Glutathione Treatments: Part 2 — Treating Common Health Conditions with GSH
By: BioDesign Wellness Center Staff
June 27, 2018 | Category: Functional Medicine
Welcome to Part 2 of our two-part series about glutathione treatments. In Part 1, “The Mother of All Antioxidants,” we explained the importance of maintaining a healthy ratio of reduced-to-oxidized glutathione, presented common illnesses that arise when imbalances are left untreated, explained the benefits of reduced glutathione (GSH), and revealed the risks of “self-medicating” with over-the-counter GSH supplements.
In this part — Treating Common Health Conditions with Glutathione — the focus shifts to specific illnesses and other health conditions that can be improved with the addition of glutathione supplementation, and we also explain the types of glutathione supplementation we use here at BioDesign Wellness Center (because the method of delivery can have a big impact on its effectiveness).
Smoking tobacco causes oxidative damage to lung cells mainly due to the additives in most tobacco products. Research shows glutathione can help to clear the oxidative damage in the lungs and throughout the rest of the body caused by those additives.
The key to treatment is to deliver the glutathione directly to the lungs, specifically to the epithelial lining fluid (ELF) in the lower respiratory tract. This can be done through nebulized GSH. Nebulized GSH is a mist that is inhaled into the lungs. At BioDesign Wellness Center, we provide patients with a kit for nebulizing glutathione along with a therapeutic dose of glutathione that can be administered at home or in the office.
Diabetes and Related Conditions
Diabetes is a chronic condition associated with abnormally high blood sugar levels. Chronically high blood sugar causes oxidative damage that can contribute to a number of serious illnesses, including disease, stroke, and cancer. Current research suggests that Alzheimer’s and dementia are actually forms of brain diabetes, sometimes referred to as type 3 diabetes.
At BioDesign Wellness, we treat blood sugar imbalance with a two-pronged approach to 1) restore the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and 2) reduce the oxidative stress resulting from the high blood sugar. Proper diet, exercise, and nutrient supplementation support the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, while glutathione reduces the oxidative stress.
When using glutathione as an adjunct to treat diabetes and related conditions, we administer it through a combination of intramuscular injections and oral liposomal supplementation. (A liposome is a tiny ball made out of the same material as a cell membrane. Embedding the GSH in liposomes improves its delivery to and uptake by the cells that need it.)
Depression and Stress
Many people have been led to believe that depression is the result of a chemical imbalance — insufficient serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine. However, current research points to a different cause entirely — inflammation in the brain or gut (or both). One large study, published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found that people with depression had 46 percent higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood. CRP is a marker of inflammatory disease.
The inflammation is often the result of hidden infections, exposure to toxic mold, hidden food allergies, and/or stress. In all of these states, the body requires more glutathione. By replenishing glutathione, we can immediately reduce the oxidative stress in the gut and brain while we find and treat the underlying cause(s) of the inflammation. Depression can be coming from that leak in your bathroom, the hidden overgrowth of bacteria in your gut, or stressful relationships at home or work. Whatever the cause, it must be addressed to achieve long-term relief, but the oxidative stress must also be treated to restore healthy cell and body function.
One of the great advantages of glutathione for depression is that it can be used without any negative side effects, such as the weight gain associated with most pharmaceutical antidepressants. Weight gain only creates more inflammation and leads to further depression.
For use in the treatment of depression and related conditions, we typically administer glutathione through intramuscular injections or oral liposomal GSH supplementation.
Toxic mold poses a serious health threat in any water-damaged building, which is common in Tampa and throughout South Florida. Fortunately, glutathione can support the body in its attempt to eliminate toxins associated with a water damaged dwelling. However, excessive toxins from mold and other sources can overwhelm the body’s stores of GSH. In the case of mold overload, glutathione is depleted. People who have a genetic predisposition for lower GSH production have an even greater challenge maintaining sufficient GSH.
To address mold illness, the first order of business is to remove the mold or remove yourself from its presence. The next step is a medically supervised detox, which often includes glutathione supplementation to raise the level of GSH, along with dietary modifications, antifungals to kill the mold or in the body, and other supplements to sequester and flush the “toxic soup” from the system. For details, see Dr. Matthew Lewis’ blog post, “Toxic Mold: How a Medically Supervised Detox Can Help.”
When used in a medically supervised mold detox, GSH is typically administered through intramuscular injections or oral liposomal supplementation.
