Glutathione has long played a crucial role in balancing oxidative stressors in our body which occur from such things as environmental toxicity, immune insults (infections and viruses) and inflammatory injury. Glutathione is one of your body’s most abundant and potent antioxidants. It aids in detoxification as a free-radical scavenger and plays an important role in recycling your antioxidants and repairing damage throughout your body (i.e. anti-aging!) Additionally, it plays a crucial role in restoring lung function in COPD and asthma, and during and after serious viral lung infections as we have seen through the pandemic.
Glutathione is a large molecule, a tripeptide, consisting of cysteine, glycine, and glutamate. Because of its large size, oral supplementation to improve glutathione levels is more difficult as it is mostly destroyed by the stomach before it can be absorbed. Newer forms include oral liposomal (fat soluble wraps) which allow for better absorption and bioavailability, and nebulized (inhaled) forms that target and are absorbed directly by lung tissue. However, the most reliable route is still intravenously (IV). Increasing your helpings of sulfur-rich foods, such as garlic, onions, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage, etc.) and high-quality, bio-active whey protein can improve glutathione production, along with increasing supplementation of precursors such as N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).
Several studies have determined that patients with higher levels of glutathione have a better prognosis and immune response against viral infections. Along with its antioxidant properties, glutathione was also shown to exhibit anti-viral and anti-coagulation properties. In the lining of the lower respiratory tract, glutathione is the first line of immune defense against oxidative stress. Nebulized glutathione and NAC have become more common in healing oxidative damage to lung tissue as it is a simple and effective way of receiving medication directly into the lungs, which can be readily absorbed into the bloodstream.
As mentioned earlier, receiving glutathione via IV will assure your cells are getting what they need. As we approach the music festival season and hot weather, one of the great benefits of IV therapy is the effective delivery of nutrients into tissues that need it most. Along with hydration and B vitamins, glutathione is one of the best IV nutrients to restore liver function and help with detoxification.
Most people tolerate glutathione and are typically deficient, especially after illness or over-ingesting toxic substances such as alcohol or drugs. However, if you have sulfur sensitivities or certain genetic mutations in the enzyme CBS (cystathionine beta-synthase), you can have negative side effects including confusion, fatigue, weakness, poor appetite, nausea and back or abdominal pain. Be sure you consult with your doctor or a qualified health professional before starting any new medications or supplements.
Dr. Sonja Fung is a primary care naturopathic doctor with a focus on integrative cancer care and regenerative joint injections at Live Well Clinic in La Quinta. Her clinic offers B vitamin injections, IV nutrients, and functional lab testing for a personalized health plan. For more information, call (760) 771.5970 or visit www.livewellclinic.org.
Sources: 1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699458/; 2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7263077/; 3)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8131726/; 4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6389332/; 5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8349474/; 6) https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/glutamine-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20064099