Nutrition Expert: Sana Saiyed , Practicing Clinical Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, Mumbai
Glutathione, called as the master antioxidant has a powerful effect on enhancing the immunity of the body. Glutathione also enhances the absorption of vitamin C, Vitamin E and CoQ-10.
Do you know that our body can produce its own antioxidant in the form of glutathione? It is produced every month by our body which helps in maintaining the immunity game strong.
Although the production of glutathione is hindered by a lot of factors like sun burns, autoimmune diseases, chronic stress, UV radiation, smoking, poor diet.
Glutathione has the capability to cope with the oxidative stress by binding with the oxidative compounds that damages the DNA, cell membranes and energy production leading to a healthier immune response.
There are two forms of glutathione in the body:
active form- Reduced glutathione (GSH, or L-glutathione) it repairs oxidative damage and oxidizes.
Oxidized glutathione (GSSG) is the inactive form, which can be recycled back into active GSH.
Glutathione and Mitochondria
Glutathione protects your mitochondria, ensuring your cells are able to make the energy your body needs.
Mitochondria are the “power plants” of your cells. Every one of your cells has mitochondria, which convert glucose, amino acids and fats into energy.
But mitochondria can also sense danger when cell energy levels drop, and are even involved in sending the final “death” message (apoptosis) when a cell is damaged beyond repair and needs to die.
Mitochondria need to be protected, and the “knight in shining armor” who guards our source of energy is none other than glutathione.
Glutathione makes sure that heavy metals, organic toxins, and free radicals generated during normal metabolism don’t damage the mitochondria.
Certain illnesses are known to decrease glutathione levels. Researchers are still determining whether low glutathione causes some of these diseases, or the other way around.
The most common low glutathione-related diseases are:
- Macular degeneration
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Liver disease
- Sickle cell anemia
- Cystic fibrosis
- Heart disease
Glutathione is a Potent Antioxidant
Many people know the chef’s trick of sprinkling a little lemon juice over fruit to keep it from turning brown. Antioxidants are like that lemon juice. By consistently “sprinkling” your body with antioxidants like glutathione, you can prevent your body from “browning” or “oxidizing” which causes damage and aging of cells. Antioxidants are the “anti-agers” of the nutrient world, working to protect your body from free radicals, and the oxidative damage they cause.
Every time you eat, breathe, or move, your body uses fuel created from the food you eat to produce energy. But just as a car releases harmful byproducts as exhaust, so too does your own body’s energy-producing efforts produce a dangerous byproduct: free radicals.
Free radicals are highly reactive forms of oxygen that are missing an electron. When they come into contact with normal molecules, they steal an electron, damaging the healthy cell and its DNA.
In fact, some estimates show that your DNA takes 10,000 oxidative hits daily. Antioxidants work to counteract the damage caused by free radicals.
Glutathione is the “master” antioxidant, directly binding to oxidative compounds that damage cell membranes, DNA, and energy production. It directly neutralizes a wide range of oxidants, including superoxide, nitric oxide, carbon radicals, hydroperoxides, peroxynitrites, and lipid peroxides.
Glutathione offers the all-important antioxidant defense like few others can.
Glutathione and Energy
Energy production occurs within all cells (except red blood cells) via the mitochondria. Glutathione protects mitochondria from free radicals and the oxidative damage they cause. In this way, glutathione is paramount to energy production.
If mitochondria are damaged, they slow down and start to make less energy. The affected “diseased” mitochondria leads to decreased bodily function and efficiency.
To make things worse, damaged mitochondria output more free radicals. In turn, these free radicals cause further mitochondrial damage and create a vicious cycle of less energy and more damage.
GSH binds these free radicals and relieves oxidative stress — not just on the mitochondria, but on the rest of the cell.
Glutathione and the Immune System
Glutathione helps your immune system stay strong and ready to fight infections. While vitamin C seems to get all the accolades when it comes to immunity, glutathione is the under-recognized supporting actor who deserves the starring role.
Research shows that active glutathione (GSH) primes white cells such as natural killer (NK) and T cells, your body’s front-line infection fighters. GSH-enhanced T cells are able to produce more infection-fighting substances, controlling both bacterial and viral infections.
One clinical trial in particular found that GSH doubled NK cells’ ability to be cytotoxic (kill invaders) after just six months of use. Glutathione actually has a potent antibacterial effect as it helps the immune cells called macrophages fight the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
In another study, researchers found that GSH modulates the behavior of many immune system cells, affecting adaptive immunity and protecting against microbial, viral and parasitic infections.
There are many chronic infections such as EBV, hepatitis, herpes viruses and Lyme, to name a few, which can deregulate and suppress the immune system. Glutathione can modulate and reverse this suppression.
Autoimmune diseases also appear to be hallmarked by imbalanced glutathione levels.