The Antioxidants Section
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Glutathione peroxidase (GSH) is your body’s most abundant natural antioxidant. GSH protects your vision, boosts your immune system, helps turn carbohydrates into energy, and prevents the buildup of oxidized fats that may contribute to atherosclerosis.
Glutathione is a compound classified as a tripeptide made of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. Glutathione is also found in every part of the body, especially the lungs, intestinal tract, and liver. The body produces and stores the largest amounts of GSH in the liver, where it is used to detoxify harmful compounds so that they can be removed from the body through the bile. The liver also supplies GSH directly to red and white blood cells in the bloodstream; it helps keep red blood and white blood cells healthy to maximize the disease-fighting power of the immune system. Glutathione also appears to have an anti-aging affect on the body. GSH levels decline with age, and a lack of glutathione has been shown to leave the body more vulnerable to damage by free radicals, thus speeding up oxidation (wearing down) of the body.
A glutathione deficiency can have a devastating effect on the nervous system, causing such symptoms as lack of balance and coordination, mental disorders, and tremors. Any illness (even a bad cold), chronic disorders such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, injury, or heavy exposure to pollutants can cause a GSH deficiency. This is because your body uses more GSH when it is supporting white blood cells and ridding the body of toxins.
Glutathione is found in almost all fruits and vegetables. Acorn squash, asparagus, avocado, cantaloupe, grapefruit, okra, orange, peach, potato, spinach, strawberries, tomato, watermelon, and zucchini are all good sources of GSH. Some vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and parsley, not only provide GSH, but also actually stimulate the body produce more of this powerful antioxidant. Cooking destroys a lot of the glutathione in fresh fruits and vegetables, so you can get the most GSH from these foods by eating them raw or steamed. Eating foods high in glutamine, such as lean meats, eggs, wheat germ, and whole grains, can also stimulate the liver to produce more GSH.
There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for GSH, but supplements have no known harmful side effects. Glutathione supplements can be expensive, but there is some question about the body’s ability to absorb GSH efficiently in supplemental form. If you want to take GSH supplements, just make sure to take them with meals to maximize absorption.
Another, and some say better, way to raise glutathione levels is to take cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine, the raw materials it uses to make this compound. The N-acetyl form of cysteine (NAC) is easily absorbed by the body, and glutamine supplements are available in a powder that is cost effective, tasteless, odorless, and dissolves easily in water. The usual dose for extra glutamine is anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 milligrams.
Fish oil, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin C, and selenium also encourage the production and absorption of GSH. In fact, without selenium, a trace mineral that also helps vitamin E work more effectively, the body cannot produce glutathione. Make sure you are getting plenty of these nutrients to help keep your body healthy and strong at any age.
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