Glutathione (GSH) is classified as a ‘tripeptide’, which means it is composed of three amino acids. The human body produces glutathione from the amino acids Cysteine, Glutamic Acid and Glycine, and it is the key antioxidant compound required for vital functioning of all cells.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant essential for alleviating oxidative stress and protecting individual cells and tissues from free radicals. It is also known to enhance healthy growth and enhance the activity of immune cells needed for disease resistance and immune protection. In addition it enables the body to rid itself of unwanted toxins and heavy metals, detoxifying the liver, the body’s most concentrated source of glutathione; and protecting the body from today’s environmental pollutants, natural and synthetic toxins, genetically engineered processed foods and toxic waste.
There are certain genes involved in regulating the production of enzymes that allow the body to create and recycle glutathione. These genes have many names, such as GSTM1, GSTP1 and more. These genes regulate the enzyme glutathione S-Transferase which is responsible for glutathione production. It is estimated that about 1/3 of chronically ill people have a GSTM1 deficiency which results in low glutathione levels.
Low levels of glutathione have been implicated in many autoimmune disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Autism, HIV, MS Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.
Glutathione may potentially be beneficial in Parkinson’s disease because it has the unique ability to increase the dopamine receptor’s sensitivity making certain areas of the brain more sensitive to dopamine despite the decreased levels associated with this condition.
Raising the amount of glutathione in the blood may help bind the heavy metals and remove them from the body and also may assist in brain and immune development for children with autism. Increasing glutathione levels and effectively improving detoxification of the liver has been found to increase language and awareness for these children.
Glutathione has also been used to help treat Aging, Autism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for Detoxification, Drug addiction, Emphysema, Fibromyalgia, Glaucoma, Hepatitis, Hypoglycemia, Kydney disease, Liver disease, Mercury poisoning, Parkinson’s disease, Respiratory problems such as cystic and pulmonary fibrosis, Smoking, Tuberculosis, to name a few.
Glutathione is also used by many asian women to help bleach their skin.
How to test for Glutathione
Oxidative stress causes a deficiency of intracellular glutathione, therefore making it difficult to measure or test for. The rapid turnover of reduced glutathione makes testing levels in Red Blood Cells inaccurate. Therefore the only way to test for glutathione is indirectly with tests such as a liver detoxification profile which will measure the extent of glutathionation in the liver, or an organic acids test which will test for citric acid and alpha-keto glucarate which are dependant on glutathione mainly in muscle tissue. Amino acid analysis is another possibility which measures the amino acids that make up glutathione which may also give an indirect indication of glutathione’s activity.
Always ensure you use the reduced form of glutathione which is the active form. Glutathione is a very powerful antioxidant and therefore oxidizes rapidly in the presence of water and must be stored in the fridge to maximize its stability.
Nebulised Glutathione is the next best method for increasing cellular GSH levels and for the treatment of pulmonary conditions. It is also one of the best ways for an overall systemic affect as it is readily absorbed into the blood stream nearly as rapidly as an injection. To enhance their stability our lab produces a dry glutathione nebulizer capsule which is dissolved into 4ml of sterile water prior to being administered by a nebulizer. Once the capsule contents are dissolved the resulting solution is buffered and isotonic with a pH of about 6 which eliminates the irritation causes by acidic GSH.
Glutathione creams are also available and if formulated correctly are a very good way to administer glutathione. Transdermal administration bypasses the stomach and liver and thus provides glutathione into the blood stream and throughout the body for a systemic effect. Our laboratory has formulated a stabilised liposomal glutathione gel. The liposomes enhance absorption while it is stabilised as it contains no water thus reducing the oxidation of the glutathione during storage making it more stable. You should avoid any glutathione creams containing water (such as PLO base commonly used) as they will decompose rapidly. Our cream is stable at room temperature however we still recommend for long term storage to keep it in the fridge – just to be sure – however a few days out of the fridge is fine.
Glutathione anhydrous suppositories are also available. They come in 250mg or 500mg strengths. They too are relatively stable at room temperature however should be kept in the fridge for long term storage. They also provide a good way to increase cellular levels of glutathione.