Last modified on February 2nd, 2023
Glutathione is a substance that’s gotten much attention in recent years in the natural and holistic health worlds. Glutathione has several potential benefits, including for liver health. Below, we talk more about glutathione’s benefits for liver health and what to know if you consider taking it as a supplement.
What Is Glutathione?
Glutathione is an antioxidant produced in cells, primarily composed of three amino acids—glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. Our glutathione levels can be depleted because of stress, poor nutrition, environmental toxins, and aging.
Also referred to as GSH, glutathione is produced by liver cells and nerve cells in the central nervous system. Glutathione is involved in building and repairing tissue, detoxifying and producing hormones and enzymes, and it’s also an essential part of the immune system.
Benefits of glutathione can include:
- Reduced oxidative stress—glutathione deficiency leads to increased oxidative stress, which is linked to cancer and chronic diseases.
- May improve psoriasis
- Improves insulin resistance
- Increases mobility in people with peripheral artery disease
- Reduces Parkinson’s symptoms
- May help autoimmune symptoms from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and celiac disease—autoimmune diseases will attack the mitochondria of specific cells. Glutathione can protect cell mitochondria by getting rid of free radicals.
- Could reduce oxidative damage in children with autism
- Could limit the impact of uncontrolled diabetes
- May help reduce symptoms of respiratory illnesses like cystic fibrosis and asthma
- Some research shows glutathione may slow the progression of cancer or prevent it
- Reduces damage from ulcerative colitis
How Glutathione Benefits Liver Health
The following are details on the specific ways glutathione benefits liver health.
Liposomal Glutathione is the master antioxidant of our body, and it’s necessary to protect our cells from oxidative stress. Glutathione can also protect against damaged caused by toxins, and it enhances the immune system. It also plays a significant role in detoxification. The liver is the organ that’s in charge of preventing the accumulation of toxins in the body. High glutathione concentrations are found in the liver and are part of your body’s so-called cleanup crew.
- Even if you don’t have an underlying health condition, having enough glutathione can help your liver function the way it should so you’re correctly detoxing.
- Glutathione may also reduce cell damage from nonalcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver disease. Liver cell death may worsen when someone is deficient in antioxidants, including glutathione. When you don’t have enough antioxidants in the liver, it can lead to fatty liver disease in people who misuse alcohol and those who don’t.
- Glutathione has been proven to improve protein, bilirubin, and enzyme levels in the blood of people with alcohol and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Glutathione is most effective for liver health when given intravenously in high doses. In one study with intravenous glutathione, participants had reductions in malondialdehyde, a marker of cellular liver damage.
- In another study, glutathione taken in 300 mg daily for four months was found to affect people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease positively.
- Hepatitis is another liver disease that could benefit from glutathione. Hepatitis damages the cells of the liver, as do the other types of fatty liver disease.
The benefits of glutathione for the liver come from the fact that it’s such a powerful antioxidant that can detoxify and support cellular healing and regeneration.
Glutathione is so powerful for liver health that it treats acute poisoning.
In one study of mice with chronically low levels of glutathione in their livers, a cascade of damage occurred with the mitochondria of liver cells. The result was total liver failure after a month.
In theory, higher glutathione levels may offer protection from ongoing damage caused by free radicals and residual toxins.
What About Glutathione For Hangovers?
When discussing glutathione’s benefits for liver health, it’s worth discussing how it could help a hangover. Of course, the best thing to do to avoid a hangover is not to drink or limit your drinking, but if you are dealing with a hangover, since it helps detoxify, support, and heal the liver, you might wonder if glutathione could help.
Glutathione won’t help you rehydrate, but it can help with other root causes of a hangover.
First, glutathione levels may be associated with your sleep quality. Drinking disrupts sleep, so glutathione could help you get better sleep and feel better after drinking.
We know that alcohol intake will deplete your glutathione levels, so this can mean more free radicals paired with a simultaneous decline in your most potent antioxidant. Your body needs time to replace the lost glutathione, but you may suffer from a hangover.
There aren’t any human studies exploring the topic, but in one study of rats, they were given NAC, a precursor to glutathione. Their glutathione production increased, reducing oxidative stress after alcohol intake.
Taking glutathione to combat a hangover could help your body regenerate your lost antioxidants faster and eliminate free radicals alcohol creates.
Alcohol creates free radicals and inflammation because it produces acetaldehyde when the liver breaks it down, and this byproduct is what breaks down, forming free radicals that damage the body. You experience inflammation, which can cause a host of uncomfortable symptoms associated with a hangover.
Supporting Natural Glutathione Production
You can do certain things to improve your body’s production of glutathione if you want to improve your liver health. Some of the ways to support the production of more glutathione include:
- Have foods high in sulfur because sulfur is required to synthesize glutathione. Foods with sulfur include proteins like fish, poultry, beef, and cruciferous vegetables.
- Up your intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C can attack free radicals first, which spares glutathione, so your levels can go up. Vitamin C can also convert oxidized glutathione back to its active form.
- Include foods high in selenium in your diet. As well as being an essential mineral, selenium is a glutathione cofactor, so it’s needed for the activity of this master antioxidant. Sources of selenium include meat, fish, cottage cheese, and Brazil nuts.
- Some naturally high glutathione foods include spinach, okra, and avocado.
- Consider a whey protein supplement. Your body needs amino acids to produce glutathione, and cysteine is an amino acid that’s especially important for synthesizing glutathione. Whey protein is high in cysteine, which may increase your supply of glutathione.
- Have a milk thistle supplement. Milk thistle has active compounds known as silymarin collectively. Silymarin can increase your levels of glutathione and prevent depletion, perhaps because it prevents cell damage. Milk thistle also supports the health of your liver.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Chronic alcohol use causes oxidative stress and depletes glutathione.
- Consider a turmeric supplement. Turmeric and curcumin extracts can increase glutathione levels.
Glutathione Supplements for Liver Health
You can also try a glutathione supplement. A few things to keep in mind with glutathione supplements include:
- Go for a liposomal glutathione formula. You will not get the benefits if your body can’t absorb whatever you’re taking. Liposomal glutathione improves bioavailability, and Liposomal technology encapsulates the substance and delivers it directly into your cells. The glutathione molecule is fragile, and if you don’t take a liposomal version, it will be destroyed by your stomach acids before your body can use it. A liposomal formula will protect the glutathione in little bubbles of fat, so the nutrients can go directly through your intestine and into your bloodstream.
- Choose a product with quality ingredients. You want a glutathione supplement that comes from a non-GMO source and avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Make sure you choose a glutathione supplement manufactured at an FDA-registered cGMP facility for safety and quality or choose a transparent brand in its processes.
A few of my favorite glutathione supplements include:
- Quicksilver Scientific Liposomal Glutathione
- Lypo-Spheric Glutathione
- Designs for Health Liposomal Glutathione
You can further support your glutathione production and liver health by adding milk thistle to your routine. Milk thistle that I like includes:
- Gaia Herbs Milk Thistle Seed
- Pure Encapsulations Silymarin Milk Thistle Extract
- Jarrow Formulas Milk Thistle
Glutathione benefits for liver health stem from the fact that first, there is a high concentration of glutathione naturally in the liver. Second, glutathione can prevent damage from free radicals because it’s a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your liver. The third reason glutathione benefits liver health is that it helps support your body’s natural detoxification processes.