Glutathione, often abbreviated as GSH, is a naturally occurring substance made up of three amino acids (glutamate, cysteine, and glycine) linked together. Glutathione is present in every cell of our body. It is produced in particularly high amounts by the liver and from there is exported to other tissues through the blood circulation. Another site of active glutathione synthesis is at the lung’s surface where it is excreted into the surrounding thin film of fluid covering the air spaces.
The Protective Functions of Glutathione
Glutathione has a critical role in protecting our cells from oxidative damage. Glutathione has been called the “master antioxidant” because it is capable of regenerating other antioxidants, like vitamin C and E, into their active form. Glutathione functions directly to neutralize free radicals and toxic heavy metal ions. It can detoxify internal metabolic waste products like lipid peroxides in damaged cell membranes as well as many external environmental toxins including carcinogenic (cancer causing) agents, which we ingest along with our food or inhale from traffic or industrial air pollution. A large variety of toxic substances are enzymatically neutralized by being coupled to glutathione to form water soluble complexes, which are then harmlessly eliminated in the urine. Glutathione injection benefits have been shown for the following serious medical conditions:
- preventing or lessening the side effects of chemotheraapy,
- preventing anemia in patients undergoing dialysis,
- improving movement in Parkinson’s disease patients,
- decreasing clotting and improving blood flow in atherosclerosis patients.
Intravenous (IV) Injection of Glutathione
When the body’s own glutathione stores are depleted as a result of disease, drug treatment, or exposure to environmental toxins, glutathione supplementation is generally performed by intravenous injection. Why don’t we just take glutathione by mouth and simply swallow it in the form of a capsule or pill like most other supplements, vitamins, and medications? In this respect, glutathione is like insulin and is ineffective when taken orally because upon entering the digestive tract, it is broken down into its constituent amino acids instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream. In most cases, iv glutathione is required to raise the level of glutathione in the blood and to reach the target organ. One exception is when the target organs are the lungs, and in this case glutathione may be administered by inhalation in the form an aerosolized fine mist.