What Is Glutathione?
The body’s “Master Antioxidant”, glutathione plays a key role in our health, well-being, cellular repair and maintenance and overall toxicity level.
Glutathione is a tripeptide consisting of glutamine, cysteine and glycine. It helps to prevent damage to our cells brought on by reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as free radicals and peroxides.
In its reduced form, glutathione passes through our cells gathering up toxins and free radicals, excreting them from the body. Once this action is performed the glutathione molecule enters its oxidized form. Unlike other antioxidants, glutathione can be recycled once in its oxidized form through the methylation process.
The ratio between reduced glutathione and oxidized glutathione within the cell is used to determine overall cellular toxicity levels, regarded as the single best indicator of overall health and well-being.
GSH and Free Radicals
Understanding the enormous range of health benefits glutathione has to offer requires an understanding of the arch enemy of health; free radicals.
Free radicals are a natural byproduct of our cellular metabolic process. These free radicals pose such a threat to our health because of the damage they cause to neighboring cells. These unstable molecules are missing an electron, in an attempt to find balance they indiscriminately rip electrons from nearby cells, turning them into free radicals as well. This process snowballs, causing severe harm to our cells and interfering with normal cellular function.
Most experts agree that virtually every chronic illness we know of is linked to free radical induced tissue damage.
The cumulative load of free radicals is referred to as oxidative stress. Corroding our body from the inside, similar to how rust accumulates and eats away at metal.
Antioxidants are the body’s protection from oxidative damage. Glutathione is a particularly important antioxidant due to its ability to recharge and recycle itself and other antioxidants.
While free radical formation and glutathione production are both natural processes, our increasingly toxic environment is disrupting their delicate balance. Chemicals and pollutants found in our air, water and food bombard our body with toxins which accelerate oxidative damage while depleting glutathione levels. Our body cannot keep up with the demand for antioxidants like glutathione, meaning it needs help fortifying GSH levels.
Benefits of Glutathione
The free radical or oxidative stress theory of aging suggests that the primary cause of aging and age related disabilities comes from free radical accumulation and oxidative damage; ultimately determining the lifespan and quality of life of an organism.
This accumulation of free radical damage occurs naturally as we age, partly because of naturally decreasing levels of glutathione; a vital tool in neutralizing free radicals and repairing oxidative damage.
Experts believe that there is a direct link between glutathione status, free radical accumulation and reactive oxygen species. By improving reduced glutathione through an L-glutathione complex, you can help combat the pitfalls of aging. This improves cellular health and function, minimizing the damage caused to our body via free radicals and even helping to repair the damage caused after years of free radical accumulation. 
Inflammation is the root cause of virtually every chronic health condition we know of.
Chronic inflammation releases a flood of free radicals which damage nearby cells and contribute to the progression of disease.
Glutathione has been studied extensively for its powerful anti-inflammatory characteristics. Beyond its extraordinary inflammation fighting capabilities, GSH helps to repair the damage that prompted the inflammation in the first place.
It is so critical to treat chronic inflammation because it affects quality of life and overall health so substantially. Aggressive symptoms of chronic inflammation include asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, joint discomfort, psoriasis, liver cirrhosis, muscle stiffness and a huge array of other conditions.
Supplementing glutathione levels can not only help repair the damage caused by inflammation, but it can help repair the damage that caused the inflammatory response. Making it one of the most beneficial antioxidants to supplement for virtually every health condition. 
Athletic performance & Recovery
Improving athletic performance and recovery times doesn’t just benefit professional athletes or avid gym goers. Everyone can benefit from glutathiones ability to improve muscular strength, stamina and tissue recovery. Whether you are a marathon runner, pro footballer or you find a flight of stairs daunting.
Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, but it can also cause harm to the body through oxidative damage. Studies have shown that oxidized glutathione levels rise by as much as 320% during bouts of intense exercise. This oxidized glutathione level is a response to the oxidative damage caused by exercising.
Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts supplement their glutathione levels to help combat this oxidative stress and rapid lipid peroxidation. Minimizing the oxidative stress caused by exercising is hugely beneficial for individuals who exercise both frequently and infrequently. It helps to protect the body from damage as well as helps to optimize athletic performance.
By combating oxidative stress and free radical formation, glutathione helps increase muscular strength as well as muscle stamina. Something that everyone can benefit from regardless of their physical prowess. [3,4]
The brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidative damage due to its enormous oxygen use. This oxidative damage is detrimental to our neurological function and development, leading to mitochondrial dysfunction and numerous neurodegenerative diseases.
Preventing and repairing this oxidative damage is one of the roles glutathione plays in the body, not only improving neurological development, but helping to prevent neurological disorders throughout the aging process.
Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases. Significant oxidative damage is recorded early in the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient, occurring well before signs of AD are noticeable.Researchers suggest that the oxidative damage and subsequent mitochondrial dysfunction contribute to Alzheimer’s progression.
Glutathiones role in preventing and repairing oxidative damage makes it one of the most important brain health antioxidants we can readily supplement.
Alzheimer’s disease is only one of the many neurological disorders that is benefited by increased glutathione levels. One of the earliest biochemical derangements observed in patients with Parkinson’s Disease is a loss of total glutathione levels. Showing a direct link between aging brain health and reduced glutathione levels.
Supplementing glutathione levels helps to reduce free radical damage and toxicity, improving neurological health and in turn, cognitive function. 
The liver is the most important organ when it comes to detoxifying our body and regulating our immunity. Therefore it comes as no surprise that it also has some of the highest concentrations of glutathione in the body.
Glutathione levels directly affect liver function and health. Illustrated by the effects of an acetaminophen overdose which causes a severe depletion in GSH levels and shuts down the liver. The current clinical treatment for an acetaminophen overdose is N-acetylcysteine, a glutathione precursor that can replenish cellular GSH levels and help return liver function. This is not only beneficial for acetaminophen poisoning, but in drug toxicity as a whole.
Increasing glutathione levels helps detoxify the body and reduce the stress on the liver. This can help prevent chronic inflammation of the liver which can lead to fatty liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver.
Improving liver function yields a huge array of health benefits, virtually every system and function is benefited from a healthy liver. Healthy lifestyle choices and fortifying your body’s master antioxidant, generally recognized for its outstanding liver health benefits are two of the most effective ways to improve liver health and function. 
Energy production & Cellular metabolism
The mitochondria is responsible for producing most of the energy within our cells, acting as a mini power plant. This miniscule power plant not only produces energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) but also plays a vital role in cell signaling, cell death and cell growth. It is also thought to be directly linked to the aging process.
Glutathione plays an enormous role in our mitochondrial health and as a result, its function. Improving the health and quality of our mitochondria helps prevent any anomalies or dysfunctions from flourishing. Glutathiones ability to improve the health of the mitochondria directly affects our energy producing capabilities.
Energy production is one benefit of high GSH concentrations, but the byproduct of this metabolic process is toxic to our health. The benefits of glutathione truly shine when it comes to the ability to neutralize the toxic byproduct of cellular metabolism, free radicals.
When the body undergoes severe physical strain it produces reactive oxygen species (ROS) at an alarming rate, depleting our glutathione stores rapidly. Making it important to maintain high GSH levels both before and after an intense workout. [5,6]
Arguably the most popular use of glutathione, improving skin health, quality and appearance. With many topical uses of glutathione popping up, in beauty creams and even skin whitening formulas, the efficacy of topical glutathione is still mostly speculative. No need to worry though, supplementing glutathione orally yields the very same skin benefits.
The body’s first line of defense against exogenous toxins and infections is the skin. This is why our skin holds such a huge concentration of antioxidants, combating potential infections before they enter the body. Supporting antioxidant levels can help improve this ability, as well as improve skin quality and appearance.
