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What is Glutathione & why is it so important ?

Glutathione is a small protein that is formed naturally in the body when the amino acids cystine, glycine and glutamine combine under the thiol (sulphur) group.

Oxidative stress has a prominent role in the life-span regulation of living organisms. Glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants and free radical scavengers known in cellular biology.

Glutathione levels reduce with age


Your ability to produce Glutathione diminishes over the years due to ageing and the constant toll that modern living has on the body. Exposure to xenobiotics, heavy metals (such as lead, mercury and arsenic), stress, poor dietary choices, toxic cocktails of prescription and non-prescription drugs, trauma and infections all have huge consequences for the body and its ability to maintain adequate glutathione levels. Image source

    Patient Case Study 1

    I prescribed glutathione in the treatment of a 23 year old female patient who presented with fatigue. This was particularly effecting memory and cognition coupled with previous positive tests to Epestine Barr, Cystic Acne and heavy metal toxicity. The prescription was:

    • liposomal GSH twice daily
    • NAC
    • Activated B Vitamins
    • Magnesium
    • Diet and Lifestyle recommendations

    Subsequent follow up appointments (two weeks after initial consultation) saw the patient reporting improvements in energy levels. Acne symptoms decreased and there was a reduction in the occurrence of cysts and pain associated with cystic acne and improvements in short term memory. After several months of GSH, NAC and chelation therapy, heavy metal levels in the body decreased and improvements in oxidative stress, acne and cognitive function were reported. Liver function tests and hair mineral analysis testing indicated improvements of liver function and a decrease in toxicity, both supported by how the patient reported feeling.

    Patient Case Study 2

    Additional glutathione treatment was given to a 68 year old patient after he first suffered Atrial Fibrillation (AF) 6 years previously. Complications in treating the AF saw the patient suffer a dramatic loss in energy, short term memory loss due to ischemic damage and an increase in digestive issues, including an increase in food aversions and intolerances. Glutathione along with cardio vascular support and digestive support was prescribed to the patient for long term use:

    • GSH
    • Hawthorne Berry
    • Coenzyme Q10
    • Magnesium
    • Probiotic
    • Diet and lifestyle modifications

    After several months of treatment the patient reported an increase in energy, described as:

    • An increase in the ability to continue gardening without the need for breaks.
    • An improvement in short term memory - measured by his wife who had less questions to answer about where things were
    • A decrease in digestive symptoms and adherence to a diet protocol that saw more fresh fruits and vegetables (more antioxidants and protein in the diet and a decrease in the consumption of refined carbohydrates.
    Further to the patient’s description of energy changes, the patient’s doctor reported a improvement in liver function, cholesterol and cortisol levels. Due to recent advancements and accessibility to gene testing, it is now understood that the patient has GTSM 1 and MTHFR polymorphisms contributing to his condition. Both of these are being treated with glutathione and methylcobalamine respectively.


    Why were the treatments effective? let’s look at the cellular biology and biochemistry:

    Glutathione plays a role in many cellular functions including cell growth and repair, DNA synthesis and repair, metabolism of toxins, carcinogens and xenobiotics, and the conjugation of heavy metals. It enhances both cell and humoral mediated immunity and is involved in the regulation of homocysteine.

    In the immune system the protective activity of glutathione is two-fold; it enhances the activity of immune cells whilst acting as an antioxidant within them. Out of all types of body tissue the highest concentrations of glutathione can be found in the liver and the kidneys.

    Glutathione supplementation saw improvements in patients being treated for skin disorders and autoimmune disease such as psoriasis, due to the effect glutathione has on decreasing immune reactivity and supporting immune function. Additional support in the cell happens due to the fact glutathione helps to reduce the cell proliferation seen in psoriasis.



    The first phase is dependent upon cytochrome P450 enzymes and required for the conversion of toxins into water soluble molecules. This is achieved via oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis, hydration and dehalogenation. Nutrients responsible for this process include B vitamins (specifically B2, B3, B6, B12), folic acid, glutathione and flavonoids.


    The second phase, known as the conjugation pathway, is the conjugation of water soluble wastes in preparation for excretion. These pathways all require specific amino acids for the correct elimination of wastes. These pathways include sulfation, glucoronidation, glutathione conjugation, acetylation, amino acid conjugation and methylation. Each specific pathway requires specific amino acids and the addition of magnesium, glutathione, vitamin C, folic acid and choline.



    It is through these two phases that the liver acts much like a supermarket scanner, scanning nutrients and toxins alike and then either sending them through for re-absorption or excretion via the lower digestive track.  Image Source

    Glutathione plays a major role here in that without adequate levels for the phase two liver process—detoxification and conjugation down the sulfation pathway and excretion through urine and bile—the body risks incorrect re-assimilation, toxic overload or the development of a chronic disease such as cancer, auto immunity or chronic fatigue.
    As we age glutathione levels are naturally depleted and therefore need to be supported. To assist with ageing gracefully and free from disease with correct liver and immune function, along with the consumption of supplemental based glutathione, I would suggest creating room for:



    • Raw Milk (Cleopatra’s Bath Milk)
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables (containing Vitamins C and E), and nuts and seeds, which will aid in the recycling and uptake of glutathione back into the cells.
    • Brazil nuts - Selenium, is a potent antioxidant found in Brazil nuts that is vital in Glutathione recycling
    • Onions, garlic, leeks and shallots, to increase your sulphur intake to support phase two liver detoxification. Due to the sticky nature of sulphur compounds in the body, sulphur based foods along with glutathione help to excrete wastes through the sulfation pathway.
    • Quality grass fed & finished protein sources
    • Cruciferous vegetables to support phase one and phase two liver detoxification. Also specific bitter herbs such as St Mary's Thistle, Andrographis, Dandelion, Golden Seal, Angelica Root and Gentain.
    • A low intake of grains and refined carbohydrates, sugars and alcohol. Due to the disruption that pro inflammatory grains, sugar and alcohol have on the delicate balance of the micro flora in the digestive system.


