Dear Pharmacist: I recently read a magazine article that discussed the health benefits of glutathione, and I was shocked at how many there are. Do you recommend this supplement for everyone? — L.S. Orlando, Fla.
A: Glutathione is fantastic for the human body. We make it, actually, and it supports liver function! It boosts your immune system, and helps you cleanse your system by grabbing heavy metals, like mercury and other poisons. Because it’s an antioxidant, it can neutralize oxidative damage from free radicals; those are the loose cannons in your body. Sounds too good to be true, right?
To answer your question, popping a little capsule of glutathione is less effective than other options, in terms of raising blood levels. The gut does not absorb glutathione well. Glutathione is a nutrient best made inside our cells, or “intracellularly.” Luckily, virtually all of our organs contain cells that are able to cook up the recipe of glutathione using three natural amino acids: Glycine, glutamate and cystine (a more stable form of cysteine).
To make it yourself, you could increase consumption of foods that contain these precursor amino acids, or you could pay for the direct injection, given by IV over about 5 or 10 minutes. It’s worth the “ow,” for the needle stick, and if you’re chronically ill, this will have a huge impact in your ability to clear toxins.
However, if working it into your diet is more appealing to you, then you’re in luck, because there is quite a variety of food that you can do this with! Some of the fresh foods known to be high in these amino acids are: avocados, asparagus, garlic, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, milk thistle, and unprocessed meats. If you do decide that oral supplementation of glutathione is the best choice for you, though, I recommend Liposomal Glutathione by Empirical Labs, or S-Acetyl Glutathione by Xmogen; both these products can be ordered for you by a physician. They are not at health food stores.
You can also buy a high-quality whey protein supplement at any health food store, and this will quickly raise levels by providing the essential amino acids you need as precursors. Just be sure if you take whey protein that you are not allergic to dairy components.
If you have cancer, or take immunosuppressive drugs, or if you’ve had an organ transplant, I would avoid glutathione supplementation unless your doctor advises it. While glutathione is a great preventative measure to take, and I’ve tried it orally and by injection, the studies are inconclusive as to whether it is helpful for every disease and disorder that exists. Patients with AIDS or certain cancers do exhibit low levels of glutathione, but it’s not clear whether the reduced levels are a result of the disease process, or whether they played a part in the manifestation of the disease. Finally, acetaminophen is a drug mugger of this nutrient, so you will need to restore levels if you take that drug.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For more information about Suzy Cohen, visit her website at www.suzycohen.com.