Every day our bodies work hard to cope with the effects of environmental toxins, food intolerances, inflammatory diets high in sugar but low in nutrients, sleep deprivation, and chronic stress. To minimize the damage, it’s important to support levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant produced by the body.
This can be done by taking glutathione in absorbable forms, and by supporting glutathione recycling within the cells.
For those with autoimmunity and leaky gut, it’s vitally important to support glutathione. Glutathione protects cells against inflammation, supports immunity, and supports regeneration of the blood-brain barrier and the gut lining.
Glutathione is a natural chelator that can bind to and neutralize heavy metals and pollutants. It is also an excellent anti-aging compound.
We are designed to maintain sufficient levels of glutathione from dietary sources, but when our overly hectic lifestyles and exposure to toxins, bad diets, and chronic stress overwhelm our system, our glutathione levels become depleted. This increases the risk of:
- Heavy metal sensitivities
- Chemical sensitivities
- Inflammatory and immune disorders
- Autoimmune diseases and flares
- Intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
Glutathione: the front line of defense against oxidative stress
To understand why glutathione is so important, it helps to know a bit about oxidative stress and free radical damage.
Free radicals are potentially harmful molecules in the body that are the by-product of natural biochemical processes. They are also found in our food, medicines, air, and water.
Free radicals are unstable, meaning they have unpaired electrons and seek out other electrons to pair with. They target the mitochondria — the energy factories in each cell — damaging them in the process. This is what causes inflammation and degeneration of tissue in a process called oxidative stress.
Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant, meaning it fights oxidative stress and damage from free radicals. When there is enough glutathione in the cells, it offers itself up to free radicals so they don’t try to attach to other cells. If there isn’t enough glutathione in the cells, free radicals can run rampant, leading to cell damage at the root of many degenerative conditions.
Glutathione as the foundation for gut and immune health
When the lining of the small intestine becomes over-permeable, toxins, undigested food molecules, and other pathogens are able to pass into the sterile environment of the bloodstream. This triggers systemic (system-wide) inflammation, increasing the risk for food sensitivities, inflammation, pain, brain degeneration, and autoimmune disease.
Leaky gut plagues many autoimmune patients and addressing leaky gut is integral to managing autoimmunity.
Low glutathione levels make a person more prone to developing leaky gut and related issues and studies show glutathione plays an important role in reducing intestinal inflammation and gut barrier integrity.
The gut isn’t the only barrier that can become permeable, or leaky. People also can develop a leaky blood-brain barrier or leaky respiratory tract if the glutathione system is depleted. A health blood-brain barrier is important for brain functions due the connection along the gut-brain axis.
While an anti-inflammatory diet and leaky gut protocol are vital, it’s important to remember to support glutathione levels and glutathione recycling.
Boost glutathione levels
Our chronically stressed, toxin-exposed lifestyles tax our bodies so much it makes it nearly impossible to naturally maintain proper stores of glutathione. The good news is there are multiple ways to support glutathione’s role in the body.
Straight glutathione is not well absorbed in the gut. Instead, the following glutathione delivery methods are shown to be more effective at supporting antioxidant status:
Liposomal cream. I recommend liposomal glutathione cream for use in localized areas, such as an area of pain or inflammation. Examples include over an inflamed joint or over the thyroid in the case of autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
IV drip.This method is highly effective, but expensive and difficult to access for many people.
Glutathione nebulizer. Glutathione is administered via compressed air or sound vibrations to create a fine mist for inhalation.
S-acetyl glutathione. A newer and more accessible form of glutathione that the intestinal tract can efficiently absorb, S-acetyl glutathione may be effective in helping manage autoimmune disease.
Oral doses can start at 300mg per day and go up to several thousand milligrams if necessary with certain inflammatory conditions. However, it is not cheap and the amount used may depend on what you can afford.
I suggest using about 1000mg a day in most cases, although I suggest much higher doses in certain inflammatory, progressed neurodegenerative, or autoimmune conditions.
Other glutathione delivery methods include:
- Oral liquid liposomal glutathione. Contains both bioactive glutathione (GSH)
and glutathione recycling precursors.
- Glutathione suppositories
- Sublingual glutathione
Glutathione recycling is different from glutathione support
Many glutathione delivery methods help boost antioxidant status in the body, but they only raise levels of glutathione outside the cells.
Glutathione recycling is a separate function from supporting glutathione levels. It does what the name implies — it recycles existing glutathione for reuse. Supporting glutathione recycling with the necessary precursors is important because it helps raise levels inside the cells (intracellular).
Intracellular glutathione is important because it is the main antioxidant for mitochondria, the tiny mechanisms inside each cell that convert nutrients into energy.
This is crucial because the degenerative process of autoimmune disease destroys the mitochondria in affected cells, such as thyroid tissue in Hashimoto’s. For more information on how to support glutathione recycling, see my article here.
