Your body makes peptides. They’re strings of amino acids, which are the “building blocks” of proteins. But a peptide doesn’t have as many amino acids as a protein does. Laboratory-made peptides can mimic some of those found in your body. One of these is a tripeptide known as GLUTATHIONE (consisting of cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid) found in high concentrations in most cells of your body.
Glutathione exists in cells in 2 states: reduced (GSH) and oxidized (GSSG). The ratio of GSH to GSSG determines reduction / oxidation status of cells. Healthy cells at rest have a GSH/GSSG ratio >100 while the ratio drops to 1 to 10 in cells exposed to oxidant stress. Accumulation of GSSG due to oxidative stress is directly toxic to cells, leading to cell death.
Glutathione is involved in the detoxification of chemical substances that are foreign to animal life and also internal compounds. It facilitates mercury excretion from cells, excretion of persistent organic pollutants from the body and directly neutralizes many oxidative chemicals. Low levels of glutathione are associated with chronic exposure to chemical toxins and alcohol, cadmium exposure, AIDS/HIV, macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Diseases Associated with GSH Depletion:
- Neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Friedreich’s ataxia)
- Pulmonary disease (COPD, asthma, and acute respiratory distress syndrome)
- Immune diseases (HIV, autoimmune disease)
- Cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, myocardial infarction, cholesterol oxidation)
- Chronic age-related diseases (cataracts, macular degeneration, hearing impairment, and glaucoma)
- Liver disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Aging process itself
GSH depletion has been strongly associated with the diseases and loss of function with aging. A representative study of community-dwelling elderly found that higher glutathione levels were associated with higher levels of physical health, fewer illnesses, and higher levels of self-rated health. GSH status is, in turn, an important indicator of lifespan.
Considering how important glutathione is to health, many researchers have looked for ways to increase intracellular and intramitochondrial levels. The good news is that there are several effective strategies. The first, of course, is to decrease the need for glutathione, which means decreasing toxic load. This can be achieved by:
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Decreasing exposure to persistent organic pollutants (found in conventionally grown foods)
- Providing other antioxidants to decrease oxidative stress e.g. alpha-lipoic acid
Glutathione can be administered orally, topically, intravenously, intranasally, or in nebulized form. Glutathione administered intravenously, inhaled, and ingested intranasally effectively increases levels in your body. We can also provide specific nutrients to promote production.
Brunilda Nazario, MD 2021, What Are Peptides, webmd.com, accessed 12 October 2022.
Pizzorno, J., 2014. Glutathione!. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 13(1), p.8.