Glutathione: The Genome Guardian
According the US Government, prolonged nutritional deficiencies and oxidative damage cause more deaths to Americans through degenerative diseases than all other causes of death combined. Degenerative, or chronic diseases are not curable, but are preventable for most people, able to be stopped in others, and even reversible for some people.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola,
Glutathione is your body’s most powerful antioxidant and has even been called “The Master Antioxidant.”
It is found inside every single cell in your body. Antioxidants are crucial in eliminating free radicals from your body. Free radicals (FR) are basically particles that damage everything they touch. Most FR originate during the process of metabolism but they are also caused by exposure to toxins, radiation, and toxic metals. Human bodies have a network of defenses designed to neutralize these particles. This antioxidant network is composed of numerous components that include vitamins, minerals and thiols (sulfur containing compounds) such as glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid. However, as we age, less and less antioxidants are available to us. Also, our body’s inherent ability to produce free radical deactivating enzymes often can’t keep up with the increased production of free radicals caused by modern lifestyles.
Glutathione is comprised of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamate, and glycine. Although all three molecules are related, they are different in composition and function. Glutathione is different from other antioxidants in that it is intracellular.
It has the unique ability of maximizing the activity of all the other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, and the fresh veggies and fruits you eat. It removes toxins from your cells and protects you from the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals, and environmental pollutants. The main function of glutathione is to protect your cells and mitochondria from oxidative and peroxidative damage.
As you age, your body’s ability to produce glutathione decreases. The brain is particularly susceptible to free radical damage because it generates more oxidative by-products per gram of tissue than any other organ. Many neurological and psychiatric disease processes are characterized by abnormalities in glutathione metabolism and antioxidant defenses.
Glutathione isn’t just an endogenous antioxidant–it is also an essential factor in energy utilization, detoxification, and preventing the diseases we associate with aging. Glutathione deficiency has been linked to: Age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, Coronary and autoimmune diseases, Arthritis, asthma and other inflammatory conditions, Cancer, Mitochondrial dysfunction, Muscle weakness and fatigue.
Exercise Increases Your Glutathione Levels
Synthesis of glutathione depends upon adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the molecule that provides cellular energy. It follows that glutathione levels are linked to energy deficiency, or low ATP. This is a major reason why exercise is so beneficial for your overall health—among other things, it boosts your glutathione levels! If you can enhance internal glutathione production, you will strengthen your immune system in a way that will shield you from many of the adverse effects of aging.
You might think that a miracle molecule such as glutathione might be a good thing to put into supplement form. There is currently a great deal of hype about glutathione supplementation, highly popularized as a “miracle” means to boost health, prevent disease and fight aging. One can take supplements for it, but the only form that works is the reduced form and this is very difficult to absorb orally. Your body is quite poor at getting glutathione from your digestive system into your blood. Taking glutathione itself as a supplement does not boost cellular glutathione levels, since it breaks down in the digestive tract before it reaches the cells. Most oral glutathione supplements have been shown to be poorly absorbed and a waste of your hard-earned money. There has been some success with intravenous glutathione supplementation, but this is certainly not practical and very expensive and should be reserved for extreme situations. Glutathione supplementation can help people with immunodeficiency but only to a certain degree, and only temporarily.
Glutathione levels can be enhanced somewhat by taking supplements such as alpha lipoic acid, which is known to regenerate glutathione. Alpha lipoic acid also helps to regenerate vitamins C and E so that they remain active longer in your body. Red meat and organ meats are the best dietary source of alpha lipoic acid. There is also evidence that vitamin D increases intracellular glutathione. Some nutritional authorities recommend taking a form of cysteine known as N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), but I would advise against using this supplement if you still have mercury amalgam fillings because it could interfere with detoxification of the mercury.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to boost your body’s glutathione reserves. Vitamins and supplements have their uses but are always less desirable than nutrients in their natural form, obtained from the foods you eat. What has been proven beyond a doubt is that whole food based diets–rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and quality protein–promote health and longevity. Many whole foods contain significant amounts of glutathione or its precursors. Foods richest in sulfur-containing amino acids are usually the best sources of glutathione:
The overall top food for maximizing your glutathione is high quality whey protein. It must be cold pressed whey protein derived from grass fed cows, and free of hormones, chemicals and sugar. Quality whey provides all the key amino acids for glutathione production (cysteine, glycine and glutamate) and contains a unique cysteine residue (glutamylcysteine) that is highly bioactive in its affinity for converting to glutathione. Glutamylcysteine is a bonded cysteine molecule (cysteine plus glutamate) that naturally occurs in Bovine Serum Albumin – a fragile immune component of the whey. This unique cysteine is exclusive to whey and rarely appears in other protein foods – which makes whey protein the best glutathione-promoting food source. Furthermore, whey provides critical co-factors, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and alpha Lactalbumin (also a great source of cysteine), which together help create the right metabolic environment for high glutathione activity.
Raw milk products, raw eggs and meat: Glutathione occurs in the highest levels in fresh, uncooked meats and raw milk, but is almost entirely absent in pasteurized dairy products.
Fresh fruits and vegetables provide excellent source of glutathione, but once cooked, values become negligible. Spinach, potatoes, asparagus, avocado, squash, okra, cauliflower, broccoli, walnuts, garlic and tomatoes have the highest glutathione per serving.
The herb milk thistle is an excellent source of the antioxidant compound silymarin, which may help to prevent glutathione depletion in the liver. Glutathione is crucial in the liver for detoxification and can become depleted from acetaminophen (Tylenol), alcohol consumption, and general toxic overload.
Curcurmin may also be useful for increasing glutathione levels. Studies have shown that the Indian curry spice, cucurmin, has neuroprotective effects because of its ability to induce the enzyme, hemeoxygenase-1 (HO-1), which protects neurons exposed to oxidant stress. Treatment of brain cells called astrocytes, with curcumin, increases expression of HO-1 protein as well as glutathione S-transferase.
Keeping your glutathione levels up is a matter of increasing factors that boost your glutathione and decreasing factors that lower it. The things that deplete your glutathione the fastest are chemicals, toxins and sugar.
Antioxidants Are The Gatekeepers of Health