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Robert Keller MD, MS, FACP, has been named as one of the worlds 2,000 Outstanding Scientists of the 21st Century, and has served on the scientific review panels for the National Institutes of Health and the VA.

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Glutathione (GSH) in Our Body


This article will demonstrate to you why Glutathione is so
important to your health and well-being.
 
Glutathione (pronounced 'gloota-thigh-own') is the body's essential health
ABC's - Antioxidant, Blood Booster and Cell Detoxifier.
 

It is a tripeptide composed of glutamic, cysteine and glycine. Glutathione is found in all cells in the body, including the bile, the epithelial lining fluid of the lungs, and - at much smaller concentrations - in the blood.

Glutathione is the smallest intracellular protein thiol (molecule containing an S_H or sulfhydryl group) molecule in the cells. This characteristic emphasizes its potent antioxidant action and supports a multifaceted thiol exchange system, which regulates cell activity. This small protein, produced naturally in the body, maintains these three crucial protective functions.

In fact, your life depends on glutathione. Without it, your cells would disintegrate from unrestrained oxidation, your body would have little resistance to metabolic acids, and your liver would shrivel up from the eventual accumulation of acidic toxins.

Glutathione is not yet a household word. Even some medical and holistic doctors who have heard the term may still have only a vague idea of what it is. However, everyone will soon be talking about this critical non-nutritive substance.

There was a time when only scientists had heard of cholesterol and vitamins, but today, everyone knows about them. Now the magnificence of glutathione is becoming known.

In the last five years, over 25,000 medical articles about this substance have been published, and the scientific understanding of glutathione is gradually becoming common knowledge.

Each and every cell in the body is responsible for its own supply of glutathione and must have the necessary raw materials in order to produce it.

Glutathione is always in great demand and is rapidly consumed when we
experience any sort of emotional or physical stress, fatigue and even
moderate exercise.

Some well-known causes of glutathione depletion are as follows:

1) Acidic lifestyle and diet
2) Air and Water pollution
3) Prescription and recreational drugs
4) Ultraviolet and Radiation from cells phones, computers, electrical cars,
power lines, hair dryers, etc.
5) Emotional and physical stress
6) Injury, trauma or burns
7) Heavy metals
8) Cigarette smoke
9) Household chemicals
10) Acetaminophen poisoning
11) Exhaust from motor vehicles
12) Septic shock

All of these above factors lead to a build up of acidic toxins that cause the loss of glutathione as a non-nutritive buffer leading to cellular aging, disease and finally death.

Why is Glutathione Essential to Health?

Glutathione's three major roles in the body are summarized by the letters A-B-C.
- Anti-oxidant
- Blood Booster
- Cell Detoxifier

These are the three critical processes driven by glutathione.

The Master Antioxidant

Over the past thirty years, researchers have explored the role of antioxidants in good health as well as the treatment and prevention of diseases involving oxidation or fermentation by metabolic acids.

Well known and widely used antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin E and selenium neutralize acid. They occur naturally in nature, but not in the body. They must be introduced as part of a balanced diet.

Given the critical role of antioxidants in good health, it is not surprising that the body itself manufactures its own natural antioxidants.

The most important of these is glutathione. Because all other antioxidants depend upon the presence of glutathione to function properly, scientists call it 'the master antioxidant.'

Glutathione binds to toxins, forming a water-soluble complex - which is ultimately excreted in the urine or bile as waste.

Food for the Blood

Elevated glutathione levels enable the body to produce more white blood cells. White blood cells are the body's garbage collectors and are the most important cells for maintaining sterility of the body fluids.

Glutathione plays a central role in the proper function of the white blood cells. Dr. Bustavo Bounous, a leading glutathione expert, says, 'The limiting factor in the proper activity of our lymphocytes (the white blood cells) is the availability of glutathione.' In other words, healthy growth and activity of the white blood cells depends upon glutathione's availability. Put simply, glutathione is 'food' for the white blood cells.

