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 that 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 neutralizing free radicals. An imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants can cause oxidative stress. Maintaining a healthy level of antioxidants is important in supporting many healthy body functions such as cellular energy production, cognitive function, immune function & detoxification. Glutathione also helps by 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.
Supporting a healthy detoxification process of both endogenous and environmental toxins is another critical function of glutathione in the body. Because of its role in detoxification, high concentrations of glutathione naturally 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. Glutathione, in its role as an antioxidant, supports healthy mitochondrial function.3 Therefore, glutathione has a role in supporting healthy cellular 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. The stress of daily life, exposure to environmental toxins, physical overexertion, physical & mental stress, as well as an overworked and underperforming immune system all elevate oxidative stress, increasing the need for maintaining healthy levels of antioxidants such as 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 in a healthy manner.
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.5,13 The most common concern with oral glutathione is whether it is actually absorbed intracellularly (within the cell).
The peer-reviewed, published study showed increased intracellular absorption, improved oxidative stress markers, and improved natural killer cell function5. Penn State University conducted an 8-week human study to assess changes in intracellular glutathione absorption (not just plasma levels). Researchers also looked at natural killer cell function and oxidative stress markers.
Glutathione is a natural substance that your body makes, and has been shown to be safe. 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 supporting mitochondrial health 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 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.