Did you know that glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants utilized by the human body? Glutathione (GSH) is a tripeptide (3 amino acids bonded together) made by our bodies for protection against free radical damage, to eliminate toxins, to support energy production and help enhance our immune system.
This antioxidant is actually made by our bodies, however, things like toxins, medications, stress, pollution, poor diet, trauma, infections and radiation deplete our glutathione stores, leaving us susceptible to developing a host of diseases. Without enough glutathione, your liver becomes overworked, and it makes it hard for it to properly detox chemicals and toxins from your environment and food.
Even aging depletes our glutathione levels. By the age of 45, our glutathione levels begin to drop, and they can drop as much as 50% below optimal as we get older. This is one reason why we must consume fresh plant foods that are high in this antioxidant to ensure our GSH stores don’t drop below optimal.
On the bright side, GSH helps prevent aging, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and can be used to treat things from autism to Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, individuals with the least amount of glutathione in their blood are 30% more likely to suffer from a heart attack and stroke than individuals with high glutathione levels, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Glutathione functions in a number of ways:
- It functions in the metabolism of iron
- It is used in a variety of biochemical reactions like DNA synthesis & repair, protein synthesis, prostaglandin synthesis, amino acid transport and enzyme activation. Thus, it affects a large chunk of the immune system, nervous system, gastrointestinal system and lungs
- Regulates the nitric oxide cycle
- Maintains antioxidants like vitamins C and E (gives them a “second life”)
- Neutralizes free radicals and reactive oxygen compounds which, if not tended to, can lead to a host of diseases and illnesses
Long Life Span
Most antioxidants have short life spans (for each free radical molecule, 1 molecule of antioxidant is completely wiped out – they sacrifice their lives). Not glutathione! This antioxidant has the power to recharge not only itself, but other antioxidants as well (like vitamins C and E, mentioned above).
Free Radicals and Detox
Free radical damage to our tissues and DNA is one of the main causes for chronic illness. The cumulative overload of free radicals (from the environment, stress, foods we eat, water supply, etc.) is called oxidative stress, and this is what slowly deteriorates our health. It is important that we maintain a constant store of GSH (and other antioxidants) because this is what protects our cells from oxidation. In addition, the fact that GSH helps restore other antioxidants in our body, it is particularly important that we do not deplete these stores.
The highest concentration of glutathione is located in the liver, the body’s primary detox organ. The liver undergoes two stages of detoxification:
1) Liver enzymes convert toxins into flushable compounds and,
2) Glutathione escorts these toxins out of the body via urine or bile
If glutathione levels are low, our liver becomes overloaded with toxins and this leads to many unexplained sicknesses and health issues we see today.
Glutathione and Aging
The Journal of Age and Aging reported that glutathione levels are highest in seniors who are in good health. These seniors actually had higher glutathione levels than individuals 20-40 years younger. This could be one reason as to why some individuals make it to 90 and 100 years old, versus individuals who make it to 70 or 80.
Boost Your Glutathione Levels!
- Plant Foods High In Glutathione
Some plant foods contain the full version of glutathione like asparagus, spinach, avocado, melon, grapefruit, peaches and squash. Try to consume these foods raw and without heat to allow for greatest absorption and to prevent the destruction of the antioxidant.
- Eat Raw
Consuming a high raw, plant based diet will ensure that you get an array of antioxidants into your diet which helps to relieve the stress on glutathione and give it a break. The more antioxidants you have in your body, the less your body will need to depend on its glutathione reserves.
- Consume Foods High in Cysteine
In addition, eat more foods high in cysteine like garlic and onions. This sulfur-rich amino acid is a key building block for the antioxidant glutathione.
- Eat Cruciferous Vegetables
Also include foods in your diet like broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and kale which enhance glutathione production!
- Limit Toxic Exposure
Switching to a whole foods natural lifestyle will reduce your exposure to toxins. Cleaning your home with natural cleaners like vinegar or lemon, and switching to chemical free beauty and skin care products will minimize how many chemicals you are exposed to day in day out. Filtering your water, reducing the amount of refined and processed foods you eat (or cutting them out all together), as well as consuming lots of organic, non-GMO produce minimizes potential toxic burdens. This will help preserve your body’s glutathione producing ability, and prevents it from becoming depleted at an early age.
Exercise actually boosts the production of glutathione and helps improve the functioning of your immune and detoxification systems. Any form of exercise will work – whichever you have fun at most. Go outside and play, breathe the fresh air, and move your body for at least 30-60 minutes a day!