Every day of your life, you’re exposed to toxins and stressors that can compromise your health and put you at risk for disease (both degenerative and pathogenic). Luckily, there are powerful antioxidants, like glutathione, that can help to protect you from those toxins.
This article covers the benefits of glutathione and the best glutathione supplements.
What Is Glutathione?
Glutathione (GSH) is a tri-peptide composed of the amino acids glutamate, cysteine, and glycine that plays an important role as an antioxidant. It is sometimes called the “master antioxidant” because glutathione helps protect all tissues from oxidative damage.
The benefits of glutathione are many. Glutathione helps
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Improve immune function
- Reduce insulin resistance
- Reduce heart disease risk
- Protect eye health
- Reduce inflammation.1
Glutathione is produced naturally in the liver. But sometimes, glutathione levels can be overtaxed and lowered by different factors, including:
- Improper nutrition
- Environmental toxins
Yes, glutathione can protect you from stress and toxins, but if you’re overexposed to stressors, if the demand for glutathione is too high, your stores may become depleted and increase your disease risk.
This is why supplementation becomes the intelligent choice for disease prevention and healing. Before I dish on the best glutathione supplements, let’s discuss how to test your glutathione levels and what to look for.
(Learn more about immune health in my article Germ Theory vs. Terrain Theory: Building A Stronger Immune System and about insulin resistance in my article Stop Wondering Why “I Eat Almost No Carbs And My Blood Sugar Is Still High.”)
Testing Your Glutathione Levels
Ask your doctor to check your glutathione levels to help you better understand your oxidative stress levels, and therefore your immune health status.
You can test your glutathione levels directly, but it isn’t always the best way to assess your glutathione.
Instead, you can test your gamma-glutamyl-transferase (GGT) levels, which is a biomarker of glutathione levels (this is what I do).
GGT may also indicate your need for glutathione. And high levels of GGT are associated with increased disease risk.2
Testing your GGT levels will help you to strategically select the best glutathione supplement, as opposed to popping supplements “just because” (read: driving with a blindfold).
Unfortunately, we simply can’t get enough glutathione from diet alone. Instead, when glutathione levels have become compromised or when you want to prevent depletion, supplementation is the best way to meet your glutathione needs.
The Best Glutathione Supplement Forms
Glutathione supplementation can support your antioxidant levels and therefore support your immune system and overall health. Glutathione can be delivered in several ways:
- Oral supplementation (forms include: reduced glutathione, liposomal glutathione (liposomal delivery of reduced glutathione), s-acetyl glutathione). I use these on a daily basis and have found much success with the oral route of glutathione.
- Topical patches or creams. Due to my unique health concerns, I’ve previously integrated topical glutathione patches into my daily regimen (Glutathione Plus Topical Patches from Patch MD), in addition to oral supplementation. I also explored topical glutathione cream from Apex Energetics (you can choose from Apex Energetics Oxicell-SE (KR-70) which doesn’t contain any essential oils for those sensitive to scents, or Apex Energetics Oxicell (K-22) which is scented with essential oils). Topical glutathione patch benefits and topical glutathione cream benefits include their abilities to bypass the gut. (Note: both the aforementioned patches and creams are synergistic blends that contain more than just glutathione. Be sure to read ingredients.)
- Intravenously (IV). I get IV glutathione on occasion/cyclically. Especially, if I’ve had any exceptional burdens on the liver and detoxification (i.e. after surgery or dental work that requires anesthesia, anesthetics, and/or painkillers). Glutathione IV benefits include its ability to bypass the gut.
- Intramuscular shots (think: B12 shots, only with glutathione instead). Intramuscular glutathione injection benefits include its ability to bypass the gut. I’ve used glutathione shots on occasion but prefer it to be dripped out over a longer period of time via glutathione IV therapy.
Benefits of Non-Oral Glutathione Administration
There’s some debate over whether much oral glutathione is still viable after passing through the gut’s acidic environment. To boot, in the 21st century, most peoples’ guts are impaired, so nutrient absorption may be further suboptimal. For this reason, glutathione IV, shots, patches, and creams are sometimes considered valuable alternatives.
And they are valuable. That said, I don’t think they’re the only valuable options.
For me, the proof is in the pudding. Oral glutathione has been a game-changer in my healing of both minor and chronic health issues, as well as my clients’ healing. I’ve seen the labs and symptoms improve. I know that at my lowest points healthwise, when my gut was more damaged than ever, oral glutathione was one of the non-negotiables that noticeably helped to turn things around. Clearly, a lot of what is taken orally must get where it needs to go.
I don’t waste my time, and I go by data, not belief or wishful thinking. In my eyes, oral glutathione remains beyond valuable and one of the best glutathione supplement forms.
Types of Glutathione
You can buy glutathione supplements in the following forms:
- Reduced glutathione: Research demonstrates beneficial effects of reduced glutathione up to 1g (1000mg) per day.3
- S-acetyl glutathione (the converted form): Suggested amounts of this converted form of glutathione may be lower than the reduced form because this converted form has been promoted as more effectively assimilated due to its pre-converted molecular structure.
