If you make a point of placing your ear to the health community ground every so often, you’ve probably heard the occasional mention of a mysterious thing called glutathione. Along with this word, you’ve possibly also heard phrases such as “master antioxidant” or “most important nutrient”. But what is glutathione really, and what is all the fuss about?
The Mystery of Glutathione, Unraveled
Also known by its super-sciency name of L-glutamylcysteinylglycine, glutathione is a tripeptide consisting of 3 bonded amino acids – glutamate, cysteine, and glycine. You’ve probably now guessed where the ridiculous scientific name comes from. Glutathione is generated by cells in our body for the purposes of protection and survival. Glutamate makes up part of our brain cells, glycine promotes metabolic processes, and cysteine acts as a moderator in the manufacture of intracellular glutathione.
It’s possible that you’re now even more confused about what glutathione is then you were before, but it’s necessary to explain the different roles of its 3 amino acid components in order to fully understand the important functions it provides in our bodies. These include:
Elimination of toxins,
Protection of cells from free radicals,
Increasing energy production,
and Supporting your immune system.
In addition to being an all-round, cure-all-ailments sort of compound, glutathione is also unique in that, unlike other antioxidants which operate from within the blood on cell membranes, glutathione works from the inside out. This means that it operates from within the cells to protect the mitochondria, expel toxins, and boost the immune system function.
A growing body of clinical trials, along with substantial anecdotal evidence, show that glutathione replenishment in the body can significantly promote renewed energy, anti-aging effects, and increased brain function and clarity. This is probably the point at which you’re starting to see what all the hype is about – glutathione really is the king of antioxidants.
Why You’re Probably not Getting Enough
Our body naturally produces glutathione via the liver, however studies indicate that glutathione levels in the body decrease as we age. This occurs from around age 20 onwards, and is exacerbated by a number of factors, namely stress, diet, and nutrients.
In the western world, stress levels generally increase after a person reaches adulthood, with the introduction of stress-inducing pastimes such as work, commuting, relationships and debt placing chronic pressure on our minds and bodies. Unsurprisingly, free radical damage greatly increases as a result of this exponential rise in stress, and your natural glutathione production is no longer sufficient to prevent oxidative damage to your cells.
The average diet of the modern man is one rich in hydrogenated fast-foods, gluten, chemicals from pesticide-laden produce, growth hormones, and antibiotics from factory-raised animals. All of these inflammatory, nutrient-poor dietary inputs can place additional pressure on the liver (the organ which naturally produces glutathione) and starve the body of the fuels it needs to produce glutathione in the first place. The elasticity of childhood dampens the effect a poor diet can have on our glutathione production, but as we age our ability to roll with the bad-diet punches diminishes.
Finally, our body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients declines as we age, while our exposure to environmental toxins continues to build – things such as heavy metals can remain in our deep tissue and accumulate over time, rather than passing through our system. This increasing state of nutrient depletion and toxic accumulation offsets glutathione production and impedes the processes which promote healthy concentrations of glutathione inside our cells.
How to Increase your Production of Glutathione
From what science understands of glutathione, the more of it you have, the better off you are. It’s possibly the closest thing to anti-aging that modern research has unearthed, as it is so small that it can work from within your cells, protecting them from the oxidative damage of free radicals, which are the main agents of aging.
While your glutathione levels appear to naturally decline with age, there are, fortunately, certain things you can do to halt this decline and preserve your health. The first thing you can do is to increase your intake of certain whole foods and high quality food products which can provide some of glutathione precursors, such as sulfur and amino acids. These foods include onions, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and grass-fed, minimally-processed whey protein.
The second step is to get your hands on certain high quality supplements. While a wide range of glutathione supplements are available in health stores and supermarkets, most of them have little-to-no success rates as their proteins are easily broken down by acids in the stomach so they’re completely denatured and effectively useless by the time they reach the liver.
For this reason, you need to look out for glutathione products which guarantee that the proteins don’t get denatured by your stomach acids. This can include products which use compounds to bind the glutathione to acid-resistant peptides, or straight bonded cysteine, which can make it through your stomach intact and team up with glutamate and glycine afterwards to build glutathione. Make sure you really do your research here, otherwise you’ll be throwing your money away.