Glutathione is not a word that trips off the tongue, but it’s very much worth remembering. It’s a substance that combats the problems related to oxidative stress. Let’s learn more about it.
First, let’s describe oxidative stress in a little more detail. This happens when substances called “free radicals” and “oxidants” start to grow in number in our bodies. We need some of these radicals because they can act as “signaling” molecules that trigger important processes (like the heart pumping more blood during stressful moments). But if you have too many free radicals, this results in an unhealthy imbalance leading to cell damage.
“Free radicals” might be understood as roaming individual atoms of oxygen that are desperately looking to pair up with other atoms (because atoms like to exist in pairs). This means that they’re pretty indiscriminate about where they pair up (sort of like a person who is “on the rebound”), which results in a variety of bad outcomes when this “outsider” settles down with some random cell in the body. That settling causes damage to individual cells, eventually causing cell membranes to break and altering what a cell normally allows to enter and exit its boundaries.
One way to understand glutathione’s benefits is that it helps to repair or counteract the breakage and unraveling of cells that free radicals and oxidants tend to cause. For instance, glutathione repairs the “caps” (known as telomeres) that are found at the end of chromosomes. If that cap is broken, DNA can unravel! And there are many other ways it keeps cells healthy – from fighting nerve damage caused by Lyme disease to repairing cell damage that happens during chemotherapy. Its broad usefulness in the repairing of damage caused by free radicals explains why it’s also referred to as the “master” antioxidant.
One thing to know about this substance is that it’s hard to maintain healthy levels of glutathione through supplements. It’s mainly produced in the body. Unfortunately, with aging comes a reduction of the production of glutathione. When people reach 40, they produce around 30 % less glutathione. By age 65, that reduction can reach 50 %!
You can help whatever levels of glutathione are in your body by what you’re eating. Eliminating sugar, grains and processed foods from your diet is a great way to lessen oxidative stress. And you can find ways to raise the levels of glutathione. Both aerobic training and weight training – individually and in combination – have been found to increase the body’s production of glutathione.
So remember: keep your free radicals under control by reducing oxidants in your diet and by using exercise to keep the amount of glutathione in your body as high as possible. The positive impact on processes that contribute to aging and chronic diseases could be impressive!
KEY TERMS & IDEAS
Glutathione is a substance primarily produced in the body that helps to ward off the effects and potency of free radicals and oxidation in our body’s cells. It’s effectiveness across a broad spectrum of body processes that can be affected by free radicals has made it known as the “master” antioxidant.
Oxidative Stress: “Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage. Oxidative stress occurs naturally and plays a role in the aging process.” (Medical News Today)
Free radicals: Free radicals might be understood as roaming individual atoms of oxygen that are desperately looking to pair up with other atoms (because atoms like to exist in pairs).
LINKS & RESOURCES:
Jamie Eske, “How does oxidative stress affect the body,” Medical News Today, April 2, 2019, accessed April 2019.
Nicole Galan, “What are the benefits of glutathione?” Medical News Today, December 10, 2018, accessed April 2019.
“Free radicals may be good for you,” ScienceDaily, March 1, 2011, accessed April 2019.
Terry Lemerond, “Fighting free radicals with glutathione,” Chiropractic Economics, June 2, 2016, accessed April 2019.
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