Updated: June 2023
I was initially planning to write about glutathione and the gut, but the importance of glutathione and brain health can’t be left out.
The gut is called the “Second Brain”. The gut actually makes neurotransmitters that will dictate who you feel and act as a person.
Good digestion and absorption can be an important aspect in creating a healthy balance in the body and proper glutathione production.
As I have been continuing with my pursuit in natural healthcare, I attend many different seminars on many different topics. When I attend seminars, I purchase recordings of the lectures so that I can listen to them in my truck on the way to and from work, etc…
I learn through repetition. I listen to those lectures multiple times and also dictate notes when I hear something important that could help my patients.
So many discussions in natural healthcare and functional medicine turn to the benefits of a substance called Glutathione.
I decided to go through and do a quick word search on glutathione and the following are excerpts from my notes that pertained to glutathione.
What is Glutathione?
Glutathione is made by the cells in your body. It is a naturally occurring substance that acts as an anti-oxidant, immune system booster, and a detoxifier.
Glutathione can help your body repair damage caused by stress, pollution, radiation, chemotherapy, inflammation, infection, drugs, poor diet, aging, injury, trauma, and burns.
Glutathione is a small molecule that’s found in every cell. The body makes Glutathione and it is the most important antioxidant because it’s actually within the cells.
With aging, the body makes less glutathione and that is a large part of the reason why the geriatric population has more disease and tissue breakdown.
The Antioxidant King
Glutathione is the “King of Antioxidants” and since the aging body makes less, senior citizens can be more prone to getting disease and sickness. It doesn’t matter whether it is cancer or Alzheimer’s, we see these conditions pop up most often in people over the age of 65.
Antioxidants are important for good health because they neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are electrons that tear up the cells in our bodies.
Most people know about Vitamin C and E and their antioxidant/anti-aging properties. Glutathione is significantly more powerful though and is rarely mentioned.
Because glutathione is made by your body and in every cell, from head to toe, it is in a prime position to neutralize free radicals.
Glutathione also has systemic health benefits because it is found in all types of cells, including the cells of the immune system, which helps keep you from getting sick and helps you fight disease.
The strong antioxidant effect of glutathione helps cells run smoothly and also helps the liver remove toxic pollutants and chemicals from the body.
Where is Glutathione Used?
The 4 places in the body where glutathione is used the most are the Eyes, Brain, Lungs, and Liver.
Many patients are taking multiple medications which could cause damage to their liver and also create damage to the tiny, delicate blood vessels in their kidneys.
Glutathione deficiency is another reason why it is so common for senior citizens to experience Stage 2 and Stage 3 chronic kidney disease.
Chronic exposure to and use of pollutants, toxins and even certain medications can damage the microvasculature of the kidneys. Next, the kidneys lose the ability to filter toxins so nephrotoxicity can build up and cause greater damage.
If someone is deficient in glutathione, their liver just can’t keep up with the detoxification of the chemicals and the kidneys can get further damaged.
As I wrote in my article: Is Protein the Fountain of Youth?, something else that boosts glutathione is having a good solid protein breakfast.
It is critically important to get enough dietary protein and this becomes even more critical as people age.
A couple of quick checks for protein deficiency are saggy underarms, loss of buttock muscles, and poor grip strength. If your levels of protein are low, make some changes and give your body what it needs to create building blocks for healing and repair.
Immune System Role
Glutathione is a powerful immune system modulator primarily dealing with TH1 immune pathways but touches everything along the road when it comes to immune system function.
Decreases in glutathione can be a contributing factor to Parkinson’s disease. Glutathione is very important for brain health and it’s also a major player for many processes inside of the body.
Several methods can be used to help produce and up regulate glutathione. Glutathione nebulizer breathing treatments are fantastic. I’ve seen Glutathione nebulizer breathing treatments work wonders for patients who have lung congestion, asthma, and even COPD). Most people report immediate relief and a calming effect in their lungs.
I also use Lipsomal Glutathione with a lot of my patients. Liposomal forms of glutathione are great because they don’t get broken down by the digestive tract and have better antioxidant effects at the cellular level.
Glutathione is needed to support the gut. That is one of the therapies for leaky gut. It is also an antioxidant/anti-inflammatory. An elevated Red Blood Cell Distribution Width (RDW) on the blood work can be an indication of glutathione deficiency.
Red blood cells carry oxygen which is a volatile substance. You have to have an antioxidant protection to limit damage. If your glutathione levels go down it starts tearing up the red blood cells and you see the RDW go up.
Glutathione is a very important antioxidant but it’s also important in phase 1 and phase 2 liver detoxification. It is also a very important immune system modulator.
Glutathione depletion causes digestive tract inflammation. Glutathione depletion is also suspected to play a role in Parkinson’s disease.
High homocysteine found on a bloodwork analysis can be an indication of glutathione deficiency. Homocysteine is converted into glutathione and SAMe.
If your levels of homocysteine are high, then it’s quite possible that your levels of glutathione and SAMe are low or deficient.
What about NAC?
A supplement called N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a good glutathione up-regulator. N-acetylcysteine rapidly metabolizes itself into intracellular glutathione so it is a natural way to stimulate glutathione production.
N-acetylcysteine is also a known mucolytic agent. Therefore, it can be helpful for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as a mucous thinning agent. Cystic Fibrosis patients have also reported benefits of N-acetylcysteine supplementation.
Alpha lipoic acid, glutamine and selenium are all synergistic and work together. Alpha lipoic acid directly recycles and extends the metabolic lifespan of vitamin C, glutathione and CoQ10. Coq10 is a big player in mitochondrial health.
Can Glutathione Help Gout?
Glutathione does really, really well at helping reduce uric acid levels in patients with gout or in those who have high uric acid levels on their bloodwork.
High uric acid levels in the blood can cause crystals to deposit in the joints and can lead to the painful arthritic condition, gout. Pantothenic acid is also good for lowering high uric acid along with methylated B vitamins, folate, and Glutathione.
When someone is having an “autoimmune storm”, I like to take them through a gentle liver cleanse for two to four weeks while doing Glutathione and possibly Nitric Balance depending on their symptoms.
After that, I may recommend some other nutritional support based on what their bloodwork findings and health history show.
For example if they have a urinary tract infection, I recommend a combination of berberine, d-mannose and/or Uva ursi. Berberine has hydrochloric acid and also acts as a natural antibiotic.
Due to its antioxidant status and immune system modulatory effects, glutathione is really important for auto-immune patients. I love using glutathione with autoimmune patients. Most of them respond quite favorably and quickly.
The fact that the Glutathione is in liposomal form is really important. In the past, the big challenge with Glutathione supplementation was that Glutathione can’t be absorbed well from external sources. That all changed with Liposomal Glutathione.
Liposomal forms of glutathione are often encapsulated in phosphatidylcholine so that it can make it into your body and be absorbed and utilized by your cells. Some of my patients have also reported that glutathione improved their sense of mental clarity and cognitive function.
Phosphatidylcholine is a large part of what makes up brain cells. Phosphatidylcholine is also involved with neurotransmitters and intercellular signaling. So, it is critical and very important for brain function and health.
It’s should be clear by now that glutathione and phosphatidylcholine are a good thing and can really help improve not only gut function and health, but brain health as well.
So, if you suspect that you are low in glutathione, put some of the information above to use and work to get your levels up as soon as possible!
Health is Happiness,
Dr. Keith Currie