Your master antioxidant, glutathione, is endogenous - meaning it’s not an antioxidant you take as a supplement, it’s one that your body makes (see more in our last post).
However, making sure you have enough isn’t just about eating the best building blocks of glutathione. Having enough glutathione is also about minimizing triggers for chronic inflammation and oxidative stress in the first place, and then giving your body a chance to manage its own antioxidant and anti-inflammatory responses.
The recommendations to be healthy always come down to lifestyle, diet and exercise - enhancing your antioxidant system is no different. So let’s go a bit deeper on the science-backed tips for keeping your master antioxidant in good shape.
You know how difficult it can be to get amped up to exercise sometimes? Just thinking about how much you’re about to work your muscles and joints and how sore you’re about to be is enough to make you want to pull the covers tight and stay in bed.
Let’s not kid ourselves, the pain after an intense workout is a clear sign of oxidative stress and inflammation - so how does something that very obviously creates damage also lead to higher glutathione levels?
Lets break this down. Exercise leads to oxidative stress. But, exercise leads to higher glutathione and antioxidant status. A lack of exercise, also known as being sedentary, leads to lower glutathione status. So what’s going on here? Shouldn’t I be better off not damaging my muscles in the first place?
The reason why exercise can lead to better antioxidative capacity is in a principle called hormesis.
Hormesis is the idea that “a little bit of a bad thing can be a good thing”. It’s when something that causes initial damage creates a positive response that more than accounts for the damage. Supercompensation is another term for it in the athletic training field. This is how chemicals in plants can create a healthy nitric oxide response, leading to vein flexibility and better heart health. This is how your body positively adapts to appropriate levels of damage.
Hormesis is the process behind resilience. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like one of the most important things for every person on the planet!
Look at the generalized chart below. See how glutathione levels are higher after exercise? Compare that to the sedentary response, where no inflammatory trigger leads to… well, nothing.
No exercise = no recovery = no adaptation. Gives you some perspective on the phrase “No pain, no gain”, doesn’t it?
You don’t see the benefits of exercise by looking at one time point. Glutathione levels go down as your muscles produce work. Then a healthy body with adequate nutrition compensates for the damage by setting your glutathione levels higher than they were when you started.
The key here is supporting your entire antioxidant system - not just the amount of antioxidants you eat. Regular exercise - not so intense that your body can’t adapt, and not so much that your body doesn’t have time to recover - will keep your body’s own antioxidant production healthy throughout life.
An under recovered athlete becomes an injured athlete. ® There’s no better recovery than sleep. In fact, it’s a prime way to increase the capacity of your whole antioxidant status - antioxidant levels, the enzymes that keep them healthy, and the resulting type of inflammatory response. Even short-term sleep deprivation leads to reduced glutathione and dysregulated metabolism.
The good news is that even if you’re one in three Americans who have trouble sleeping, you can support your antioxidant system and your sleep at the same time. Our collagen blend provides potent antioxidant activators to help you recover. One serving also gives you about 5 grams of naturally-occurring glycine. Which is about the same dose that’s been well researched to improve your sleep (see studies here, here, and here). Try out our nutrient-dense collagen blend before you go to bed next to see if glycine is the piece of the insomnia puzzle you’re missing!
Trying to wind down before going to bed? Get in touch with your breath and your body. As we give more attention to our breath, we can see just how much value we have in our mind-body connection. Yoga has become almost a regular part of any urban setting: more than 13% of American’s have tried it and most know it’s usefulness for lowering stress and inflammation.
That yoga mat strapped to people’s backs is a tell-tale message of an hour well-spent on finding balance and combating busy. And for good reason.
Types of yoga, meditation, and tai chi lower stress hormones like cortisol, quench damaging oxidants, replenish your antioxidant system, and minimize inflammation. More than 3000 people have been in medically-supervised studies showing the anti-inflammatory effects that yoga and mindfulness-based stress reduction can have. Whether you’re:
Yoga has been studied in just about everyone you can think of. Try it out once per week for about three months and you might be surprised at how good you can feel!
It’s an aggravating necessity of many of our lives to be in meetings that aren’t a good use for our time. We’d all rather be somewhere else. Taking a moment for mindfulness at work instead of squandered time has been shown to lower one marker of inflammation. But it was only one - to get the full-system benefits of meditation, it looks like you have to get your body and breathing more engaged in the process. We’ll have to do a bit more than shut our eyes away from the workplace to get the real antioxidative benefits that mindfulness can have!
Approaching fitness with the same awareness about stress and fatigue may help prevent injuries, since mood and injuries might be linked in elite athletes. Besides their anti-inflammatory and anti-stress effects, yoga and tai chi can be a great way to stay moving on rest days and can offer benefits for mobility, especially if you’re trying to stay fit into your golden years.
✅ Glutathione is your body’s own internal antioxidant.
✅ Glutathione levels might be low if you smoke, or have asthma, osteoarthritis, chronic inflammation, poor sleep or insomnia, diabetes, heart disease or Alzheimer’s disease.
✅ Exercise creates a “hormetic response”, where the small amount of stress in a typical exercise can lead to positive adaptation if you have enough rest and good nutrition.
✅ Maximize recovery with mindfulness. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, and other breathing and movement practices are clinically shown to reduce oxidative stress, raise glutathione, and recover your best so you can get to feeling your best!
Good exercise and good rest are great and all, but who can say that they’re able to get that all the time? Changing what you eat might help you minimize the damage done when self-care can’t fit into your current routine.
We want to hear from you! Comment below with your thoughts and questions and we’ll get back to you in future posts.
See our next post in this series on total antioxidant capacity with: How to Enhance Glutathione with Nutrition and Supplements.You do not want to miss out on it.
