In our modern world we are relentlessly surrounded by environmental toxins, inhaling, ingesting, absorbing, smelling and receiving them in minute quantities all the time. We find them in our food & food packaging, water, drinks, skin & beauty care products, furniture, cars, office buildings, up in airplanes, clothing, medications, household cleaners, detergents, and the list goes on.
Ever wonder what that new smell we may like about new clothes or new cars is all about? That’s pure chemicals!
Now our body is magnificent at adapting to its surroundings, it is capable of capturing, converting and eliminating many of these compounds via its normal detoxification pathways.
But how much load can it take?
The issue is with the total toxic load that accumulates inside of us simply due to relentless exposure and the fact that our detox pathways can become overburdened, slacking off or even shutting down. If we are then also subjected to toxic cancer treatments, we have a problem!
One way our body works really hard to eliminate toxins, repair damaged genes and neutralize free radicals is through a powerful antioxidant that it produces itself – glutathione. Also referred to as the master detoxifier, it is concentrated most heavily in the liver, kidneys, spleen and pancreas.
Glutathione has also been shown to be
- effective in reducing excess mucus
- supporting our respiratory system
- counteracting the effects of aging
As we get older, our body’s ability to make its own glutathione decreases, and in times of severe stress and illness, the body often uses more glutathione than it can produce.
In its role as detoxifier it plays a crucial role in helping the body bind and get rid of many environmental toxins such as herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, solvents, dyes, plastics, detergents and nitrosamines often found in processed foods.
Glutathione is also known to be cancer-preventing and has been found deficient in cancer patients. It can strengthen natural killer cells, a part of your immune system you want to have ready for action at all times! Because of its ability to latch on to heavy metals – a process called chelation – including lead, mercury and cadmium, it can help protect the body from toxic damage caused by these metals.
As with most nutrients, when working in synergy they can collectively increase the impact of their respective functions. In the case of glutathione, it enhances the antioxidant effects of Vitamin C and E.
When supplementing with glutathione, there is some controversy with regards to whether or not the oral version can be fully absorbed by the body. It is often administered via an IV infusion during chelation of heavy metals or as part of a vitamin drip. As glutathione is made up of the three amino acids cysteine, glutamate and glycine they are often individually given as supplements to boost glutathione production.
Personally I have found that supplementing with one if its precursors, NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine) or a high-grade glutathione supplement in powder form boosts my own GSH levels, but it took dedicated supplementing and a long time after chemo for my levels to show any significant improvement.
A word of caution is required: if you are in active cancer treatment you need to obtain qualified advice before supplementing, as glutathione may interfere with certain chemo drugs. On the other hand, research also shows that glutathione may even increase the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy treatments by reducing the severity of the toxicity-related side effects. As you can see, you need to know what you may or may not do and when it is safe to do so.
Here is a list of whole foods that boost glutathione production:
Asparagus, Acornsquash, Avocados, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Garlic, Grapefruit, Leeks, Okra, Onions, Oranges, Peaches, Potatoes, Spinach,
Strawberries, Tomatoes, Walnuts, Watermelon, Zucchini
And if you wish to go right ahead and boost those GSH levels, here’s a quick side dish using asparagus, a natural glutathione source.
Quick n’ Easy Warm Asparagus Salad
2 bunches of green asparagus, organic preferable
1 carton mixed fresh mushrooms (any will do)
1 medium red onion
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ – 1 teaspoon Sea salt (Herbamare Herb sea salt is a great choice)
Black Pepper (4-5 swirls with the mill)
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional – just for a little kick)
- Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
- Snip off the ends of the asparagus. I do this manually as wherever they break naturally is what needs to be removed.
- Mix the asparagus with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and spread out single layered on a baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until tender but still crispy.
- Slice onion, wash mushrooms and stir fry in a little olive oil beginning with the onions about 3 minutes, then adding the mushrooms for another 5 minutes. Season with some of the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper if using and balsamic vinegar.
- Combine once asparagus is done, add remaining oil, vinegar and season to taste. Serve immediately.
Staying Healthy with Nutrition – The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutrition Medicineby Elson M. Haas, MD with Buck Levin, PhD, RD
Healing with Whole Foods – Asian Traditions and Modern Medicine by Paul Pitchford
The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood
The Definitive Guide to Cancer – An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment and Healing by Lise N. Alschuler, ND, FABNO and Karolyn A. Gazella
Herbal Medicine, Healing & Cancer – A Comprehensive Program for Prevention and Treatment by Donald R Yance Jr, C.N. M.H., A.H.G.
Cascinu et al., Neuroprotective Effect of Reduced Glutathione on Cisplatin-based Chemotherapy in Advanced Gastric Cancer, Journal of Clinical Oncology 13 (1): 26-32 (1995)
J.F. Smyth et al., Glutathione reduces the toxicity and Improves the Quality of Life in Women Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer Treated with Cisplatin, Annuals of Oncology 8 (6): 569-73 (1997)