Glutathione – Your Body’s Secret Weapon?

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.

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