Glutathione (GSH) is an antioxidant made up of three amino acids – cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid. It is naturally produced in our body. It plays an important role in supporting the immune system by boosting levels of white blood cells production to fight off infection and foreign substances. It is a cofactor of the glutathione s-transferase enzyme, which function to detoxify chemical toxins.
High levels of glutathione maybe found in the liver, spleen, kidneys, pancreas and stomach lining, organs that are frequently exposed to toxins. Our body’s level decreases with age. Diseases, such as cancers, liver diseases, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and HIV/AIDS have been linked to low levels. Stress, excessive exercises, poor diets and toxic overload increase its demand.
How does it work?
Hepatic GSH is a key substrate for reducing toxic oxygen metabolites and oxidized xenobiotics in the liver. Depletion of hepatic glutathione is a common occurrence in Leaky Gut Syndromes contributing to liver dysfunction and liver necrosis among alcoholics and immune impairment in patients with AIDS.
Toxic chemicals, such as those from our environment – pesticides, heavy metals (lead, mercury, and cadmium), preservatives, PCBs, and medications are first neutralized by the liver. Then glutathione in the liver binds to these toxic chemicals and eliminates them from the body safely. This is what happens when the body’s detox system is functioning well and all nutrients needed for detox are adequate.
It has been suggested that toxic metals, such as mercury, inhibit the production of glutathione in the body, sabotaging the body’s detoxification system. As a result, toxic chemicals accumulate, affecting brain functions, resulting in behaviors frequently seen in children with ADHD.
This maybe reversed by limiting your child’s exposure to toxic substances and heavy metals through diets and supplementing your child’s diet with detox supplements, such as alpha lipoic acid, carnosine, n-acetylcysteine (NAC), trimethylglycine (TMG) or dimethylglycine (DMG).
Where to find GSH?
Glutathione is found in both plant and animal sources. Fresh fruit and vegetables, cooked meat and fish contain about 25 – 750 mg per pound. Processed foods, dairy products, most nuts, grains and legumes are not good sources.
Glutathione supplement itself is poorly absorbed since the stomach acid would have digested most of it. The most effective way to raise hepatic glutathione is to administer its dietary precursors, cysteine or methionine.
Its precursors, N-acetylcysteine, glycine, L-cysteine and methionine supplements are more effective in increasing glutathione levels in the blood.
L-Cysteine supplement should not be used in children. However, NAC is a safer alternative. High doses of NAC may cause headaches and dizziness.
Silymarin, the active substance in milk thistle, may increase glutathione levels in the liver up to 50%.
There are also transdermal and intravenous glutathione available. However, these options will require special prescription through physicians who are familiar with their use.
As always consult a registered dietitian and/or physician who are familiar with dietary or nutritional supplements and working with children with developmental disorders. Avoid implementing trials of these supplements on your own. Some of these supplements may interact with your medication and some require closing monitoring of a pair of experienced eyes.