By Leigh Penman –
Look through the pages of any muscle/fitness orientated magazine and it is easy to get lost in the sea of supplement ads that compete with actual articles for space. Given the abundance of products featured you would think that every supplement you could ever need was right there at your fingertips, all you had to do was open your wallet and health, strength and unlimited muscle growth was yours. However, over the years there has been one glaring omission from the supplement files. Despite its proven health benefits, the antioxidant peptide glutathione has managed to slip under the radar as far as essential nutrients are concerned. In this feature I aim to change all that by officially introducing you to this substance and also examining some of the ways you can benefit from its use. So let’s get things started with a little background information:
GLUTATHIONE – THE FACTS
Glutathione is what is known as a tripeptide composed of the amino acids Cysteine, Glutamic Acid and Glycine. It is found in all cells of the body but resides predominantly in the lungs, intestinal tract and liver. In the liver glutathione assists in the detoxification of harmful compounds, allowing them to be eliminated in the bile. When glutathione levels are low liver and lymphatic functions suffer, allowing toxins to circulate throughout the body, which ultimately leads to damage in individual cells and organs. It is interesting to note that gluthionine is so powerful when it comes to detoxifying drugs that doctors routinely use glutathione promoting drugs in the treatment of patients with certain types of drug overdose.
Another point of interest is that the herb milk thistle, which is often used as a liver protector, exerts its effect by modestly increasing glutathione levels.
GLUTATHIONE – IN THERAPY
The health benefits of glutathione are not restricted to liver and lymphatic function however and this valuable substance exerts powerful therapeutic properties throughout the whole body.
Glutathione has proven effective in the treatment of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cancer (where it may suppress tumor growth, retard oxidative stress and ease the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy)
- Pulmonary disease (glutathione is the most efficient free radical scavenger in the airways)
- Chronic bronchitis
- Digestive disorders (including inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcer)
- Immune system disorders (glutathione plays an important role in the function of lymphocytes which fight viral infection)
- Lyme disease: This is a complex multi-system acidic inflammatory condition that is triggered by bacterial exotoxins. Glutathione assists in the removal of these toxins by forming a soluble compound with them, which can then be transported out of the system through the urine or gut.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: Levels of glutathione are often low in patients with CFS.
- Diabetes: Diabetics often have very low blood and tissue levels of glutathione.
- Diseases of aging including cataracts, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arteriosclerosis etc
- Neurological disease: Low glutathione levels have been associated with neuro-degenerative diseases such as MS, ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
GLUTATHIONE AND SPORTS PERFORMANCE
Glutathione exerts many metabolic effects, which can significantly enhance athletic performance. This includes – but is not restricted to- decreasing recovery time from physical stress, producing greater strength and endurance and reducing muscle pain and fatigue. Glutathione’s powerful detoxifying and immune system boosting properties also lead to the body functioning at optimal level and, when in this enhanced state, the whole process of recovery, repair and growth may take place at an accelerated level. Glutathione may also assist in maintaining even blood sugar levels during training although this has not been scientifically proven.
GLUTATHIONE USE AND TREATMENT OPTIONS
Dr Michelle Alpert of ‘Flatiron Health Associates’ in Manhattan conducts a unique form of glutathione treatment. Aware of the fact that glutathione is usually not absorbed very well when administered orally, Dr Alpert has her own specialized methods for delivering this valuable nutrient…
“In my own practice, I either give glutathione alone in a saline solution, or I add glutathione as a ‘chaser’ at the end of a specialized detox drip, to help prevent any oxidation – since glutathione oxidizes easily when exposed to air or in the presence of certain minerals. I have given this to patients with multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, HIV, Lyme disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, hepatitis C, or just garden-variety stress and fatigue. One hepatitis C patient’s liver values returned to normal and she resumed a full teaching schedule at her university after a series of detox drips. Another patient with chronic Lyme disease finds that weekly detox drips with glutathione improve her neurological symptoms of buzzing, burning and fatigue. My own nurse uses glutathione in fighting off colds. And I myself take a detox drip with glutathione weekly.”
OVERCOMING ABSORPTION DIFFICULTIES
The fact that oral glutathione does not easily lend itself to oral absorption has also led Dr Alpert to begin experimenting with nebulized glutathione (which requires a prescription). Her experience is that patients are having great success with this alternative – especially when used in combination with detox drips.
Another option for those who do not have access to intravenous treatment with glutathione is to consume whey protein. Whey protein has been found to increase cellular glutathione. The whey protein must of course be of the highest quality. One of the most potent whey proteins to hit the market in recent years is ISOLYZE from SPECIES NUTRITION. It is therefore highly recommended that you seek out this brand in order to obtain the best possible results in terms of both glutathione uptake and overall recovery from your workouts.
GLUTATHIONE – IN SUMMARY
There is no doubt that glutathione is a valuable nutrient in terms of your overall health and well-being. Its position as a master antioxidant is unchallenged. In fact, without glutathione your cells would suffer greatly from unrestrained oxidation and your liver would be overwhelmed by toxic accumulation. It may not be considered a staple in the athletic supplement cupboard as yet but then again, once upon a time the now omnipresent Creatine was accompanied everywhere it went with a question mark!
N.B. Dr Michelle Alpert can be contacted at: Flat Iron Health Associates, 87-89 Fifth Avenue, Sixth Floor Room 604, New York, NY 10003. Tel: 212 675 9343 or at www.flatironhealthassociates.com
ISOLYZE WHEY PROTEIN can be obtained from www.speciesnutrition.com
Leigh Penman, in addition to be a staff writer at MuscleSport Mag, has been writing for bodybuilding magazines, websites and nutritional supplement companies since 1985. Whilst residing in the UK, she earned the reputation of being one of the top female writers in bodybuilding-related media. Her credits included being a contributing editor on all the magazines in production as well as filling the shoes of Ladies Editor and Showbiz Editor on two publications (the later being on Arnold’s sanctioned magazine, ‘Bodypower’). During this time she also competed successfully on four occasions (placing in the top four in all contests).
Relocating to New York in the late 1990s she focused her writing attention to crystal healing techniques and metaphysics – however, she still maintained a five day workout schedule during this time and gained her personal training certificate.
Having also studied pharmacology in relation to sports performance, her writing began taking her in that direction until the present day which sees her embarking on a return to the magazine world, as well as extending her web-related work in the bodybuilding and fitness field.
Leigh has been working out for close to thirty years so she is clearly a writer who ‘walks her talk.’
She can be contacted personally at email@example.com.