Glutathione and Its Use in Treating Mold-Related Illness

by Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

In the world of nutritional supplements, there is a product group designated as “antioxidants”. These antioxidant supplements are intended to inhibit the negative effects of free radicals or oxidative stress on our bodies. Oxidative stress occurs when our bodies release chemicals (free radicals) in response to internal and external challenges during our lifetimes, such as illnesses, psychological stress, toxins ( mold, heavy metals, chemicals), medications, and poor diet. When oxidation occurs, the free radicals released into the bloodstream can lead to chain reactions where cells are damaged. Think of it as cellular “rusting”. The illustration of rusting metal can be helpful for greater understanding, as you have undoubtedly observed the phenomenon at some point: Just like rusting indicates oxidative damage to metal and can shorten an object’s life span and decrease its functionality, when oxidation is not contained, treated, or prevented, a similar process can occur on the cells and organs of the body. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but for a good visual, I often point this out to my patients.

The resilience to “rusting” in the body may depend on genetics, but also to the degree and length of time of exposure to toxic situations. Mold and mycotoxins are some of the biggest culprits in accelerating oxidative stress. At the very least, then can cause less than ideal energy and joie de vivre, but at worst may contribute substantially to the disease processes of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more.

In any cases involving environmental toxins, removing the offending substance from the air cannot be overstated. It is hard to reduce the total body load if one is continually exposed to the toxin. If mold or mycotoxins are in the air at home, work or car, then they must be identified and treated. Obviously, using inexpensive mold test plates or diagnostic testing plates is a simple way to do this yourself. Keeping the use and exposure of chemicals, pesticides etc., should also be minimized, by focusing on safe and natural products for use in cleaning and mold mitigation.

Glutathione Antioxidant Therapy

Antioxidant therapy in treating and preventing damage from mold exposures and resultant oxidative stress (rusting) is one of our mainstays in treatment. There are many nutrients that are considered as antioxidants, but one that is very powerful and effective is Glutathione. Yet most people have not even heard of it!

What is glutathione? Glutathione is derived from amino acids in the body, which come from protein sources. It has a chemical/electric charge, such that it acts as a magnet to bind up toxins and remove them from the body through the bile in the liver. Is this an oversimplification of the process? Absolutely, but I try to keep things very visual in describing, and not pull you into the weeds of deep biochemistry! Suffice it to say that glutathione is extremely helpful both in reclaiming health and acting preventively to keep oxidative stress minimized as much as possible.

Different Forms of Supplemental Glutathione

Glutathione must be used in a form that can be absorbed, and also be able to enter the cells to do its job. In the past, the only oral form available was “reduced glutathione”. The downside to this was that only about 15-20% of it was absorbed through the digestive tract. In more recent years, two very superior formulations have been produced, acetyl-glutathione and liposomal glutathione. These formulas are able to be absorbed orally, and have remarkable ability to penetrate the cell membrane to do their work. It has also been demonstrated that these forms of glutathione cross the blood-brain barrier to actually decrease oxidative stress on brain cells. I have participated in a study which showed levels of glutathione within the cells increased dramatically by the use of oral supplementation. The study I did used liposomal glutathione, but other reports suggest that acetyl glutathione has produced similar results.

Intravenous use of glutathione has also been tremendously helpful, especially in the onset of treatment of toxicity. An integrative physician’s office is usually where you may find IV glutathione therapy, as traditional medicine systems do not typically promote the use of nutritional or non-pharmaceutical treatments however well-researched and safe they may be!

The difference in using glutathione intravenously and orally is much like the difference between using oral and intravenous antibiotics. IV glutathione works faster and sometimes results are more dramatic, but if this is not possible, the use of the oral forms is still very helpful and can be continued long term.

Do You Need Supplemental Glutathione?

One of the easiest ways to determine if your glutathione is deficient is by doing a simple blood test, called a gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase test (GGT). GGT is an enzyme produced by the liver. There is a very wide range of normal values, but if the GGT level is too high OR too low, then glutathione should be helpful.   In general, we like to see levels between 20 and 30. In addition to adding glutathione to a supplement regimen, I also often recommend another amino acid derivative called N-acetyl cysteine, or NAC.   NAC actually gives the liver the products it needs to make glutathione; so, supporting this process as well as actual supplementation of glutathione hits the need at multiple levels.

The Benefits of Glutathione

While supplementing with glutathione will not solve all of your health issues or eliminate mold toxicity on its own, it can be an extremely helpful therapy for getting an inflamed body back on track. For example, a short and abbreviated list of the many things that supplemental glutathione has been shown to do within the scientific literature is as follows:

If you are interested in starting glutathione yourself, or have been using a less-than-pure formula, please check out Pure Encapsulations liposomal glutathione on the Wellevate portal, which you can locate through website. One-to-two capsules daily should be a good dose for most. Additionally, you can find NAC there, by Prothera, 500 mg once or twice daily.   While checking a GGT level in the blood is not necessary before embarking on treatment, you may find that monitoring this level substantiates how you are feeling and functioning physically!

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