Glutathione - the Antioxidant Superstar
Oxidation – what is it?
When it comes to preventative health, nothing is quite as important as slowing the process of oxidation in the body. Oxidation refers to the process of aging on the cellular level. It is the same process that creates the “patina” on old copper structures, the brown spots on fruits and vegetables, and, in some cases, the brown spots on our own skin too! While patina can be lovely to look at and submitting our aged produce to the compost pile can be relatively painless, oxidation within our bodies is far more consequential. If unaddressed, oxidation in the body can result in the development of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, Sickle Cell disease, autism, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Many foods are filled with constituents that help our bodies slow the process of oxidation. The so called “super foods” are among the most popular. Unfortunately, as our environment becomes more toxic and our soils less replete with nutrients it becomes more and more difficult to maintain high levels of these oxidation-fighting nutrients within our bodies.
Many exogenous antioxidants, but only one endogenous
Polyphenols, tocopherols, and ascorbate are just a few of the many antioxidants we find in healthy foods. Consuming a wide array of fruits and vegetables helps provide the body with outside (exogenous) sources of antioxidants. Inside the human body, only one antioxidant is known to be made of the body’s own accord (endogenous) glutathione. This sulfur-containing molecule is made by the body to accomplish herculean anti-oxidative feats and is stored primarily in our liver cells. Glutathione helps to slow the process of aging by reducing free radicals and rescuing the body’s tissue from damage that can become irreversible. The downside to glutathione is that when our bodies are exposed to excessively stressful environments: pollutants, allergens, toxins, or even emotional stress, glutathione is consumed at higher rates than the body can replenish. As glutathione levels drop, the body’s ability to naturally detoxify from environmental stress becomes compromised. Because glutathione is only produced endogenously, we must wait for the body to replenish its own stores.
Many people come to us and say “I’ve never had a problem with allergies until this year.” or “My skin just ‘suddenly’ started having these issues.” When we probe a little deeper we can often identify some relatively recent sources of excess glutathione consumption – whether it be a recent severe illness, a move to a new climate or house, a stressful period at work, or some other event that resulted in increased oxidative stress. Interestingly, in Chinese Medicine, the liver channel is considered the channel that modulates stress – it is no wonder that when the body has been under some exposure to stress we begin to see problems with one of its “star” products – glutathione.
Testing your glutathione levels
But what if you don’t know if your glutathione levels are low? Fortunately, now, through advanced testing, we can run a blood and urine test to evaluate oxidative stress markers and even check glutathione levels specifically. Sometimes it is evident that glutathione levels are likely to be low, but sometimes a drop in glutathione can be gradual, and, in those cases, we find this testing to be extremely helpful.
Glutathione supplementation – why intravenous glutathione is important
So, we have determined that your glutathione levels need some support – now what? As we now know, once glutathione becomes consumed at a high rate it can be very challenging for the body to catch up in restoring those levels – even if you are consuming a good amount of anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables. For this reason, we find supplementation of glutathione itself to be the best approach. Although oral supplementation of glutathione can be effective, IV administration of glutathione allows for a larger dose of this powerful antioxidant in a route that has more direct access to the tissues we want to target.
Generally, we recommend that our patients receive an initial loading dose of IV glutathione and then take an oral glutathione supplement to help keep levels as high as possible. Consuming oral supplements that also support the body’s own production of glutathione can be very helpful. Supplements such as N-acetyl-cysteine are extremely helpful adjunctives to IV glutathione treatments.
Although IV administration is the primary route of supplementation, at NaturoMedica we carry several glutathione-promoting supplements to be considered as part of a good glutathione-supportive health plan:
Additionally, taking glutathione “precursors” or nutrients that are used by the body as building-blocks for making new glutathione can be helpful. The following are excellent options for supporting the body’s own production of glutathione:
Glutamine Forteby ITI – provides glutamine
Glutathione treats a wide array of problems
Because oxidative stress affects each person’s body uniquely, the applications of glutathione supplementation are far-reaching. Some of the most popular and effective uses for glutathione include:
- Seasonal or environmental allergies
- Chronic sinusitis
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Immune boosting therapy for frequent infections
Preventatively, glutathione administration should be the cornerstone of any anti-aging protocol.
At NaturoMedica, we have practitioners well-versed in the numerous applications of this powerful anti-oxidant who can discuss with you whether or not this should be a part of your current health care regimen. Additionally, we have highly-trained IV specialists who offer intravenous administration of glutathione when necessary. These treatments take only a few minutes and are administered in our state-of-the-art- IV treatment space.
Because glutathione is made naturally within the body supplementation of this antioxidant is considered very safe and applicable for all ages. Of course, as with any new medication we always advise you consult with your doctor prior to beginning the use of glutathione.