Glutathione: The Mother of All Antioxidants

Mark Hyman, M.D. by Mark Hyman, M.D. | May 3rd, 2010 | 4 Comments
topic: Detox, Health & Wellness, Healthy Aging, Healthy Eating

It’s the most important molecule you need to stay healthy and prevent disease, yet you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s the secret to preventing aging, cancer, heart disease, dementia and more, and necessary to treat everything from autism to Alzheimer’s disease. There are more than 89,000 medical articles about it — but your doctor doesn’t know how to address the epidemic deficiency of this critical life-giving molecule.

What is it? I’m talking about the mother of all antioxidants, the master detoxifier and maestro of the immune system: GLUTATHIONE (pronounced “gloota-thigh-own”).

The good news is that your body produces its own glutathione. The bad news is that poor diet, pollution, toxins, medications, stress, trauma, aging, infections and radiation all deplete your glutathione. This leaves you susceptible to unrestrained cell disintegration from oxidative stress, free radicals, infections and cancer. And, your liver gets overloaded and damaged, making it unable to do its job of detoxification.

In treating chronically ill patients with Functional Medicine for more than 10 years, I have discovered that glutathione deficiency is found in nearly all very ill patients. These include people with chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, cancer, chronic infections, autoimmune disease, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, asthma, kidney problems, liver disease and more.

At first, I thought that this was just a coincidental finding, but over the years I have come to realize that our ability to produce and maintain a high level of glutathione is critical to recovery from nearly all chronic illness, and to preventing disease and maintaining optimal health and performance.

So, in today’s blog I want to give you nine tips that will help you optimize your glutathione levels, improve your detoxification system and help protect yourself from chronic illness.

9 tips to optimize your glutathione levels

These nine tips will help you improve your glutathione levels and health, optimize your performance and live a long, healthy life.

Eat foods that support glutathione production

  • Consume sulfur-rich foods. The main ones in the diet are garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, etc.).
  • Try bioactive whey protein. This is a great source of cysteine and the amino acid building blocks for glutathione synthesis. The whey protein MUST be bioactive and made from non-denatured proteins (“denaturing” refers to the breakdown of the normal protein structure). Choose non-pasteurized and non-industrially produced milk that contains no pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. Immunocal is a prescription bioactive, non-denatured whey protein that is even listed in the Physician’s Desk Reference.

Exercise your way to more glutathione

  • Exercise boosts your glutathione levels and thereby helps boost your immune system, improve detoxification and enhance your body’s own antioxidant defenses. Start slowly and build up to 30 minutes a day of vigorous aerobic exercise like walking or jogging, or play various sports. Strength training for 20 minutes three times a week is also helpful.

Take glutathione supporting supplements

One would think it would be easy just to take glutathione as a pill, but the body digests protein. So, you wouldn’t get the benefits if you did it this way. However, the production and recycling of glutathione in the body requires many different nutrients, and you CAN take these. Here are the main supplements that need to be taken consistently to boost glutathione. Besides taking a multivitamin and fish oil, supporting my glutathione levels with these supplements is the most important thing I do every day for my personal health.

  • N-acetyl-cysteine. This has been used for years to help treat asthma and lung disease, and to treat people with life-threatening liver failure from Tylenol overdose. In fact, I first learned about it in medical school while working in the emergency room. It is even given to prevent kidney damage from dyes used during x-ray studies.
  • Methylation nutrients (folate and vitamins B6 and B12). These are perhaps the most critical to keep the body producing glutathione.  Methylation and the production and recycling of glutathione are the two most important biochemical functions in your body. Take folate (especially in the active form of 5 methyltetrahydrofolate), B6 (in active form of P5P) and B12 (in the active form of methylcobalamin).
  • Selenium. This important mineral helps the body recycle and produce more glutathione.
  • A family of antioxidants including vitamins C and E (in the form of mixed tocopherols) that work together to recycle glutathione.
  • Milk thistle (silymarin) has long been used in liver disease and helps boost glutathione levels.

So, use these nine tips and see how they work to help you optimize your glutathione levels. When you do, you will take one more step to lifelong vibrant health.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, M.D.

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post.


  1. the best antioxidant I knew is coffee. nothing beats its taste and aroma.

  2. I take glutathione tablets for my skin. It’s a good supplement for a whiter skin and detoxifies your body. This is a great information! I never knew that it can help prevent chronic illnesses. Sherri of

    Sherri | May 5th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. Been reading lots on this , enjoyed your 9 tips to optimize your glutathione levels; a lot. Keep up the great content.

    Claude Edwin Theriault | July 24th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  4. This is excellent information about a really serious and essential antioxidant. Many people do not recognize that a diet loaded with antioxidants, on a daily schedule, can actually help them live longer and much healthier. Glutathione is definitely high on my own list, right next to alpha lopeic acid and the Omega Acids, which I take as supplements but I try to get as many various highly rated antioxidant foods into my belly as possible every day. I know this has helped me live a healthy existence for much of my 61 years.
    What info do you offer about migraines and Omega 3s? I know I had serious migraines at least 6 times a year for 45 years and when I started taking the Omega 3 Fish Oils for my high triglycerides, they completely disappeared. After studying various antioxidants I became a big believer in them and find that they do, indeed, make me feel better.

    Gary | August 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink

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