Last Updated on
Glutathione is a simple protein made of three amino acids, glutamine, cysteine and glycine. It is the body’s most important antioxidant, and plays a major role in the health of every tissue and organ in the human body… Including you skin!
Why Glutathione is Important
Inside every cell in the body there is energy generating apparatus called mitochondria.
Mitochondria convert the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat into chemical energy called ATP. Everything a cell does, from its own maintenance to making important substances that other cells need (like insulin for example) is dependent on ATP. Without adequate amounts of ATP, the cell will quickly cease to function and then die.
Neutralizing Oxidizing Bi-products
The biochemical process of making ATP is an “oxidative” process, which means that it utilizes oxidizing elements within the chemical reactions that are taking place and the reactions produce chemical bi-products that are oxidants. (The scientific term for this is: “Oxidative phosphorylation”)
Generally speaking oxidizing elements are toxic to living cells, therefore the body must have the ability to neutralize these oxidizing bi-products with “anti-oxidant” molecules, which is precisely the job of glutathione. Our bodies produce large amounts of this antioxidant, which our cells use to stay healthy while they produce energy to live and function.
Knowledge Nugget – Dynamic Balance
In many of my articles I talk about how all the natural physiological forces within our bodies exist in opposing pairs… a kind of yin-yang duality wherein opposing forces are perfectly balanced in order for life to thrive.
This example of the absolutely necessary oxidative processes that create cellular energy (ATP), and the presence of anti-oxidants such as glutathione that balance the reaction is a perfect example of this duality.
Knowledge Nugget – Glutathione and Your Skin
The various cells of the dermis and epidermis that together make up our skin also have mitochondria. If they are not functioning properly, the skin will deteriorate and become diseased. Therefore, anything that can be done to increase the health and robust functioning of the mitochondria of skin cells, is a good thing.
It really is that simple… though not so easy to achieve.
In sum, all the organs of our body are subject to oxidative stress from the simple and essential physiological processes through which their cells create ATP, the biochemical energy for life. Accordingly, all cells of all organs must also be able to produce glutathione to counter the essential oxidative stress caused by this ATP production.
Critical Roles of Glutathione
In addition to the generation of biochemical energy (ATP), glutathione also plays a critical role in:
- Activation of vitamins such as C and E.
- DNA synthesis and repair
- Liver detoxification (liver cells make and use more glutathione than any other organ)
- Immune system (synthesis of anti-bodies and prostaglandins)
Beyond normal and healthy oxidative processes that occur in cells (such as the creation of ATP), every disease state is associated with elevated levels of oxidative stress beyond what normal levels of glutathione can counteract. It is this oxidative damage that cause diminished function and eventually dysfunction of an organ.
Skin however, is different from all other organs, in that only skin is subject to oxidative stress from internal conditions as well as from external sources such as sun. After all, skin is the only organ that is exposed externally (other than eyes). Thus, it is logical to assume that treating our skin with glutathione would be a very good thing to do, right? However, that doesn’t mean that we should rush to the vitamin store and load up on glutathione pills and cream to spread on our bodies like butter on toast. The idea is correct, glutathione should increase the health of our skin, and if we could get it to our skin cells, perhaps it could give us a “mini face lift” or neck lift.
Glutathione for Skin Whitening
Interestingly, regarding our skin, glutathione actually whitens our skin by inhibiting the production of our natural pigment (melanin). Accordingly, one would then expect that a huge number of skin whitening “miracle” products containing glutathione would flood the market, and in fact, there are some, but none of them are particularly effective. Apparently, this antioxidant is not easily absorbed into the cells of our epithelium (top layer of skin), where melanin is naturally produced. Thus to whiten our skin, glutathione must be administered through an IV.
Nugget: In some Asian cultures, white skin is highly valued. Thus, in cities throughout South Korea and Japan, you will find nail parlors side-by-side skin spas that give women glutathione IVs to whiten their skin.
How Do We Get Glutathione Into Our Cells?
Unfortunately, getting extra amounts of glutathione into our cells is not so easy. When glutathione is taken orally in capsules it is quickly destroyed by our digestive system, nor can our skin absorb this antioxidant from a cream. Therefore, speaking from the perspective of how we are engineered within nature’s (God’s) overall design, it seems that we are meant to make our own glutathione, rather than getting it from our environment.
Nutritional Supplements to Increase Production
Is there anything we can do to increase our own production of glutathione?
The following nutritional supplements have been shown to increase glutathione production, especially in people who are suffering from a condition that impairs their ability to make it.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) – taken as a supplement will increase production in the liver.
- Whey protein concentrates have also been shown to increase production.
- Calcitriol (related to Vitamin D)
Intravenous (IV) Glutathione
So… given how important glutathione is for our health, how can we get it in?
Intravenous administration (IV) is the only way. Hooking you up to an IV bag that contains glutathione is the only efficient way to get it into your body and our skin, where it can have an immediate positive effect on many aspects of your physiology as well as a therapy for many diseases.
People with higher levels of glutathione have fewer illnesses, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Conversely, older people with diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, are found to have lower glutathione levels than their peers who are disease free.
2. Neurological Disease
Both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are characterized by glutathione depletion in affected areas of the brain. Extensive oxidative damage to brain tissue is found in both illnesses, which is helped by glutathione.
3. Hepatitis and Liver Detoxification
Glutathione is depleted in the livers of people suffering from alcoholic liver disease as well as in hepatitis A, B and C. Interestingly, the medication used to treat Hepatitis C loses its effectiveness when glutathione levels are low. In general, liver inflammation due to any cause is calmed by raising glutathione levels helps.
Knowledge Nugget – Glutathione and Liver Failure
Though not one of our patients, I observed a colleague Naturopathic Doctor care for one of her patients that was deathly ill from liver failure caused by the toxic “side-effects” of other medications he was taking. This patient had been scheduled for a liver transplant surgery prescribed by conventional MD’s who had been treating him.
Scared of the surgery, which has a very high probability of complications and death, he sought an out-of-the-box second opinion. My colleague administered a series of high doses of IV glutathione which resurrected his liver and saved his life. By the way, the liver transplant surgery would have cost approximately $600,000. The IVs cost about $2,000. So… makes you wonder doesn’t it?
4. Lung Disease
Inflammatory lung diseases such as interstitial fibrosis and cigarette induced damaged are aggravated by glutathione depletion. Glutathione reduces oxidative damage in lung tissue.
Glutathione helps protect against diabetic complications, including heart disease, kidney failure and blindness.
Glutathione may be beneficial in treating eye diseases such as macular degeneration and degenerative conditions caused by toxins and heavy metals.
Given the ubiquitous positive effects of glutathione on so many vital physiological systems in our body, there is no doubt that it is good for our skin as well. Besides, while the IV is hooked up, there are so many other ingredients that can be added to the IV concoction to improve our overall health in many ways.
The Final Analysis
Because of glutathione’s remarkable positive and regenerative effects on so many organs and tissues throughout our bodies, in a integrative medical practice that is treating your skin, IV therapy that not only improves your overall health and wellbeing can be easily combined with IV elements that can improve your skin as well.
Therefore, when undergoing skin treatments such as: laser skin tightening, non-surgical face lift, neck and jowl tightening, laser skin resurfacing, scar removal treatments and stretch mark removal treatments, appropriate IV therapy can significantly improve the results of your procedures.
About the Authors
Doctors Alice Pien, MD and Asher Milgrom, Phd are established pioneers in the fields of Regenerative Medicine and Skincare. Their expertise ranges from advanced laser systems to stem cell medicine. Their medical education and advanced certifications span from medical schools of NY State University, the University of Chicago, to John Hopkins, Harvard and UCLA. They approach medicine with the clinical expertise of over 85,000 successful treatments over the past 20 years and significant scientific research resulting in proprietary protocols that they customize for each individual patient.
- Pizzorno J. Glutathione!. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):8‐12.
- Krutmann J, Schroeder P. Role of mitochondria in photoaging of human skin: the defective powerhouse model. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2009;14(1):44‐49. doi:10.1038/jidsymp.2009.1
- Witschi, A., Reddy, S., Stofer, B. et al. The systemic availability of oral glutathione. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 43, 667–669 (1992).
- Sonthalia S, Daulatabad D, Sarkar R. Glutathione as a skin whitening agent: Facts, myths, evidence and controversies. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2016;82(3):262‐272. doi:10.4103/0378-6323.179088
- Sen CK. Glutathione homeostasis in response to exercise training and nutritional supplements. Mol Cell Biochem. 1999;196(1-2):31‐42.
- Grey V, Mohammed SR, Smountas AA, Bahlool R, Lands LC. Improved glutathione status in young adult patients with cystic fibrosis supplemented with whey protein [published correction appears in J Cyst Fibros. 2004 Mar;3(1):62]. J Cyst Fibros. 2003;2(4):195‐198. doi:10.1016/S1569-1993(03)00097-3
- Farinati F, Cardin R, D’inca R, Naccarato R, Sturniolo GC. Zinc treatment prevents lipid peroxidation and increases glutathione availability in Wilson’s disease. J Lab Clin Med. 2003;141(6):372‐377. doi:10.1016/S0022-2143(03)00027-1
- Bains JS, Shaw CA. Neurodegenerative disorders in humans: the role of glutathione in oxidative stress-mediated neuronal death. Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 1997;25(3):335‐358. doi:10.1016/s0165-0173(97)00045-3
- Martin HL, Teismann P. Glutathione–a review on its role and significance in Parkinson’s disease. FASEB J. 2009;23(10):3263‐3272. doi:10.1096/fj.08-125443
- Rahman I, MacNee W. Oxidative stress and regulation of glutathione in lung inflammation. Eur Respir J. 2000;16(3):534‐554. doi:10.1034/j.1399-3003.2000.016003534.x