Glutathione, abbreviated as GSH in its reduced state, is an antioxidant found in plants, animals, fungi and bacteria.
It plays an essential role in the health of cells, though as we get older the levels of GSH produced by our bodies decreases. Glutathione is available as a supplement and is taken for a wide range of health concerns including alcoholic fatty liver disease, poor circulation, fat burning and insulin resistance. In a health care setting, glutathione is provided to cancer patients to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
Chemical reactions are constantly taking place in the body. While many of these processes are beneficial to our health and wellbeing, there are byproducts called free radicals that can hurt our cells. A free radical occurs when an atom, molecule or ion has an unpaired electron.
Electrons want to be in pairs, so when oxygen splits in the body and carries an unpaired electron, it bumps around looking to pick up an electron anywhere it can. This causes a chain reaction of damage to our cells. Fortunately, antioxidants such as GSH have an electron that can be given to the free radical to stop the damage.
An imbalance in free radicals and antioxidants in the body is called oxidative stress. This imbalance, over time, can lead to a host of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Glutathione is produced naturally in the liver and can also be found in raw or very rare meat, unpasteurized milk, and vegetables including asparagus and avocado. In addition, we can boost our natural production of glutathione with the following foods:
With its reputation as a powerful antioxidant, glutathione is popularly consumed as a supplement. Due its low bioavailability (the amount actually used by the body) when taken orally, glutathione is also available intravenously as part of IV Vitamin Therapy.