Glutathione – The key to supporting your immune system and detoxification
(NaturalHealth365) Researchers and scientists have dubbed it “the master antioxidant;” “the body’s premier antioxidant” and even “the mother of all antioxidants.” And, no matter how complimentary the labels, glutathione richly deserves any of them.
This indispensable antioxidant helps to neutralize toxins in the body, eliminate dangerous free radicals, detoxifies the liver and support overall functioning of the entire immune system. Today, we’ll take a closer look at how this powerful substance and, more importantly, a way to boost your levels within the body.
Glutathione is produced naturally by the body – but levels fall with age
Researchers have known of glutathione since 1889, but it is only over the last thirty years that they have begun to understand and explore its functions.
A small protein molecule, glutathione is synthesized in the body from three different amino acids: L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid and glycine. Although it exists in every cell, the vast majority of glutathione is in the liver.
Glutathione regulates cell growth, fights the oxidation of circulating fats in the bloodstream, synthesizes and repairs DNA, helps to transport amino acids in and out of cells – and has a whole arsenal of detoxifying and immune-boosting effects.
Unfortunately, glutathione levels begin to fall at mid-life – and can plummet as low as only 50 percent of what the body needs for optimal health. In addition to aging, low glutathione can also result from overconsumption of heavily-processed foods, along with environmental toxins, drugs, illness, infections and stress.
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Low glutathione levels are linked with chronic health problems
Low glutathione levels inhibit cellular function – and allow dangerous free radicals to cause oxidative damage. And, oxidative damage caused by free radicals is at the root of many chronic disease symptoms.
Now researchers are finding that low levels of glutathione can cause free radical-induced degenerative conditions such as heart disease and cancer – respectively, the number one and number two killers in the United States. Of course, other countries in the Western world show similar grim statistics.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that heart disease patients with low blood levels of glutathione were 30 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than those with optimal levels.
Other conditions linked to glutathione deficiency include autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, arthritis, kidney failure and liver disease – to name just a few.
Glutathione has major immune system-boosting and detoxifying effects
Glutathione plays such a major role in detoxification and immune system function that it is not altogether far-fetched to picture it as a dragon-slaying hero, rushing to battle and defeat toxins and pathogens wherever these threats may be found.
In order for the immune system to function at all, there must be a proper balance of glutathione in the lymphoid cells – as glutathione’s cysteine molecule makes the reproduction of T-cells possible. Glutathione also actively helps macrophages in the bloodstream to fight off pathogens and bacterial invasions, and detoxifies reactive oxygen radicals created by ultraviolet light radiation.
In addition, glutathione helps with the regeneration and recycling of other important antioxidants, including vitamin C and vitamin E.
As the major detoxifying agent in the body, glutathione chemically transforms carcinogens, toxins and drugs into unreactive, harmless compounds that can be eliminated without damaging cell DNA. In the case of heavy metals such as mercury and lead, glutathione neutralizes them by binding with them.
How do I raise my glutathione levels?
Good sources of glutathione include grapefruit, melons, peaches, spinach and asparagus. Naturally, these foods should be eaten as raw (and organic) whenever possible. Plus, keep in mind, that heating these foods will deplete its glutathione content.
However, as a protein, glutathione is quickly digested and broken down into individual amino acids. In fact, several studies have shown that dietary intake alone may not be sufficient to increase circulating glutathione levels.
The best way to increase levels, experts say, may be to supplement with glutathione precursors – the amino acids that your body uses as building blocks to produce glutathione.
Foods rich in cysteine – such as cage-free eggs, unsweetened non-GMO whey protein made from non-denatured proteins, garlic and onions – are an excellent choice. And foods that contain sulforaphane – organic cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli – can also raise glutathione levels.
As for supplementation, both N-acetyl-cysteine and alpha lipoic acid have been shown to lead to improved glutathione levels in cases of deficiency. Other substances that may help boost glutathione levels include curcumin, melatonin from dark cherries, milk thistle and the mineral selenium.
Considering all the vital functions performed by glutathione, it can be a wise move to ensure that you have enough of this irreplaceable molecule. Your body will thank you for it.
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