Glutathione: More is not always better
Oxidation occurs when electrons are pulled from substances, creating reactive substances or “free radicals.” Sounds bad right? Well…it depends.
To many antioxidants can be equally bad, elevating homocysteine and allowing your body to be an ever more fun playground for those bugs you don’t like.
Glutathione is an antioxidant. Antioxidants prevents oxidation.
BUT like all things, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
Our cells need oxygen. Not too much, not too little.
Oxygen can kill bacteria. That’s why your doctor tells you to let cuts “breathe” and why oxidative substances like hydrogen peroxide kill germs on contact. Hydrogen peroxide is also made within the body to kill internal germs.
Combined with iodine in your body, hydrogen is highly oxidative; it also leads to the necessary production of thyroid hormones.
So oxidation is good. But too much can damage tissue. So it’s also bad.
Antioxidants minimize oxidation, thus reducing tissue damage so they are good. But too much makes your body a germ’s wet-dream, so they’re also bad.
In summary, too many antioxidants interfere with oxidation, while too little leads to tissue damage.
3 amino acids make up glutathione
- Glutamine (easy to get in diet)
- Cysteine (aka NAC)
- Glycine (overlooked)
Cysteine: More is not always better
A lot of lymies supplement with cysteine (NAC). It is essential for health, but we may be over-supplementing with it. Excess cysteine in the blood correlates with obesity and inflammation.
We also produce cysteine out of methionine, another amino acid. Like cysteine, methionine is inflammatory in excess. This is why restricting the dietary intake of methionine is a popular approach in cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease treatments.
Methionine should be converted to cysteine, but this is not necessary if we are already getting too much cysteine in supplemental form.
Why cysteine elevates homocysteine levels
When we supplement with cysteine, we have extra methionine hanging around in boredom. It may decide to convert into SAMe. This methyl donor then gets converted into homocysteine.
Homocysteine ought to convert back into cysteine or back into methionine. But then, we have plenty of cysteine already, because we are obsessed with over-supplementing.
So we may get homocysteinemia
If we already have plenty of cysteine and methionine, we get too much homocysteine. And this creates oxidative stress…Isn’t that ironic? We try so hard to pump ourselves with precursors to glutathione, only to have it to backfire on us!
Glycine: Why the hell don’t we talk about this?
Glycine helps convert homocysteine into cysteine.
Betaine, B12, B6, and folate also help (although too much of these can cause over-methylation).
P.S. this guy, Dr. Brind, is glycine’s biggest advocate.
We are really, really deficient in glycine. I don’t understand why cysteine gets such praise, while glycine gets very little attention, despite being another precursor to glutathione.
Some nice things about glutathione and NAC
Liposomal-, IV-, and even suppository-glutathione have become huge in the Lyme World. Glutathione has been dubbed the “Mother of antioxidants” and rightfully so. People claim to stand up out of their wheelchairs for 30 minutes following IV glutathione sessions, as it dramatically and quickly detoxifies their livers.
For a quick fix, supplementing with glutathione or its precursor, NAC, can help, sometimes. After a night of tequila shots or acute acetaminophen poisoning, NAC is really awesome to have in your medicine cabinet. It’s also a good addition if you are methionine deficient.
But as a daily supplement, I am on the fence. I felt great when I did IV glutathione on a weekly basis. Then again, I didn’t stop relapsing until I stopped (correlates, but I do not think it’s the cause). Yes, we probably are low in glutathione with chronic Lyme, so I don’t think a little bit will hurt. But supplementing with 1000mg a day might be overkill. It can reduce oxidation so much so that those dang bugs you want dead will perk up and thank you.
Instead of supplementing with glutathione and NAC, support healthy glutathione production naturally.
- Protein aids in glutathione production.
- High intensity interval training increases glutathione.
- Molybdenum reduces homocysteine.
- Folate, B12, B6 and betaine support glutathione production and methylation, but more is not always better.
- Finally, get some glycine in your diet. Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin, or any other quality antibiotic-free gelatin (I like beef gelatin) is a source of collagen, glycine and protein. It’s great for your skin, hair, and nails and it makes meat less inflammatory.
So in conclusion, gummy bears trump glutathione.