Why Do We Need Liposomal Glutathione?
By Dr. Debby Hamilton, MD, MPH
By Dr. Debby Hamilton, MD, MPH
Glutathione is a tripeptide made up of the amino acids: cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid. It is known as the master antioxidant in the body. It has two forms: one is in an oxidized state and the other in a reduced state. The reduced form (GSH) is the active state that is able to neutralize free radicals in the body. Liposomal glutathione refers to glutathione that has undergone a special process which encapsulates the glutathione molecule inside of a lipid. Doing this protects the glutathione and dramatically improves absorption. Natural glutathione is primarily made inside our cells. However, a small amount of glutathione is available from foods such as spinach, avocado, and asparagus. Cruciferous vegetables and other sulfur containing foods can help boost glutathione production slightly. However, a high quality liposomal glutathione supplement is the best way to increase glutathione within the body.
Known as the master antioxidant, glutathione is the body’s primary mechanism for decreasing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the result of an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants. An excessive level of oxidative stress adversely impacts many body mechanisms, including energy production, cognitive function, immune function, inflammation & detoxification. Glutathione also plays a role in recycling other antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. Since glutathione contains cysteine, it also plays a role in transporting this amino acid throughout the body for different metabolic functions.
Detoxifying both endogenous and environmental toxins is another critical function of glutathione in the body. Because of its role in detoxification, high amounts of glutathione exist in the liver. Hepatocytes can have as much as ten times the amount of reduced or active glutathione (GSH) than other cells.1 What is not as well known is that the lungs also have a high amount of glutathione. Epithelial cells in the lining of the lung secrete glutathione which helps with gas exchange.2
The mitochondria are the producers of cellular energy or ATP in the body. They are very susceptible to damage by free radicals. Glutathione in its role as an antioxidant protects the mitochondria including the highly vulnerable mitochondria DNA from oxidative stress damage.3Therefore, glutathione has a role in maintaining energy production in the body.
One of the other functions not as well known about glutathione is its role in promoting healthy natural killer cell function.4 It also has a role in supporting T cell function.4 By increasing T cells, it increases the production of cytokines that support the immune system. A recently published research study demonstrated that liposomal glutathione had a profound effect on natural killer cell function (the front line of the immune system)5.
Due to its critical roles in the body, glutathione is an essential nutrient for all of us. Daily life with its ill health, unhealthy lifestyle, exposure to environmental toxins, physical over exertion, physical & mental stress, as well as overworked and underperforming immune system all elevate oxidative stress, increasing the need for glutathione. Glutathione levels also decrease as we age, with the largest decline taking place in the brain.7
The liver and lungs also require significant glutathione to perform their critical functions of detoxification and breathing. As these organs are challenged, they may be the first dominoes to fall. It makes sense if there is an excess of free radicals from a lack of glutathione that the liver and the lungs would be susceptible to damage from oxidative stress.
Multiple options exist for supplementing glutathione. These range from IV (intravenous) glutathione to different oral forms of glutathione to transdermal. Some integrative practitioners use IV glutathione which can increase glutathione levels for a short time, but since the IV’s are not done daily it is difficult to keep glutathione levels elevated. Clinical research using IV glutathione has shown good elevation in levels, but when the IV treatments stopped, glutathione decreased back to baseline levels.11
Initial research with oral glutathione, not in the liposomal form, did not show elevations in glutathione levels or decreases in oxidative stress markers.12 Glutathione easily changes from the reduced (the active form) to the oxidized form, so the thought was that it did not remain in the reduced form during absorption from the digestive tract. Studies with transdermal forms did not show elevations of reduced glutathione either.13 Oral liposomal glutathione on the other hand, has been shown in multiple studies to increase reduced glutathione in the blood and to decrease oxidative stress markers.5,13 The most common concern with oral glutathione is whether it is actually absorbed intracellularly (within the cell). One published study proved that its liposomal glutathione increased intracellular absorption, improved oxidative stress markers, and improved natural killer cell function5.
Glutathione, since it is a natural substance that your body makes, is safe to take. Some people may experience stomach upset with higher doses. Because of genetics, some people with certain genetic snips may have sensitivities to it and may need to begin with very small doses.
Glutathione is a critical antioxidant in our body and has multiple functions ranging from mitochondrial protection to immune support. Oxidative stress caused by physical/emotional stress, strenuous exercise, exposures to environmental toxins, and immune stress can all cause an increase in free radicals which may cause damaging oxidative stress and deplete glutathione. Due to the importance of glutathione and the substantial variances in quality and efficacy between available forms, it is important for patients to work with an integrative practitioner who may provide guidance on getting the most from your glutathione supplement. Taking a high quality clinically researched liposomal glutathione can increase glutathione levels in the body and help support your overall health.