Glutathione protects cells of many types, and is also a cofactor in many bodily processes. It is the foundation for the main detoxification pathways in the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestinal lining, and other organs. Studies have shown that levels of glutathione directly correspond to the health and function of cells.
What Is Glutathione, and How Does It Work?
Glutathione is a natural substance that is present in all human cells. It functions as an antioxidant, which means that it donates electrons to quench free radicals, ultimately protecting cells. It is often called the “Master Antioxidant,” and if it is depleted in a cell, it will lead to cell death.
Why Are Antioxidants Important?
Free radicals, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS), are highly unstable molecules that form naturally when your body converts food into energy. Your body can also be exposed to free radicals from a variety of environmental sources, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, etc. A healthy body maintains an appropriate amount of antioxidants (such as glutathione and vitamins C and E), which detoxify free radicals and protect cells from damage.
This balance between antioxidants and free radicals is crucial.
If this balance between antioxidants and free radicals is disrupted, oxidative stress can occur, triggering cell damage. Oxidative stress is a phenomenon caused by an imbalance between the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cells/tissues and the ability of a biological system to detoxify these reactive products.
A free radical is unstable due to the fact that it is missing an electron, which leaves one of its electrons unpaired and volatile. When unchecked, this unpaired electron can damage neighboring cells, creating a domino effect of cell/tissue damage, inflammation, and disease. An antioxidant, in order to neutralize the free radical and prevent this damage, will donate one of its electrons to the free radical. The previously unpaired electron has now become a stable electron pair, in turn neutralizing the free radical.
Oxidative Stress Caused by TBI and Stroke
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke release a massive flood of free radicals (ROS) all at once, which overwhelms the antioxidant system and quickly leads to an imbalance. This imbalance caused by the influx of ROS is the instigator of oxidative stress and potentially a devastating incident of cell death. A cascade of neuroinflammation ensues, which can result in significant “secondary injuries” that prevent the brain and body from healing appropriately.
Restoring the balance between antioxidants and free radicals becomes a top priority.
Glutathione and Mitochondria
Mitochondria are the “power houses” of your cells. Every one of your cells has mitochondria, which convert glucose, amino acids, and fats into energy. 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 protects your mitochondria, ensuring your cells are able to make the energy your body needs. Glutathione makes sure that heavy metals, organic toxins, and free radicals generated during normal metabolism don’t damage the mitochondria.
Some people lack the enzymes necessary to make glutathione because of an inherited genetic defect, which may lead to neurological or hematologic (blood) problems later in life. Liver and lung diseases, in particular, are associated with low glutathione. Glutathione is also negatively affected by insomnia. Getting enough rest on a regular basis can help increase levels.
Glutathione and Brain Health
There is a clear link between low glutathione levels and decreased brain health.
As we age, it’s not uncommon to experience a bit of forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating. These are examples of neurodegeneration, a process by which the neurons in our brains become damaged and may even die. This leaves us with “shrinking” brains that don’t function to their full capacity. While this process is unavoidable as we age, it can be slowed or even reversed.
Glutathione plays an important role in this reversal process. Accelerated neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, exhibit high levels of oxidative stress damage to the brain, as well as low active glutathione levels. Glutathione can ease and decrease the rate of brain damage to brain tissue. Other neurological illnesses like Lyme disease weaken when your body experiences higher levels of glutathione.
How to Increase Glutathione Levels
IV glutathione is the ideal way to increase the amount of this antioxidant in your body. During IV therapy, fluids and vitamins are delivered directly into your bloodstream by way of an intravenous line, bypassing the digestive system and ensuring 100% absorption.
DIET / NUTRITION
Glutathione contains sulfur molecules, which may be why foods high in sulfur help to boost its natural production in the body.
While some Glutathione supplements on the market can be effective for improving glutathione levels, our patients with severe oxidative stress damage benefit most from IV treatments.