Cellular Detoxifier

Whether we know it or not, we are continually inhaling and ingesting natural and synthetic acidic toxins. They are unavoidable in these modern times both in our polluted cities and our poorly engineered food supplies. When the body has the health and the nourishment it needs, it works tirelessly to eliminate acidic toxins and to protect itself. But, increasing levels of environmental pollution are depleting the body's store of glutathione more and more rapidly.

Our main organ of detoxification of acidic waste products is the lymphatic
system and the liver. This is the body's most concentrated source of glutathione.

Studies show that low glutathione levels lead to poor lymphatic and liver function, causing more and more acidic toxins to circulate through the body and resulting in damage to individual cells and organs.

Medical doctors today routinely use glutathione- promoting drugs to detoxify victims of certain types of drug overdose.

Glutathione in Natural Medicine

Practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) have long advocated the use of milk thistle for liver problems. It turns out that this herb works by modestly elevating glutathione levels. The mineral selenium also produces subtle elevations in glutathione by becoming integrated into the glutathione peroxidase.

Glutathione in Traditional Medicine

Emergency medical doctors, toxicologists and lung and liver specialists are well acquainted with glutathione's therapeutic uses. American physicians seeking ways to raise a patient's glutathione levels can open the standard Physician's Desk Reference (PDR) and find two options - the pharmaceutical drugs sold under the names Parlodex and Mucomyst, and the natural dietary supplement found in natural foods stores derived from whey protein isolate.

Drugs That Raise Glutathione Levels

Pharmaceutical drugs like Procysteine, OTC, OTX, Glutathione monoesters and Glutathione diesters have been used to raise glutathione levels. However, they all produce side effects and are unsuitable for long term use.

This pharmaceutical non-nutritive chemical is used to break up mucus in lung
diseases such as cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis and asthma. It remains the
standard treatment for acetaminophen overdose.

Glutathione in Health and Disease

It is believed that glutathione has an important role to play in the prevention and treatment of disease. It may in the future be considered as important to health as an alkaline diet, exercise and alkaline lifestyle. Clinical tests show that raised glutathione levels may address some of the eight major health issues of our time:

1) Cardiovascular

- Prevents heart disease - Shimizu H, Kiyohara Y, Kitazono T, Kubo M,
Ibayashi S, Fufishima M, Lida M. Relationship Between Plasma Glutathione Levels and Cardiovascular Disease in a Defined Population: The Hisyama Study. Stroke. 2004 Sep; 35(9):2072-7.

- Prevents stroke - Paterson PG, Juurlink BH.
Nutritional Regulation of Glutathione in Stroke.
Neurtox Res. 1999 Dec; 1(2): 99-112.

- Prevents atherosclerosis - Coppola L, Grassia A, Giunta R. Glutathione
Improves Hemostatic and Hemorrheological Parameters in Atherosclerotic
Subject. Drugs Exp. Clin Res 1992
18:493-98

- Reverses artherosclerosis
- Prevents reperfusion injury

2) Cancer

Cancer causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been found to alter levels of glutathione compounds in experiments, which may alter the body's resistance to certain types of cancer.

Glutathione deficiencies have been linked to many forms of cancer.
- Prevents cancerous tissue
- Suppresses tumor growth
- Eliminates carcinogen
- acids - Retards oxidative stress
- Prevents wasting disease
- Eases side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy

3) Pulmonary

Glutathione is the most efficient free radical (acid) scavenger in the airways, and dozens of studies have confirmed that free radical (acid) damage is a primary player in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Rahman I, MacNee W. Oxidative Stress and Regulation of Glutathione in Lung Inflammation. Eur Respir J. 2000 Sep; 16(3):534-54. - Breaks up mucus - Rahman I, MacNee W. Oxidative Stress and Regulation of Glutathione in Lung Inflammation. Eur Respir J. 2000 Sep; 16(3):534-54

- Breaks up mucus - Rahman I, MacNee W.
Oxidative Stress and Regulation of Glutathione in Lung Inflammation.
Eur Respir J. 2000 Sep; 16(3):534-54

- Cystic fibrosis - Glutathione neutralized harmful oxidants introduced into the lungs or those released by cells. Exotoxins from bacteria can overload the endobronchial terrain and feed the fires of acidic inflammation. This staggering burden increases the oxidative sensitivity of the CF lung, resulting in further injury of lung parenchyma. Data supports evidence of a decrease in the antioxidant tri-peptide glutathione (Roum JH, Buhl R, McElvaney NG, et al.
Systemic Deficiency of Glutathione in Systic Fibrosis. J Appl Physiol 1993; 75:19-24).

