In her series on oxidative stress, Dr. Doni explores the role of our best antioxidant – glutathione. She offer tips for ensuring you get maximum benefit from it.
Part 9 of Dr. Doni’s Series on Oxidative Stress
Our bodies make antioxidants to protect our cells from oxidative stress.
For instance, glutathione is one of the most potent antioxidants, and it’s made right inside our bodies.
That’s a rather amazing thought, and yet it makes sense. Plants do the same thing—they make antioxidants, especially when they are under environmental stresses.
When we eat plants, we benefit from those very same antioxidants. In fact, the best plant-based source of glutathione is avocados.
I’m going to come back to how to increase your glutathione levels, but first let’s think through why we need glutathione in the first place.
Oxidation is a normal process in our bodies. It happens when we metabolize our food to make energy. It happens when our liver processes toxins, pesticides, pollutants, metals, and medications. Oxidation, or oxidative stress and the subsequent reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) increases tremendously when we become injured, when we have an infection (such as a flu virus, gingivitis, Epstein Barr virus, Herpes virus, etc.) and/or inflammation, such as from leaky gut and food sensitivities.
Once inflammation and oxidative stress start building up and superseding the amount of available antioxidants like glutathione, they can cause damage to cells and the mitochondria inside of cells leading to memory loss, anxiety, depression, joint pain, fatigue, weakness, weight gain, and increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
So you really don’t want that to happen. And did I mention that oxidative stress itself also increases inflammation? So, with too much oxidative stress and not enough antioxidants to counteract it, we get into a vicious cycle of oxidative stress, inflammation, and ill-health.
How Do You Know If This Is Happening To You?
In your annual blood work you can ask to check the following tests: CRP (C-reactive protein), GGT, HgbA1c (hemoglobin A1c), fasting triglycerides, and LDL (preferably small density). Elevated levels indicate oxidative stress.
In more specialized testing, we can look for elevated oxidized glutathione, nitric oxide and urinary 8OHdG (8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine), and decreased reduced glutathione and urinary NAC (N-acetylcysteine) to identify oxidative stress. Find out more in my Autoimmunity Solutions Package.
Note: If these were not tested in your annual bloodwork, you should have them done now.
Shifting Your Diet to Increase Your Antioxidants
If you suspect you are stuck in this vicious cycle, you can absolutely start by shifting your diet in a way that increases your antioxidants and decreases inflammation.
Here are some quick tips:
- Cut out sugar. Stop eating sugar and watch out for added sugar in the ingredients list on processed and packaged foods.
- Eat real foods. As much as you can, switch from processed and packaged foods to actual, real foods.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Go to the store and choose two or three vegetables and two or three fruits to eat over the following few days. Berries (blueberries and strawberries) in particular contain well-researched antioxidants. And, as mentioned, avocados are one of the best sources of glutathione. Don’t forget to vary what you choose on each trip.
- Buy ORGANIC. You don’t want pesticides to use up all those antioxidants before your cells have had a chance to benefit from them.
- Stock up on antioxidant treats. Eating more antioxidants doesn’t mean you’ll have nothing tasty to eat! My favorite antioxidant treats are organic green tea, organic dark chocolate (without sugar), organic frozen blueberries, and organic cinnamon—not necessarily together, but you could combine them into a very tasty dessert!
- Decrease your serving sizes. Any food that your body can’t use at this moment only increases inflammation and oxidative stress in your body. I usually say, “eat half and save the rest for later.”
- Eat more fat. Increase the variety of fats in your diet because the right kinds of fats can actually decrease inflammation and protect your cells from oxidative stress. Fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados all contain GOOD fats. Olive oil is an amazingly good fat, as long as you don’t heat it.
- Steam or roast your veggies. Instead of cooking with fats, try steaming and roasting your veggies and foods. Fats are good, but when they are heated they, too, become oxidized which defeats the purpose of eating them.
- Avoid the burn. Watch out for foods that are blackened (including on the barbecue) or that are browned or “caramelized” with sugar or onions. Even cookies, toast, and certainly crème brûlée and sautéed onions all increase a substance called AGE (advanced glycation end products) which also lead to oxidative stress in your body.