Support glutathione in these additional ways
Many people with autoimmune conditions find plentiful glutathione is necessary to prevent or dampen autoimmune flares. In addition to supporting glutathione levels and recycling, below are additional strategies to prevent depletion of glutathione:
- Eat a diet of whole foods. Processed and fast foods contain hormones, excess sugars, chemical additives, genetically altered factors, antibiotics, and other ingredients that cause the body stress and deplete glutathione.
- Determine any food intolerances and remove those foods from your diet as they stress your immune system and tax glutathione levels. An elimination diet or a lab tests can help you determine which foods are inflammatory for you.
- Get adequate quality sleep. Sleep deprivation is a major cause of stress on the body. Sleep issues are often secondary to something else, including brain-based issues, and it may take some sleuthing to find the source.
- Reduce your exposure to toxins and pollutants. They are found all around us, such as in body products, carpet, furniture (fire retardants), household cleaners, lawn care products, and elsewhere. With the amount of toxins in the environment and air that we have no control over, it’s smart to minimize your exposure to those you can in the home.
- Manage your autoimmune disease. Autoimmune or chronic diseases such as Hashimoto’s, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis tax the immune system and damage tissue. This depletes glutathione.
Boosting your glutathione antioxidant status, supporting glutathione recycling, and reducing sources of glutathione depletion can play a profound role in managing autoimmune disease, inflammation, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, and other chronic health issues.
Does Dr. K have a page where he lists links to actual recommended products that we can buy?
Dr. Kharrazian doesn’t like to recommend specific brands, because active ingredients and fillers constantly change, and it’s impossible for him to keep track. In addition, some individuals are reactive to certain fillers, so an across-the-board recommendation wouldn’t be appropriate. He prefers that individuals become familiar with which fillers are problematic for them so they can buy wisely for their unique needs.
Apex Energetics does make some great glutathione products; however, it’s a practitioner brand, meaning it’s available through a practitioner, not OTC. You can also find quality brands that are OTC — just look for the fewest fillers possible, nothing you can’t identify, and make sure they don’t contain the standard reactive items such as gluten, soy, corn, etc.
Is it worth it to take the glutathione recycler even if I’m not doing the liposomal cream? It sounds like it is but just checking if you have to recycle as well as body the levels. Will the recycler boost the levels by itself?
Yes, a glutathione recycler can be taken without also taking straight glutathione/cream. If you are severely low though, it may be even better to add in the straight glutathione/cream.
He developed Apex Energetic’s K line of products. I would look there…
How do i print the articles of this page? I cant find the print option anywhere. Im browsing via mobile.
You can Print the whole page by selecting ctrl & Prt sc keys together and it will open up another page giving you printing options.
I believe I have all three issues of leaky gut, brain, lungs. Which supplements do I take of Dr K’s? I may be able to get them through my Drs or a place called The Sunflower Shoppe. They can special order. I just need to know what the amount Dr K. Gives to really sick patients. How often helps too. I guess I need the recycling supplement and the straight glutathione. My Dr is new with FM and not sure how to help me. I have Sibo too.
Thank you for your help.
Melinda Jach I have leaky gut and terrible breathing issues ( no one can figure out- chronic) and inflammation- you mention leaky lung- what is this?
I was told it’s caused by drainage of acid from reflux or an infection from sinus drainage into the lungs causing asthma/inflammation or worst symptoms. When I use Zyrtec, Netipot, and Famotidine I can breathe so much better.
I too have breathing issues from getting whooping cough last October. I’m still on prednisone and steroid inhalants. I’m starting a product called colostrum to help with inflammation and leaky gut. Also I’ll begin using
Glutathione for a mold infection from my house
Gosh, I’m sorry but we can’t really give too much direction here on the blog regarding supplements, partly because there isn’t a way to know your complete health history and needs. If you are referring to the Apex supplements, those are not available over-the-counter. Apex is a practitioner brand, ie: available via a practitioner who knows how to use them and has an account with Apex. You could contact them (www.apexenergetics.com) to ask if there are any practitioners in your area with an account, then establish a patient-practitioner relationship. Or, your practitioner could also contact them to open an account.
Dosing always depends on the person, and I’ve only ever heard him suggest to start with the dosing on the Apex bottle. Some patients need more, some less, but it’s determined by your response.
Regarding your practitioner who is new to Functional Medicine – you might let them know Dr. Kharrazian has a new institute for training practitioners: https://kharrazianinstitute.com/ki-practitioner-locator/.