- Liposomal glutathione (reduced glutathione delivered via liposomes): Suggested amounts of daily liposomal glutathione may sometimes be lower than the reduced form because liposomes are designed to more effectively enter the cellular membrane (though this isn’t always possible, as you’ll read below).
I’ve taken 500 mg reduced glutathione twice per day (1000 mg total daily) to counteract oxidative stress, and support detoxification, immune health, and overall health. This is a good quality reduced glutathione product I used.
I’ve also used both liposomal glutathione as well as the converted-form, s-acetyl glutathione.
I used the converted form, s-acetyl glutathione, daily for a few years. There are proponents on both sides of the liposomal glutathione vs. reduced glutathione conversation. Although I did use it in the past, I stopped using s-acetyl glutathione regularly for several reasons:
(1) Over time, the research that seemed to support the converted form as better wasn’t numerous or compelling enough for me.
(2) It costs more than reduced glutathione.
(3) “Normal” reduced glutathione provided noticeable benefits for myself and my clients.
I’m not die-hard about liposomal glutathione for several reasons.
(1) Soy: The reduced glutathione in liposomal glutathione is often delivered via soy-lecithin, and fewer sunflower-lecithin options are available. If you go this route, make sure you opt for non-GMO lecithin as soy is usually genetically-modified unless otherwise stated, and the same is often true for sunflower. From a food-sensitivity standpoint, the lecithin-component of soy shouldn’t be provocative, but everyone is different.
(2) Refrigeration: You really should refrigerate liposomal glutathione (especially when it’s in plain-liquid non-softgel form), so it’s not as easy to remember to take it, and you can’t take it on-the-go.
(3) Quick Expiration: Liquid liposomal glutathione often expires within one to two months after you open the bottle. Liposomal softgels can last a little longer, but still cost more than standard reduced glutathione.
(4) Absorption and Assimilation: Liposomal glutathione is promoted as better able to penetrate the cellular membrane and enter cells than standard reduced glutathione. That said, people who have impaired gallbladder and liver function (which are the many people who need glutathione to begin with!) and fat-metabolism issues may not absorb and assimilate liposomes as well. I’ve worked with clients who have these very issues and liposomal glutathione wouldn’t move the needle for them, so they’d have to switch to another form.
Because I’ve experienced and witnessed very good results with non-liposomal reduced glutathione, liposomal hadn’t made as much sense for my previous personal regimen, or those of some of my clients. Though liposomal glutathione benefits are notable for specific conditions and should not be ruled out, it just doesn’t make as much sense for certain personal regimens.
I used the converted form, s-acetyl glutathione for a few years, but reduced glutathione provided equivalent benefits for myself and my clients. Most people should be able to safely supplement with both varieties.
Still, everyone is different. I hope the information and reasoning behind the different forms of glutathione enhance your process of exploring the best glutathione supplements for you.
Is Glutathione Right For You?
Glutathione supplements may be contraindicated for a minority of people:
- If you have a known issue with or symptoms that are triggered by sulfur-bearing / thiol-bearing foods/substances and/or supplements, including but not limited to glutathione, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), milk thistle, and/or alpha lipoic acid (ALA). (This actually became an issue for me over time. Glutathione was a game-changer in the early part of my journey healing from mold illness, but over time it created other undesireable symptoms (symptoms most people would confuse with other conditions). This is because I have genes (SNPs) that can activate and impact how my body processes sulfur (that’s a bigger discussion for another article, but basically I’m the minority and continue to sing my praises about glutathione for most people).
- If you have a mercury toxicity issue. These supplements may trigger symptoms because thiol binds to mercury. If the body has sequestered away mercury, thiol may pull mercury into circulation, thereby kicking up symptoms not from sulfur/thiol itself, but from what thiol binds to.
This is why it’s always important to consult with an informed health practitioner prior to introducing new supplements so you can safely navigate your health and healing goals with minimal setbacks and discomfort.
I hope learning the reasoning behind forms of glutathione in my regimen helps your process of finding the most effective supplements for you.
- Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant and can protect you from many infectious and chronic diseases.
- There are no adequate dietary sources of glutathione.
- Your body is able to produce glutathione, but may not produce enough to meet your needs, especially when you’ve been subjected to excessive oxidative stress.
- Glutathione is available in the form of oral supplements, topical patches and creams, intramuscular injections, and IV therapy.
- Glutathione forms include reduced glutathione, S-acetyl glutathione, and liposomal glutathione.
- The best glutathione supplement depends on your needs. I’ve found success taking oral capsules daily and integrating glutathione patches.
- I’ve experienced good results using glutathione IV therapy during extra-stressful periods to support my needs.
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Feature image Copyright Erika Herman. “Medicinal Capsules Sketch” illustration copyright Nika Muslimova.