Glutathione – Your Body’s Secret Weapon?

Antioxidant infusion

Not to overshare, but I’ve been known to refer to intravenous (IV) infusions of glutathione as “Muppet juice.”  Why?  Well, the boost they give can make me start humming that old song from The Muppet Show: “Dah, dah, dah, it’s time to start the music, it’s time to dim the lights.  It’s time to get things started FOR THE MUPPET SHOW TONIGHT!!!!”

Or it’s like that part in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy enters Munchkin land and everything transforms into vivid color.  Seriously.  But – just as seriously – that’s how it is for me.  When I joke about its impact in the IV room at Beverly Medical Center, I can see people’s ears perking up.  Hmm, I can practically hear them thinking, I could use some of THAT.

And my answer?  Maybe so . . . but maybe not. 

Glutathione: the Basics

But first things first – what even is it?  The most powerful antioxidant is one your body not only creates but can recycle, according to need.  We form glutathione from three amino acids, glutamic acid, glycine, and cysteine. And we get those through the protein we eat and process. You also need a variety of vitamin and mineral cofactors to regenerate it.

And glutathione is more than an antioxidant.  A versatile work horse, it supports detoxification and immune defenses.  When your body is more challenged, you may need more – and given the right ingredients from a healthy diet, your body should make more.

Knowing Your Needs

As a former engineer, my inclination is always to seek (and use) more data.  I wanted to understand why my immune system seemed sluggish, why I sometimes seemed so easily thrown off balance.  Autoimmune thyroid disease and other factors certainly have left me on shakier footing. My MTHFR genetic polymorphism can also make it more challenging for me to regenerate glutathione.

I decided to experiment with it. Most people who need more glutathione tend to do better when given its precursor instead, n-acetyl cysteine (NAC).  But rather than making me feel better or more energetic, supplementing with NAC actually made me feel WORSE.

Next, I performed an organic and amino acid test panel to see why. The results confirmed that I had ample (!) quantities of cysteine, glutamic acid, AND glycine.  But those same functional tests also confirmed that I had a glutathione deficit relative to my body’s needs. 

How to Boost Your Levels

That’s where the IV administration comes in.  We typically don’t absorb oral glutathione well through the digestive tract, although some preparations (sublingual, liposomal, and more) have shown more promising results in studies.  Another option is to bypass the digestive tract and deliver a more substantial quantity of glutathione, using an IV “push.”  I periodically do those along with a vitamin C (+ other vitamins & minerals) concoction, especially when I get sick.

And last year, during a particularly run down and stressful time, I was having one a week — each time with that lights-on-showtime type experience.  Yet a recent IV to hasten my recovery from a cold delivered nothing that dramatic.

And that’s exactly what would happen if someone who didn’t need or could already make sufficient glutathione might feel – nothing.  Which is why it’s important to work with a nutrition practitioner like me who considers all the individualized factors – genetics, nutritional status, life stressors, detoxification burden and capacity, and more. 

Because the right solution for you can be a powerful tool— Muppet juice, even!  Yours just might not be glutathione.

Top 10 Staples for Cooking with Food Allergies

One of my favorite things is figuring out how to make eating with food limitations work, deliciously.  Oh, it wasn’t always that way, but after an initial bout of “why me?!?” and a decade of navigating a veritable obstacle course of later-in-life food allergies – gluten, soy, dairy, nightshades, eggs, you name it! – I have learned that there’s almost no dish I can’t have . . . with a few adjustments, of course!

My secret?  Flexibility, an attitude of plenty rather than deprivation, and some key ingredients that reinforce my view that anything is possible.  Believe me, I’ve tried the other ones, those products that make a hunger strike start to sound appealing . . . not these!  These secret weapons are what I use and recommend to my own nutrition clients, a curated short list of tried and true staples to enrich your eating style, whatever it may be.

Please note that I have no affiliation with these products or companies! I just want to share some great ones I’ve discovered:

