Glutathione, the master health protector, can also prevent the flu

Glutathione is a peptide or small protein that the body makes to protect itself from free radicals, oxidative stress and the harmful effects of environmental toxins. Oxidative stress refers to damage at the level of DNA and other cell structures resulting from exposure to free radicals or toxins. This damage is often where critical illnesses like cancer or heart disease originate.

Glutathione is considered to be the most powerful antioxidant in the body. It is also a detoxifier in that it binds to toxic metals or cancer-causing chemicals and safely “escorts” them out of the body. The efficiency of detoxification depends to a large degree on how much glutathione is available

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, and glutathione levels vary dramatically from person to person.

One cause of this variability is a difference in genetic traits. Genetic variants determine how much glutathione will be produced in a given individual and the difference is dramatic. Even under optimal conditions glutathione produced in one person can be half as much as in someone else (Richie et al, Clin Chem 42:64, 1996). Research is now showing that people with a gene variant named GAG-7 who produce the least glutathione have a higher rate of cancer (research presented at a recent conference by John P. Richie, PhD of Penn State University College of Medicine and currently submitted for publication).

Glutathione can also become depleted independently of genetic factors because of poor diet, exposure to toxins, chronic illness, and aging. Declining levels of glutathione are a major reason why many illnesses like cancer occur with much greater frequency in aging individuals than in young people.

There are many different nutritional approaches aimed at restoring healthy glutathione levels. A supplement called NAC was proven to stimulate the body to produce more glutathione. There are also many combination supplements, some sold by multi-level marketing companies that claim to raise glutathione.

The limitation with all of these supplements is that at best they can stimulate more youthful levels of glutathione, but none can overcome the genetic “blueprint” that determines how much a person will make. The only known way to overcome this limit and benefit from higher levels of glutathione is to take glutathione itself. This is easy enough because glutathione is readily available as a supplement and is relatively inexpensive.

However, until just recently it was believed – without studies to prove it – that taking glutathione by mouth was ineffective and the only way to raise glutathione levels was by intravenous injection. Creams were developed in the hope that they could provide an alternative to injections but with no proof that absorption through the skin was possible.

These beliefs are now changing. Animal research has already proven that glutathione levels go up in direct proportion to how much is given by mouth, and new human research conducted by Dr. Richie at Penn State University is showing the same to be true in humans (see NCT01044277, this research is new and not yet published).

I am happy that research is finally showing this, because I have observed for years in my practice that when glutathione was given by mouth it had better effects than when given by other means, including creams. I am now stocking in my office the same glutathione used by Dr. Richie in his research, a product called Reduced Glutathione Powder. The upcoming flu season is a great time to try it, as research has shown it to be effective in preventing the flu if taken in a form that saturates the membranes in the mouth and throat. If you take it for this purpose I recommend placing it directly in your mouth and allowing it to dissolve slowly (see

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