    • N-Acetly-Cysteine (NAC) is proven to reduce recovery tie post exercise additionally NAC has been shown to successfully penetrate the blood-brain barrier and be an efficient way to raise blood GSH levels. Recommended Dosage - 1000mg once daily on an empty stomach to improve bioavailability.
    • A-lipoic acid. Both of these nutrients are involved in the redox of glutathione and adequate levels help to ensure the protection of the cells from oxidative stress, prevent fatigue and aid in muscle recovery post exercise.  Due to its ability to act in an aqueous and lipid media lipoic acid is known as the universal antioxidant.  Recommended dosage - 400mg three (3) times daily on an empty stomach to improve bioavailability.
    • Metabolism and methylation nutrients such as vitamin B, B6, B12, and folic acid (best taken in the form of folinic acid). Additionally these nutrients help to maintain low levels of homocyestine, a potentially toxic chemical that can lead to stoke and atherosclerosis.
    • Vitamin C is also a potent anti oxidant, that along with GSH compete for removal of free radicals in the cell. Ascorbate has the ability to scavange at a greater percentage to GSH, therefore increased doses of ascorbate will see the sparing of GSH in the cell improving cellular performace of GSH.
    • Upgraded Glutathione offers superior absorption because it uses a patented delivery technology, glutathione binds to a peptide called lactoferrin. lactoferrin bypasses stomach degradation and delivers the glutathione straight to your gut. Lactoferrin also crosses your intestinal mucosa through a process called Cell Receptor Mediated Endocytosis (CRME) that allows lactoferrin to deliver iron to blood plasma.
    • High quality, grass fed and un-denatured whey protein supplements. Notice that Whey protein contains the necessary amino acid precursors for glutathione production whereas lesser soy protein does not. Whey protein concentrate has been shown to represent an effective and safe cysteine donor for GSH replenishment during GSH depletion in immune deficiency states. Cysteine is the crucial limiting amino acid for intracellular GSH synthesis. 
    Increasing Glutathione Levels by addressing lifestyle factors:
    Whether it’s 30 minutes of yoga, walking, swimming, dancing, cycling, or whatever you choose. Whatever it is, this will help to increase feel good hormones and endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine, and decrease cortisol levels, improving mood.


    Melatonin and how to get a dose in Australia

    Decrease the detrimental effects of light pollution in the home and the negative effects on melatonin production by using blue blocker glasses, programs that adjust the light on computers - f.lux - and salt lamps instead of fluorescent lights. In Australia, Melatonin is only available as a homeopathic formulation. A more effective way of increasing melatonin levels at night may be using essential oils that improve melatonin secretion - Clary Sage, Frankinsese and Vetiver. Another tactic is exposing yourself to the daily sunset and ensuring that you can observe the natural colour changes in the sky, from blue to red to black. The red sky helps to increase natural melatonin secretion. Also helpful is ensuring adequate digestive health and removal of stimulants from the diet. Finally create a routine around wake and sleep times so that the rhythm of your melatonin production is not disrupted.

    Mitigate the effects of chronic stress, depression and / or anxiety to boost your glutathione levels. 10 - 20 minutes of meditation a day will help not only to improve our response to stress, but will also aid the body's ability to recover quickly from disease. It will also help to avoid nutrient depletion through the lowering of inflammation in the body. The Heartmath emwave or Inner balance trainer can help you learn to meditate independently.
    There you go! Hope you found this useful :)


    Richie JP Jr, Mills BJ, Lang CA. Correction of a glutathione deficiency in the ageing mosquito increases its longevity. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1987 Jan;184(1):113-7.

    High blood glutathione levels accompany excellent physical and mental health in women ages 60 to 103 years. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12486409

    De Rosa SC, Zaretsky MD, Dubs JG, Roederer M, Anderson M, Green A, Mitra D, Watanabe N, Nakamura H, Tjioe I, Deresinski SC, Moore WA, Ela SW, Parks D, Herzenberg LA, Herzenberg LA. N-acetylcysteine replenishes glutathione in HIV infection. Eur J Clin Invest. 2000 Oct;30(10):915-29
    S-linolenoyl glutathione intake extends life-span and stress resistance via Sir-2.1 upregulation in Caenorhabditis elegans. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12486409




    Dihydrolipoic acid- a universal antioxidant both in the membrane and in the aqueous phase. Reduction of peroxyl, ascorbyl and chromanoxyl radicals.

    Whey protein concentrate (WPC) and glutathione modulation in cancer treatment

    Carmel Elmore
    Carmel Elmore