Glutathione is a naturally occurring protein that protects each cell, tissue and organ in your body from disease, aging and cancer. Your body manufactures most of the glutathione it needs, but its ability to do this decreases as you age.
Many other factors may cause your glutathione levels to plummet — alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, strenuous exercise, food additives, ultraviolet radiation and air pollution are among the most common. This begs the question of whether it make sense to use glutathione supplementation, especially as you get older.
Glutathione is the most abundant water-soluble antioxidant in your body. Your levels of glutathione largely determine whether you feel good and have plenty of energy, or you don't. When your levels of glutathione drop, you also leave yourself open to increased risk from all types of degenerative diseases.
In order to maintain an optimal level of glutathione, your body must also have a sufficient supply of the amino acid building blocks it needs to make it. Glutathione is a tripeptide, which means it is made from molecules of three other amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine.
Glutathione also needs a supply of the other nutrients that help do its job effectively: alpha lipoic acid, selenium, zinc, and vitamin B2. Glutathione is an important member of the antioxidant network family that includes alpha lipoic acid, CoQ-10, and vitamins C and E.
Glutathione supplementation has been shown in numerous studies to have the following specific effects:
Some of the diseases that may be preventable by using glutathione supplementation include:
Glutathione levels are severely depleted in people with illnesses such as asthma, cancer, AIDS and other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. There is also a strong correlation between cirrhosis of the liver and low levels of glutathione.
See my page on glutathione benefits to learn more.
There is some controversy over whether or not glutathione supplementation is useful. When taken orally, glutathione breaks down to its component amino acids before they are absorbed. There is some debate about what happens from there, and whether or not the amino acids are absorbed as glutathione.
You can try taking glutathione supplements and see if it makes a difference. There are several different types, including a "reduced" type that may be absorbed more readily. However, the most reliable way to raise the level of glutathione in your body may be to supplement with some of the building blocks instead.
Of the three amino acids your body needs to manufacture glutathione, cysteine is the one that most determines how much glutathione you can produce. Supplements of this amino acid come under the name N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC).
Other glutathione supplemements that are beneficial for the production of glutathione are alpha-lipoic acid and vitamin C. These antioxidants also work to rejuvenate glutathione that has been spent in the process of neutralizing free radicals. In fact, some of the beneficial effects attributed to alpha-lipoic acid may be caused by its ability to increase glutathione levels. This is consistent with the fact that antioxidants work together much more powerfully than they do alone.
Glutathione is crucial in the liver for detoxification and can become depleted from acetaminophen (Tylenol) use, alcohol consumption, and general toxic overload. The herb milk thistle is an excellent source of the antioxidant compound silymarin, which may help to prevent glutathione depletion in the liver. Curcumin (the source for the spice turmeric) is another antioxidant that may be useful for increasing glutathione levels.
A high quality natural whey protein powder is the best glutathione food source. Quality whey protein concentrate contains biologically-active proteins that provide all the key amino acids for glutathione production (cysteine, glycine and glutamate).
Discover the benefits of whey protein and other foods that help boost your glutathione levels at my page on glutathione food sources.
For information on nutritional supplements that help to boost glutathione levels, refer to these pages:
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Other pages for more information on glutathione: