We haven’t discussed glutathione in a while, but MTHFR’s effects on glutathione production are of major consequence in the health of all of us MTHFR folks. While a sluggish methylation typically leads to a sluggish glutathione production, there are some particular gene SNPs that have a far greater impact. The most notable are GGS, GGT, GST and GPX.
Glutathione – The Master Antioxidant
Glutathione is an antioxidant just like vitamin C or vitamin E and it helps to scavenge free radicals and stop them from damaging your vital tissues. It is considered your “master antioxidant” because it also recycles other antioxidants, like vitamin C, so they can be used again. Kind of like an antioxidant double-whammy.
In addition to antioxidant function, glutathione is vital for a number of different detoxification reactions, specifically phase II detox reactions called glutathione conjugation. This type of reaction is necessary for some herbicides and pesticides with xenobiotic compounds known as “persistent organic pollutants”, or “POPs.” Mercury detoxification, especially from your brain, is dependent on glutathione.
Also, tylenol which in spite of being a common over the counter drug worldwide, is also the #1 leading cause of fatal overdoses. Tylenol, also called acetaminophen or paracetamol, needs glutathione to be detoxified. Remarkably, the life-saving hospital treatment for tylenol overdose is a glutathione IV, which saves an incredible number of lives but only if it is administered quickly.
If all of that weren’t enough, glutathione is vital for the function of your mitochondria. Your mitochondria power your cells, quite literally supplying the energy required for the rest of the cell to work. Creating this energy, however, leads to an extremely high burden of reactive oxygen species, or free radicals. If the mitochondrial glutathione isn’t enough to keep this in balance, then cellular energy production falters, leaving cells without the proper fuel to function. As you can imagine, this makes for a chronically tired, worn-down body.
Lastly, glutathione is vital to appropriate cellular death. Cellular death may be something that sounds like a thing you don’t want, but let me assure you – appropriate death for cells is actually crucial to your survival. Cells that do not die appropriately, in addition to adding a burden to your body, boosting inflammation, and creating an unhealthy internal environment, lead directly to cancer. Cancer is, quite literally, a cell that won’t die and reproduces without check. Glutathione is one of your body’s internal defenses against such cells.
Gene SNPs that Affect Glutathione Production – GSS and GGT
GSS stands for glutathione synthetase, and this gene encodes for one of the main enzymes involved in the actual manufacture of glutathione. As you might guess, SNPs affecting this gene tend to reduce the amount of glutathione produced by the body and so manifest in a reduced capacity to detoxify mercury and persistent organic pollutants, and has been implicated in some heavy hitting chronic disorders such as COPD and ALS.
Outside of this, however, this SNP has not received much research attention and so there is a lot we don’t know. Information on different SNPs and the level of glutathione impairment isn’t out there yet, so watch for this one in emerging research over the next few years.
GGT stands for gamma-glutamyltransferase and there are a number of different varieties of this gene and enzyme, so we see GGT1 through 7. This enzyme also is not well studied, but is another essential step in the formation of glutathione. There is some evidence that risk of acute pancreatitis is higher in smokers with a polymorphism in GGT1, Outside of that, however, this area is largely unexplored in humans.
I think it is entirely possible that these genes will be found to be consequential in future research, but at the moment that data just does not exist.
Natural Ways to Boost Glutathione
There are some great natural ways to boost glutathione that we covered in more detail in Season 1, Episode 14: Glutathione and MTHFR. That episode also covered known diseases linked to low glultathione. Some of the best ways to boost glutathione include:
- Whey protein
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Foods high in selenium like brazil nuts
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- phytonutrients from fruits and veggies
- Brassica veggies specifically – including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.
- Herbs including rosemary, turmeric, milk thistle, and ginkgo biloba, green tea
- Fruits and vegetables that actually contain glutathione including: asparagus, avocado, cucumber, green beans, and spinach.
Thank you so much for listening and next week we’ll talk about two well-explored genes that affect glutathione, called GST and GPX.