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.