I have redesigned both the 7- and 21-day programs to include daily email tips that will help you gradually implement changes so you hardly notice anything happening until you look back and notice that you’ve transformed your body, mind, and health.
Supplements to Help Glutathione Production
In addition to shifting your diet, there are supplements* you can take to increase the production of glutathione in your body.
- NAC (N-acetylcysteine). Cysteine is one of three precursor nutrients to glutathione, which means your body needs it in order to make glutathione. You can take it as a capsule and the usual dose is 500 mg once, or up to three times, per day. As with all supplements, it is best to speak with your doctor prior to adding it to your regimen.
Click here to take a look at (or purchase) NAC now.
- Glycine. This is another “precursor nutrient” the body needs in order to make glutathione. You can get it from eating protein (meat and poultry) as well as from kale, spinach, bananas, and in bone broth. Supplements are also available and the usual dose is 500 to 1000 mg.
Click here to take a look at (or purchase) Glycine now.
- Glutamine. Yes, the same glutamine we use to heal leaky gut is also used by your body to make glutathione. This explains why leaky gut becomes worse when you are stressed—instead of going to your gut, the glutamine is being used up to make glutathione and your intestinal cells are left vulnerable. Glutamine is also the precursor nutrient to glutamate, which can be extremely stimulating to the nervous system and can cause anxiety, so we don’t want too much of it. We want to make sure you get exactly the right amount for you, but not too much. Somewhere between 500mg and 5000mg per day is usually the perfect amount to heal leaky gut and increase glutathione without overdoing the glutamate. But if you notice increasing anxiety levels, it’s best to cut back and check with your naturopathic doctor.
Click here to take a look at (or purchase) Glutathione powder now.
- Alpha Lipoic acid (ALA). Think of ALA as glutathione’s helper. It recycles used (oxidized) glutathione back into its usable form (reduced). The reduced form is the most bio-available and the common dosage is 100 to 200 mg per day. There is also a form of lipoic acid in liquid form that is best able to support mitochondrial function.
Click here to take a look at (or purchase) ALA in capsule now. Or Click here to see the liquid form I mentioned.
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C is important because it protects glutathione from being oxidized. I recommend taking 500 to 1000mg every day. For some people, vitamin C in a capsule or powder isn’t absorbed very well and can cause digestive upset. To maximize absorption, I suggest going with a liposomal vitamin C liquid. If you’d prefer to get your vitamin C from food rather than supplements, acerola cherries are a rich source.
Click here to take a look at (or purchase) Liposomal Vitamin C now.
- Glutathione. Glutathione itself is not well-absorbed from the digestive system and you’ll find that the highest quality products have devised ways to improve absorption. There are both capsule and liquid forms available that use phosphatidyl choline (another important substance I’m going to write about soon) to assist with getting glutathione across the intestinal lining and into your blood and cells. The product that has been a favorite for patients in my office is Empirical Labs Liposomal Glutathione, just make sure you keep it in the refrigerator after you open it.
Click here to take a look at (or purchase) Liposomal Glutathione now.
There are also combination products that contain several of these ingredients all in one product, such as Glutathione Recycler, which you can find here.
You can find all the anti-oxidant products that I recommend in the DrDoniStore or in other stores. Just be sure to choose a high quality product that follows good manufacturing practices (GMP). It’s not worth taking a product that contains substances that stop you benefiting from the nutrient you are supplementing. And, from my perspective, it’s not worth buying from a source that is not committed to quality. Saving a little often means you cut yourself short. You can read more about how to choose high quality products here.
Note: If you have a sensitivity to sulfur or have elevated sulfur levels, it is best to check with your naturopathic doctor before taking them to find out if these products are appropriate for you and at what dose.
Note: Even though it is important and wonderful, too much glutathione is not a good thing. So, as always with supplements, always be aware of how your body is responding and do follow up labs to ensure you’ve reached your goal and not exceeded it.
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26th February 2016
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.