Keep in mind your body must have glutathione to live. Your cells would not survive without it. Raising levels is crucial for people suffering with mold illness and the chronic inflammation resulting from mold contamination.
Leaky Gut, Leaky Brain, and Brain Fog
Leaky gut is a condition in which the proteins that hold the lining of the gut together start to break apart and allow the passage of excessive proteins, bacterial endotoxins, and other large molecules into the blood stream. Leaky gut is a known factor in the development of autoimmunity, including but not limited to thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), celiac disease, and lupus.
The proteins that line the gut wall are similar in structure and function to those that line the brain and form the blood-brain barrier. When the gut barrier breaks down, the brain barrier can follow suit, and vice versa. A concussion, for example, can cause a leaky blood-brain barrier, which then causes leakage in the intestinal barrier. The end result is usually a foggy brain.
Much like depression, brain fog is often a result of oxidative stress or inflammation occurring in the brain. Along with a protocol to heal the gut, glutathione supplementation can mitigate the oxidative stress in the brain and support clearer thinking and greater mental acuity. This is usually done through intramuscular injections or oral liposomal supplementation of glutathione.
Physical Recovery from Exercise or Injury
Athletes benefit greatly from glutathione. An athlete will burn through 20–30 times more oxygen than a sedentary or average person. When we burn oxygen, we create free radicals. If the body has insufficient antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals, the free radicals cause oxidative stress that can injure or destroy cells. The body certainly has a capacity to regenerate antioxidants from food intake, but that is a big job. GSH supplementation protects athletes from the excessive wear and tear of oxidative damage, allowing for quicker recovery and preserving their future performance.
Have you ever wondered why some of the top marathon runners just collapse? No one knows for sure, but evidence supports the theory that the increase in free radicals and the resulting oxidative damage is partially to blame. Glutathione puts the athlete a step ahead with respect to their health and the competition. We recommend glutathione replenishment before and after competition or heavy workout cycles through intramuscular injections or oral liposomal supplementation of glutathione.
The thyroid is the master gland of the body. Every cell requires thyroid hormone to function adequately. It supports moods, memory, metabolism, hair growth, digestion, bone density, and blood sugar. Unfortunately, the thyroid is very susceptible to toxins from the environment and internal inflammatory stress.
Toxins interfere with proper thyroid function, as explained in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) article, “What is Endocrine Disruption?” The effects of endocrine (including thyroid) disruption include:
- Developmental malformations
- Interference with reproduction
- Increased cancer risk
- Disturbances in the immune and nervous system function
These disruptions are caused by a number of manufactured and naturally occurring chemicals, including organochlorine compounds, ethane (DDT) and its metabolite DDE, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). In addition, the disruption of soils from mining and large-scale farming have uprooted many natural endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are not going away any time soon and are likely to increase in diversity and concentration in the future. As a result, the human body is likely to be challenged to create sufficient GSH to keep pace.
This leaves the thyroid vulnerable. With GSH depleted, the thyroid has little to call upon to help mitigate oxidative stress and shuttle out toxins. In practice we have witnessed younger women with thyroid conditions that years ago were rare in that age group. Forty years old is the time when thyroid conditions can really begin to surface, but it seems to be expanding into a younger cohort. GSH replenishment supports the thyroid and reduces the damage associated with endocrine disruptors.
Consider that most cases of thyroiditis, hyperthyroid, and hypothyroid are autoimmune in nature; that is, the immune system attacks the thyroid. Glutathione acts to balance the immune system and restore order. This can lessen the autoimmune response. Along with the proper attention to what is causing the thyroid problem (which we’ll cover in an upcoming blog post), using glutathione to reduce oxidative stress has helped many of our patients improve symptoms associated with hypothyroid. This is generally done with intra-muscular and oral liposomal GSH supplementation.
Proper Treatment Begins with Accurate Test Results
If you have symptoms of any of the health conditions described in this post, or you are an athlete who regularly engages in strenuous exercise, we strongly encourage you to have your GSH:GSSG ratio tested by a medical practice with expertise in functional medicine — one like BioDesign Wellness which understands the importance of this ratio and can use it (if your ratio is low) as a diagnostic tool to start the process of identifying the underlying cause(s). If your ratio is low, you very well may benefit from medically supervised GSH replenishment, but you also need a thorough diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause(s). Otherwise, supplementation will merely mitigate the damage done. Until the underlying cause(s) are addressed, your health will continue to deteriorate.
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