Glutathione: benefits, dosing, levels, form, and route of administration

Sometimes, we hear a friend talking about some new incredible supplement they’re taking. Glutathione may be one of those buzzwords we often hear about without understanding what it actually is. However, some research can help you understand what glutathione is, its benefits and whether glutathione supplements are for you. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Anastasia Kolesnikova
MRes, Biochemist, Scientific Officer

What Is Glutathione?

Glutathione sounds like a complicated word. Let’s start with what it’s made from. 

Glutathione is a tripeptide, which means that it is made up of three amino acids: cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid. Cysteine is a special amino acid—it contains sulfur. Our cells have a lot of it. It’s present in the cells at the same concentration as other important molecules like glucose, potassium, and cholesterol. It is most abundant in the liver. 

Glutathione exists in two forms in our cells: the reduced “thiol” form, GSH, and the oxidized form, which is called glutathione disulfide, or GSSG. 98% of our glutathione is in the reduced form, which has some essential functions. What does glutathione do in our body? 

GSH is a potent antioxidant. It can reduce hydrogen peroxide, neutralizing it. Hydrogen peroxide is generated naturally during the cell’s energy-releasing processes. It can damage cellular components in large quantities, so GSH must neutralize it. If a cell is under severe oxidative stress, then GSH gets depleted. 

GSH is also a key player in cellular signaling. It can attach itself to certain proteins, making them active or inactive. Under stressful conditions, it may help prevent GSH loss. Glutathione is key in many signals related to cellular stress and regulates cell growth

Glutathione is a cofactor for antioxidant enzymes. A cofactor is a molecule needed by enzymes, the active proteins of the cells, to carry out their functions. 

It is also essential to help us regenerate antioxidant vitamins C and E. 

Glutathione is an antioxidant that is important for our cells and body in many ways. 

Glutathione Benefits

Now that we know what glutathione does inside our cells, we’ve come to the important bit. What are the beneficial effects of glutathione when consumed as a supplement? 

Glutathione for skin. Glutathione is a popular way to lighten skin and may be used topically and as an oral supplement. There seems to be some evidence that it may brighten skin color. However, it appears it’s not long-term and does not work in all body parts. More research has to be done before conclusions can be made. It may improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles. 

Glutathione for the liver. The liver is an important organ, so it’s vital to keep it healthy. When the liver accumulates excess fat, the cells may experience oxidative stress, which can develop into a liver condition. Glutathione’s antioxidant function may help protect liver cells from oxidative stress. Additional glutathione may be beneficial for chronic conditions. 

Glutathione for immunity. Our immune system relies on inflammation to tackle infections, especially as a method of our first-line defense. Glutathione can help lower inflammation, especially in chronic conditions. It is also vital for the functioning of the immune system, including our T-cell multiplication and adaptive immunity.  

Glutathione in the ageing brain. Our levels of the antioxidant decline with age. Glutathione’s antioxidant function is critical in the brain. These declines can be linked to the loss of neurons and may even be connected to dementia and related pathogenies. Therefore, supporting optimal levels can be crucial. 


Glutathione in Foods

Does glutathione naturally occur in foods? Yes, it does. 

It can be found in some fruits and vegetables, including orange, strawberries, lemon, avocado, and tomato. In addition, including fruits and veggies in your diet provides your body with phytonutrients, which may help increase glutathione.

In addition, you can benefit from adding some foods for glutathione synthesis support. 

Sulfur-containing foods can be beneficial since cysteine requires sulfur. These include foods like meats and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and kale, which may increase glutathione production. 

Including foods rich in vitamin C in your diet can also benefit glutathione levels. This effect is likely because vitamin C helps “re-activate” glutathione. Vitamin C supplements may increase glutathione in the blood. 

In addition, increasing your protein intake can benefit glutathione levels. Choose protein sources rich in cysteine, such as whey protein. Try Maxler 100% Golden Whey for a great-tasting dose of cysteine-rich protein. 

There is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may be able to help preserve glutathione. 

Levels of Glutathione

You can check your glutathione levels by requesting bloodwork. Contact your medical practitioner if you’re worried about your glutathione levels. They will be able to offer advice and testing to help you figure out what’s going on. 

