Glutathione is an intriguing antioxidant that has gained a lot of attention for its anti-aging properties, ability to increase fat metabolism, and treat everything from autism to Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, without it, you become vulnerable to age-related diseases like dementia, heart disease, and cancer. Unfortunately, as you age, your body stops producing enough of it. The good news is, there are things you can do to boost levels naturally. But what exactly is glutathione? How does it affect the body, and how can you make more of it?
An important antioxidant
Most people have not heard of glutathione — pronounced, “gluta-thigh-own.” But it’s the most important molecule you need to prevent aging and stay healthy. In fact, science believes that you cannot overstate the importance of this powerful antioxidant that is found in every cell of the body. But to understand how important glutathione is, you need first to understand the importance of antioxidants.
Antioxidants like glutathione prevent or slow down cell damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are linked to diseases like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many others. They are also linked to premature aging. Free radicals are ordinary metabolic processes and immune system responses that stem from the foods you eat, the medicine you take, pollution, and even the water you drink, according to the Huntington Outreach Project.
How glutathione affects the body
Humans produce 10 amino acids, according to research, and glutathione is made up of three: cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine. Amino acids create chemical reactions in the body, build muscle, deliver nutrients, prevent illness, and perform many other vital functions. Cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine can make DNA, support immunity, regenerate vitamins C and E, metabolize fats, and transport mercury from the brain. Here’s how else glutathione affects the body.
Amazing antioxidant activity
Free radicals contribute to diseases and aging. Thanks to the high concentration of antioxidants found in each cell, glutathione helps to counter free radicals, thus protecting your body from damage.
Research suggests that glutathione may help prevent cancer progression. However, more research is needed since factors also indicate that glutathione causes tumors to become less sensitive to chemotherapy.
Helps prevent liver disease
A small clinical trial found that glutathione may help treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease due to its potential to detoxify and its antioxidant properties.
Helps improve insulin sensitivity
It’s because of insulin that your body moves sugar from the blood to cells for energy. Type 2 diabetes can make a person insulin resistant. Studies found that those with insulin resistance tend to have lower glutathione levels, particularly when suffering from neuropathy and retinopathy.
May help reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Research suggests that managing glutathione levels may help with the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. However, the study also found that injecting glutathione worked best – rather than oral supplementation.
May help treat autism
Evidence suggests that children on the autism spectrum have lower levels of glutathione. Supplements or injections may reduce certain effects of autism. But more research is needed to determine the role it may play.
Glutathione depletion on the body
An unhealthy diet, pollution, stress, infections, medications, aging, and radiation can all lead to low levels of glutathione. When the body becomes depleted of glutathione, it may make you susceptible to certain diseases according to research, such as:
- Neurodegenerative disorders — Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Friedreich’s ataxia
- Pulmonary disease — Asthma, COPD and acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Immune diseases —Autoimmune disease and HIV
- Cardiovascular diseases — High blood pressure, myocardial infarction and cholesterol oxidation
- Age-related diseases — Hearing impairment, cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma
- Liver disease and cystic fibrosis
How to make more glutathione naturally
What’s behind glutathione is the sulfur it contains. Sulfur acts like flypaper allowing things like free radicals, toxins, and heavy metals to stick to it. When you become depleted of glutathione, you need to look towards foods to boost your levels.
Supplements may work for some, but they may not always be the best option for everyone. In fact, research shows that supplements may not be the most effective way of getting your requirements. The best way to get glutathione is to consume certain foods that help boost levels naturally. Here’s how you can make more glutathione.
Add sulfur-rich foods to your diet
Sulfur happens in several amino acids. Methionine and cysteine are two that make up glutathione. Including sulfur-rich foods to your diet can help boost glutathione naturally. According to research, mushrooms are the most significant dietary source of glutathione and ergothioneine. Ergothioneine is a sulfur-rich amino acid. Other sulfur-rich foods include garlic, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, collards, watercress, meat, eggs, and fish.
Use whey protein in your shakes
Whey is a protein found in dairy products. It also contains large amounts of cysteine. A 2017 study found that whey protein alleviates oxidative stress in colon cancer cells. Researchers believe this is possible because whey increases glutathione levels.
Research suggests that exercise reduces oxidative stress by increasing glutathione levels. According to a study, older adults who regularly exercised throughout their lives had higher levels of glutathione.
Researchers question whether supplementing with glutathione is effective due to its low bioavailability, meaning it’s harder for your body to use. Instead, consider changing your diet and adding some daily exercise to your routine. The payoff could add years to your life.