Most people likely have never heard of glutathione (GSH). As a molecule that combines three amino acids, GSH is an important antioxidant that produces and recycles itself in the body and helps maintain a healthy immune system. Depending on one’s own genetic make-up, however, some of us are better equipped than others at being able to metabolize glutathione effectively. It is thought that a significant portion of the population is missing one of the required genes (the GSTT1 function gene) which, if absent, means you have glutathione deficiency – the liver needs this molecule to help it with its critical role of detoxification. So many who suffer from various chronic diseases also happen to have reduced levels of glutathione (either genetic predisposition or environmental stressors). When glutathione becomes depleted, the body has a tough time getting rid of toxins and is not well protected against infection, free radicals or cancer (without enough glutathione, the mitochondria in your cells easily get damaged from the free radicals). Even if you have the required genetic make-up, glutathione is depleted as we age.
Glutathione is the most important molecule we produce in our bodies (this is what I believe anyway), yet unfortunately for me I am severely deficient. Not only am I one of those unlucky individuals who is absent in the GSTT1 gene, I am also absent in another important gene, the GSTM1 gene, so I suffer a high deficiency in this molecule. All around, not so good news for me. As a result of my mutations in these genes, I need to be constantly cognizant of ways to support glutathione production in my body – to protect myself against rapid aging and disease.
Supporting Glutathione With Food
You can get glutathione directly from your diet, and most glutathione is made by your body. Luckily there are foods and supplements that can boost glutathione production. Many of the following foods may already be on your list anyway:
- Cruciferous vegetables: These sulphur rich foods are known glutathione boosters: Arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, radish, turnip and watercress. Even if these foods may not be mouth watering, more options include:
- Folate foods: Asparagus, avocado, beets, black eyed peas, garbanzo and pinto beans, liver, lentils and spinach. It gets better:
- Foods with selenium: Grass-fed beef, boneless turkey, chicken, egg, cooked halibut, yellow-fin tuna, brazil nuts.
- Vitamin C and E-rich foods: (Several have already been mentioned above.) Oranges, red and green peppers, strawberries, guava, kiwi. Vitamin E goodies include almonds, sweet potato, wheat germ, palm oil, butternut squash, trout and olive oil.
- Organic, grass-fed beef liver
Supporting Glutathione With Supplementation
Natural supplements which help to produce and recycle glutathione in the body:
- Milk thistle: The ingredient silymarin in the milk thistle plant is thought to have protective benefits for the liver.
- Whey protein: Only in a natural or organic powder form. Try grass-fed or goat whey protein as a diet supplement.
- Alpha lipoic acid: Like glutathione, it’s usually made naturally by the body and is beneficial for blood sugar control and helps restore GSH levels.
Of course you can’t go wrong by including a daily thirty minute routine of brisk walking, plus twenty minutes of strength training two or three times a week. This is a no brainer approach to aiding your immune system while boosting your glutathione levels.
The most important thing to take away from this article, is that glutathione is your body’s most powerful antioxidant and detoxifier (your liver needs this molecule to do its job of detoxifying efficiently).
Given my membership in the unlucky sperm club with my deficiencies in this critical molecule, all of the above mentioned foods and supplements (along with exercise) are the most important things for me to do every single day. In addition to the above, I also have glutathione IVs every 3 weeks.
How do you support your body’s glutathione production?