for 4-8 weeks (5).
Note: Due to the ongoing study of this antioxidant, it’s currently recommended to stop taking glutathione after 2 months of regular use.
Antioxidants play such an important role in our health and overall wellbeing. Fighting inflammation leads to greater disease prevention, and we as a society need this more than ever.
Glutathione is referred to as the “mother of antioxidants” and is produced naturally in your liver. As you age, the amount you create decreases.
Ways you can naturally boost your glutathione levels are by exercising, eating a colorful variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy oils, seeds, and fish. You can also take supplements, or receive IV injections.
While generally safe to take, talk with your doctor if you have any concerns or are taking medication, pregnant, or breastfeeding.
Are you adding glutathione to your list of antioxidant must-haves? If not, start today. Your future self will thank you.