Glutathione is an antioxidant produced in the cells and is largely made up of three amino acids: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. It is produced naturally by the liver and involved in many processes in the body, including tissue building and repair, making chemicals and proteins needed in the body, and for a healthy immune system.
Glutathione levels in the body can be depleted by a number of factors, including poor nutrition, environmental toxins, stress, and the aging process. Maintaining adequate levels of this important antioxidant is incredibly important for a healthy body. Since glutathione is part of the antioxidant family it may help to reduce oxidative stress in the body by combating free radicals and protecting the body from their damaging effects.
Ten Things You Can Do To Increase Your Glutathione Levels Naturally
1. Eat Sulfur Rich Foods
Sulfur is an important mineral that occurs naturally in some plant and protein foods. It’s required for the structure and activity of important proteins and enzymes in the body. Sulfur is found in two amino acids in food: methionine and cysteine, primarily consumed from dietary proteins such as beef, fish, and poultry.
As a vegetarian source, you may attain the benefits of glutathione from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, watercress, and mustard greens. Other vegetables with allium properties such as garlic, shallots, and onions, may help to boost glutathione levels in the body.
2. Vitamin C Benefits
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin found in several foods, especially fruits, and vegetables. For example, strawberries, citrus fruits, papayas, kiwis, and bell peppers contain rich amounts of vitamin C. Some functions of vitamin C work as an antioxidant to protect cells from oxidative damage as well as to help maintain the body’s supply of other antioxidants including glutathione.
Research into the benefits of vitamin C has shown promise that it may help increase glutathione levels by attacking free radicals first and protecting glutathione levels in the body. Researchers also found that vitamin C helps reprocess glutathione by converting oxidized glutathione back to its active form so the body can utilize it.
In fact, researchers found that taking vitamin C in supplement form increased glutathione levels in white blood cells in healthy adults. In one study, adults took 500–1,000 mg of vitamin C daily for 13 weeks, which lead to an 18% increase of glutathione in white blood cells. Another study revealed that taking 500 mg of vitamin C supplements a day increased glutathione in red blood cells by a substantial increase of 47%.
It’s worthy to note that the above-mentioned studies used vitamin C supplements for their findings. Considering the fact that these supplements are concentrated versions of vitamin C, it’s unclear if the foods we eat would have the same effect of raising glutathione levels. Further research is needed, to determine if you can increase glutathione levels by eating foods containing vitamin C and how much of each food the body would need to achieve these same results.
3. Selenium-Rich Foods
Selenium is an essential mineral and works in conjunction with glutathione activity. You can find good sources of selenium in beef, chicken, fish, organ meats, cottage cheese, brown rice, and Brazil nuts. Therefore, it makes sense to increase your intake of selenium to help maintain or increase your body’s supply of glutathione. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for selenium for adults is 55 mcg. This is based on the amount we need to maximize the production of glutathione peroxidase.
One study looked at the benefits of supplementing with selenium in 45 adults with chronic kidney disease. All of them received 200 mcg of selenium daily for three months and surprisingly, all of their glutathione peroxidase levels increased significantly. Another study showed that taking selenium supplements increased glutathione peroxidase levels in patients on hemodialysis.
However, it’s important to note that the maximum intake level (UL) of selenium is set at 400 mcg per day. There could be some toxicity if higher amounts are taken over a long period so be sure to discuss selenium supplements and dosage with your healthcare provider.
Another thing to keep in mind is these studies involved supplements, rather than selenium-rich foods. For most healthy adults, eating a well-balanced diet of selenium-rich foods may help ensure adequate levels of selenium and possibly contribute to healthy glutathione levels.
4. Glutathione Rich-Foods
The human body naturally produces glutathione, however, there are also some natural dietary sources of glutathione to help increase your levels such as spinach, avocados, asparagus, and okra. However, dietary glutathione is poorly absorbed by the human body, and when we add cooking and storage conditions to these foods we can decrease the amount of glutathione consumed in food.
Despite having a lower impact on increasing glutathione levels when eating these foods, glutathione-rich foods may still help to decrease oxidative stress. One example of this theory is, that a non-experimental study showed that people who consumed the most glutathione-rich foods had a lower risk of developing mouth cancer. More research is needed as we continue to learn about the effects of glutathione-rich foods on oxidative stress and how they affect glutathione levels in the body.
