Glutathione and Heavy Metals
As you probably know, heavy metals are usually not things that belong in the human body. There are a few heavy metals that we need a very, very small amount, but most heavy metals quickly make people sick if they get inside the body. Luckily, heavy metals are not naturally common in the environment.
When heavy metals do get into the body, the body has several ways to defend itself. These defenses don’t work against large amounts of heavy metals, but they can protect us from moderate exposure. One of the most important defenses the body has is called glutathione.
Glutathione is a tripeptide (molecule made of three amino acids) that attaches itself to some heavy metals. This is called ‘binding’. Once glutathione has bound a piece of heavy metal, the liver is able to clear the heavy metal from the body. Glutathione binds cadmium, lead, iron, and mercury.
If a person is exposed to high levels of heavy metals, such as when working in a factory that handles heavy metals, eating lots of fish that are high in mercury, or living in a home with lead paint, the glutathione will not be able to keep up with the amount of heavy metal in the body. When this happens, the heavy metals begin to make the person sick. This is known as heavy metal toxicity, or sometimes heavy metal poisoning.
On the other hand, when something interferes with glutathione a person may develop heavy metal toxicity from small amounts of heavy metals. MTHFR anomalies lower glutathione levels, leaving people who have them vulnerable to heavy metal toxicity.
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