  1. Coconut Aminos – if you can’t have or choose not to eat soy, BUY THIS NOW, in bulk.  It is a soy-sauce substitute made from the bark of coconut trees, and has lower sodium than even low-sodium soy sauce, plus cool prebiotics and other good stuff.  And for those who – like me – loathe coconut, fear not: no coconut taste whatsoever.  Don’t eat sushi?  Buy it anyway, for all those recipes where you used to use soy.  http://www.coconutsecret.com/aminos2.html See below for a super-easy “Mongolian beef” style crockpot recipe.
  2. Kite Hill products (highlight: cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and plain Greek-style yogurt)  – Kite Hill, oh, how I love thee! Their almond-milk based ricotta cheese?  Tastes EXACTLY like, well, ricotta cheese.  It would take a more talented chef than I to make homemade ravioli with it, but you could, right?  I use it in omelets and other dishes, but I’m in love with it as a decadent, dairy-free “cheese” option.  And their cream cheese?  Ditto!  Oh, but don’t mistake this miraculous item for the rubbery Daiya version (sorry, Daiya – but I like some of your other products!) or the (equally rubbery) Kite Hill faux-brie (their only product that I loathe).  Last but definitely not least is the plain, Greek-style yogurt.  0 sugar, 14g protein, tart tanginess that make it great not just on its own.  Looking for a dairy-free substitute for sour cream in all those recipes you used make? THIS is it!
  3. Parmela Creamery – artisanal (ahem) nut cheese – once you stop snickering over the tag line (guilty), you’ll find that these cashew-based non-dairy cheese melt and taste damn good!  I particularly like the shredded mozzarella style in an omelet or on a (gluten-free) cracker.  And speaking of which…
  4. Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Norwegian Crispbread – great hearty taste AND 4g protein with only 3 net carbs?!?  Yes, please!  My staple cracker rather than one of those tasteless, simple sugar-y gluten free “crackers” that seem to abound with the explosion of gluten-free junk food today (hint: it’s still junk!).
  5. Simple Kneads Bread – This made-in-NC artisanal bread deserves way more than local love!  I first encountered this miraculous bread (or its twin) at The Village Deli, where they offered gluten-free sunflower bread, made by “some local guy who used to work here.”  I kept begging to buy a loaf, but he apparently wasn’t set up for retail.  So when I saw a similar-looking “Simple Kneads” gluten-free loaf at Harmony Farms, I was overjoyed.   When I ate it, I became convinced it was the same bread (disclaimer: I have no idea if it is).  Think your days of enjoying a reuben on something resembling rye bread are gone with the gluten?  Think again and get THIS bread, which comes in sourdough, pumpkin seed (oddly rye-like) and quinoa power bread.
  6. Miso-master Organic chickpea miso  – love that miso soup at Japanese restaurants but avoiding soy?  It’s easy to make at home – just skip the soy-based miso.  Didn’t know there was any other kind?   Neither did I, until I spotted tubs of rice, chickpea and other grain and bean based miso’s at Whole Foods.  Note: make sure to read the ingredients!  I was surprised to learn that the rice one still contains soy, but the chickpea one does not.  They are all gluten free, if that’s what you’re avoiding.
  7. Grainnaisance Mochi – no, not the ice cream mochi, but this product is also rice based.  If you are lucky enough to find this in a store (I did once, but now have to order in bulk from Whole Foods), it looks like a flat cake of nothing – which it is, until you cut it into one inch squares and bake it (briefly) in your oven according to package instructions.  And then?  It puffs up into the most delicious, lovely flaky almost bagel-like texture and goodness.  Try the original or the cinnamon raisin and if you’re not into cream cheese, top it off with…
  8. Soy-free Earth Balance – so you can’t have dairy or soy, but you CAN enjoy this non-dairy spread that actually tastes pretty good!  Ok, not a miracle, but definitely a staple for me when I find that good ol’ extra virgin olive oil won’t quite suffice.
  9. Zeroodles black bean pasta – I had to include the one bean-based pasta without soy that doesn’t taste like grainy “ew” to me.  This one holds together — hollds up well to sauce, yet doesn’t REQUIRE sauce to make it palatable.  I have eaten it with just a light oil some vegetables, and found it delicious.  Whether you are avoiding gluten, trying to eat lower carb, or just looking for some variety, this product packs your pasta meal with some much-needed protein and fiber.
  10. Your local Vietnamese Restaurant (I like Pho Far East in North Raleigh) – ok, you can’t put this one in your pantry but for the gluten, soy and dairy intolerant, Vietnamese food can be an economical lifesaver.  Double check where you go, but pho typically does not contain wheat OR soy, despite its savory noodle-y goodness.  It does contain a boatload of salt, so watch it if that’s an issue for you.  Don’t forget to explore the rest of the menu – rice paper spring rolls are also pretty yummy. 

Enjoy!  These are my ranking favorites after 10+ years of experimentation.  What are yours?

*Crock Pot Gluten-free, Soy-free Mongolian Beef

1.5 lb tri- tip, sliced thinly (as if for stir fry)

¾ cup coconut aminos

1 tbsp sesame oil

¼ cup arrowroot

3-4 big cloves garlic, minced

Crushed red peppers (to taste)

Couple pieces of ginger, minced (to taste)

  1. Put steak in zip lock bag with arrowroot, shake to distribute evenly
  2. Mix coconut aminos, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, crushed red peppers (to taste) in the crock pot
  3. Add coated meat and stir
  4. Cook on high for 1.5 to 2 hrs (it will be gooey and the meat should be cooked and tender)

Serve with steamed broccoli (or other vegetable) and / or cauliflower rice d