What Is Glutathione?
Glutathione is an antioxidant that the body produces naturally to fight free radicals, which can damage cells and increase the risk for a wide range of diseases (x). Although the body produces glutathione, its levels often drop as people age. Other environmental factors can further lower glutathione levels, such as stress and poor nutrition (x).
Research claims that there are several benefits of adding glutathione supplements to the diet. High glutathione levels can help reduce the effects of stress on the body, as well as reduce inflammation throughout the body. Furthermore, glutathione may be useful to treat a number of other medical conditions. Studies have shown that it can help regulate blood sugar in people with diabetes, as well as improve liver functioning (x, x).
It may also treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by reducing the frequency and severity of a patient’s tremor (x). Research also demonstrates that glutathione may improve blood circulation in patients with peripheral artery disease (x).
Benefits of Glutathione
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, a condition in which an overactive immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake. This condition affects the skin, causing rashes and patches of dry skin in different parts of the body. Studies associate higher glutathione levels with improved psoriasis symptoms. It reduced the patient’s rashes and skin irritation (x).
Although it may be able to improve psoriasis symptoms, researchers have not conducted enough research to confirm these effects. Patients should not use glutathione as a primary treatment, but it may be effective in conjunction with other psoriasis treatment methods.
Low antioxidant levels can lead to liver damage over time. Cells are more vulnerable to toxins, which increases cell death in people who consume large amounts of alcohol.
Studies have shown that glutathione may be valuable for improving symptoms in people with fatty liver diseases. The substance improved protein and bilirubin levels and also decreased markers of liver cell damage (x). Other studies reveal that glutathione may be effective for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Patients consumed glutathione supplements regularly over the course of four months. It lead to significant improvements in overall liver health (x).
Protection from Oxidative Stress
Glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants that the body produces. It helps fight dangerous free radicals, which can damage cells and make the body more vulnerable to disease. Studies have disclosed that low glutathione levels increase oxidative stress on cells throughout the body, which may increase the risk of developing cancer. Research linked higher glutathione levels with an increase in antioxidant activity, which shields the cells from the damaging effects of free radicals (x).
Blood Sugar Regulation
Research has explored the role that glutathione plays on energy regulation and fat storage. Some studies showed that higher levels of glutathione may help the body regulate blood sugar more effectively and prevent fat formation. As people age, they start to produce less glutathione. These drops in glutathione levels may cause the body to store more fat and increase the risk of weight gain. In the study, researchers tested elderly patients’ blood sugar by giving them dietary supplements. They found that patients with more glutathione in their systems reduced insulin resistance, helping the body regulate blood sugar levels (x).
Other studies suggest that it might help patients with diabetes. Researchers found that diabetes patients had a glutathione deficiency, compared to subjects without diabetes. Increasing their supplemental intake may cause less oxidative damage in diabetic patients and also help reduce insulin resistance (x).
Some research has indicated that glutathione may be able to improve circulation in people with congested arteries. One study observed that patients with peripheral artery disease—a condition where plaques block blood flow—improved significantly with glutathione supplements. Participants in the study who took injections could walk for prolonged periods of time without pain, which indicates that more oxygen was flowing to their muscles (x).
Although there is only a small body of research, many studies contend that glutathione may benefit people with Parkinson’s disease. In one study, Parkinson’s patients took glutathione supplements and experienced tremors less frequently. They were also less rigid and better able to perform daily tasks (x).
Although promising, these results warrant further research. Glutathione is not a primary treatment option, but patients may be able to use it in combination with other medications.
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Side Effects of Glutathione
Glutathione has a good safety profile with few major side effects. In fact, some users only experience mild side effects, especially during the initial supplementation period.
Some users report that supplementing with glutathione causes stomach pain and cite that this symptom is usually worse during the first few days using the supplement (x). Patients experiencing cramps should lower the dose as the body adjusts. Take the supplement with a meal to prevent cramping.
Glutathione can cause a number of other mild gastrointestinal side effects, including bloating. If you notice bloating, lower the dose to determine if the side effects go away. Taking the supplement with a meal may also reduce or prevent bloating (x).
In rare cases, glutathione may narrow airways and cause difficulties breathing. This side effect is most common in people with asthma (x). Patients who notice any breathing difficulties should stop using it immediately and speak to a doctor. Also, glutathione in an inhalant form can make asthma symptoms worse.
Although rare, some users report that glutathione can cause a rash (x). If a patient notices a rash, it may go away within a day or two. If it does not, consider lowering or discontinuing the dose.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use glutathione supplements (x).
Research has not identified any interactions with specific medications. Patients planning on adding this supplement to their current medication regimen should speak to a doctor first. Do not change or stop the dosage without consulting a physician.
Dosage and Instructions
There may be a wide range of doses for glutathione powder depending on the intended effect. Doses may also vary by manufacturer, as products often have different concentrations. For best results, start with the dose that the manufacturer recommends.
The recommended dosage for glutathione reduced powder is 500 to 1,000 mg (¼ tsp) up to three times per day. It may be useful before a workout. Make sure to consult with a physician before starting a supplement regimen and follow all medal advice for dosage and instructions.
Glutathione is typically safe in the recommended dose range. However, speak to a doctor if you plan to incorporate it into a treatment plan for a specific medical condition.
Why Take Glutathione?
Patients and physicians use glutathione for a number of specific health conditions, including fatty liver disease and psoriasis. In addition, it can have a positive impact on overall health, making it a good supplement for people of all ages. As one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants, glutathione can reduce oxidative stress as the body ages, which may protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation, as well as lower the risk for a wide range of diseases.
The antioxidant is present in a number of common foods, including eggs, nuts, legumes, fish and chicken. However, it is difficult to get enough glutathione for health benefits from food alone (x).
The best glutathione supplements are an easy, cost effective way to increase consumption. Patients do not have to eat large amounts of food to get their daily dose, which can save time and money.
Furthermore, supplements make it much easier to consume the same dose every day. Its concentrations vary widely in food, so it may be difficult to track consumption. With a supplement, it is easier to get the full benefits by taking a consistent dose.
Who Should Take Glutathione?
Glutathione is effective for people of all age groups. It can reduce oxidative stress throughout the body and may protect cells from age-related damage. However, younger people may also still see overall health benefits from using glutathione.
It is also an effective supplement for anyone who is worried about liver health. It may help patients with liver damage from alcohol use, and it also may be able to improve liver function in those whose condition is not a result of alcohol.
Although it is not a primary treatment option, glutathione may also reduce the risk of cancer by protecting the body from oxidative stress.
The Bottom Line
Glutathione is one of the body’s most important antioxidants. It protects cells from oxidative stress, which can reduce inflammation and possibly lower the risk for cancer. Although the body produces it naturally, increasing consumption with supplementation may have a range of health benefits, according to research.
Glutathione may have a positive effect on many immune disorders, as it may increase the body’s ability to fight off infections. Research also associates it with improved liver health. Studies show that glutathione can raise liver protein and bilirubin levels, which may improve liver function. Studies also highlight that it may offer a number of positive effects on blood sugar regulation. It makes the body less resistant to insulin, which can lower the risk of diabetes.
It is generally safe to consume, but it may cause some minor side effects including bloating, cramps or rashes from an allergic reaction. Always consult with a doctor before taking supplements and follow medical advice for dosage instructions. Glutathione is not an adequate medical treatment, even though it may have several useful health benefits.