Glutathione is an antioxidant that helps in slowing down the oxidation of substances, thereby protecting the body's cell from harmful effects of free radicals. Chemically, it is a protein made up of three basic amino acids - cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid. There are two forms of glutathione, namely, reduced-type (monomer) and oxidized-type (dimer). The former is the active type, whereas the latter is acted upon by reductase enzyme to convert into active molecules.
Glutathione Synthesis in the Body
Unlike some antioxidants, glutathione is synthesized by the human body on its own, and it is present in every cell including those of the immune system. During the synthesis of glutathione, the body first extracts the three amino acids from the food items. The amino acids are then combined to form glutathione. Medical researches have revealed that this antioxidant regulates the functioning of the immune system and stimulates the generation of lymphocytes (present in white blood cells). A deficiency of this antioxidant may lead to nervous system disorders such as lack of coordination and mental problems, while speeding up the process of aging.
Glutathione Antioxidant Supplement
Food items that contain high amounts of glutathione are asparagus, orange, grapefruit, watermelon, potato, tomato, strawberries, spinach, cabbage, parsley, broccoli, and meat. Whey protein is another rich source of glutathione. This antioxidant is available commercially as a dietary or nutritional supplement in the form of white powder. One of the drawbacks of this antioxidant supplement is that there is no significant effect of external or oral administration of glutathione in the intracellular level. The gastrointestinal tract of humans does not absorb glutathione, when taken orally. Some studies claim that ingestion of glutathione supplement in a high dose (about 3 grams) can raise the intracellular level. An effective method of increasing glutathione in the body is by means of intravenous injections.
According to studies, patients with cancer, heart disease, and other chronic health problems show comparatively lower amount of glutathione than a normal healthy person. Considering this, glutathione supplement is prescribed for treating various diseases and disorders. Some of the common diseases treated by using glutathione antioxidant are cancer, eye problems (especially cataract), Parkinson's disease, heavy metal poisoning, Alzheimer's disease, HIV, and infertility. Apart from these, some people opt for this antioxidant to detoxify the body, whiten skin, and improve the overall health. Very often, physicians recommend glutathione inhalation for treating airway restriction.
Glutathione Supplement Side Effects
Similar to other dietary supplements, those containing glutathione may cause certain adverse effects. Possible side effects of glutathione supplements are difficulty in breathing, tightness in the chest, chest pain, and other allergic reactions such as itching, hives, skin inflammation, etc. An individual allergic to dietary supplements should abstain from glutathione. As there is no standard regulation for manufacturing nutritional supplements, it is always advisable to purchase dietary products containing glutathione from reliable sources. This simple approach will help in avoiding unpredictable results. Also, make sure to check the label for any additives like sugar, starch, and silica in the product.
A far as restriction of glutathione supplement is concerned, this product is not recommended for pregnant women, those planning a pregnancy, and breastfeeding mothers. Patients of hypertension, heart disease, and those with a compromised immune system should not ingest glutathione without the supervision of a qualified physician. To be on the safer side, one should incorporate glutathione rich foods in the diet plan instead of relying on the antioxidant supplements. This will help in preventing the potential side effects of taking excess glutathione.