Glutathione is an antioxidant that is naturally produced by the liver's cells and is also found in fruits, vegetables, and meats. It is comprised largely of three amino acids: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. 

Glutathione level in the body may be reduced by a number of factors, including poor nutrition, environmental toxins, and stress. Its levels also decline as we age.

In addition to being produced by the body, glutathione can be given intravenously, topically, or inhaled. It is also available as an oral supplement in capsule and liquid form. However, oral ingestion of glutathione may not be as effective as intravenous delivery for some conditions.

It is common for people to take glutathione by mouth for treating cataracts, and glaucoma, preventing aging, treating or preventing alcoholism, asthma, cancer, heart disease, hepatitis, liver disease, disease that weaken the body's defense system (including AIDS and chronic fatigue syndrome), memory loss, Alzheimer's Disease, osteoporosis arthritis, and Parkingson's disease. Glutathione is also used for maintaining the body's defense system (immune system) and for fighting metal and drug poisoning. 

Glutathione is used by healthcare providers intravenously for preventing "tired blood" (anemia) in many patients undergoing hemodialysis treatment, preventing kidney problems after heart bypass surgery, treating Parkinson's Disease, improving blood flow and decreasing clotting in individuals with "hardening of the arteries" (atherosclerosis), treating diabetes, and preventing toxic side effects of chemotherapy 

So how does Glutathione work?

Glutathione is involved in many processes in the body, including tissue building and repair, making chemicals and proteins needed in the body, and for the immune system.

What are some of the benefits of Glutathione?

1. Reduces Oxidative Stress

Oxadiative stress results when there is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body's ability to fight them off. Too high levels of oxidative stress may be a precursor to multiple diseases. These include diabetes, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. Glutathione helps stave off the impact of oxidative stress, which may in turn, reduce disease. Reduced levels of glutathione have been linked with increased levels of oxidative stress, which may lead to cancer.

2. Reduction in cell damage in alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Cell death in the liver may be exacerbated by a deficiency in antioxidants, including glutathione This can lead to fatty liver disease in both those who misuse alcohol and those that do not. Glutathione has been shown to improve proteins enzyme, and bilirubin levels in the blood of individuals with alcoholic and nonalcoholic chronic fatty liver disease. A study reported that glutathione was most effective when given to people with fatty liver debase intravenously. In another study, glutathione was provided in small amounts and was shown to have positive effects on people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. 

3. Age decreases Glutathione production

As people age, they prouce less and less glutathione. Researchers have used a combination of animal and human studies to explore the role of glutathione in weight management and insulin resistance in older individuals. Study findings indicated that low glutathione levels were associated with less fat burning and higher rates of fat storing in the body. 

4. Reduction in Parkinson's disease symptoms

Parkinson's disease affects the central nervous system and is defined by symptoms such as tremors. It currently has no cure but studies have documented glutathione's intravenous positive effects on symptoms such as tremors and rigidity. While more research is needed, this case report suggests that glutathione may help reduce symptoms, improving quality of life in people with this disease.

5. Glutathione may help fight autoimmune disease

Chronic inflammation caused by autoimmune diseases can increase oxidative stress. These diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, celiac diseases, and lupus. According to a study, glutathione helps reduce oxidative stress by either stimulating or reducing the body's immunological response. Autoimmune diseases attack the mitochondria in specific cells. Glutathione works to protect cell mitochondria by eliminating free radicals.

6. Glutathione may help reduce impact of uncontrolled diabetes

Long-term high blood sugar is associated with reduced amounts of glutathione. This can lead to oxidative stress and tissue damage. A study found that dietary supplementation with cysteine and glycine boosted glutathione levels. It also lowered oxidative stress and damage in people with uncontrolled diabetes, despite high sugar levels. 


Glutathione contains sulfur molecules, which may be why foods high in sulfur help to boost its natural production in the body. These foods include:

  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy

  • allium vegetables such as garlic and onions

  • eggs

  • nuts

  • legumes

  • lean proteins such as fish and chicken

Other foods and herbs that help to naturally boost glutathione levels include:

  • milk thistle

  • flaxseed

  • guso seaweed

  • whey

Glutathione is also negatively affected by insomnia. Getting enough rest on a regular basis can help increase levels.

Side effects and risks

A diet rich in glutathione boosting foods does not pose any risks. However, taking supplements may not be advisable for everyone. Talk to your doctor about glutathione to determine if it is right for you. Possible side effects may include:

  • abdominal cramps

  • bloating

  • trouble breathing due to bronchial constriction

  • allergic reactions such as a rash


Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that is made in the body's cells. Its levels decrease as a result of aging, stress, and toxin exposure. Boosting glutathione may provide many health benefits, including reduction of oxidative stress. 


Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph. D, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, Written by Corey Whelan, November 21, 2017,

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