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Glutathione – the master antioxidant – is currently on everyone’s radar. It makes sense why, given how this powerful nutrient benefits your health, including your thyroid.
Glutathione is made up of three amino acids: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. Glutathione is produced – and is most concentrated – in the liver. Glutathione production declines with age and other factors such as poor nutrition, increased use of acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), NSAIDS and statins, alcohol consumption, environmental toxins, and stress.
Let’s explore some of the powerful and widespread benefits of glutathione.
1. Glutathione fights free radicals that promote aging and disease
Master antioxidant glutathione is one of the few antioxidants produced in the body. Antioxidants protect our bodies from oxidative stress. When oxidation occurs in the body, it can damage cell membranes, including proteins, lipids, and DNA. These unstable molecules are called “free radicals,” and the oxidative damage they cause can increase the risk of heart disease, liver disease, some cancers, and other conditions. Antioxidants look for these free radicals in the body and prevent or reduce the damage caused. Think of antioxidants as a broom that comes in to sweep up any debris in our bodies!
2. Glutathione can improve insulin resistance
Healthy glutathione levels are associated with better fat burning and reduced rates of fat storage in the body. Increasing glutathione levels improves insulin resistance and fat-burning and have also been shown to improve insulin action and glucose metabolism. According to research, glutathione supplementation can increase insulin sensitivity in people with and without type 2 diabetes.
3. Glutathione can reduce cell damage in liver disease
Due to its antioxidant properties and ability to aid in natural detoxification, glutathione can help treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a more common condition in people with hypothyroidism. One study found that in subjects with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, taking a high dose of intravenous glutathione for four months improved their liver health.
4. Glutathione can remove environmental toxins such as phthalates, parabens, pesticides, PCBs, and fluoride
Phthalates and parabens are chemicals frequently found in many bath and beauty products. They can increase the risk of allergic reactions, infertility, and asthma. Common pesticides such as glyphosate can significantly cause oxidative stress leading to endocrine and hormone disruption and glandular breakdowns. Polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs, are sometimes found in contaminated fish. PCBs are known to upset the balance of thyroid hormones. And fluoride, though controversial in use, has been shown in research to cause hypothyroidism when ingested or used in large amounts.
5. Glutathione can improve brain health
Brain tissue – especially in the hippocampus and amygdala – is highly susceptible to oxidative stress. Glutathione deficiency has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Glutathione supplementation can help transport mercury and other toxins out of the brain and play a role in the antioxidant defense system. Some studies even suggest that glutathione supplementation may help reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life in people with Parkinson’s.
The predominant role of glutathione is its role in our immune system. In the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, one study examined glutathione status and its activities in a small group of women. The study showed a significant reduction in glutathione levels in those with Hashimoto’s and that having decreased glutathione levels is a factor in developing oxidative stress and decreasing immune tolerance. In fact, another study’s results supported the finding diminishing glutathione levels is one of the events that eventually leads to oxidative stress and the development of immunological intolerance in Hashimoto’s patients.
Glutathione’s relationship with thyroid conditions is important and interesting to consider. While each cell in the body uses glutathione, they vary in how much glutathione is needed. This balance is regulated by an enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which is especially important for the thyroid. Without glutathione peroxidase, stress can interfere with the thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormones.
Also of note: an important and necessary trace mineral – selenium – is essential to cells and acts as a component of glutathione peroxidase. Glutathione supplementation can support thyroid health by reducing the need for selenium and providing thyroid cells with an oxidative stress regulation tool they’d naturally use.
Before you run off to grab a glutathione supplement, we encourage you to use natural ways to help increase your glutathione levels.
Consume glutathione-boosting foods such as onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, spinach, kale, collard greens, avocados, okra, parsley, peas, lentils, organ meats, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Many of these foods are rich in sulfur, vital for synthesizing glutathione. (Make sure that you are steaming or lightly cooking the goitrogenic vegetables to help remove any thyroid-slowing properties.) Citrus fruits such as melons, oranges, and kiwis also help with glutathione oxidation.
An interesting note: Drinking coffee has been shown to increase plasma glutathione levels!
Consume whey protein. Whey protein contains cysteine, an amino acid precursor of glutathione. Studies have found that whey protein may increase levels of glutathione, which can help maintain adequate glutathione production
For glutathione itself, remember that taking glutathione orally may not be an effective way to increase levels in the body, as it may be broken down by enzymes in the stomach. Some practitioners recommend intravenous infusions of glutathione for patients with a verifiable deficiency.
You’ll also want to adopt healthy practices such as focusing on adequate sleep, incorporating physical activity, reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, and stopping smoking to optimize glutathione levels.
If you have never had your glutathione or selenium levels checked, we recommend you “Test, don’t guess!” You can work with one of our Paloma top providers to get your thyroid treatment optimized and address any nutritional deficiencies that are contributing to your health condition.