The strong link between glutathione deficiency and autoimmune disease
(NaturalHealth365) More than 100 different diseases – including rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease – have an autoimmune component that turns into the immune system attacking the body’s own organs, tissues and cells. A major cause of all this pain and suffering (less publicized by Western medicine) is the ever-increasing barrage of environmental toxins and stressors depleting our bodies’ stores of disease-fighting glutathione.
Simply put, why would anyone be surprised that the incidence of autoimmune diseases has spiked in recent years. (In fact, the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association estimates that a shocking 50 million Americans currently suffer from some form of autoimmune disease).
Important point: Research has shown that people suffering from autoimmune disease virtually always have low levels of glutathione. Having optimal levels of this ‘master antioxidant,’ however, helps to modulate immune system reactions and alleviate autoimmune disorders.
Step one: What is the purpose of glutathione?
Glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant, is a powerful detoxifier that binds to toxins and helps to eliminate them. It is also critical for immune function, and for controlling inflammation and oxidative damage.
Proper glutathione activity modulates cell proliferation and protects mitochondria, the cells’ “powerhouses.” It also helps to promote peak physical functioning, while increasing muscle tone and stamina.
Don’t forget: the body’s ability to prevent – and recover from – chronic disease depends on its ability to produce and maintain high levels of this life-sustaining molecule.
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Glutathione is synthesized in the body from the amino acids cysteine, glycine and glutamine. And, so, while the body produces lavish amounts in our youthful years, glutathione levels actually decline as a normal part of the aging process.
Keep in mind, there are many factors that drain glutathione from the body, including: pharmaceutical drugs, environmental pollutants, hormonal imbalances, lack of sleep, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and alcohol use.
Promoting glutathione recycling can alleviate autoimmune ‘flare ups’
Glutathione exists in the body in two different forms: reduced glutathione and oxidized glutathione.
Reduced glutathione is the form that actively combats free radicals. However, in the process, it gains an extra unpaired electron and becomes unstable, turning into oxidized glutathione.
An enzyme known as glutathione reductase triggers the conversion back to usable glutathione.
Many natural health experts maintain that oxidized glutathione must be recycled back into reduced glutathione in order to manage autoimmune disease. In fact, studies have shown that promoting glutathione recycling helps to regulate the immune system, reduce the autoimmune response, promote tissue recovery – and even heal “leaky gut.”
In order to boost healthy glutathione recycling, the first order of business is to reduce the stressors that threaten glutathione levels.
Steps you may need to take could include balancing blood sugar levels, addressing food intolerances, reducing your exposure to environmental toxins and pesticides, managing adrenal function, re-balancing the gut microbiome and adopting an organic diet.
Of course, it’s wise to first consult with a knowledgeable integrative healthcare provider – who can offer natural and effective solutions for these health issues.
Selected supplements and natural compounds can enhance the body’s ability to recycle glutathione
You can support glutathione recycling with N-acetyl-cysteine, a biologically available form of cysteine that is rapidly turned into intracellular glutathione. Cell studies have shown that pretreatment with NAC raises glutathione levels in older cells, while helping to reduce cell death.
Alpha-lipoic acid helps to reverse depletions in glutathione that occur as a result of stress, while the amino acid glutamine – a precursor to glutathione – can boost levels as well.
Cordyceps, a medicinal fungus commonly used in Chinese Traditional Medicine, has been shown to protect cells by engaging the glutathione enzyme cycle.
In addition, studies have shown that an herb known as gotu kola (or Centella asiatica) can increase levels of glutathione peroxidase.
And, finally, milk thistle extract can increase glutathione recycling and help to improve ratios of reduced to oxidized glutathione.
Promote glutathione recycling with natural nutrients
Eating healthy amounts of organic Brazil nuts, sardines, cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef and spinach can raise levels of selenium, an antioxidant trace mineral essential for glutathione recycling.
Natural health experts also recommend organic, undenatured bio-active whey protein – a great source of cysteine – to enhance glutathione production and recycling.
You can decrease oxidative stress and boost glutathione levels by eating plentiful amounts of sulfur-containing foods such as broccoli, garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale.
And, foods rich in B-complex vitamins – such as grass-fed beef liver, organic pinto beans, lentils and garbanzo beans – can aid the methylation process, which is essential to the production and recycling of glutathione.
Naturally, foods rich in vitamin C – like oranges, bell peppers and strawberries – help to convert oxidized glutathione back to its active form. And vitamin E – found in wheat germ, sunflower seeds and spinach – preserves enzymes that protect glutathione.
In addition to helping to alleviate autoimmune disease, glutathione can be instrumental in helping to prevent diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and many types of cancer.
In fact, it is difficult to think of a substance more vital to human health. No doubt, glutathione is simply too important to take for granted – and preserving it and protecting it can pay off in major health ways.
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Sources for this article include:
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