- Asthma
- Chronic bronchitis

- Emphysema - Lamson, David, MD, Grignall, Matthew, ND. The use of Nebulized Glutathione in the Treatment of Emphysema: A Case Report. Altern Med Review. 5(5);429-431, 2000 Oct.

4) Aging

Glutathione is critically important to our brain as it is one of the most important brain antioxidants. Glutathione helps preserve brain tissue by preventing damage from free radicals (acids).

In addition to quenching dangerous acids, glutathione also acts to recycle vitamin E which also has the ability to reduce acidity in the brain.
(Perlmutter D., BrainRecovery.com July 2004, 5th ed:13)

- Autism - Medical literature documents that an out-fection can lead to a lowering of glutathione which participates in detoxification, interacts with metallothioneins, and supports many crucial aspects of immunity. A link between glutathione and autism regression may derive from the fact that transient or chronic intestinal problems can impair an infant's or toddler's nutritional status, thereby minimizing the levels of amino-acids required for the production of glutathione (McCandless, J. Children With Starving Brains. 2003, 2nd ed; 252)

- Parkinson's Disease - Glutathione helps to preserve brain tissue by preventing damage from free radicals (acids) and destructive chemicals formed by the normal processes of metabolism, toxic elements in the environment, and as a normal response of the body to challenges by acidic agents or other stresses. With the understanding that glutathione is important for brain protection and that this protection many be lacking in the brains of Parkinson's clients due to glutathione deficiency, it can be seen as very beneficial. (Di Monte DA, Cahn P, Sandy MS. Glutathione in Parkinson's Disease: A Link Between Oxidative Stress and Mitochondrial Damage? An Neurol. 32 Suppl; S111- 115, 1992.)

- Alzheimer's Dis-ease - Woltjer, R.L., Hgheim W., Maezawa I., Vaisar T, Montine K.S., Montine T.J., Role of Glutathione in Intracellular Amyloid-Alpha Recursor Protein/Carboxy- Terminal Fragment Aggregation and Associated Cytotoxicity. J Neurochem. 2005 May; 93 (4): 1047-56.

- Huntington's DisEase - Choo Y.S., Mao Z, Johnson GV, Lesort M. Increased Glutathione Levels In Cortical Striatal Mitochondria of the R6/2 Huntington's Disease Mouse Model. Neuroscience Letter. 2005 Sep 23; 386(1): 63-8.

- Multiple Sclerosis - Calabrese V, Scapaginini G, Ravagna A, Bella R, Butterfield DA, Calvani M, Pennisi G, Giuffrida Stella AM. Disruption of 6 Thiol Homeostasis and Nitrostative Stress in the Cerebrospinal Fluid of Patients with Active Multiple Sclerosis: Evidence for a Protective Role of Acetylcarnitine. 2003 Sep; 28(9):
1321-8. Mann CL, Davies MB, Aldersea J,
Fryer AA, Jones PK, Ko Ko C, Young C,
Strange RC, Hawkins CP. Glutathione
S-Transferase Polymorphisms in MS:
Their Relationship to Disability. Neurology.
2000 Feb 8;54(3):542-7.

- ALS - Tohgi H, Abe T, Yamazaki K, Murata T, Ishizake E, Isobe C. Increase
in Oxidized Products and Reduction in Oxidized Glutathione in Cerborospinal
Fluid From Patients with Sporadic Form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
Neurosci Lett. 1999 Feb 5; 260(3):204-6.