Free radicals are synonymous with the aging process. These free radicals cause severe oxidative damage and take their toll on the appearance and quality of our skin. While there are numerous superficial signs of free radical damage, the truly harmful effects of free radicals reach further than skin deep.
Glutathione combats the effects of free radicals and neutralizes them at the source. Improving glutathione levels therefore improves the look and health of our skin, giving it a healthy glow and flawless appearance. 
The immune system is a conglomeration of numerous antioxidants, cells and processes that work to protect our body from infection, disease and illness. No single piece is more important than glutathione when it comes to our immune function.
Glutathione acts as the body’s master antioxidant, it also activates and recycles numerous other antioxidants. Enhancing the function of natural killer cells and T cells, essential for the body’s response to infection.
Low GSH levels are indicative of increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Virtually every disease we know of is partially caused by inflammation, making high glutathione levels imperative to regulating the inflammatory response and preventing chronic inflammation. This can help with both the prevention and treatment of many disorders, alleviating the symptoms that are associated with inflammation. 
The blueprints of our body and cells are known as DNA, essential for the development and function of every living organism. DNA plays such an important role in our cellular health and development that when our DNA is damaged it has a severe impact on our health.
Glutathione is directly and indirectly involved in the repair, expression and synthesis of our DNA. It is so important to ensure our DNA is healthy because it is responsible for telling our cells how to develop. When this process is functioning improperly it can lead to the proliferation and manifestation of numerous diseases and cellular dysfunctions.
Our health comes down to the health of our cells, our cellular health comes down to the health of our DNA. Glutathione can help protect and repair our DNA from damage. Helping to maintain healthy DNA expression and ensure we are developing and functioning as optimally as possible. 
Ways to Improve GSH Levels
The body naturally produces and recycles glutathione, making it the most powerful endogenous antioxidant in the body. However a number of things inhibit our glutathione synthesis and recycling capabilities.
These include by are not limited to: age, environmental toxins, chemical exposure, heavy metal toxicity, certain pharmaceutical medications, illness, disease, infection, diet, genetics and lifestyle.
With an increasingly toxic world and nutrient depleted diet, we are more vulnerable than ever to infection and disease. This is partially responsible for the widespread glutathione deficiency; nearly everyone on the planet has lower than optimal GSH levels.
Due to this constant toxic bombardment and the fact that we naturally lose glutathione as we age, it makes it vital to optimize GSH levels to maintain good health throughout the aging process.
Certain foods can help promote glutathione synthesis by providing the body with the building blocks to produce its own glutathione, however it is extremely difficult to noticeable raise levels through diet alone. This is where dietary supplements containing L-glutathione as well as the precursors come into play. L-glutathione complexes can be extremely effective in raising and maintaining GSH levels, assuming they are using high quality forms of the desired nutrients.
That being said, here are a few ways to optimize your life and naturally raise glutathione levels through diet, exercise, lifestyle and supplementation.
Foods to boost GSH
Sulfur rich foods like garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc.) can help increase the bodys natural glutathione levels.
Undenatured bioactive whey protein is one of the best ways to increase glutathione levels through diet. High quality, undenatured whey proteins are a fantastic source of cysteine, which is the rate limiting factor in the body’s natural synthesis of glutathione.
Raw milk and raw eggs are also a great source of amino acid building blocks that can help enhance glutathione production. Once milk or eggs are pasteurized though, they almost entirely lose their ability to enhance glutathione levels. The high heat used in the pasteurizing process kills the amino acids and renders much of the nutritional value lost.
Turmeric is a popular spice used in many dishes. Renowned for its vibrant yellow color, it is also a powerful antioxidant. Getting plenty of turmeric in your diet will provide the body with an antioxidant known as curcumin, which can help improve glutathione concentrations as well as provide a host of other health benefits.
