Glutathione is not a word that trips off the tongue, but it’s very much worth remembering. Glutathione is a substance that combats the problems related to oxidative stress.
What Is Oxidative Stress?
This happens when substances, called “free radicals” and “oxidants,” start to grow in number in our bodies. We need some of these radicals because they can act as “signaling” molecules that trigger important processes (like the heart pumping more blood during stressful moments). But if you have too many free radicals, this results in an unhealthy imbalance, leading to cell damage.
'Free Radicals': What Are They?
"Free radicals" are roaming individual atoms of oxygen that are desperately looking to pair up with other atoms, because atoms like to exist in pairs. This means that they’re pretty indiscriminate about where they pair up, which results in a variety of bad outcomes when this “outsider” settles down with some random cell in the body.
That settling causes damage to individual cells, eventually causing cell membranes to break and altering what a cell normally allows to enter and exit its boundaries.
The Benefits of Glutathione
Glutathione helps to repair or counteract the breakage and unraveling of cells that free radicals and oxidants tend to cause. For instance, glutathione repairs the “caps," known as telomeres, that are found at the end of chromosomes. If that cap is broken, DNA can unravel.
And there are many other ways it keeps cells healthy, from fighting nerve damage caused by Lyme disease to repairing cell damage that happens during chemotherapy. Its broad usefulness in the repairing of damage caused by free radicals explains why it’s also referred to as the “master” antioxidant.
One thing to know about this substance is that it’s hard to maintain healthy levels of glutathione through supplements. It’s mainly produced in the body. Unfortunately, with aging comes a reduction of the production of glutathione. When people reach 40, they produce around 30 percent less glutathione. By age 65, that reduction can reach 50 percent.
You can help whatever levels of glutathione are in your body by tracking what you eat. Eliminating sugar, grains, and processed foods from your diet is a great way to lessen oxidative stress. And you can find ways to raise your levels of glutathione, too. Both aerobic training and weight training – individually and in combination – have been found to increase the body’s production of glutathione.
The Final Word
Keep your free radicals under control by reducing oxidants in your diet, and by using exercise to keep the amount of glutathione in your body as high as possible. The positive impact on processes that contribute to aging and chronic diseases could be impressive.