Glutathione is the single most powerful antioxidant your body produces – and recycles. A combination of three amino acids — glycine, glutamate and cysteine — glutathione helps prevent cell damage from heavy metals and free radicals, so having enough circulating in your cells is essential to living a vibrant, energetic life. Come up short, however, and you’re leaving yourself open to any number of health problems that can make you old and sick way before your time – and none of us wants that! So, to keep healthy and energetic for as long as possible, let glutathione take the wheel. All you need to do is support its production with a few healthy habits. Which ones to pay attention to? Here are a few ways to keep your glutathione levels topped up, and your engine running like a well-oiled machine:
First, show your liver some love.
Glutathione is made in your liver, the organ most responsible for detoxifying your body, so one that’s functioning optimally is the foundation of a plentiful glutathione supply. As long as the factory is running well and production is humming, you’re good. However, there are a number of everyday assaults on your system that can take a bite out of your body’s glutathione stores, leaving you exhausted and sluggish (and probably a bit cranky about it too). Among the more common, everyday depleters:
- Exposure to environmental toxins and heavy metals
- Household chemicals (cleaning products, air fresheners, detergents, etc)
- Antibiotic use and overuse
- Chemical sweeteners, like Sweet ‘n Lo, Splenda, Equal, etc
- Processed foods, food preservatives (i.e., nitrites), genetically modified foods
- Prescription and some OTC meds, like Tylenol
- UV radiation, medical X-rays, chemotherapy, electromagnetic fields
- Alcohol use and abuse
- Unrelieved stress and lack of exercise – or too strenuous exercise which can produce too many free radicals
- Poor diet – or one that’s too low in vitamins, minerals or antioxidants
- The natural aging process, which drops cellular glutathione production on average 10% per decade
Bottom line: minimize the depleters to support optimal liver function and ultimately, keep glutathione production high
Glutathione deficiency has serious repercussions.
Not totally convinced of glutathione’s importance to your overall health? Then take this to heart: studies have shown that being glutathione-deficient has a profoundly negative impact on health, with low levels being linked to numerous serious, chronic health problems, like Alzheimer’s; a wide range of cancers; eye problems like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma; diabetes; autoimmune diseases; liver, kidney, lung and heart disease; multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s and many more. So, if you don’t think you need to pay that much attention to your levels, think again!
Glutathione is one hard-working antioxidant.
O.K., so you know you need to have as much glutathione in your corner as you can get. But why? Here’s what all that glutathione is up to while you’re busy going about your business:
- Protecting your DNA from damage and maintaining optimal immunity
- Protecting against damage from free radicals which in turn tamps down inflammation and helps fend off heart disease, cancer, neurological decline, dementia and many more of the debilitating diseases we fear most
- Neutralizing and clearing out heavy metals and toxins
- Keeping your mitochondria pumping out energy
- Conferring powerful anti-aging benefits, and for many, more youthful-looking skin. In fact, low glutathione levels have been linked to every major aging process in the human body.
Recognize the symptoms of low glutathione levels.
Declining levels of glutathione are a natural side-effect of aging, so boosting your levels is a good idea, particularly if you’re suffering with typical deficiency symptoms like lethargy, frequent headaches, brain fog, skin eruptions, sleep or mood disorders, or if you seem to catch a lot of colds.
Hey Doc, How Do I Get Some?
To optimize your glutathione supply, I recommend a multi-pronged approach, combining a nutrient-dense diet with stress-reduction, exercise and smart supplementation. Here’s your battle plan:
- Exercise triggers glutathione production, so make time for movement throughout the day and build up over time. Take a pass on aggressive exercise programs since overdoing it can cut glutathione production and trigger the over-production free radicals.
- Chronic stress depletes glutathione so get it under control with a meditation, restorative yoga or tai chi practice.
- Eat foods that support and stimulate glutathione production. Top picks include: garlic and onions, as well as asparagus, avocados, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, parsley and watercress. Cinnamon, cardamom and curcumin also offer benefits.
- For smoothie fans, whey protein is also helpful – but just be sure to get the good stuff, meaning organic, non-denatured (un-heated) whey, from grass-fed cows, free of additives, sweeteners, etc.
- Another way to encourage glutathione production? Take steps to minimize toxin exposure by filtering your water; using gentler organic or homemade, natural cleaning products; reducing the use of personal care products; switching to glass for food storage and reheating.
To achieve optimal levels, I also recommend supplementation. Look for acetyl glutathione to ensure maximum bioavailability, absorption – and maximum benefits.