One of my clients was experiencing symptoms of excessive oxidative stress (OS); her symptoms included achy joints, PMS, anxiety, and digestive distress. Because of my observation and desire to help, I felt the need to write about glutathione (GSH), its relationship to OS, and ways she could improve their GSH levels and maybe how you can too if you are experiencing low levels of GSH too.
First thing first - oxidative stress and low levels of glutathione are often associated with the following conditions:
- Athletic Overtraining
- Liver disease (ex.NAFLD)
- Autoimmune conditions
- Muscle Wasting
- Cardiovascular Diseases
- Negative Nitrogen Balance
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Heart Disease
- Inflammatory conditions
- Leaky Gut
- Microbiome imbalance
- Excessive Muscle Cramps during Menstruation
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Gastroduodenal Ulcers
- GastrointestinaI malignancies
- Neurodegenerative Diseases (ex. Alzheimer & MS)
From this list, hopefully you can understand how OS and low levels of GSH are associated with a lot of shitty conditions. Okay, I said the ‘S’ word, but if you know me, you know that I tend to be frank and am trying to write more like how I talk. And being real is important for me and I hope it is helpful to you.
Okay, back to the GSH topic…
A lot of the mechanisms for these conditions listed are still being research. At the same time, if you know that low GSH levels are related to these habits, diseases, and illnesses, why not practice ways to prevent its depletion through diet and lifestyle to decrease your risk of experiencing these ‘S’ conditions?
Essentially, you got one body and it needs a lot of support to do its job. Why not give it what it needs to function at optimal levels? If your car functions better on X oil, why not use that X oil?
Because increasing GSH levels requires a lot of different steps, I think it can be confusing on how to use food and lifestyle to do it. One reason why is that GSH does not cross your cell membrane effectively, so direct supplementation is not possible from the research I have read. It is why I think it is important to consume foods and practice a lifestyle that includes the ingredients that make it (7/28/17 Update: Getting glutathione in food may be absorbable according to the research Chris Masterjohn's collected from two studies. Click here to find out more information).
GSH is made of three amino acids (ex. glutamine, cysteine, and glycine), so it is important to eat foods that contain these amino acids. In additions it is important to intake cofactors (ex. B vitamins and selenium) that help make GSH and provide support for organs that help metabolize them and the intermediates of GSH.
Dietary Recommendations that Help Make GSH
- Wild Caught Oily Fish (ex. salmon)
- Egg yolks
- Pasture Raised Butter
- Pasture Raised Whole Milk
- Milk Thistle
- Bone Broth, Gelatin & Collagen
- Chicken Skin
- Filtered Water Throughout the Day
- Grass-Fed Beef
- Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
- Organ Meat (ex. Liver)
- Leafy Greens (ex. Collard greens)
- Cod Liver Oil
- Pastured Raised Liver
- Brazil Nuts (make sure they are grown in soil with high amounts of selenium)
Make sure that you eating and practicing a lifestyle that promotes the intake and production of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (calcitriol), the active form of vitamin D. Your liver, kidneys, and brain cells help produce vitamin D3 into it active form (calcitriol), so make sure you are supporting your liver, kidneys, and brain function too. If you are having problems with increasing your levels of calcitriol through your diet and lifestyle, you may want to talk to a functional doctor about getting genetic testing to figure out if your vitamin D receptors genes (VDR) may be contributing to low levels of calcitriol. Knowledge is power and knowing your status can help you create a more mindful action plan.
Make sure you practice diaphragmatic breathing throughout the day. I haven't gathered research directly on diaphragmatic breathing and its relationship to excessive oxidative stress. At the same time, I do know that the body is more likely to produce chemicals that are less inflammatory, use less nutrients for managing stress and more for wellbeing functions, and it just feels better after taking some deep breaths for most people.
Lastly, if you are experiencing excessive oxidative stress, diet and lifestyle changes may not be enough to increase your glutathione levels to appropriate levels. Some people may benefit from taking supplements or even IV therapy. Taking supplements (ex. magnesium, vitamin C, D, & E, s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), appropriate amounts of N-acetylcysteine (NAC), and selenium) have been associated with decreasing OS and increasing GSH. I recommend talking with your functional medicine doctor or nutritionist to figure which ones and what dosage would be appropriate for you.
If you have more questions, I offer in private sessions in San Francisco and online. For a free consultation, please email me. In May, I plan to offer an integrative group programming (movement, meditation, and holistic nutrition). Click here for more information.
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