Regular readers of my blog know I have enormous respect for Dr. Mark Hyman, one of the world’s foremost advocates of functional medicine and chairman of the Institute of Functional Medicine. I’d like to summarize an article written by Dr. Hyman and share important information about what he calls “the most important molecule you need to stay healthy and prevent disease.”
This molecule is called glutathione, which is produced naturally by the human liver. What makes glutathione special is sulfur. Sulfur is sticky, and free radicals and toxins stick to glutathione for that reason. Glutathione then carries them to bile and stool before they leave the body.
That’s why glutathione is the most important part of the detoxification system. It cools off free radicals and recycles other antioxidants. Research suggests that, by supporting immune function and controlling inflammation, high glutathione levels can reduce muscle damage, speed recovery time, improve strength and endurance, and switch metabolism to develop muscles instead of fat.
Here’s the problem. When the body becomes overly toxic, it can’t recycle glutathione. Poor diet, pollution, toxins, medication, stress and other factors increase the body’s toxic load and deplete glutathione. As a result, we reduce our ability to naturally maintain good health, prevent disease and recover from chronic illness.
In fact, Dr. Hyman says that the vast majority of his patients who were very ill were glutathione deficient. That includes patients with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and more. With more than 80,000 toxic chemicals in our environment, radiation everywhere we go, and mercury and lead in our soil, water and air, a toxic diet is just the icing on the cake.
Most people are without the function of the GSTM1 genes, which are required for the body to create and recycle glutathione. Before the Industrial Revolution, and before we spent most of our days on our rumps in front of computers and TVs, we could get away with very basic genetic detoxification. That’s no longer the case.
Dr. Hyman offers some great suggestions to increase glutathione in the body. If you took glutathione as a pill, the body would simply absorb it. Glutathione production requires the right combination of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
The most obvious way to boost glutathione is to avoid toxic, processed food and consume a natural, glutathione-friendly diet. Leafy green vegetables like broccoli, kale and collards, as well as garlic and onions, can increase glutathione levels. A number of supplements, including antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, as well as alpha lipoic acid, selenium, and methylation nutrients such as folate and vitamins B6 and B12, can stimulate glutathione production. Regular exercise will also help.
You can’t go wrong with leafy green vegetables, but dietary protocols, supplementation and a customized exercise program should only be prescribed by a doctor of functional medicine after a thorough exam and testing.
Your glutathione level is one of many that we can help you optimize at Natural Healthcare Center. If you’d like to learn more about achieving true wellness by activating the body’s natural defenses and bringing the body’s systems into balance, please sign up to receive my blog, and schedule an appointment at Natural Healthcare Center.