GLUTATHIONE, ANTI-OXIDANTS AND NUTRITIONAL BALANCING SCIENCE
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© January 2014, The Center For Development
Glutathione is one of the most interesting and important chemical substances in the body. When enough is present, it helps prevent cancers and most other diseases. Low levels, in contrast, are definitely associated with damage to all body tissues and much poorer health.
Composition. Glutathione is made from three amino acids, a molecule of cystine, a molecule of glycine, and a molecule of glutamic acid. They combine in a special way to form glutathione.
Two forms or states. Giutathione is found in an active form and a depleted form. The active form is able to donate electrons. It is the antioxidant form, and is called reduced glutathione or GSH. The depleted form is electron-deficient and inactive for this reason. It cannot donate any more electrons and is called glutathione disulfide or GSSG.
The body is able to recycle and regenerate the active form from the depleted form of glutathione by the action of certain vitamins and minerals. This is a very critical process for our health, as it involves a special form of selenium found mainly in blue corn, mustard, and sardines. Click on the words above to read about these amazing products.
Where it is found. All cells make glutathione. However, it is found in high concentrations in the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs, nerve tissue and the lens of the eye.
GLUTATHIONE IS AN AMAZING ANTI-OXIDANT
A primary function of glutathione is as an anti-oxidant substance. Here is a non-technical explanation of oxidant damage and the action of anti-oxidants.
Inside each body cell, during the production of energy and protein synthesis, in particular, singlet oxygen atoms are formed. In other words, oxygen as O2 is split up into two singlet oxygen atoms. It is just part of the combustion process in our cells. The action of some toxins, radiation and some infections also produce free radical damage.
Oxygen as light energy transformed into physical energy. Oxidant formation occurs because oxygen releases a lot of energy as it is split into two atoms. One of the ‘side effects’ of the splitting of the molecule is a certain kind of stray energy. The free radicals or oxidant molecules take several forms such as superoxide or 02-, hydrogen peroxide or H202, and hydroxyl radicals or OH-.
These so-called singlet oxygen atoms are not only unstable, but they are very harmful for the body. They pull electrons away from other substances, and in doing so destroy essential enzymes and other vital chemicals in the body. If the process is allowed to go on, it causes a chain reaction that is extremely damaging and will lead to the death of the body.
Nutritional balancing is quite unique in its ability to stop this cascade of damage from free radicals, without requiring high doses of vitamin C, vitamin E or other anti-oxidant nutrients. This is an example of the beauty of this method of care. For more on this problem, read Antioxidant Therapy on this site.
Examples of oxidant damage. Any cell structures can be damaged, from the DNA itself, to the cell membranes. When cell membranes are damaged by free radicals, for example, their ability to hold an electrical charge (capacitance) and their ability to transport minerals, amino acids, glucose, and other nutrients is disrupted.
When mitochondrIa are damaged, the cell’s ability to generate energy is impaired. When the cell’s ability to repair itself is damaged, the situation is even worse and always leads to cancer, eventually, if it is not remedied.
When certain fat compounds in the body are damaged, the process is called lipid peroxidation. This is the process whereby some fats and oils become rancid inside the body, damaging them and making them toxic. It causes severe damage to cell membranes and other structures.
Another effect of the oxidant damage is inflammation, a condition seen today in most people’s bodies to some degree. While there are other causes for inflammation, oxidant damage is a prominent cause.
Anti-oxidants. If the body is healthy and well-nourished, there are mechanisms that quickly get rid of the unstable oxygen atoms. These substances are called anti-oxidants or free radical scavengers. Glutathione is one such substance that is essential in all the body cells.
Anti-oxidants donate an electron to stabilize harmful compounds. The way glutathione and all anti-oxidants work is they can donate an electron to a singlet oxygen atom or other compound with singlet oxygen atoms, so that this dangerous ion becomes harmless. Anything that can donate one electron to a singlet oxygen atom is therefore very helpful for one’s health.
A unique anti-oxidant. Glutathione is often called the master anti-oxidant mainly because it is required and made in every single body cell. Also, unlike most anti-oxidants such as vitamins A, B, C, E, selenium and many others, glutathione must be made mainly by the body cells, rather than ingested. Although it can be taken by injection, for example, or precursors such as cysteine can be taken by mouth, these do not work too well. It appears best if it is made within each body cell.
OTHER ROLES IN THE BODY
A master detoxifier. Glutathione is also critical as a molecule that helps to detoxify and remove all kinds of toxins such as heavy metals and thousands of toxic chemicals. This process occurs mainly in the liver and somewhat in the kidneys (Lomaestro et aI., 1995).
Glutathione helps transform these toxic substances into often more soluble and less absorbable molecules that are then released into the bile. Because they have been changed inside the liver, in most cases, they are not easily absorbed and pass harmlessly out of the body with the feces.