- Cataract formation
- Macular degeneration
- Cancers of aging
- Prostate problems

- Osteoarthritis - Hammarqvist F, Luo JL, cotgreave IA, Andersson K, Wernerman J. Skeletal Muscle Glutathione is Depleted In Critically Ill Patients. Crit Care Med. 25(1):78-84 1997 Jan.

5) Digestive

- Inflammatory bowel dis-ease
- Hepatitis
- Malnutrition
- Pancratititis
- Peptic ulcer

6) Toxicology

- Detoxifies certain drug overdoses - Acetaminophen has been shown to reduce glutathione production, thus paving the way for enhanced brain destruction by metabolic acids. (Perlmutter D. July 2004, 5th ed:108)

- Detoxifies substances in cigarette smoke and auto exhaust - Rahman I, MacNee W.

Lung Glutathione and Oxidative Stress:

Implications In Cigarette Smoke-Induced Airway Disease. Am J Physiol. 277(6 Pt 1);1067-88,
1999 Dec.

- Detoxifies pollutants including heavy metals and pesticides – Elevated glutathione levels have been shown to protect tissue form lipid peroxidation created by exposure to certain metals. Consider infusions of glutathione to relieve the body burden of both neurotoxins and metal toxicity, including mercury. (Foster, JS. Kane PC, Speight N. The Detoxx Book. 2002;90)

- Prevents hearing loss from noise pollution
- Detoxifies many well-known carcinogens

7) Immunology

- Anti-viral for AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, etc. - Low glutathione levels in HIV clients may contribute to their immune deficiency since glutathione plays an important role in the function of lymphocytes. Some lymphocytes require adequate levels of glutathione in order to function normally, and HIV induces oxidative stress that depletes the cells of glutathione.

Townsend DM, Tew KD, Tapero H.
The Importance of Glutathione in Human
Disease. Biomed Pharmacother. 2003
May-June;57(3-4):145-55. Droge W, Holm E.
Role of Cysteine and Glutathione in HIV
Infection and other Diseases Associated with Muscle Wasting and
Immunological Dysfunction.
FASEB J, 11(13):1077-89 1997 Nov.

- Lyme Dis-Ease - Lyme dis-ease is a seriously complex multi-system acidic inflammatory condition that is triggered by bacterial exotoxins. Glutathione helps to remove exotoxic and/or mycotoxic acids by forming a soluble compound with them, which can then be excreted through the urine or gut. (Can Glutathione Help Lyme Disease Suffers?

Excerpt from: The Glutathione Report: Optimal Health with the Master Antioxidant, Issue 4, Volume 1, May 2004).

- Natural antibiotic

- Chronic fatigue syndrome - An article in the journal of Medical Hypothesis proposed that glutathione, an antioxidant essential for lymphocyte function, may be depleted in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients. Glutathione is needed for both the immune system and for aerobic muscular contraction. The authors proposed that glutathione depletion by an activated immune system also causes the muscular fatigue and myalgia associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Bounous et al. 1999).

8) Metabolic

- Athletic enhancement
- Decreases recovery time from physical stress
- Supports hemoglobin in kidney failure

- Diabetes - The blood and tissues of diabetics are marked by critically low
glutathione levels. Glutathione depletion may have adverse consequences in diabetic clients independent of glycemic control, and it may weaken the defense against oxidative stress.

De Mattia G, Bravi MC, Laurenti O, Cassone-Faldetta M, Armiento A, Ferri C,
Falsano F. Influence of Reduced Glutathione Infusion on Glucose Metabolism in Patients with Non-insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus. Metabolism.
1998 Aug;47(8):433-8.

Glutathione provides the body with tools to fight off these threats naturally. Healthy people also benefit from elevated glutathione levels through an enhanced ability to fight off acidic toxins, dis-ease, pre-cancerous cells and the aging process itself. Diminished glutathione levels are a symptom of aging and are particularly evident in such alimentsas Parkinson's dis-ease and Alzheimer's dis-ease.

Glutathione is also important to physically active people. Many world-class athletes are discovering that well-maintained glutathione levels gives them the edge over their competitors, bringing greater strength and endurance,decreased recovery time from injury, less muscle pain and fatigue, and muscle-promoting activity.