An important piece of a healthy lifestyle. Exercising for at least 20 minutes each day can have profound health benefits including, a boosted immune function, improved detoxification and enhancing certain antioxidants. Glutathione is among the list of antioxidants that receive a boost after intense bouts of exercise. 
Limit Exposure to Toxins
When the body is exposed to toxins it is depleted of antioxidants, they are used up fighting the toxic invaders. Limiting your exposure to these harmful toxins can help to protect and fortify antioxidant levels.
Some toxins are impossible to avoid completely, such as air pollution or chemicals found in certain foods and beverages. However we are exposed to toxins constantly through beauty products, workplace environments, radiation, and certain pharmaceutical medications. All of which we can limit our exposure to.
Opt for naturally produced beauty products, soaps, shampoos and deodorants. Try to avoid or limit the time spent in toxic environments and avoid x-rays whenever possible.
Once again, it is impossible to avoid toxins altogether, but that’s what we have antioxidants for. By limiting your exposure to these toxins you can help give your body a fighting chance against the inevitable bombardment of toxins.
Far and away the best way to ensure optimal glutathione levels.
Many people still feel that orally supplementing glutathione is ineffective, but a recent study proves that this is simply not true. Supplementing with L-glutathione on a daily basis has been proven to effectively raise GSH serum levels.
Directly supplementing GSH levels with L-glutathione is effective on its own, but it is only one piece in the glutathione supplement puzzle. The other piece involves glutathione precursors that enhance the body’s ability to produce glutathione naturally and recycle oxidized glutathione efficiently. 
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is the most widely recognized of all glutathione precursors. With a host of health benefits all its own, NAC provides the body with the rate limiting factor for endogenous glutathione production; cysteine.
Used in sulfate repletion conditions such as Autism (ASD), where cysteine and similar sulfur amino acids may be depleted. NAC is also a powerful mucolytic agent, meaning it breaks down the disulfide bonds in mucus, liquefying it and allowing it to be excreted from the body more easily. This is especially important for individuals with pulmonary issues and individuals with an acute cough or pulmonary fibrosis patients.
The influenza virus is also inhibited by NAC. Supplementing N acetylcysteine can help alleviate the symptoms associated with the flu and drastically reduce the lifespan of the virus.
Daily supplementation of N acetylcysteine will effectively raise glutathione levels and in turn, improve overall health and immunity. [12,13]
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is another glutathione boosting ingredient. Commonly used to help reduce inflammation, improve muscle regeneration, fight diabetes, prevent neurodegenerative conditions and even help improve weight loss results.
While ALA is mostly used for its weight loss and physical performance benefits, the cognitive health benefits are even more astounding. 
This trace element nutrient acts as a cofactor for the reduction of antioxidant enzymes, including glutathione.
Selenium helps the body convert oxidized glutathione back into the active reduced form. Playing a vital role in the methylation process as well as numerous other biological processes.
Supplementing with the correct form of selenium is important. Selenomethionine is twice as bioavailable as selenite, making it the best choice when supplementing selenium levels orally.
Achieving optimal selenium levels will help the body process oxidized glutathione, improving the concentration of reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione. [15,16]
Certain B Vitamins are absolutely critical to the methylation process. Helping convert the oxidized glutathione back into reduced glutathione, reducing homocysteine levels and improving antioxidant activity in the body.
Vitamins B9 and B12 are exceptionally important to supplement correctly. Incorrect forms of these vitamins can either be ineffective or harmful depending on your genetics.
Folic acid (B9) is especially harmful for individuals who suffer from a MTHFR genetic dysfunction. In order to ensure proper absorption and use of B9, supplement in the form of L-methyltetrahydrofolate to avoid any potential absorption problems.
Vitamin B12 is best supplemented in the form of methylcobalamin. It is considered one of the safest ways to supplement B12.
Supplementing with high quality forms of Vitamin B can help improve the methylation cycle and improve the body’s ability to recycle GSH as well as other antioxidants.