Glutathione also can transform some very toxic bacterial and perhaps viral toxins in the same way, and cause them to be less harmful and more easily removed from the body. These are very important roles to maintain our health, especially if one lives in an urban area, where the air and water are often more contaminated.
Other functions. Glutathione helps every body system by scavenging free radicals that cause oxidant damage. For example, this assists the immune response, cancer prevention or correction, digestion, elimination, energy production and much more.
Glutathione may also be extremely important in unusual situations, such as combating the toxic effects of chemical weapons used in warfare and some terrorist attacks. In fact, any type of pollution or chemical assault on the body is handled, in large part, by glutathione.
AGING AND GLUTATHIONE SYNTHESIS
Scientists have found that within increasing age, most people synthesize and regenerate less glutathione. This is definitely a cause of some illnesses of aging. Fortunately, if one maintains one’s nutritional status, mineral status and the balance of the oxidation rate, in particular, this aging process may not occur. In fact, many older people who are on nutritional balancing programs are producing more glutathione than they were when they were younger, simply because their nutritional status is far better.
For more on a related subject, read Telomeres And How To Lengthen Them on this site.
EXERCISE AND GLUTATHIONE
Scientists know that strenuous and/or prolonged exercise deplete glutathione. In fact, this is one cause for the fatigue that comes with exercise. It is true that vigorous exercise in older people, for just about 20 minutes a day, tend to help preserve the telomeres. However, it has other effects that are less helpful.
The body, in producing the extra energy or ATP (adenosine triphosphate) needed for vigorous exercise, produces many more singlet oxygen atoms or free radicals. Cleaning these up uses up the body’s reserves of glutathione. (Banerjee et al,2003 and Chang et aI., 2006).
It takes some time for the body to regenerate or synthesize more glutathione, so the person becomes tired and some damage occurs inside the cells as a result of the presence of too many free radicals or singlet oxygen atoms.
Nutritional balancing science recommends only gentle forms of exercise. The above is one reason why, on nutritional balancing programs, no vigorous exercise is recommended. While it has some benefits, the damage it causes in people who are nutritionally depleted, which is almost everyone, is far worse than the benefits, in most cases.
We suggest only gentle walking, gentle weight-lifting or other gentle forms of mild exercise while on a nutritional balancing program. It is unfortunate that the harm of exercise is not recognized more today. In the past, it was not a problem because the bodies were better nourished. Today it is a major problem, however.
Animal research indicates that after strenuous exercise, anti-oxidant damage can be observed in the liver (Leeuwenburgh et al., 1995) and endurance is significantly decreased (Sen et al., 1994). For more on the problems of vigorous exercise, see the article on this site entitled Exercise And Nutritional Balancing.
NUTRITIONAL BALANCING HELPS REGENERATE AND SYNTHESIZE GLUTATHIONE BETTER THAN MOST NATURAL OR MEDICAL HEALING SYSTEMS
A benefit of nutritional balancing appears to be its amazing ability to increase glutathione levels. I say this based mainly on empirical evidence, not strict measurements, which are difficult to do at times. The keys to excellent glutathione regeneration and synthesis used in nutritional balancing appear to be:
Š Adequate animal protein in the diet. This provides plenty of sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine. Vegetarian diets, in contrast, tend to be much lower in the sulfur-containing amino acids.
Š Very large amounts of cooked vegetables and 10-12 ounces of carrot juice. These provide a tremendous amount of hundreds of phytonutrients needed by our bodies every day.
Š The use of GB-3, a powerful protein digestant. Without this, many people of all ages cannot adequately digest heavy animal protein and its benefits are wasted.
Š Vitamins A, C, E, selenium, zinc, calcium and a range of other basic nutrients. These are helpful as anti-oxidants and for general health. Simple nutrients are overlooked on some other nutrition programs.
Š Balancing the oxidation rate and the major mineral ratios on a hair mineral test. Glutathione production and regeneration are both chemical and electrical phenomena that depend upon a balanced body chemistry for optimum activity. Balancing the body chemistry in this way requires the correct use of a hair mineral analysis. At least, I have not found a way to obtain the needed information without this test.
Š Balancing the forces of yin and yang in the body. This is related to balancing the oxidation rate, but goes beyond the work of Dr. Paul Eck and is related to the science of macrobiotics, to a degree. Most medical, herbal and nutritional healing programs, in my experience, do not address yin imbalances, in particular. They often overload the body with vitamins, minerals, yin foods, juices, or other things that may have some therapeutic effect, but severely unbalance the forces of yin and yang in the body. Nutritional balancing, however, is careful to take this factor into consideration. For more on this topic, please read Yin Disease on this site.