Putting It All Together

1) Medical science is still ascertaining all the critical roles played by glutathione in disease resistance and general good health. Clinical evidence links low glutathione levels to the most common illnesses of our time as well as newly emerging diseases.

2) As an essential aid to health, glutathione works as the master antioxidant in our body, optimizes the white blood cells and detoxifies a long list of pollutants and carcinogens or acids. The best way to raise glutathione levels is by eating foods that are high in glutathione such as avocados.

3) Pharmaceutical medicine has created drugs that do this very effectively. They have their uses in critical situations. But they also have side effects and repeated use is clearly inadvisable.


References:
Aging


It is well known that aging is accompanied by a precipitous fall in glutathione levels. Lower glutathione levels are implicated in many diseases associated with aging including cataracts, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's atherosclerosis and others.

Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 47:1021-26, 1994.

Antioxidant Functions

Antioxidants are well documented and known to play vital roles in health maintenance and dis-ease prevention. Glutathione is your cell's own major antioxidant. Maintaining elevated glutathione levels aids the body's natural antioxidant function.
Biochemical Pharmacology 47: 2114-2123, 1994.

Neurological Dis-Ease

Low glutathione levels have been associated with neuro-degenerative diseases such as MS (Multiple Sclerosis), ALS (Lou Gehrig's Dis-ease), Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The Lancet 344: 796-798, 1994.

Cancer

Glutathione plays a role in eliminating many carcinogens/acids and also maintains and optimizes white blood cell function while providing stronger anti-acidic/antitumor defenses.

Cancer Letters 57: 91-94, 1991.

Athletic Performance
Raised glutathione levels help increase strength and endurance. Those interested in physical fitness can benefit from a definite athletic edge.
Journal of Applied Physiology 87: 1381-1385, 1999.

Toxins, Pollution and Radiation
Glutathione detoxifies a variety of pollutants, carcinogens and poisons including many found in fuel exhaust and cigarette smoke. It also retards damage from radiation exposure due to the eroding ozone layer.

Annual Reviews of Biochemistry 52: 711-760, 1983

AIDS
Glutathione levels correspond to poor survival of AIDS patients. Much documentation demonstrates the role of enhanced glutathione levels in AIDS.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA 94: 1967-72, 1997.

Heart Dis-Ease, Stroke and Cholesterol
Raised glutathione levels fight the oxidation of fats circulating in the bloodstream including cholesterol, retarding the process of plaque formation in the arteries leading to most heart attacks and strokes.

Nutrition Reviews 54: 1-30, 1996.

Diabetes

Diabetics are more prone to 'out-fections' and circulatory problems leading
to heart disease, kidney failure and blindness. Glutathione protects
against the complications of diabetes.

Clinical Science 91:575-582, 1996

Lung Disease

Doctors have used glutathione-promoting drugs to treat many lung diseases
including asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. New and potentially
therapeutic roles can be found for cigarette smoke damage, pulmonary
fibrosis and other illnesses.

American Journal of Medical Science 307:119-127, 1994

Digestive Disorders
Glutathione protects the body from inflammation of gastritis, stomach ulcers,
pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel dis-ease including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's dis-ease.

Gut 42: 485-492, 1998

Hepatitis

The liver is a major storehouse for glutathione. Glutathione is impaired in alcohol hepatitis as well as in viral (acidic) hepatitis including hepatitis A, B, and C. Raisied glutathione levels help restore liver function.

American Journal of gastroenterology 91: 2569-2573, 1996

Kidney Dis-Ease
Those with kidney failure or on dialysis suffer from high levels of oxidative (acidic) stress and decreased glutathione levels. Raised glutathione levels help prevent anemia.
Nephron 61: 404-408, 1992

Pregnancy, Lactation and Childbirth

Glutathione's role in fetal and placental development is critical. It also acts in the placenta to detoxify pollutants before they can reach the developing child. Many complications of pregnancy have been linked with poor glutathione levels.

Early Human Development 37: 167-174, 1994
 
 

 Important Notice: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended for use in the treatment of any disease.