Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that’s produced naturally in the body and can offer several health benefits. When your levels are lower, as happens with older age or with certain diseases, it’s also possible to supplement with glutathione. Understandably, many people are interested in the use and benefits of glutathione. Now, with that in mind, you might have done some research and found some information, but, in addition to this information, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions people often have when it comes to glutathione.
What is Glutathione?
Glutathione is an antioxidant produced naturally in the cells of your body. It’s produced by the liver and consists mainly of three separate amino acids: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. The compound is helpful in tissue building and repair and immune system function.
Generally, glutathione levels decline as you age and these levels can also be reduced by several other factors including stress, environmental toxins, and a poor diet. For this reason, it might be necessary to take glutathione supplements.
How Can You Increase Glutathione Levels?
A frequently asked question about glutathione is concerning how you can increase your levels naturally. Because glutathione contains sulfur, foods high in sulfur might increase your levels. Some of these foods include eggs, nuts, legumes, lean protein like fish or chicken, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, or allium vegetables like garlic and onions. Other foods and herbs that might increase levels of glutathione in your body include whey, flaxseed, guso seaweed, and milk thistle.
When it comes to supplementation, you can take glutathione intravenously, topically, as an inhalant, or in capsule or liquid form. However, a 2015 study showed that oral ingestion of glutathione might not be as effective. That is, until science learned about wrapping glutathione in a liposome to increase its bioavailability.
What are the Benefits of Glutathione?
Glutathione is purported to have several health benefits and can be helpful in the treatment of several conditions. Some of these benefits and treatments include:
- Reduces oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can wreak havoc on your body and lead to several serious diseases. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that reduces oxidative stress and, as a result, might reduce the chances of diseases like cancer, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Reduces cell damage in cases of alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Fatty lives disease can be present in people who misuse alcohol and those who don’t and is caused by cell death in the liver. Glutathione can reduce this cell damage by increasing protein, enzymes, and bilirubin levels in the liver.
- Improves insulin resistance. A study investigating the effects of glutathione on weight loss found that low glutathione levels were linked to lower rates of fat burning and higher rates of fat storage. In other words, low glutathione levels were associated with insulin resistance. When glutathione levels were increased, insulin resistance also improved.
- Improves psoriasis. When the subjects in a study were given whey protein, their psoriasis improved. In turn, whey protein has been shown to increase glutathione levels. As such, increasing glutathione levels might improve psoriasis, although the researchers found that more research is needed.
- Reduces symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. While more research is needed, researchers in a study found that glutathione supplementation could have some positive effects on the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease like tremors and rigidity. In turn, this could have positive impacts on the quality of life of people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.
- Improves mobility in patients with peripheral artery disease. Most commonly occurring in the legs, peripheral artery disease occurs when plaque blocks the peripheral arteries. Researchers have found that glutathione might improve blood circulation and improve mobility in patients with peripheral artery disease.
- Combats autoimmune disease. Glutathione can combat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus by reducing oxidative stress and improving the body’s immune function. It’s also able to protect mitochondria by eliminating free radicals.
- Reduces oxidative damage in children with autism. Several studies have shown that children with autism have lower levels of glutathione and higher levels of oxidative stress. Glutathione supplementation can decrease these levels of oxidative stress.
- Reduces the impact of uncontrolled diabetes. Consistently increased blood sugar levels are associated with reduced levels of glutathione which, in turn, leads to higher levels of oxidative stress. Glutathione can reduce this oxidative stress and also reduce the levels of tissue damage experienced by patients with diabetes.
- Reduces respiratory disease symptoms. As an inhalant, glutathione might reduce and thin mucus, which, in turn, can lead to an improvement in diseases like asthma and cystic fibrosis. It can also reduce inflammation.
Apart from the benefits glutathione can provide in the treatment of these diseases, it’s also commonly used in dermatological applications as a skin-lightening agent.
