Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene are each powerful naturally occurring antioxidants. They protect cells from free radical damage by inhibiting oxidation. They come to us either in food (fresh veggies and fruits) or through internal processes in our body that create them.
Oxidative damage from free radicals to a cell’s membrane or DNA is a common pathway for cancer, aging, and a variety of diseases. This includes heart disease, decline in brain function, arthritis, diabetes and impaired immune system. Overall it is apparent that an over abundance of free radicals has been implicated in at least 50 diseases.
Free radicals are very small particles that are highly reactive in our body and can start a chain reaction of damage called oxidation. Thousands of reactions can occur within a few seconds and our body is constantly working to keep these in check. Normally, the body can handle this, but if antioxidants are not available the balance gets tipped.
These atoms and molecules arise as a normal part of daily metabolism and are greatly increased when we exercise or train for an event. Environmental exposures to
, molds, alcohol, medications, and infections can increase free radicals and lead to further oxidative stress.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals. They keep the entire process in balance. There are two additional antioxidants we don’t hear much about – melatonin and glutathione.
Melatonin is best known for its role in regulating our sleep and overcoming jet lag. But there are about 6,000 studies showing it also plays a powerful role as a free radical scavenger with an impressive ability to control oxidative damage. In high dosages, it is being used for cancer prevention and control. It is also seen for improving cognitive impairment and memory.
But with over 89,000 medical articles about it, glutathione tops my list as the premier antioxidant. With proper nutrition, it is normally synthesized and recycled in the body. Yet there is an epidemic deficiency of this molecule due to severe depletion from poor diet, stress, and toxins. Impaired genes involved in glutathione production make it harder for us to protect ourselves from these insults.
In addition to controlling inflammation, glutathione in our body recycles antioxidants and cools off free radicals. For this reason, I think of it as a critical and integral part of our detoxification system. Toxins stick onto glutathione which it turn are dumped into the bile and stool to be carried about of your body.
I am a believer that most preventable diseases are caused by chronic oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Some doctors in functional medicine treating chronically ill patients are finding that glutathione deficiency is prevalent in nearly everyone they see. Our ability to produce and maintain adequate glutathinone levels becomes critical in not just recovery, but maintaining optimal health and performance.
It is very hard to absorb glutathione through your digestive system from an encapsulated supplement. I don’t suggest this. But there are several other things you can do.
You can get it through an IV or in liposomal form. Ideally you would increase this natural molecule in your body through exercising and eating glutathione boosting foods. This includes meat, avocados, garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, and cauliflower. Cooking causes destruction of the molecule though. Some high quality forms of whey protein also effectively convert to glutathione.
I optimize glutathione levels by supporting my body with the nutrients it needs to make it. These include n-acetyl-cysteine, alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle, selenium, special forms of B vitamins, vitamin E and C, and curcumin. I also use a liposomal form of glutathione that is more readily absorbed. Come on over and I can share more.
Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug.
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