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During the past couple of years I continued my investigations into taming autoimmune disease and addressing the mechanisms that underlie it (and will always continue to do so). I found some approaches that looked promising and began experimenting with them with my patients, as well as recruiting other practitioners I know to work with the same principles. I came across a few discoveries that have produced profound results. One is the concept of glutathione recycling.

Glutathione and stress

In the thyroid book I introduced glutathione, our body’s most powerful antioxidant, and how integral it is to modulating the immune system. Ideally the body makes sufficient glutathione to help keep everything running smoothly, however it becomes depleted in the face of extreme or chronic stress.

Modern life  bombards us with stressors, the most common being ongoing insulin surges from sugary, high-carb diets, immune aggravation from food intolerances, chronic gut infections (too much bad bacteria or parasites), hormonal imbalances, lack of sleep, and of course our hectic, information-overloaded lifestyles.

Many people suffer from all of the above on a daily basis and also may smoke, drink too much, or even overtrain athletically, compounding an already precarious situation. Of course autoimmune disease itself is a significant stressor, further depleting the body’s precious supply of glutathione.

In fact, I might go so far as to say it is difficult for the body to produce an autoimmune attack if the glutathione system is functioning properly.

Boosting glutathione levels though a liposomal cream or intravenously—as glutathione taken orally is ineffective—is a key strategy in combating the damage of stress. However these levels can be quickly depleted if the body cannot recycle glutathione to keep the supply on hand to meet the many stressors.

Glutathione’s job is to take the bullet

Before I can explain how glutathione recycling works, I first need to explain more about how specifically glutathione protects us. Glutathione is like the bodyguard or Secret Service agent whose loyalty is so deep that she will jump in front of a bullet to save the life of the one she protects. When there is enough of the proper form of glutathione in the body to “take the bullet”, no inflammatory response occurs. However when glutathione becomes depleted it triggers a destructive inflammatory process.

Glutathione recycling explained

Glutathione recycling is a separate function from just boosting glutathione levels through a liposomal cream, intravenously, a nebulizer, a suppository, or other means. These forms of glutathione delivery will help one’s antioxidant status but they do not raise levels of glutathione inside the cells. Glutathione is the main antioxidant for mitochondria, the little factories inside each cell that convert nutrients into energy. Some cells have more mitochondria than others depending on the cell’s function. This is important because an autoimmune disease destroys the mitochondria in the affected cells, thus causing tissue destruction, and glutathione protects these mitochondria.

Reduced glutathione versus oxidized glutathione

But not just any form of glutathione does this—it needs to be reduced glutathione. There are two main forms of glutathione in the body: reduced glutathione (GSH) and oxidized glutathione (GSSG).

Reduced glutathione, or GSH, is the bodyguard who “takes the hit” from free radicals that damage cells. Free radicals are molecules that are unstable because they have unpaired electrons and are looking for another electron to steal in order to become stable. They steal electrons from the mitochondria, thus destroying them and causing inflammation and degeneration.

However when there’s plenty of GSH in the cell, the GSH sacrifice themselves to the free radicals—throwing themselves in front of the bullet—in order to protect the mitochondria. Thus the GSH ends up with an unpaired electron and becomes unstable, at which point it becomes GSSG, or oxidized glutathione, which is technically a free radical itself.

Doesn’t this make GSSG dangerous to the cell then? When there is sufficient glutathione in the cell, the unstable GSSG naturally pairs with available glutathione in the cell with the help of an enzyme called glutathione reductase, returning back to its reduced glutathione state so it’s ready for action once again.

The key thing to remember is that two enzymes play important roles in these processes:

  • Glutathione peroxidase triggers the reaction of GSH to GSSG, which is when glutathione “takes the hit” to spare the cell
  • Glutathione reductase triggers the conversion of GSSG back to useable GSH.

These enzymes come into consideration when we look at how to support the glutathione system nutritionally.

The link between poor glutathione recycling and autoimmune disease

Studies show a direct correlation between a breakdown in the glutathione system and autoimmune disease. The ability to constantly take oxidized glutathione and recycle it back to reduced glutathione is critical for managing autoimmunity.

Fortunately studies also show various botanicals, nutritional compounds, and their cofactors have been shown to activate glutathione reductase and the synthesis of reduced glutathione. By boosting this enzyme and supplementing glutathione levels we can increase glutathione levels and glutathione recycling to quench inflammation once it starts, or, even better, to prevent inflammation in the first place.

Studies have also shown that efficient glutathione recycling helps boost the TH-3 system, the branch of the immune system that helps balance the TH-1 and TH-2 systems and prevent autoimmune reactivity. (I explain TH-1 and TH-2 systems of immunity in my book.) Proper glutathione activity not only helps protect cells, research shows it also modulates cell proliferation and immunity, and helps tissues recover from damage.

Glutathione recycling helps repair leaky gut

Good glutathione recycling helps tame autoimmune diseases in another way. One thing I have found universal in all my autoimmune patients is poor gut integrity. They all suffer from some degree of leaky gut and repairing the gut is vital to the recovery process. Studies show glutathione may play an important role in gut barrier function and the prevention of intestinal inflammation.

A compromised glutathione recycling system can worsen intestinal destruction—the person with multiple food sensitivities and a gut that never heals may be victim of this mechanism. Although repairing a leaky gut is vital to taming an autoimmune response, we can see now glutathione recycling is another vital piece to the puzzle of  restoring gut health.

Supporting glutathione recycling

So how do we support glutathione recycling? The first thing is to reduce the stressors depleting this vital system. The bulk of my thyroid book is devoted to this: balancing blood sugar, addressing food intolerances, restoring gut health, and managing adrenal function are foundational.

Other considerations are neurotransmitter imbalances and hormonal imbalances, which may require specialized guidance from a qualified health care practitioner.  And of course making any lifestyle changes you can, such as getting enough sleep, paring down an overactive schedule, making exercise a priority each day, creating time to do things you love, and so on.

Once you have addressed these factors (which for many people can actually take care of the problem) and autoimmune dysfunction persists, then boosting glutathione recycling may be necessary. Below I cover the basic botanicals and nutritional compounds researchers have found support glutathione recycling pathways.

  • N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC): NAC is a key compound to glutathione activity. It is rapidly metabolized into intracellular glutathione.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA): ALA directly recycles and extends the metabolic life spans of vitamin C, glutathione, and coenzyme Q10, and it indirectly renews vitamin E, all of which are necessary for glutathione recycling.
  • L-glutamine: Research has shown that l-glutamine is important for the generation of glutathione. It is transported into the cell, converted to glutamate, and readily available to intracellular glutathione synthesis.
  • Selenium: Selenium is a trace element nutrient that serves as the essential cofactor for the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which converts GSH to GSSG so glutathione can “take the hit” by free radicals to spare cells.
  • Cordyceps: Cordyceps has been shown to activate both glutathione and peroxidase synthesis in the body. It has also been shown to protect cells by engaging the glutathione enzyme cycle.
  • Gotu kola (Centella Asiatica): Research has clearly demonstrated that oral intake of gotu kola rapidly and dramatically increases the activity and amount of glutathione peroxidase and the quantity of glutathione.
  • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum): Milk thistle has been shown to significantly increase glutathione, increase superoxide dismutase (another powerful antioxidant) activity, and positively influence the ratios of reduced and oxidized glutathione.

Taken together these botanicals and compounds activate the glutathione peroxidase and reductase enzymes that promote a healthy glutathione recycling system.

For people with severe leaky gut issues I suggest they take these compounds as they work on repairing leaky gut. Also, it’s important to use these in conjunction with a liposomal glutathione cream discussed in the book. These compounds work more on recycling glutathione than boosting overall levels. This way the glutathione you do take, whether through a cream, an IV, a nasal spray, or other method is assured to stay in your body longer and get inside your cells where they can do their best work.

Glutathione recycling is imperative to taming autoimmune disease

Promoting glutathione recycling helps protect cell mitochondria, enhance tissue recovery, modulate an imbalance between TH-1 and TH-2, and boost immune regulation. The overall effect is to dampen both the autoimmune reaction and damage to body tissue. It also helps body tissue and the intestinal tract regenerate and recover. Keeping overall glutathione levels up by supporting glutathione recycling helps buffer the body’s cells from the many stressors hurled at us each day.

Other practitioners and I have witnessed patients rebuild their glutathione recycling system. As a result they are much less or no longer sensitive to chemicals around them, they have fewer autoimmune flare-ups, and they recover much faster from their flare-ups.

46 Comments

  • Tim Sharpe August 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    You didn’t talk about cofactors or endogenous glutathione production. Things like whey protein have been used for years to provide the amino acid components of glutathione. This method hasn’t been a great success. However sulforaphane (SFN) at 30+mg per day does appear to help. It is also a potent inductor of Phase 2 detox enzymes and a NRF2 mediating indirect antioxidant. (“Sulforaphane +glutathione” entered on PubMed is an interesting read). I usually combine it with Alpha Lipoic Acid which recycles glutathione, improves handling of blood sugar, and is a potent blood brain barrier crossing antioxidant that is both water and fat soluble. I pair this with CoQ10 which is one of the safest and most potent antioxidants available. ALA also recycles CoQ10 so we are using double dip chemistry with multiple redundancies.. I’ve had clinical success with this combo. Only a few companies have a potent enough broccoli extract to reach 30mg of SFN per pill. Care must be taken in choosing all of the above.

    Please excuse any typos, I typed this on my phone.

  • Wendy Alberts August 25, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Do you have one supplement for the glutathione problem? Sincerely, Wendy

    • Rod Sawyer May 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      Hello Wendy,
      I have found a breakthrough prduct that is unique in the world that can increase your Glutathione levels.It is a precursor to Glutahione,inother words it helps your body reycle its own glutathione. Fully natural.
      Please contact mw on above email if you want me to follow up.

      • joanna July 12, 2012 at 5:27 pm

        Yes, I am interested in the glutathione product you mentioned as well as any other products that would help with hypothyroidism–Thanks in advance

      • Bosley Hiss August 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm

        Please send info on glutathion product. Thank you very much.

      • xanthe January 16, 2013 at 4:08 am

        Hi Rod,

        Please would you send me details of the glutathione-boosting supplement you mentioned in your blog way back in May 2012.

        Thanks

      • MaryAnn March 8, 2013 at 7:51 am

        My daughter has had an ongoing problem with acne cysts and GI issues. We’ve traced at least part of the problem to soy. She avoids it as best she can, but it is in virtually everything, including non-food products. No doctor has been able to help her, and they all basically laugh at us when we try to get help. She already takes probiotics. I’m very interested in this glutathione recycling. She noticed that when she takes steroids, she can eat anything she wants with no issues. In addition, her skin clears up. I’d appreciate any information you can give me. Thanks.

      • Conni June 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm

        Please send info on the breakthrough pre-Glutathione product you mention here. Thanks.

      • Michelle August 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm

        Rod :

        Would like to know what is the natural product you are referring to in our email dated May 15th, 2012..

        Tks a million!

      • Mimi October 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm

        PLEASE forward info about Glutathione product — thank you in advance!

      • mso February 8, 2014 at 10:06 am

        hi
        im very interested please email me some info
        thanks

      • Jacqueline March 29, 2014 at 5:35 pm

        I am interested in the product you have found that increases glutathione.(glutathione recycling).thanks!

  • Teri Lawrence August 27, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Please explain in laymans terms if possible.I would like to use the protocol if I could understand it better.Thanks,Teri

  • Thyroid Blog August 31, 2011 at 11:09 am

    According to your experience, do you see more benefits for Hashimoto’s patients in using 150 mcg glutathione IV followed by “Myer’s cocktail”?

  • Carla Adkisson September 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I would be interst in finding a supplement or the cream for glutathione.

    • Rod Sawyer May 16, 2012 at 1:51 am

      Hello Carla,
      There is a new breakthrough in health with a unique product which has been clinically plazebo tested. This product helps your body recycle its own Glutathione and thus boost your levels. I and others that are on it are seeing very good results. It has been certified by the World anti doping agency. That means it is OK for sports people. Some 74 diseases can be atributed to the lack of glutathione. Please contact me on the above email should you want to know more.

      • Netta Toll November 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm

        I am interested in the glutathione boosting product you have mentioned plus, how to get and use it. Also, do you know if oral liposomal glutathione is effective.

      • Tamsin February 5, 2014 at 10:07 am

        HI Rod
        Please would you inform me of the glutathione precursor you mention.
        Many thanks
        Tamsin

      • Tess February 5, 2014 at 1:09 pm

        Please send me the name of the product to increase glutathione that you referenced several years ago on Dr. Kharrazian’s site/threads. I have been taking a very highly refined undenatured whey with good results but may have hit a wall. Thank you so much, Tess

      • Cynthia March 18, 2014 at 12:08 pm

        Rob, I would love the information about the Glutathione recycling. I have hashimotos and have been reading about this. thanks.

  • Barbara September 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Oxicell (K22) I believe it is one of Dr K’s Formulas. My Doc trained by him suggested it for me.

    http://www.professionalsupplementcenter.com/ApexEnergeticsOxicell.htm?gclid=CK3XpaL3i6sCFYtR7AodRTHkxw

    • Cheryl September 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      Should you use this without seeing someone first?

  • Carla Adkisson September 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks I just ordered.

  • Kathryn October 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I noticed there is tocopherol acetate (vitamin E) as an ingredient of Oxicell.
    Does anyone know if it has been derived from wheat germ, and if so, should a Hashimoto’s disease patient stay away from it?

  • Dr Philip Agrios November 14, 2011 at 5:08 am

    None of Dr K’s products have any ingredients that will spark the immune system, being gluten, soy, etc free. Oxicell is a powerful product.

    The glutathione cycle is so important that the traditional practitioner knows little about this. Since I work with many autoimmune and chronically ill patients, when I first started to use these nutrients for them, I noticed dramatic changes in their recovery

    I hope this helps.

    • Michael Kern July 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      Oxicell actually does contain soy, phosphotidlychlorine, if you see the ingredients and check with Apex Energetics, contrary to the comment here.

  • Carol Rambo November 26, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Having used Immunocal Platinum from Immunotec Research in Montreal, Canada has proven to me that this particular precursor is the only one that helps every single cell make their own glutathione. My health improvements have been nothing short of miraculous. It is a bonded cystein whey protein.

    And I hope this answers some of your questions.

    • Khali October 3, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Do you work for that company?

  • Rich Van Konynenburg May 12, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Hi.

    Hashimoto’s is common in people who have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For a discussion of a hypothesis explaining how glutathione is involved in ME/CFS, see the video here:

    http://iaomt.media.fnf.nu/2/skovde_2011_me_kroniskt_trotthetssyndrom/$%7Bweburl%7D

    The slides can be obtained by clicking on the blue print below the video.

    Best regards,

    Rich Van Konynenburg, Ph.D.

    • Kay September 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      Rich

      I just watched the 1st session. Thank-you SO much for sharing this.
      I’ve been suffering all these issues for 2 years. My doctors have diagnosed Hashimotos but every symptom of fatigue, pain, brain fog, depression they say “exercise”. I can’t even begin to tell you what irresponsible things they’ve done when I mention the urinary issues. I hope there are action steps for me in the next 2 sessions but right now I feel validated and almost hopeful.
      Bless you.

  • Caroline November 26, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Does anyone know where to purchase glutathione cream in Canada? Thank you.

  • Caroline November 26, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Hi, I’m from Canada and would like to know if there is a source to purchase Glutathione Cream? Thank you.

  • Jeff May 9, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    The synergies with Acetyl-L-Glutathione, NAC, ALA, and R alpha lipoic acid are essential. Also improving absorption with a supplement such as Bioperine can increase the overall result.

  • felicia July 10, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    In order to fully recover and utlize any nutrient you must remove Mercury Amalgams properly and out of the bone from root canals this is the problem from A To Z (alzhiemers to everything else)with most conditions.

  • Cathie August 5, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Hi
    Does anyone know where I could get glutathione cream in Australia?

  • Michelle August 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Rod :

    What the the natural product you are referring to in your message dated May 15, 2012…

    tks!

  • samantha September 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    are there any GMO ingredients in it?

  • Khali October 3, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Where can one find the best Gluthatione?

  • Elaine October 4, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Dr. K formulated Glutathione Recycler for Apex Energetics, which boosts glutathione production and recycling within cells. Oxicell helps boost glutathione outside of cells and works best topically, like over the thyroid. A newer product called S-acetyl-glutathione can be taken orally and boosts glutathione. He recommends around 1,000 mg of that, which apparently can be quite expensive. Glutathione IVs can be helpful but that’s difficult for most people to do regularly. You want to be careful with whey as dairy sensitivities are common. I personally would want to be screened for that first since the goal is to reduce inflammation.

  • hesham December 26, 2013 at 3:16 am

    thanks elaine ,could you tell us , How does S-acetyl-glutathione works with you ,I appreaite to know the update of take it .many thanks .

  • Marsha Gandy December 26, 2013 at 9:38 am

    I would like more info on products. Thank you

  • Jennifer Doores March 4, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Send any info on Glutathione recycling please.Thanks!

  • Jennifer Doores March 4, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Please send info on Glutathione recycling.
    Thanks!

  • Jacqueline March 29, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Please send info. on Glutathione recycling, what is the natural product you have discovered? Thanks

  • Yvonne April 15, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Please send information on where I can obtain the Liposmal Glutathione cream, I suffer with Hashimottos and live in Australia so would probably have to order online. Thanks.

  • catharine April 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I have Hashimoto’s , will this help me?

4 Trackbacks

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