Unlocking Gut Health: The Crucial Role of Glutathione
Article

Unlocking Gut Health: The Crucial Role of Glutathione

Published on Saturday, June 17, 2023
by
Emily Hamm

Health & Wellness

Have you wondered what you can do to help heal your gut? 

If you suffer from gut dysbiosis or leaky gut, have you considered that it might be due to a deficit of antioxidants in your body?

In review, leaky gut or gut permeability is when the lining of the gut is not strong enough to prevent harmful bacteria, chemicals, toxins, etc., from getting into the rest of the body. Gut dysbiosis is when the bacteria found in the gut are not in balance. There may be more harmful than good bacteria, which can lead to leaky gut and reduced immunity. 

Antioxidants act as the fire extinguisher to the fire that is inflammation in the body. 

Antioxidant activity is important in the body because it helps to reduce inflammation or sequester it. Glutathione, a tripeptide (cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid), is an antioxidant found in relatively high concentrations in many body tissues. Even though our bodies can create glutathione, due to increased consumption of processed foods and chronic inflammation due to external factors, glutathione levels can be easily depleted. Low levels of glutathione have been correlated with an increased risk of leaky gut, gut dysbiosis, and liver disease.

Glutathione helps the body detoxify via detox pathways in the liver. Some people with gut and autoimmune issues may have some detoxification pathways blocked. It also improves the immune system by fighting infections that cause inflammation – this happens everywhere in the body, but a good chunk of the immune system is in the gut. Additionally, it helps reduce inflammatory responses by blocking inflammatory cytokines from forming and helps to strengthen the lining of the gut to help heal and promote the growth of new enterocytes (which in turn affects immunity).

How do you increase glutathione levels with foods?? GLAD you asked!

  • Eat sulfur-rich foods like leafy greens, asparagus, onions, garlic, and eggs
  • Liver
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, turnip greens, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower
  • Foods rich in selenium, like Brazil nuts, grass-fed beef, eggs, and brown rice
  • Vitamin C-rich foods like oranges, citrus fruits, strawberries, and tomatoes
  • Foods that support methylation (foods high in folate, B-12, B-6): bananas, cantaloupe, papaya, sunflower seeds, avocados, leafy greens, organ meats, fish, poultry, and eggs
  • Cinnamon, turmeric, and cardamom

In addition to consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole proteins, you can support glutathione levels by managing stress, exercising, and getting adequate sleep:

*Aim for 8-10 hours of restful sleep per night- optimize sleep by reducing screen time/blue lights up to 2 hours before bedtime.

*Move your body- go on a walk, a hike, or a swim, and participate in resistance training or pilates. Get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity daily activity- get your heart rate up!

*Reduce stress- deep breathing techniques, prayer/meditation, calming baths, stretching, and yoga are great ways to reduce stress and help you relax.

In the functional medicine world, it is also common to see glutathione recommended in supplement form in addition to diet modifications. Here are the different forms of glutathione and how they work: 

  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): this is a precursor for glutathione and is necessary for the body to produce adequate amounts of glutathione.
  • S-Acetyl: is the active form of glutathione; therefore, it is easily ready for the body to use.
  • Liposomal glutathione: this is mostly a fat-based supplement and is easily absorbed into the bloodstream for easy use by the body.
  • Glutathione injections: direct access to the bloodstream and can transport to cells easily. This can be given in IV therapy or via intramuscular injections.

Keep in mind that research surrounding supplemented glutathione is limited in humans. As a dietitian, I do highly recommend consuming a diet that will promote antioxidant production within the body. Talk with your provider or a dietitian to learn more. Glutathione is an important antioxidant for our bodies and can do so much to promote good health!

 

  1. Lorestani, S., Bahari, A., Asadi, M., & Avval, F. Z. (2021). Evaluation of glutathione reductase activity in colon tissue of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation, 42(2), 195–198. https://doi.org/10.1515/hmbci-2020-0041 
  2. Minich, D. M., & Brown, B. P. (2019). A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support. Nutrients, 11(9), 2073. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11092073
  3. Perricone, C., De Carolis, C., & Perricone, R. (2009). Glutathione: A key player in autoimmunity. Autoimmunity Reviews, 8(8), 697–701. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2009.02.020
  4. Pizzorno, J. (2014). Glutathione! Integrative Medicine, 13(1). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684116/
  5. Rom, O., Liu, Y., Liu, Z., Zhao, Y., Wu, J., Ghrayeb, A., Villacorta, L., Fan, Y., Chang, L., Wang, L., Liu, C., Yang, D., Song, J., Rech, J. A., Guo, Y., Wang, H., Zhao, G., Liang, W., Yu, Y., . . . Chen, Y. (2020). Glycine-based treatment ameliorates NAFLD by modulating fatty acid oxidation, glutathione synthesis, and the gut microbiome. Science Translational Medicine, 12(572). https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aaz2841
  6. Yelton, N. (2022). Glutathione Benefits for Gut Health. Nikki Yelton RD. https://nikkiyeltonrd.com/glutathione-uses-benefits-for-gut-health /

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Emily Hamm

MS, RDN, CSO, LD

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