Low Glutathione Symptoms

What happens if you don’t have enough glutathione in the body? You may find yourself experiencing symptoms which include:

  • Feelings of tiredness or low energy 
  • Trouble concentrating or brain fog 
  • Issues with getting enough sleep 
  • Infections or frequent colds 
  • Anemia, or a lack of red blood cells 
  • Issues with coordinating your movements

However, you may note that many of these symptoms are similar to symptoms of other types of deficiencies. It’s, therefore, best to consult with a specialist to determine precisely the cause of your symptoms. There’s no point in increasing your glutathione intake if the issue is an iron deficiency, for example. 

Glutathione supplements

How do we determine the best glutathione supplement? 

Glutathione can be supplemented directly and often comes in the form of pills. However, you can also supplement ingredients that help the body produce glutathione. 

One such ingredient is turmeric. It is known for its many benefits for human health, including its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric extract contains curcumin, which may be able to increase glutathione levels. You can take curcumin or turmeric extract. For a great dose of quality curcumin, try Maxler Turmeric Curcumin with Bioperine. The added Bioperine, which is a black pepper extract, helps increase curcumin absorption.

Another bioactive that can improve glutathione synthesis is milk thistle. It contains an active ingredient called silymarin, which can increase the production of glutathione. Therefore, some people may take milk thistle supplements instead of glutathione supplements. 

If you have decided to try a glutathione supplement or have been advised by a professional, it can be hard to find a good supplement.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about the supplement to help you narrow down whether it’s the right one for you:

  1. Do you trust the quality of the supplement? Since supplements are unregulated, choosing brands that are open about their quality standards is a good idea. That may include being open about certifications they have. Alternatively, the supplement itself may have been quality-tested by a third party. 
  2. Does the supplement provide the right dosage? Don’t choose doses that are too high or too low. Consult with a professional for best results. 
  3. Do you need any additional ingredients? Some supplements may contain many different things. Whether or not you need the extras is up to you. If you’re just looking to increase your glutathione levels, there may not be a need for additional vitamins or actives in the supplement. 
  4. Have you considered alternatives? You can increase your body’s natural production of glutathione through certain supplements. Sometimes, you may prefer using these alternatives directly over glutathione supplements.

Remember that the best glutathione supplement is one that fits your goals, budget and preferences. 

You can support glutathione production through a healthy lifestyle if you’d rather not bother with supplements. Sufficient sleep can help keep adequate levels of the antioxidant. Enough exercise can also support glutathione levels. 

Glutathione Dosage

We know that additional glutathione can be great for you. However, how much should you take?

The situation remains a bit unclear regarding how much glutathione you can take. Our body can synthesize the antioxidant, so there’s no daily recommended amount. Supplement dosage of up to 3 grams may be safe, though. It’s probably best to stick to lower amounts. 

In most of the studies mentioned in this post, the dosage varies between 250 and 500 mg of glutathione per day. Therefore, these amounts may be a good starting point if you’re thinking of supplementation. 

Form and route of administration

Now, let’s answer the question you’ve been waiting for. How to take glutathione effectively? Glutathione can be used in three ways. You can take it orally, in the form of supplements. It can be injected, which may be slightly more effective because of poor bioavailability when taken orally. Finally, it can be taken by inhalation. 

Intravenous glutathione administration is also possible but is typically used in a medical setting. 

Alternatively, you can support your body’s production of glutathione by including foods that help you produce it. 

Side Effects

It would be wonderful if we could take supplements without having to worry about side effects. However, even for things that are approved as supplements or medicines, there is always a risk of side effects. 

Glutathione supplementation can, unfortunately, be accompanied by some side effects. Supplementation orally appears to be safe, with major side effects reported being gastrointestinal symptoms. These include feeling gassy and having loose stools. In addition, flushing and weight gain can be side-effects of glutathione supplementation. 

If glutathione is taken intravenously, then side effects affecting the liver may occur. In addition, inhaled glutathione may make asthma worse. 

Before trying to take glutathione, it’s best to consult with a medical professional. They can advise you on whether it’s something that can suit you and monitor you for any side effects. 

Glutathione is an important antioxidant that can be beneficial for our health. Our body naturally produces this molecule. There are many ways to support our own synthesis and get glutathione from food. However, some people may want to increase their intake of glutathione through supplements. Should you choose to do so, make sure to pick quality supplements that you can trust. In addition to that, it’s a great idea to consult with a medical professional before making the decision to start supplementing. Remember that you’re in charge of your health, so don’t be afraid to take a step towards a more informed and healthier you. 

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