Glutathione: the master antioxidant

by Dr. Mitchell Rasmussen, D.C., CFMP, FRC-ms



Glutathione, often thought of as the body’s ‘master antioxidant’, is present in all mammalian tissues. It is the most abundant thiol in defense against oxidative stress. What is a ‘thiol’?  A sulfur-containing compound. Many of these thiols smell like garlic or rotten eggs.


We could do an entire lesson on why sulfur is important in biology. For now; sulfur:

  • is the third most abundant mineral in the human body (after calcium and phosphorus), and we get it specifically in proteins from just two amino acids (methionine and cysteine).

  • provides structure to our tissues at a molecular level. Disulfide bonds (sulfur-sulfur bonds) link skin proteins and are CRITICAL for our skin to be strong and flexible.

  • is a necessary part of our antioxidant and detoxification processes. 


WHAT IS GLUTATHIONE?


OK....Back to glutathione.


  • Tripeptide – moieties of three amino acids: Glutamic acid, Cysteine, glycine

  • Exists in the body in two forms. 98% of which =GSH

  • Most (80-85%) of our cellular GSH is in the cytosol (the liquid stuff of our body cells)

  • 10-15% is in our mitochondria

  • Some small amount is in the endoplasmic reticulum; which is where proteins and some fats/cholesterol are formed.




An antioxidant is a substance known to prevent oxidative stress (think, “free radicals”) related damage to our cells.


Here is the deal: There are numerous ways in which our body creates/gets exposed to potential damage.


“Oxidative stress” - we like to describe oxidative stress as similar to how a bike chain will get rusty after it has been left outside in the rain a bunch of times. Rust is oxidation. Now, imagine rust, and what a process similar might do if allowed to wreak havoc inside of our cells? Glutathione, again, is one of our body’s main defenses against this ‘rusting’.



What else does the body lean on Glutathione for:


  • Immune system function

  • Programmed cell death (apoptosis)

  • Detoxification of xenobiotics (synthetic chemicals so ubiquitous these days in our ever-more polluted environment)

  • Cell proliferation regulation

  • Fibrogenesis (a decreased blood Glutathione concentration has been observed in human fibrotic diseases)



Glutathione is one of our main defenses against "rusting" of our body

We barely scratched the surface on this amazing biomolecule. If you’re curious about your glutathione status; this is something we frequently analyze when we run bloodwork for patients concerned about their metabolism, mental function, hormone status, or their ability to properly detoxify (sluggish, tired, poor skin, easy alcohol intoxication, sensitivity to smells, overweight, etc.)







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Want to work with a functional medicine doctor to run labs and assess nutrient status? Struggling with hormone imbalance, IBS, weight gain, mood changes? Let's look at BIOCHEMISTRY. Read more about Functional Medicine at The Facility here.



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