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Glutathione: What Is It and How to Increase It

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:

  1. Cut out sugar. Stop eating sugar and watch out for added sugar in the ingredients list on processed and packaged foods.
  1. Eat real foods. As much as you can, switch from processed and packaged foods to actual, real foods.
  1. 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.
  1. Buy ORGANIC. You don’t want pesticides to use up all those antioxidants before your cells have had a chance to benefit from them.
  1. 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!
  1. 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

It can be overwhelming to make these lifestyle changes on your own so, if you’d like support integrating these tips into your own life, then consider using my special Stress Remedy Program as a tool to guide you.

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.

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.

If you’d like help addressing glutathione and oxidative stress, or would like to learn more about how I can help you, you may be interested in my new Autoimmunity Solutions Package.

To be sure you receive my next article, sign up for my newsletter here.

–Dr. Doni
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.

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