What is Glutathione?

If you keep up with the latest nutrition advice, you may have heard of glutathione. Glutathione has become popular in recent years as an important anti-oxidant that is found in some fruits. It is actually one of the body’s most important anti-oxidants, but it does a lot more then just clear out free radicals. In fact, glutathione is involved in a great deal of the body’s metabolism.

So, Just What Is Glutathione?
Glutathione is a small molecule made of three amino acids – the pieces that proteins are built from. The technical term for this kind of molecule is a ‘tri-peptide’.

What Does Glutathione Do?
Glutathione is a very busy molecule. It:

  • Is an antioxidant, protecting the body against free radicals and oxidative stress
  • Helps process medications
  • Processes and protects against carcinogens
  • Clears heavy metals from the body
  • Helps build DNA
  • Helps build proteins

As you can see, glutathione does a lot of important things. Luckily, the body is normally very good at keeping levels of glutathione high enough to take care of everything it needs to. For most people, glutathione will quietly do its job without any problems for their entire lives.

What Happens if the Body Doesn’t Have Enough Glutathione?
When there isn’t enough glutathione, a person has a glutathione deficiency. When a glutathione deficiency develops, then the body isn’t able to protect itself against oxidative stress, process medications, clear heavy metals or protect itself from carcinogens. Some of the health problems that can develop or worsen when this happens include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • liver disease
  • cystic fibrosis
  • sickle cell anemia
  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • diabetes

What Causes Glutathione Deficiency?
Several things can cause a gluthathione deficiency.

Genetic problems in glutathione production: Sometimes something prevents the body from making enough glutathione. There are some rare genetic polymorphisms that directly interfere with the body’s production of glutatione, and some more common polymorphisms on what is called the ‘transulfuration pathway’ and can also lead to a glutathione deficiency. MTHFR is not included in these genetic polymorphisms. MTHFR does not interfere with the production of glutathione.

Poor Nutrition: The body needs animal protein to create glutathione. It cannot manufacture glutathione from plant protein or other sources. However glutathione is already present in a number of fruits. In order to avoid a glutathione deficiency it is important to eat either animal protein or fruits high in glutathione.

The body is good at maintaining healthy levels of glutathione – a few days without fruit or animal protein now and then won’t cause problems, bu one or the other should be a regular part of your diet.

High levels of oxidative stress: Oxidative stress is the only thing researchers have found which is Able to cause a sudden drop in glutathione levels.

MTHFR causes high levels of oxidative stress, which can lead to glutathione deficiency and all the health problems it causes.

More on the connection between MTHFR, oxidative stress, and glutathione.

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