Glutathione is one of the most powerful anti-oxidants produced by our body, and yet it hardly receives the attention it deserves from the medical community. It may be little known and may not have as many cheerleaders as other anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, lycopene and even resveratrol found in red wine, but you can’t just deny the super role of Glutathione as a powerful detoxifier, immune booster and - of course - potent anti-oxidant.
Glutathione is an endogenous anti-oxidant, meaning it is produced by your body as opposed to exogenous ones that are derived from the diet, as with Vitamins C and E. Glutathione is possibly the most important and most powerful of all the endogenous anti-oxidants. Present in every cell of the body and especially found in large concentrations in liver cells, Glutathione serves as one of the first lines of defence systems employed by cells against the onslaught by free radicals. In addition, it also helps in recycling and reactivating other important anti-oxidants that have changed into unstable molecules themselves after neutralizing reactive free radicals. Is it any surprise why Glutathione has indeed been coined by health experts as a ‘Master Anti-oxidant’?
So, what is Glutathione? It is basically a simple molecule – made up of three amino acids – cysteine, glycine and glutamine – performing astonishing feats in the body. Our natural ability to produce and maintain an optimum level of glutathione is extremely critical to disease prevention and our overall health.
Main functions of Glutathione
Free radicals are known to cause oxidative damage to the fragile cellular structures such as DNA, proteins and lipids and alter their chemical structures and ability to function normally. These changes, in turn, affect the tissues and organs throughout the body – resulting in premature aging and onset of chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cataracts and diabetes – just to name a few. Medical experts believe that maintaining the optimal levels of glutathione is important to keep these chronic diseases at bay and promote longevity. Besides preventing cellular damage by highly reactive free radicals, Glutathione has many other important functions too. Let’s have a quick look.
- Promote cellular growth and repair
- Helps in DNA synthesis and repair
- Is a super anti-oxidant and protects body from oxidative damage and resulting chronic illnesses.
- Strengthens immune system functions.
- Plays an extremely important role in phase one and phase two of liver detoxification process; a powerful heavy metals and toxins chelator.
- Protects from radiation damage
- Regenerates other anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium and Carotenoids
- Slows aging process
- Boosts energy levels
Our body’s innate ability to produce glutathione – a powerful anti-oxidant and a treasured detoxification agent – declines as we age. In fact, there is a strong correlation between aging and depleted levels of glutathione in the body. Other factors such as over exposure to environmental toxins and radiation, overuse of antibiotics, chronic low-level stress, infections, unhealthy lifestyle and poor dietary choices like genetically modified food, processed food and artificial sweeteners all work towards inflicting more oxidative damage and further exhaustion of glutathione levels in the body. This situation clearly leaves you vulnerable to unrestricted cellular crumbling from the impact of free radicals and overloading of liver from toxins – resulting in impaired immunity, inability to clear toxins from the body and development of chronic diseases.
Is there any convenient solution to replenish the depleted stores of glutathione in the body? What about supplements? There are hordes of glutathione supplements available, but most of these are poorly absorbed by the body. While intravenous glutathione supplementation is believed to be met with some success; this method is expensive, invasive and not easily accessible to all. In fact, some research shows that glutathione supplements are likely to interfere with your body’s inherent capacity for glutathione production. Fortunately, there are certain whole foods that boost glutathione levels in the body.
Foods that help to increase glutathione production
Many whole foods – vegetables, fruits and spices – and some animal based products are either a good source of glutathione or a wonderful precursor; that is, the raw materials required to synthesise glutathione in the body.
- Non-denatured, native whey protein (derived from grass fed cows and completely free of additives)
- Brazil nuts, walnuts
- Eggs, fish and meat
- Fresh vegetables and fruits – squash, zucchini, spinach, carrot, potatoes, bell peppers, parsley, tomatoes, papaya, mango, banana, peach, strawberries.
- Sulphur rich foods – garlic, onion and cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower, radish, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, mustard, turnip, radish, broccoli, collards, Kale etc.
- Herbs and spices – milk thistle, rosemary, turmeric, cardamom, black cumin, cinnamon
For more information on glutathione foods, please read here.
Glutathione and magnesium
We know magnesium as an important mineral required by the body to perform more than 300 bio-chemical reactions that are key to our survival and optimal health. Almost every system in the body depends on magnesium to function properly, and its role is definitely highlighted in energy production, bone health, protein synthesis and transmission of nerve impulse in muscles and brain – required for healthy muscles, rhythmic beating of heart and of course a well-nourished central nervous system.
What makes magnesium even more special is that glutathione requires this important mineral for its synthesis . Magnesium acts as a vital cofactor in several enzyme systems required in the production of glutathione and also in exerting its anti-oxidant super powers within the body. It helps in the functioning of the enzyme gamma glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), an enzyme that “plays an important role in the synthesis of glutathione. Out of all the enzymes involved in the gamma-glutamyl cycle, GGT is the only one located on the outside of plasma cell membranes where it breaks down circulating extracellular glutathione and releases all-important cysteine for intracellular reassembling of glutathione” . Low levels of magnesium are associated with significant generation of free radicals as well as depleting the stores of glutathione in the body.
References and further reading:
- Magnesium. Linus Pauling Institute
- Benefits of magnesium and its role as a glutathione cofactor. Immune Health Science.
- Glutathione. What is Glutathione.