And when it comes to protection and detoxification, glutathione is your body’s secret weapon. It’s the master of the immune system, and the key to proper detoxification throughout the body. Glutathione is a tripeptide, meaning that it’s built out of three amino acids (in this case, cysteine, glutaminic acid, and glycine). It’s your body’s primary and most important antioxidant, and carries out the following functions in the body (1)
All of the toxins discussed above cause your body to recruit extra glutathione, but here’s some specific toxins to be aware of: fluoride and chlorine in tap water, formaldehyde and styrene in printers and toner cartridges, BPA and PFOA in non-stick cookware and household plastics, NSAID painkillers and other OTC medications, most pharmaceuticals, acetone, solvents, paint removers, fuel, pesticides and herbicides, Xrays and other medical sources of radiation, UV radiation, tobacco products, and alcohol.
Poor diet quickly depletes glutathione, because the body uses glutathione to compensate for a lack of essential nutrients. A sedentary lifestyle is correlated with low levels of glutathione (though strenuous exercise also requires lots of glutathione, since it produces free radicals).18 Even daily stress depletes glutathione through the following chain of events: stress increases blood levels of cortisol, cortisol slows down the immune system, and glutathione is forced to pick up the slack.
Recent research has revealed that up to 60% of the population has a condition called an MTHFR gene mutation. This gene controls the body’s ability to metabolize amino acids and nutrients, and therefore the recycling of glutathione by extension. Individuals with this gene mutation are much more likely to experience glutathione depletion (as well as a deficiency in other vitamins and nutrients).
When your body has enough glutathione to keep its detoxification running smoothly, you experience less pain and inflammation, get sick less often, and have vastly more energy. Your body is able to dodge the bullets of chronic and degenerative disease, and the process of aging becomes less fraught with risk.
But sadly, the stress and toxicity of modern living is making glutathione deficiency increasingly common.
Without sufficient glutathione, your body is unable to recycle endogenous antioxidants…and the consequences can be disastrous.
Until recently, conventional wisdom has held that glutathione can’t be taken directly as a supplement. Instead, experts recommended taking glutathione precursors, which aid the body’s endogenous production of glutathione.
The most notable precursors are N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), alpha lipoic acid (ALA), folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, milk thistle, and selenium.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to boost your supplement regimen with these precursors —in fact, they all are highly beneficial in their own right.
There is, however, one formulation that is clinically proven to increase glutathione blood levels and antioxidant biomarkers. It uses a stable, more bioavailable version of glutathione (known as “reduced glutathione”), as well as a stabilizing medium called lactoferrin, which further protects the nutrient from breakdown and increases absorption.
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