Glutathione, like vitamin C, is a potent antioxidant that is abundantly present in animals and plants. It is also referred to as the ‘master antioxidant’ since it plays a significant role in replenishing other antioxidants such as vitamin D, vitamin C, and alpha-lipoic acid.
Glutathione is a compound composed of three amino acids: glutamic acid(glutamate), glycine, and cysteine. Glycine and glutamate can be obtained from the diet. Cysteine is the limiting ingredient in glutathione production and is considered an essential amino acid, meaning the body cannot make enough and must be ingested. Cysteine is associated with a strong antioxidant defense system and optimal immune functioning.
Glutathione is synthesized in the liver as a normal function of the liver. It can also be introduced to the body through supplementation or ingestion of garlic, avocados, and spinach, to mention a few. On the other hand, glutathione levels can be negatively impacted by certain things such as poor nutrition, environmental pollutants, stress, and the aging process.
This powerful antioxidant and detoxifying agent is generated in the cell’s cytosol in the human body. Nearly 25% of human body glutathione is thought to reside within the liver cells and aid in detoxification. The lungs and intestinal lining are also rich in glutathione compound. Glutathione compound exists in four distinct forms within the body: an oxidized state, reduced condition, protein bounded form, and a disulfide cysteine-containing form. In the human body, glutathione is continuously being transformed between the four states and, at some point, split into its amino acids and resynthesized again.
Glutathione is a master antioxidant protecting and promoting body cells’ regeneration after cellular injuries from diseases. Additionally, glutathione is vital in optimum immune system functionality. Glutathione is essential in proper immune system functioning for two major reasons:
Lymphocytes are the type of white blood cells responsible for mounting the body’s immunity against specific disease-causing agents. Disease-causing agents include bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi. Stimulation of the lymphocytes requires the ingestion and breakdown of disease-causing agents (pathogen) by accessory cells. Once disease-causing agents enter the body, they are ingested and broken down into a compound of 2-3 amino acids by accessory cells such as macrophages or dendritic cells. These small amino acids are then presented on the cell surfaces to be recognized easily by lymphocyte cells. Glutathione plays a crucial role in the breaking of disease-causing agents, enhancing their recognition and stimulation of lymphocytes to mount immunity to eradicate invading bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
It is worth noting that glutathione is required to maintain the optimum production of interferon-gamma by dendritic cells and T-cells. This protein is essential in the process of forming host defense against intracellular pathogens. Intracellular pathogens are bacteria, parasites, and viruses that reside within the human body’s cells, avoiding immune cells’ detection.
Glutathione is essential for neutrophils’ pathogens killing. Most importantly, glutathione defends neutrophils damage from their reactive oxygen species produced in pathogen killing. In 2017, a study demonstrated that individuals with a deficiency of an enzyme involved in production of glutathione had less efficient bacterial killing capability despite having normal phagocytosis and adequate release of reactive oxygen species. With a low level of glutathione against produced peroxides within the neutrophils, the cells are damaged, rendering them less effective in pathogen killing.
Natural killer (NK) cells are components of the innate immune system responsible for containing viral infection, while lymphocytes develop antigen-specific immunity to eradicate disease-causing agents. NK cells also mount immunity against intracellular pathogens such as mycobacterium tuberculosis that causes TB. A 2018 study shows that activation of natural killer cells relies on the amount of glutathione present inside the cell cytoplasm. Individuals with acquired disorders such as AIDS have insufficient glutathione levels and are more susceptible to opportunistic infections because of compromised NK activities.
Studies have revealed that by the age of 20, glutathione level within cells of white blood cells and red blood cells begins to drop at a rate of 10% for every decade of age. But by the fifth decade of life, the body cells have deteriorated enough from aging, and their level of glutathione declines at a higher rate. Other conditions that have been reported by scientists to lower body glutathione level includes AIDS, Hepatitis, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and cancer treatments.
Your body needs glutathione to ensure your immune system functions optimally. If glutathione is depleted, your immune system, cognitive functions, and other cellular processes slow down. Below are the best options to boost glutathione in your body:
Consuming a diet rich in the building blocks of glutathione is the most natural way to raise its level. Eating a balanced diet of incredibly natural and organic food rich in cysteine and glutathione daily will restore your glutathione level and provide nutrients required by the body to absorb cysteine and glutathione. Sulfur-rich vegetables such as garlic, onions, cabbage, kale and broccoli are the best way to raise your glutathione levels and, consequently, the immune system. You can also consume cysteine-rich foods such as egg yolks, red peppers, whey germ, and poultry. However, eating sulfur-containing foods may not provide enough glutathione to our body because they have a less concentrated amount of nutrients necessary for its production. This means to boost your glutathione level you have to consume an enormous amount of sulfur foods. This leads us to another means to boost your glutathione level effortlessly.
Can straight oral glutathione supplements boost your Glutathione levels and Immunity system?
No, glutathione is a tiny protein, and like all other proteins, it will get digested by acids and enzymes in your digestive system; Never getting absorbed by your body. It is recommended to take precursors of glutathione that will get converted to glutathione once absorbed into the body. Original Glutathione FormulaTM (OGF) is a glutathione supplement that contains no active glutathione but building blocks that prompt your body to produce glutathione. This is especially important for those older than 49 years old because, as we mentioned earlier, glutathione declines at a higher rate from the fifth decade of life. If you find yourself with compromised immunity as in post-chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment, you should also seriously consider ordering OGF.
Alejandre, A., Gonzalez, L., Hussain, P., Ly, J., Muthiah, A., Saing, T., … & Venketaraman, V. (2018). Opportunistic Infections in HIV Individuals and Enhanced Immunity by Glutathione. In HIV/AIDS (pp. 135-147). Academic Press.
Stojkov, D., Amini, P., Oberson, K., Sokollik, C., Duppenthaler, A., Simon, H. U., & Yousefi, S. (2017). ROS and glutathionylation balance cytoskeletal dynamics in neutrophil extracellular trap formation. Journal of cell biology, 216(12), 4073-4090.