Glutathione has many important functions in our body, and we will briefly discuss all of these here, but most importantly, it is the king of antioxidants! Unfortunately, our body has to manufacture Glutathione from other vitamins and minerals, so if we are not taking good care of ourselves glutathione levels can be deficient, and with this comes consequences.
Role as an Antioxidant
If you can go back to high school biology you may remember that in order for a cell to create energy the mitochondria must produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is a necessary function in every cell. In your eggs it is vital for their health (one reason why science is actually transplanting younger mitochondria into advanced maternal age women’s eggs) and in sperm it is essential for strong progressive forward swimming and fertilization of the egg. Obviously, without a doubt, the health of the mitochondria is paramount to fertility.
The mitochondria use much of the oxygen we breathe in to produce ATP. In doing so, the O2 molecule becomes oxidized which creates free radicals (i.e. H2O2 and formaldehyde) or oxidative stress on the body. Basically, this is mitochondria exhaust and it is bad for cellular and tissue health. Guess whose job it is to clean up this oxidative stress…yup, glutathione, the king anti-’oxidant’. Therefore if glutathione is deficient, the result is damage to the mitochondria. This is why glutathione is so important for whole and more particularly, reproductive health.
Note: Glutathione’s protective effects are enhanced when enough vitamin C is also present (another potent antioxidant).
Role in Immune Function
Glutathione helps fight infections by stimulating cytokine production and the immune response. Nitric oxide is required for fighting infections and is dependent on glutathione for its production. Yeasts, mold, infections, and inflammation all require glutathione to fight and detoxify. Therefore low glutathione levels allow for increased inflammation and autoimmunity.
Role in Detoxification
As mentioned, glutathione is our primary protector, and a large part of this job is defending us from environmental toxins, many of which can disrupt hormone levels. We are exposed to these toxins collectively known as ‘xenobiotics’ mostly through contact with plastics, chemicals, pollution, heavy metals, and pesticides. If glutathione levels are low, xenobiotics can cause damage to cellular DNA, cell membranes, and mitochondria.
Role in Weight Control
If glutathione levels are low our bodies become more toxic. A body that is toxic will store fat. When glutathione levels are low the mitochondria does not utilize food as well for energy production, so it will store energy as fat.
Note: Unhealthy diets high in sugars and oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids (industrially produced vegetable oils, i.e. canola & soy), as well as overeating in general, will deplete glutathione levels.
Role in Stress
Any excess or chronic stress will affect the body, and its response is to create free radicals. H2O2 or hydrogen peroxide is one of the main toxic substances produced by stress. As previously stated, glutathione rids the body of H2O2 by converting it to water (H20). If glutathione levels are low, or chronic stress is too high, the protective function of glutathione fails.
Other Vital Roles
Many of these detailed functions are beyond the scope of this post but are worth mentioning here so that the true importance and impact of glutathione is realized. Glutathione is essential in;
- The delivery of B12 to cells
- DNA protein synthesis
- Proper gene methylation
- Dopamine and serotonin production
- Heart & blood vessel (endothelial) health
- Cellular apoptosis
As you can see, glutathione is clearly a part of so many aspects of our whole health and fertility that ensuring adequate levels is often an integral part of our treatment plans. Glutathione is administered via injection or inhalation because it cannot be absorbed orally. Glutathione injections are a quick, easy, and virtually painless way to improve egg and sperm health in preparation for either natural conception or assisted reproductive procedures such as IVF.
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