5. Whey Protein
The body’s production of glutathione depends on certain amino acids. An amino acid called cysteine is a particularly important amino acid that is involved in glutathione synthesis. Some scientists are discovering that branched-chain amino acids mediate translational control of protein synthesis. Therefore, foods rich in cysteine, such as whey protein, may increase your glutathione level supplies in the body. In fact, research strongly supports this claim, as many studies have found that whey protein may increase levels of glutathione and, therefore, reduce oxidative stress.
6. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle, known as Silybum marianum, contains an active ingredient called silymarin which is extracted from the plant’s seeds. Silymarin is believed to have antioxidant properties. Milk thistle is comprised of three active compounds, collectively known as silymarin.
Silymarin is found in high concentrations in milk thistle extract and is well known for its antioxidant properties. Furthermore, silymarin research has been shown to increase glutathione levels and prevent depletion in both test-tube and rodent studies. Researchers also conclude that silymarin is able to maintain glutathione levels by preventing cell damage.
7. Turmeric Extract
Many know turmeric as a spice used in lattes and for cooking, However, turmeric (Curcuma longa) has a long history of use in traditional medicine. This flavor-filled spice is primarily cultivated from the rhizomes, or roots, of a flowering plant in India and other parts of Southeast Asia. Aside from giving curry its vibrant yellow color, this plant is also known for having potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The herb has been used medicinally in India since ancient times. The medicinal properties of turmeric are likely linked to its main component, curcumin. The curcumin content is much more concentrated in the extract form of turmeric, compared to the spice. Several animal and test-tube studies have shown that turmeric and curcumin extract has the ability to increase glutathione levels.
Some researchers conclude that the curcumin found in turmeric may assist in restoring adequate levels of glutathione and improve the activity of glutathione enzymes in the body. When using turmeric for glutathione health benefits, we may need to consider turmeric extract, because it would be difficult to achieve adequate levels of curcumin with turmeric spice alone.
8. Adequate Sleep
As mentioned adequate levels of glutathione are needed to help reduce oxidative stress in the body. We would be amiss if we did not mention adequate sleep as another major factor in reducing oxidative stress and healthy hormone balance. A good night’s sleep is essential for healthy bodies. Prolonged, long-term, lack of sleep can cause oxidative stress and may contribute to hormone imbalances.
Furthermore, research has shown that chronic lack of sleep may decrease glutathione levels. For example, a study measuring glutathione levels in 30 healthy subjects and 30 subjects with insomnia found that glutathione peroxidase activity was significantly lower in those who suffered from a lack of sleep. Animal studies have also shown that sleep deprivation can cause a decrease in glutathione levels. Therefore, making sure you get restful sleep each night may help maintain or boost your levels of this powerful antioxidant.
Physical activity has long been recommended by physicians and healthcare providers for both your physical and mental health. The health benefits of exercise and the glutathione connection, show that exercise is beneficial to maintaining or increasing antioxidant levels in the body, as well as healthy glutathione levels.
Exercise should be tailored to each individual depending on their health needs. Some exercise recommendations may include a combination of both cardio and circuit weight training to increase glutathione levels more efficiently compared to cardio or weight training alone. Keep in mind, that athletes who overtrain without maintaining adequate nutrition and rest could be at risk of decreased glutathione production instead of achieving balanced levels.
If you’re wanting to balance or increase glutathione in your body alcohol is not your friend. Alcohol can deplete glutathione levels in the body and restrict the natural replenishment of electrolytes and other nutrients, especially when there is not enough glutathione available in your blood, cells, and liver to begin with. If this happens then toxic chemicals start to build up in your body.
It’s no surprise that there are many adverse health effects associated with chronic and excessive alcohol intake. We usually associate alcohol abuse with ailments such as liver cirrhosis, brain damage, and pancreatitis.
Not well known, is the fact that lung damage is also an adverse effect of alcoholism, most likely related to a depletion of glutathione levels in the lungs. The small airways of the lungs require glutathione to function properly. It’s a fact, that healthy lungs have up to 1,000 times more glutathione than other parts of the body.
The depletion of glutathione in the lungs of alcoholics is most likely due to oxidative stress caused by chronic alcohol use. Studies have shown that chronic alcohol consumption can decrease the levels of the antioxidant glutathione by as much as 80-90%.
Glutathione is an important antioxidant that a healthy body makes and requires for optimal organ function every day. Researchers have associated low levels of glutathione with several medical conditions. While supplements may be appropriate for some people, they may not be safe for everyone, and they could interact with medications.
If you’re wanting to increase your glutathione levels whether with foods or supplementation be sure to check with your doctor first before starting glutathione supplementation, in order to determine whether it’s safe, or effective for you.
Health Studio Labs and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All content on Health Studios is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health-related programs.