Glutathione, your Master Antioxidant
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.
Rest Hard, Recover Better
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.
Trying to increase glutathione day to day? Try mindful movement.
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:
- healthy and active,
- want to try something new to get off the couch,
- looking to keep inflammation at bay around menopause,
- or trying mitigate the inflammatory side-effects of hypertension or diabetes,
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!
From the office to the gym.
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!
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.
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Written by registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN. Updated 09/22/2020