Glutathione, The Master Detox Molecule, Supports Immune Defenses
- Jun 15, 2020
- Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Free Radicals vs. Antioxidants
On a cellular level, free radicals cause damage that result in physical signs of aging, declining health, weakened immunity, and chronic disease. To make matters worse, free radicals are in cahoots with environmental toxins and all the chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.
An “army” of defenders, called antioxidants, line up to protect us from this attack. Antioxidants can stop free radical damage by donating electrons to unstable molecules and prevent future damage from occurring. Many antioxidants, such as vitamin C, can be obtained by eating organic fruits and vegetables or by taking supplements. Of all the different antioxidants, the one that leads the others in the free radical battle is GLUTATHIONE. It has been called the "Master Antioxidant;" however, glutathione from food is poorly absorbed, so liposomal delivery is preferred since it's a highly bioavailable form.
Glutathione and Immune Research
While studying the glutathione molecule, researchers found that the antioxidant did more than simply promote the immune system. Researchers from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) discovered how T cells ward off particles when they are expressing the Gclc gene. The Gclc gene encodes a protein that aids the production of glutathione. Previously glutathione was only thought to remove free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Professor Dirk Brenner, FNR ATTRACT fellow and Head of the Experimental & Molecular Immunology research group at the Department of Infection and Immunity, led the team that discovered glutathione also stimulates T cells' energy metabolism. Glutathione instructs T cells to proliferate and fight intruders and also clean up the metabolic waste created as a byproduct.
Brenner said "Our body has to keep our immune system in a carefully balanced equilibrium," T cells live in a state of energy conservation, a sort of “alert hibernation”. T cells are woken up in the presence of foreign particles - the action creates a lot of excess ROS that are, in turn, cleared up by glutathione. This activity can only happen when the Gclc gene is expressed.
In the study, Brenner used genetically modified mice that had their T cells the Gclc gene removed. He reported "In these mice, we discovered that the control of viruses is impaired -- mice that lack the Gclc gene have an immunodeficiency. But by the same token, this also meant the mice could not develop any autoimmune disease". The study exposed how cellular metabolism and the immune system are more intricately linked than previously thought.
Increasing Glutathione in the Body
There are many vegetables, herbs, and nutrients known to support a normal production of glutathione, which I wrote all about here. There are also many strategies for reducing the number of factors that deplete glutathione levels.
Glutathione, Gray Hair and Stress
Ever see a person who was under tremendous stress whose hair turned gray or white in a matter of days? That’s a real thing, and it’s caused by hydrogen peroxide – not applied from the outside, but produced from within. The hydrogen peroxide interferes with melanin, the pigment that colors our hair and skin.
To prevent hydrogen peroxide from damaging cells and tissues, it must be quickly converted into other, less dangerous substances. This conversion is done by the enzyme catalase and glutathione, the body’s supreme detox compound. Read more about glutathione and gray hair here.
Don't miss out on this multi-faceted antioxidant!
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods