These Are Some of the Best Benefits of Glutathione
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Avena
One of the best ways to protect yourself against bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other potential troublemakers such as molds, food allergens, and environmental toxins is to increase your intake of antioxidants.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are compounds that can help prevent or delay damage to cells.
We get nutrient antioxidants from our foods – not just vitamins and minerals, but also from thousands of different types of flavonoids and other polyphenols. Foods such as berries, citrus fruits, other fruits, and vegetables provide substantial supplies of these healthy substances.
A key role of antioxidants is to support immune health. These molecules donate electrons to free radicals, which helps neutralize them.
Antioxidants vs Free Radicals
Free radicals can come from outside the body, but they’re also generated by our bodies.
Our cells use oxygen to make energy. In the process, some of the oxygen is converted into free radicals (“oxyradicals”). These must be tightly controlled, or they can destroy DNA, proteins, and other key cell components.
For this purpose, all our cells have antioxidant enzymes. These may include many different types of enzymes, but in order to neutralize oxyradicals and other free radicals, they must have iron, zinc, copper, selenium, or manganese built into their protein structure.
For optimal physical and physiological function over the long haul, it’s crucial that the body has sufficient antioxidant defense against free radical activity. When the body’s antioxidant defenses lose ground, a situation termed oxidative stress develops. Oxidative stress is defined as “a disturbance in the balance between the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and antioxidant defenses.”
Getting enough antioxidants to help counterbalance free radicals and oxidative stress in the body is a vital way to promote health and wellness. One antioxidant you should make sure you’re getting enough of is glutathione.
What Are the Benefits of Glutathione?
An important antioxidant that helps fight free radicals, glutathione is produced by the liver, and is a substance made from cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. It’s involved in building and repairing tissues, making proteins, detoxifying chemicals, and supporting immune function.
Glutathione levels can decrease as the body ages, which may lead to certain health problems. People take glutathione for many reasons, including to help bolster their immunity.
Some nutrients that may support the body’s production of glutathione are:
Glutathione also works closely with:
Riboflavin (vitamin B2), necessary for the body to process carbs, fats, and amino acids coming from proteins, is also essential for an enzyme that helps conserve glutathione, the predominant antioxidant found inside human cells.
N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is used as a mucolytic (breaks up mucous) compound. It’s safe, even at high doses, and is a building block for glutathione, which is one of the most important antioxidants produced by the human body.
NAC is the ingredient source of l-cysteine, an antioxidant amino acid that can’t be directly used in supplements because it’s chemically unstable. L-cysteine is a building block for glutathione, an extremely important antioxidant, antitoxin, and overall protectant located inside our cells. Via glutathione, NAC contributes to numerous neurotransmitter activities in a healthy brain.
Glutathione in Foods
The body may not absorb glutathione well from foods. Some high amino acid foods that contain sulfur may help support glutathione levels. These are:
- Lean, unprocessed meat
Glutathione and Mushrooms
In addition to this list, many mushrooms contain glutathione, as well as other desirable substances such as ergothioneine, thought to contribute to human health and well-being. Since glutathione is an extremely important antioxidant, eating mushrooms is an effective way to help protect against free radicals.
Risks of Taking Glutathione?
One of the possible side effects of taking glutathione for an extended period is that it might lower zinc levels in the body. Also, glutathione may cause asthma flareups or wheezing when inhaled.
It isn’t known at this time if taking glutathione is safe during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Anyone who’s sensitive to glutathione should avoid taking it.
The benefits of antioxidants are numerous. Optimizing your daily intake of antioxidant-rich foods – by consuming fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods – can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to bolster your immune health.
One antioxidant you may consider getting more of is glutathione. However, as with any dietary supplement, be sure to consult with your healthcare practitioner before beginning any wellness regimen, especially if you’re currently taking any medications.
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