Gray Hair, Glutathione 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. 

Gray Hair and Glutathione

Hydrogen peroxide turns your hair gray, but glutathione renders hydrogen peroxide harmless by converting it to water. When glutathione is lacking, you face all sorts of potential damage – not just to your hair, but especially to your brain

The gray hair issue can persist when you have an infection of any type – viral, bacterial, mold, yeast, or parasite. At those times, your immune system is fighting hard for you, and one of its weapons in fighting off infections is hydrogen peroxide. This means any time you get sick or have a chronic infection, you burn through your glutathione, leaving you and your body susceptible to damage.

L-Cysteine >>> Glutathione

NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) is essential for making and replenishing the powerful antioxidant glutathione. NAC improves phase 2 detoxification, and is a chelating agent for arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead, excess copper, iron.

Take 500mg NAC every day to increase glutathione and help decrease oxidative damage.

Gray Hair and Stress

During times of stress, your body produces a lot of norepinephrine and dopamine (both are neurotransmitters). To remove these neurotransmitters from your system, hydrogen peroxide is produced as a by-product, and you need glutathione to remove it. The more stressed you are, the more hydrogen peroxide your body makes and the more glutathione you need. Decrease your stress in order to conserve your glutathione – this leaves more to protect you against heavy metals and chemicals.

If extreme stress continues, your body works hard at eliminating the excess stress neurotransmitters as fast as it can. It works triple-time if need be – all the while producing way too much hydrogen peroxide. Glutathione tries to keep up, but it can’t – it’s not an easy compound to make, and eventually your body runs out of it. In the end, the excess hydrogen peroxide wins out and discolors your hair, turning it gray or, if the intense stress persists, eventually white.

Excess hydrogen peroxide can discolor and damage your hair! This isn’t just a cosmetic issue though. Too much hydrogen peroxide affects more than hair color. It’s bad for your brain too! It can result in behavioral issues – erratic moods, memory problems, irritability, and aggression. It can even lead to neurological problems such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Diet is also important because when someone is under stress, it’s common to overeat carbohydrates, high-fat foods, and sugars, all which deplete glutathione even more. How about that for a vicious cycle? Stress increases hydrogen peroxide, and then you rave carbs which further increase it. Stress and carbs dangerously deplete your glutathione.

Figuring out how to reduce and relieve stress is just as important to your health as getting all your vitamins or reducing your exposure to toxins. 

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods


1. Lubos E et al. Glutathione Peroxidase-1 in Health and Disease: From Molecular Mechanisms to Therapeutic Opportunities. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011 Oct 1;15(7):1957-1997.

2. Lynch, Ben MD. Dirty Genes. New York:Harper Collins, 2018.


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