What Is Glutathione?

By Christian Dischler

The science of free radical chemistry is well known, with a focus on the important balance between free radicals and antioxidants for optimal physical health and function.  When free radicals overpower a body’s capability to safely regulate itself, then oxidative stress occurs, adversely affecting our DNA, proteins and lipids. This oxidative stress can trigger a variety of diseases.

Glutathione has been in recent research as a very powerful and natural antioxidant, comprised of the amino acids cysteine, glutamate and glycine.  As we age, our natural production and supply of glutathione diminishes. 

Studies show that people with glutathione levels below the normal range tend to be in poorer health compared with people with higher glutathione levels, with certain health problems like cancer, Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease occurring more often. 

Glutathione protects against oxidative stress with regard to heart and brain tissues that naturally age, so good levels of glutathione aid to lower risks for cardiovascular diseases and related dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.  When we are under stress or fighting illness, our body’s demand for these amino acids increases to help manage stress and disease.  

Besides stomach enzymes degrading glutathione, the more we cook or process our food, the more it’s available and useable glutathione deteriorates.

Foods rich in sulforaphane help increase and restore blood and cellular glutathione levels, and can be found in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale and bok choy.  Also, the spice turmeric is rich in curcumin and able to biosynthesize glutathione within our cells. 

Taking a glutathione supplement orally does not appear to be effective as whole food sources.  Other studies have looked at glutathione injections and glutathione inhaling into the lungs as a method to increase the body’s glutathione level. 

Glutathione supplementation benefits from non-food methods does not seem to yield conclusive evidence. Natural whole food supplement sources may be your best bet. Long-term glutathione supplementation has been linked to lower zinc levels.  Also, inhaled glutathione may cause asthma attacks for asthma sufferers.  Other supplements may naturally boost glutathione in the body, including curcumin, N-acetylcysteine, selenium, silymarin, vitamin C and vitamin E.  Consult your physician or nutritionist for more information.


The body’s absorption of glutathione from food sources is not hugely effective but consuming foods high in amino acids that contain sulfur like these help the body increase glutathione production:

GARLIC

BROCCOLI

ASPARAGUS

SPINACH

AVOCADO

SHALLOTS

ONION

OKRA

COLLARD GREENS

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