What Effect Does Glutathione Have on Your Skin?
This is a frequently asked question about glutathione and one we get most often. When incorporated as part of your skincare routine, glutathione has several benefits. It acts as a skin-lightening agent and can combat the visible signs of aging like wrinkles and fine lines while, at the same time, improving your skin’s elasticity.
How Does Glutathione Work to Lighten Your Skin?
Glutathione has several mechanisms that all combine to lighten your skin and make it look more youthful. The mechanisms include:
- Antioxidant actions. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that detoxifies your skin and enhances its ability to combat the harmful effects of free radicals formed by sun exposure. It does this by reducing the oxidative stress caused by these free radicals and reducing toxin levels. This results in the reduction of dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles and skin that looks youthful and vibrant
- Depigmentation actions. One of the main mechanisms glutathione uses to lighten skin is depigmentation. Firstly, it inhibits tyrosinase activity. Tyrosinase plays an important role in melanogenesis. In other words, it determines how much melanin is produced and, thus, by inhibiting its actions, one can effectively control the levels of melanin in the skin. And the lower the levels of melanin, the lighter the skin. Another mechanism that aids in skin lightening is the activation of the pheomelanin pathway. Pheomelanin is a lighter type of pigment that’s found in the lighter parts of your skin like your lips. Thus, increasing the levels of pheomelanin causes lighter skin.
- Anti-inflammatory actions. Glutathione reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory mediators because it has powerful, effective anti-inflammatory properties. In turn, this reduces acne, melasma, and hyperpigmentation.
- Anti-aging actions. Glutathione has anti-aging properties that reduce wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots. In addition, it also improves skin moisture and elasticity.
What Forms of Glutathione Supplements are Available?
As mentioned earlier, there are several ways in which you can take a glutathione supplement. These are:
- Topical treatments. You can use glutathione as a topical treatment. These typically include creams and face washes and are especially effective at treating any troubled areas when using glutathione as a skin-lightening agent. However, this could also be a drawback as their effects and benefits are limited to where you apply the product.
- Oral supplements. One of the most effective forms of glutathione supplementation is oral supplements. The evidence as to its effectiveness is contradictory, however. For example, as mentioned, a 2015 study found that it’s not as effective. In contrast, several other studies have found that oral supplementation could not only increase glutathione levels, but also have benefits.
- Intravenous supplementation. It’s believed by some that intravenous glutathione injections could increase glutathione to therapeutic levels far quicker and, thus, provide its benefits faster. However, there’s little evidence to support this. In fact, to the contrary, intravenous glutathione injections could have severe side effects that, in some cases, might be life-threatening. For this reason, the FDA has also issued warnings against the use of intravenous glutathione injections for skincare applications.
Are There any Risks of Taking Glutathione?
As with any medication or supplement, there are always some risks when taking glutathione. One of the main concerns when taking any supplement is the possibility of side effects. Here, possible side effects might include bloating, abdominal cramps, wheezing and breathing difficulty due to bronchial constriction, or allergic reactions.
Long-term glutathione use has also been linked to lower zinc levels and inhaled glutathione could induce asthma attacks in people suffering from asthma. In addition to these side effects, glutathione might also have interactions with other medications you’re taking, or you might be sensitive to it. For this reason, it’s always advisable to discuss it with your doctor first if you’re planning to take any supplements.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that might provide benefits to patients suffering from several diseases. In addition, it is also an effective skin-lightening agent used in skincare applications. Hopefully, the answers to these questions have provided valuable information you can use to decide if glutathione supplementation is right for you.
Glutathione Benefits for Your Health and Body (healthline.com)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT GLUTATHIONE (parisadermatology.com)
Glutathione FAQs | The Perfect Peel
Glutathione: Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosage (verywellhealth.com)
Glutathione: Uses and Risks (webmd.com)
Glutathione (GSH) 101: Definition, Uses, Benefits, More | Everyday Health
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