What Glutathione Does and 12 Ways to Boost Your Levels

Everyone knows about the power of antioxidants like the vitamin C in berries and the lycopene in tomatoes. But are you in the know about the most crucial antioxidant of all?

What is Glutathione?

If you’re big on eating right, you load your diet with antioxidants—from the vitamin C in your blueberries to the resveratrol in your glass of Cabernet. That’s because you know these nutrients help to keep rogue molecules called free radicals from damaging your cells.

But are you up to speed on glutathione—what my friend Mark Hyman, M.D., calls “the mother of all antioxidants”? If not, you may be shorting your body of this crucial molecule—and that could make you old and sick. Glutathione is so important that every cell in your body contains it. In addition to neutralizing free radicals, it recycles other antioxidants. (That’s why it’s considered the most important antioxidant of all.)

It also grabs on to toxins, letting your body eliminate them safely. In addition, it keeps your immune system strong and even helps your body build muscle instead of creating fat. Your body makes glutathione on its own from cysteine, glycine, and glutamine. Unfortunately, it can’t always make enough of it. You produce less glutathione as you age, and many people don’t have adequate levels to begin with because of their genetic makeup.

Think about it: Our genes come from our ancestors, who lived in a clean world—not the polluted world we live in now. As a result, many of our bodies simply aren’t genetically wired to do the heavy-duty “housekeeping” we need today. When your body can’t make enough glutathione to fight free radicals and cart off toxins, the results can be devastating. You’ll age faster, your DNA will take more “hits,” and you’ll be at higher risk for illnesses including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.

Twelve ways to raise your glutathione levels

There’s evidence that taking an oral glutathione supplement can be helpful, although much of the glutathione gets broken down in the digestive tract.  Scientists are still sorting out this issue—but luckily, in the meantime, there are other powerful ways to boost your glutathione levels.

Here are my top twelve strategies:

  1. Drink coffee. In one trial, researchers asked volunteers to drink five cups of coffee per day for a week. Compared to controls, the coffee drinkers increased their plasma glutathione by 16%. A separate group of researchers analyzed data from 26 studies and concluded that “coffee consumption can increase glutathione levels and improve protection against DNA damage.”
  2. Eat sulfur-rich foods. Sulfur plays a critical role in keeping your glutathione levels optimal. Sulfur-rich foods include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, arugula, and bok choy.
  3. Work out regularly. While exercise temporarily increases the production of free radicals, regular workouts ramp up glutathione levels. Research shows that both aerobic exercise and weight training can be beneficial.
  4. Clean up your act. Toxins deplete your supply of glutathione. To reduce your exposure to these toxins, swap out factory foods for natural foods, filter your water, and trade toxic cleaners and personal care products for “green” varieties.
  5. Take milk thistle. Milk thistle contains silymarin, which can promote glutathione synthesis.
  6. Try N-acetylcysteine (NAC). This amino acid-derived compound can help your body replenish its glutathione stores.
  7. Get plenty of folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin). These nutrients play a key role in methylation (a process in which one molecule passes a methyl group—a carbon atom linked to three hydrogen atoms—to another molecule). If you’re not into chemistry, all you need to know is that proper methylation is absolutely crucial when it comes to keeping your glutathione levels high.
  8. Take alpha-lipoic acid. Research shows that this substance can help reverse age-related declines in glutathione.
  9. Take a good multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement. This will supply you with nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium, which help you recycle glutathione.
  10. Drink bone broth. It’s rich in glycine, one of the building blocks of glutathione.
  11. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can lower your glutathione levels drastically.
  12. De-stress with yoga. Stress depletes glutathione, while there’s evidence that yoga can increase glutathione levels.

Together, these tricks can boost your glutathione levels so your stores don’t run low as you age. So if you’re serious about staying young and dodging diseases like cancer and diabetes, add many or all of these strategies to your bag of anti-aging tricks—starting today!

Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!