Glutathione is an antioxidant that is created and used by every cell in the body. It protects the body from damage, deterioration, and disease (1).
It is made up of 3 different amino acids; glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. And surprisingly, studies indicate that cellular glutathione levels can even predict an individual’s life expectancy (2, 3).
Due to its various uses, it is critical that glutathione levels don’t fall too low. In fact, a glutathione deficiency can cause damage leading to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer (6).
However, glutathione taken orally, intravenously, as an inhalant, or even topically, can help counteract its natural decline in the human body (7).
1 Glutathione reduces oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is caused by the production of free radicals. Glutathione protects the body from this oxidative stress which can lead to an array of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis (8).
It may further reduce oxidative stress in cancerous cells, preventing these cells from multiplying or turning normal cells into tumor cells (10)
2Glutathione may decrease inflammation throughout the body. A 2011 review reported that glutathione inhibits the inflammatory immune response. In turn, it may reduce inflammation in pulmonary diseases where the main cause of such diseases is inflammation (11).
Another study found that glutathione reduced inflammation caused by allergies in mice. This study suggested that a depletion of glutathione is linked to an allergic response in the airways of the mice and thus, possibly in humans. However, more human studies are needed to validate this study (12).
Autoimmune diseases are also known for causing chronic inflammation issues. Glutathione, again, plays a key role in reducing inflammation in these diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and celiac disease. It works by protecting the mitochondria in the cell via the elimination of free radicals (13).
3Glutathione can decrease age-related effects. Free radicals damage and deteriorate tissues and cells in the body. This damage and deterioration causes wrinkles and wear and tear on the body’s systems. Yet, glutathione may help reduce or slow these effects (14).
As aforementioned, less glutathione is naturally produced by the body with age. Most notably, women have lower glutathione levels after menopause, which explains the accelerated aging effects after this stage in a woman’s life (15).
Further, oxidative stress may lead to age-related diseases, such as osteoporosis, and age-related cognitive decline. In fact, Myricitrin, a drug taken to prevent or reduce osteoporosis and its effects, is thought to increase glutathione levels and thus, reduce oxidative stress, slowing the progression of the age-related disease (16).
4Glutathione decreases the cell damage caused by fatty liver disease. In a study conducted in the 1990s, researchers explored glutathione use in treatment for fatty liver disease. After several months, patients showed improvements in some hepatic tests, as well as reductions in markers of hepatic damage (17).
Another study combined glutathione treatment with lifestyle changes to treat fatty liver disease. This study suggested that oral glutathione is an effective part in treating the disease and improving symptoms of patients (18).
5Glutathione can protect the brain. Glutathione may prevent further neurodegeneration, specifically in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease (19).
The brain consumes 20% of the body’s oxygen. Due to the processes involved in this consumption, reactive oxygen compounds are frequently produced. Glutathione plays a major part in reducing and eliminating the effects of these reactive oxygen species (20).
A 2014 study explored the connection between glutathione uptake and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found that by giving the mice a protein to increase glutathione levels, the mice’s memory significantly improved (21).
Other studies show that Parkinson’s disease patients have a lower level of glutathione levels. Yet, by administering a drug that raises glutathione levels to these patients, scientists found it limited further neurodegeneration of the disease (22, 23).
Another study also noted glutathione’s effects in reducing Parkinson’s symptoms such as rigidity and tremors (24).
Huntington’s disease is another disease triggered by oxidative stress. Surprisingly, a type of curcumin was found to increase glutathione levels. Consequently, mitochondrial dysfunction in certain cells were reduced (25).
6Glutathione can help the body fight infections. Individuals with viral infections have lower glutathione levels and high amounts of oxidative stress. In fact, researchers have found that patients suffering from AIDS, cystic fibrosis, COPD, and alcoholism have an increased risk of infections due to lower glutathione levels (26).
By maintaining or improving glutathione levels, the body is more equipped to fight off such infections (27).
7Glutathione may prevent and decrease symptoms of certain psychiatric disorders. Patients with schizophrenia, OCD, bipolar disorders, and certain depression disorders have lower glutathione levels. Various studies have shown improvements in these conditions when glutathione levels were raised via medication or other forms (28, 29).
One study explored NAC, a medication for schizophrenia, and how it improved schizophrenic symptoms. Researchers reported that NAC increases glutathione levels, reducing oxidative stress, and thus, reduces schizophrenia symptoms (30).
Medications for bipolar disorders were found to act similarly by increasing glutathione levels and reducing symptoms (31).
An 8-week study examined the effects of oral and transdermal glutathione in autistic children. Health-wise, these children showed improvements in plasma sulfate, cysteine, taurine, and glutathione levels. In turn, oxidative stress may be reduced – alleviating other health problems that could arise (34).
9Glutathione can decrease diabetic complications and overall health impact. High blood sugar and diabetes is closely linked with lower glutathione levels. Due to these low glutathione levels, free radicals are often the cause of complications associated with diabetes (35, 36, 37).
Supplemented glutathione in the body may reduce or prevent such complications from happening by lowering oxidative stress (38).
Researchers further suggest that glutathione supplements may positively impact insulin resistance in older adults (39).
10Glutathione improves cardiovascular health. Low glutathione levels are linked to a higher risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Unsurprisingly, heart disease is frequently caused by oxidative stress. Glutathione works to protect the body against this oxidative stress, improving heart health (40, 41).
