When it comes to getting our health in gear, we frequently abide by the testimonials of “Eat more fiber to reduce cholesterol,” “Lose or maintain weight to reduce the risk of diabetes,” and “Participate in aerobic exercise 150 minutes per day to build endurance.” But interestingly, there is a component tied closely to all three statements, though tends to go unnoticed in the mainstream health world. Amusingly, too, the concentrations of this mysterious component resemble that of glucose and cholesterol in the body. So what is this covert compound deserving more discovery you may ask…? Playing key roles in numerous critical processes, learn what glutathione is and how you may benefit from it.
What Is Glutathione?
Glutathione is a tripeptide, a peptide comprised of three amino acids (cysteine, glutamate, and glycine). It is present in most plant and animal cells and exists in two states: reduced glutathione (GSH) and oxidized glutathione (GSSG). The ratio between GSH and GSSG determines the status of the cells, including whether or not they are exposed to oxidative stress inflammation or toxic exposure. If GSH is depleted related to stress, GSSG is recycled with the use of cysteine, which may be the most important member of the body’s toxic waste disposal team according to PubChem. Both glutathione and cysteine contains the thiol (-SH) group and makes it an effective antioxidant, contributing to a number of functions and its renowned health benefits.
Most of the benefits are related to glutathione’s natural functioning, such as manufacturing chemicals and proteins to carryout physiological processes, detoxifying harmful substances, and supporting the immune system. Using glutathione orally and intravenously or via inhalation and supplementation can also prevent or treat a number of health conditions that are detailed below.
• Detoxifies Harmful Substances
Perhaps one of the most noted benefits of glutathione is its ability to detoxify toxins that may harm the body. In fact, low levels of glutathione are associated with chronic exposure to alcohol, chemical toxins, and other harmful toxins. Glutathione also detoxifies lipid peroxides, a byproduct of lipid metabolism that may cause a number of disease states in both adult and infant patients, including atherosclerosis, ischemia-reperfusion, heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatic arthritis, cancer, and other immunological disorders according to a study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.
• Reduces Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy refers to the medicines or drugs that destroy existing cancer cells. While chemo can be lifesaving, the adverse side effects may be severe and include nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and increasing susceptibility to infections. Glutathione supplementation has shown to reduce side effects of chemotherapy by lowering of the toxicity of the cancer treatment.
• Optimizes Physical Performance
Exercise contributes to a number of health benefits, including cardiovascular health, weight loss, and bone support. But to reap such benefits, activity should be regular and consistent, permitting the need for optimal recovery to keep the body performing on a regular basis. Research has shown that sufficient levels of glutathione can decrease muscle damage, reduce recovery time, increase strength and endurance, and shift metabolism from fat production to muscle development.
• Combats and Treats Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is neurodegenerative brain disorder that involves the malfunction and death of neurons, nerve cells in the brain. Some of the dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical necessary to send messages in the brain to control movement and coordination. A loss of dopamine, particularly as PD progresses, causes individuals to lose their ability to control movements. Commonly, Parkinson’s disease is characterized by motor symptoms, involving movement, coordination, and mobility. A European study suggests alterations in glutathione function are an early marker of pathology in Parkinson’s disease and poses the opportunity to reduce Parkinson’s disease risk by preventing a glutathione deficiency, as intravenous (IV) glutathione supplementation has also shown it may improve rigidity, posture, gait, speech, and hypokinesia associated to Parkinson’s.
• Prevents Oxygen Toxicity in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
According to Mayo Clinic hyperbaric oxygen therapy is “a well-established treatment for decompression sickness, a hazard of scuba diving. Other conditions treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy include serious infections, bubbles of air in your blood vessels, and wounds that won’t heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury.” Glutathione may prevent oxygen toxicity associated to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, subsequently reducing the risks of lung failure, fluid in the lungs, and seizures.
• Treats Lung Diseases
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), asthma, fibrosis, and some acute conditions are associated with low glutathione. Inhaling and breathing in glutathione has been used to treat lung disorders.
• Reverses Cataracts
A cataract is when a normally clear lens becomes clouded and foggy, causing blurred vision and potential vision loss. Glutathione, in its reduced form, plays a critical role in the lens stroma by maintaining the transparency of lens crystalline proteins according to Advances in Wound Care.
• Promotes Longevity
Though glutathione naturally reduces with age, lower levels in healthy elderly, even lower in sick elderly, and the lowest of all in the hospitalized elderly have been patterned. But since glutathione can protect against chronic and age-related diseases, there is a greater opportunity to not only live longer, but healthier. Researchers suggests the best indicator of glutathione’s importance is that its cellular levels are highly associated with health and longevity.
Before taking glutathione in any form, consult with a healthcare professional to determine whether or not you may benefit from its use and ensure effectiveness and safety. Also report any health conditions and medications taken, as there may be additional contraindications for its use.