Apex also runs practitioner training seminars designed by Dr. Kharrazian (he used to teach them, but now another team of practitioners teaches them: http://www.apexseminars.com). I think currently the seminars are on hold (they are only held in person… pandemic… pause): (apexseminars.com)
Two things re: SIBO: Dr. Kharrazian is working on a gut health book — no idea if it’s coming out this year but the editing team is working hard on it! And, keep your eye on the emails about the weekly Facebook Live talks – he had some requests to do a talk dedicated to SIBO. No idea if/when it will happen, but I think it would be a popular topic.
Oh wow very good information on Glutathione, now I could learn something for next article.
I have to use fairly high doses of prednisone ongoing to control rheumatoid arthritis. Does it make any sense to supplement with glutathione to strengthen my immune system when on the other hand I am suppressing it with prednisone? Do you know of any harm/interactions/contradictions which can occur when glutathione is used with corticosteriods like prednisone?
I’m sorry, but the web team isn’t able to advise on this combo. It’s an interesting question though, and one I’m sure is relevant to a lot of people. Dr. Kharrazian recently did a lecture on glutathione; I checked the transcript and did not see mention of it. You might try asking this at one of his upcoming live talks on Facebook – he does about 15 minutes of lecture, then answers live questions from viewers. Typically he only takes questions relevant to the talk topic, but it’s worth asking no matter what! If you want reminders for the weekly lectures, just make sure you are on his email list (to sign up, go to the very bottom of the Home page – you’ll see the signup widget there).
What about using NAC to supplement your own glutathione production? Wouldn’t it be better to not supplement with Glutathione to suppress your own production?
Dr. Kharrazian does recommend NAC as one way to support glutathione production. He did a talk recently on glutathione and NAC is mentioned throughout. You can find the replay here:
I have spent way too many hours (maybe 90+) researching papers in peer reviewed scientific journals seeking the demonstrated benefits of orally administered supplemental glutathione (and 2+ writing this question). I also researched it’s precursors, related enzymes, metabolic pathways etc., along with looking for anything discussing the combination of charcoal and glutathione (Zero) for alternative treatment for ailments. GSH/Charcoal was recommended to me along with some kind of muscle test for some unknown reason.
Few studies described the actual role of GSH in improving dietary function, heavy metal “removal”, anti-aging, improved respiratory function, or any of the other claims that homeopathic practitioners claim the supplements provide. Instead, I found dozens upon dozens of papers regarding ant-oxidant properties, antiviral effects, role in tissue damage, possible tissue restoration, preventing lipid peroxidation activity, apoptosis, and it’s importance in nearly every physiological process in ANIMAL and IN VITRO trials and experiments. And, nearly all of the papers concluded that NAC is superior to GSH because NAC increases the concentration of GSH more than GSH does. Of the few papers I found involving humans, the overwhelming number of papers involved using N-Acetylcysteine (some orally administered) as opposed to GSH. It was mentioned as possible SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic though. Another paper stated that oral glutathione was shown to decrease melanogenesis activity via reducing melanin concentrations and associated enzyme activity, however, I THINK the point of that article was that the flip side was that too much GSH in a tumor cell is a problem.
I was frustrated to see the same conclusion in nearly every paper saying GSH “it may be effective”, “more research needs to be done”, “it suggests that it could” or, not mentioning GSH specifically.
This has all led me to question the absorbability and usefulness of oral GSH supplements as opposed to NAC. Once source said that NAC could be more dangerous, GSH is listed as mostly safe in the FDA Supplemental Chart. I was also enormously frustrated that the most promising looking papers did not have free access. But, I’m just a layman with and ancient biochem/physiology education and for most papers of the papers I read I mostly only understood the prepositions and an occasional noun.
This was a very long way to go to ask, would you please share your references with me that support GSH use and if possible, its use over NAC. I don’t want to go see this homeopathic practitioner and be hit up to buy something that isn’t really proven to be safe and effective. I’m also not sure about the “muscle testing”.
Hola,necesito saber como se llama la prueba de dominancia de TH1 y TH2 y donde se puede hacer? He investigado en Cyrex Labs y no se cual será, muchas gracias
It would be through a lab that does immunology testing but Dr. Kharrazian now says to focus more supporting regulatory T cells and dampening TH17. Pay attention to whether you react to TH1 or TH2 stimulators. Not everyone does.
Hi there –
I have ready many articles by Dr K about glutathione (and others who also recommend supplementation for autoimmunity).
I was wondering what it might indicate if you take oral supplements (I take Apex brand) of glutathione but you feel foggier in your brain/cognitive function after taking?
I know I’m absorbing it pretty fast because I feel a benefit in my digestive tract. But it doesn’t make my brain feel good. Wondering why this might be…
I’ve been taking 1000 mg of NAC for a few months after listening to one of Dr. K’s podcasts. Yesterday I read in a Hashimoto’s group I belong to that glutathione feeds cancer and multiple people said they’ve heard the same. Can you please comment on this? I’m uncertain now if I should continue taking it. Thank you.