Bannai, Makoto, Nobuhiro Kawai, Kaori Ono, Keiko Nakahara, and Noboru Murakami. “The Effects of Glycine on Subjective Daytime Performance in Partially Sleep-Restricted Healthy Volunteers.” Frontiers in Neurology 3 (2012): 61. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2012.00061.
Cramer, Holger, Lesley Ward, Amie Steel, Romy Lauche, Gustav Dobos, and Yan Zhang. “Prevalence, Patterns, and Predictors of Yoga Use: Results of a U.S. Nationally Representative Survey.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 50, no. 2 (February 2016): 230–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2015.07.037.
Elokda, Ahmed S., and David H. Nielsen. “Effects of Exercise Training on the Glutathione Antioxidant System.” European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation: Official Journal of the European Society of Cardiology, Working Groups on Epidemiology & Prevention and Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Physiology 14, no. 5 (October 2007): 630–37. https://doi.org/10.1097/HJR.0b013e32828622d7.
Fisher-Wellman, Kelsey, and Richard J. Bloomer. “Acute Exercise and Oxidative Stress: A 30 Year History.” Dynamic Medicine: DM 8 (January 13, 2009): 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-5918-8-1.
Galambos, S. A., P. C. Terry, G. M. Moyle, and S. A. Locke. “Psychological Predictors of Injury among Elite Athletes.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 39, no. 6 (June 1, 2005): 351–54. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2005.018440.
Goon, J. A., A. H. Noor Aini, M. Musalmah, M. Y. Yasmin Anum, W. M. Wan Nazaimoon, and W. Z. Wan Ngah. “Effect of Tai Chi Exercise on DNA Damage, Antioxidant Enzymes, and Oxidative Stress in Middle-Age Adults.” Journal of Physical Activity & Health 6, no. 1 (January 2009): 43–54.
Hackney, Madeleine E., and Steven L. Wolf. “Impact of Tai Chi Chu’an Practice on Balance and Mobility in Older Adults: An Integrative Review of 20 Years of Research.” Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy (2001) 37, no. 3 (September 2014): 127–35. https://doi.org/10.1519/JPT.0b013e3182abe784.
Hegde, Shreelaxmi V., Prabha Adhikari, Shashidhar Kotian, Veena J. Pinto, Sydney D’Souza, and Vivian D’Souza. “Effect of 3-Month Yoga on Oxidative Stress in Type 2 Diabetes with or without Complications: A Controlled Clinical Trial.” Diabetes Care 34, no. 10 (October 2011): 2208–10. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc10-2430.
Huang, Xing-Yu, Wichai Eungpinichpong, Atit Silsirivanit, Saowanee Nakmareong, and Xiu-Hua Wu. “Tai Chi Improves Oxidative Stress Response and DNA Damage/Repair in Young Sedentary Females.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science 26, no. 6 (June 2014): 825–29. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.26.825.
Mahagita, Chitrawina. “Roles of Meditation on Alleviation of Oxidative Stress and Improvement of Antioxidant System.” Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand = Chotmaihet Thangphaet 93 Suppl 6 (November 2010): S242-254.
Malarkey, William B., David Jarjoura, and Maryanna Klatt. “Workplace Based Mindfulness Practice and Inflammation: A Randomized Trial.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 27, no. 1 (January 2013): 145–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2012.10.009.
Manna, Indranil. “Effects of Yoga Training on Body Composition and Oxidant-Antioxidant Status among Healthy Male.” International Journal of Yoga 11, no. 2 (August 2018): 105–10. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_31_17.
Nyberg, Michael, Stefan P. Mortensen, Helena Cabo, Mari-Carmen Gomez-Cabrera, Jose Viña, and Ylva Hellsten. “Roles of Sedentary Aging and Lifelong Physical Activity in Exchange of Glutathione across Exercising Human Skeletal Muscle.” Free Radical Biology and Medicine 73 (August 1, 2014): 166–73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2014.05.008.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "One in four Americans develop insomnia each year: 75 percent of those with insomnia recover." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 June 2018. .https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180605154114.htm.
Palasuwan, A., I. Margaritis, S. Soogarun, and A.-S. Rousseau. “Dietary Intakes and Antioxidant Status in Mind-Body Exercising Pre- and Postmenopausal Women.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging 15, no. 7 (August 2011): 577–84.
Pascoe, Michaela C., David R. Thompson, and Chantal F. Ski. “Yoga, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Stress-Related Physiological Measures: A Meta-Analysis.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 86 (December 2017): 152–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.08.008.
Patil, Satish G., Gopal B. Dhanakshirur, Manjunatha R. Aithala, Govindanagouda Naregal, and Kusal K. Das. “Effect of Yoga on Oxidative Stress in Elderly with Grade-I Hypertension: A Randomized Controlled Study.” Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: JCDR 8, no. 7 (July 2014): BC04-07. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2014/9498.4586.
Trivedi, Malav S., Dana Holger, Anh Tuyet Bui, Travis J. A. Craddock, and Jaime L. Tartar. “Short-Term Sleep Deprivation Leads to Decreased Systemic Redox Metabolites and Altered Epigenetic Status.” PLoS ONE 12, no. 7 (July 24, 2017). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181978.
Yamadera, Wataru, Kentaro Inagawa, Shintaro Chiba, Makoto Bannai, Michio Takahashi, and Kazuhiko Nakayama. “Glycine Ingestion Improves Subjective Sleep Quality in Human Volunteers, Correlating with Polysomnographic Changes.” Sleep and Biological Rhythms 5, no. 2 (2007): 126–31. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00262.x.
Written by registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN. Updated 09/22/2020