A 2002 study even noted a link between increased glutathione levels and mobility in those with peripheral artery disease. After 5 days, patients who were taking intravenous glutathione had improvements in walking ability and pain (42).
11Glutathione may improve psoriasis. Psoriasis is a long-lasting autoimmune disease characterized by patches of abnormal skin. These skin patches are typically red, dry, itchy, and scaly. A small 2013 study determined that non-denatured bioactive whey protein isolate previously demonstrated to increase glutathione levels can clinically improve patients with psoriasis (43).
12Glutathione can help reduce cell death in liver disease. One 1995 study showed that glutathione reduced malondialdehyde, a marker of cell damage in the liver (44).
Another small study found that orally administered glutathione had positive effects on people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease following proactive lifestyle changes. In this study, glutathione was provided in supplement form in a dose of 300 milligrams per day for four months (45).
13Glutathione has powerful anti-aging benefits. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to help with anti-aging via multiple pathways. A 2011 study showed that by maintaining glutathione levels, aging individuals may prevent age-related cognitive decline (46).
Another 2009 study showed that imbalances in glutathione levels affect immune system function and are thought to play a role in the aging process (47).
Glutathione drops off during menopause, which may be part of the reason for the dramatic aging that occurs during this time in a woman’s life. By maintaining glutathione levels, aging individuals may prevent age-related cognitive decline (48).
14Glutathione may heal the gut. Patients with IBS have decreased activity of enzymes involved in glutathione synthesis, as well as lower levels of glutathione’s precursor, cysteine (49).
15Glutathione protects the intestinal mucosa. Administration of glutathione may protect the gut wall which, when weakened, can lead to leaky gut (50).
16Glutathione may help prevent addiction. Consumption of cocaine, methamphetamines, and alcohol lead to an increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These species can alter proteins involved in neuronal and behavioral pathways, causing the subject to become addicted.
This may also be applicable to overeating disorders (53).
1Glutathione may cause IBS like symptoms. Glutathione supplementation has been shown to cause some digestive distress such as cramping and bloating in certain individuals.
2Taking glutathione long-term has been linked to lower zinc levels.
That being said, glutathione obtained via natural dietary sources does not pose any risks of lowering your zinc.
The standard glutathione dosage is 500 – 1000mg per day. However, there is no set dosage when consuming food that fuels glutathione production.
What are the symptoms of glutathione deficiency? Signs of metabolic acidosis may include nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. The severe form of glutathione synthetase deficiency usually causes the same signs and symptoms seen in the milder forms of the deficiency, but can also affect the brain, which causes neurological problems.
What does glutathione do to your skin? Glutathione can cause skin lightening by converting melanin to a lighter color and deactivating the enzyme tyrosinase, which helps produce the pigment.
Is it safe to take glutathione? Glutathione injections are not only safe, but they are also beneficial for your health. Glutathione helps eliminate toxins from the body, supports the central nervous system, aids in fertility and supports a healthy and strong immune system.
What foods are high in glutathione? The best foods are dietary proteins, such as beef, fish, and poultry. However, there are vegetarian sources as well, such as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, watercress, and mustard greens.
Can glutathione remove pimples? Yes, increasing glutathione is excellent for boosting your antioxidant supply and clearing acne.
Can glutathione cause liver damage? No, in fact, it does the opposite. Glutathione has been shown to improve protein, enzyme, and bilirubin levels in the blood of individuals with alcoholic and nonalcoholic chronic fatty liver disease. A study reported that glutathione was most effective when given to people with fatty liver disease intravenously, in high doses.
Is taking glutathione orally effective? Yes, glutathione is effective both orally and intravenously.
Is glutathione the same as NAC? No, NAC is a precursor to glutathione. It helps replenish and create glutathione.
Does Glutathione help sleep? Yes, many people have discovered that glutathione, a natural antioxidant, can help to get a good night’s rest, and the good news is that it’s quite simple to increase your glutathione levels to achieve better sleep.
Can glutathione remove dark spots? Yes, glutathione supplement thus can help remove dark spots and have a flawless white complexion when consumed regularly and when a good beauty skin care regimen is observed resolutely.
Is the glutathione whitening effect permanent? Its whitening effects are permanent only if you will maintain it (by avoiding exposure to sunlight). The reason why our skin becomes white in using l-glutathione is because it reverses the dark melanin pigments turning to a light pigments and reduces melanocytes which produce melanin. Less melanin means whiter skin.
Can I drink alcohol while taking glutathione? Yes, you can drink alcohol however it is counterintuitive as alcohol depletes the liver’s glutathione stores.
Should you take glutathione on an empty stomach? Yes, if taking glutathione orally, it should be taken on an empty stomach followed with water.
Does bone broth have glutathione? Bone broth is rich in a wide variety of nutrients, including the amino acid glycine. Glycine is one of several starting compounds needed to make the body’s most powerful antioxidant and detoxifying agent glutathione.
Glutathione supplements can help prevent and reduce numerous age-related diseases and effects. As you age, it may prove to be an important supplement to consider.
However, many other supplement types also increase glutathione levels in the body. For instance, curcumin, cysteine, vitamin C, and many more are found to increase the body’s natural production of glutathione.
Prevent age-related diseases and oxidative stress before it impacts your life.
Take into account the positive effects related with normal or higher glutathione levels and your age when considering supplementation. Higher glutathione levels can prevent heart disease, liver disease, neurodegeneration, cancer, and much more – ensuring you lead a quality life well into your senior years.