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What Glutathione (GSH) is and how it affects your immune health
WHAT IS GLUTATHIONE (GSH)?
Glutathione (or GSH) is the body’s own master antioxidant discovered way back in 1889. However, it was only about 30 years ago that the scientists began to understand its functions and discovered how to raise its levels.
GSH is a small protein molecule composed of 3 amino acids: cysteine, glutamate, and glycine called GSH precursors or building blocks.
GSH is produced out of these three precursors in every cell of the human body and performs many important roles, such as:
• Regulation of cell growth and division
For cells to grow and divide they go through several very complex stages. Glutathione reduces the oxides, such as hydrogen peroxide, inside the cell that would otherwise prevent cell division and growth.
• DNA synthesis and repair (synthesis - reproduction/creation of a new copy)
Glutathione protects the DNA from oxidative stress during cell division which allows for DNA synthesis (division). When the DNA is mutated by a free radical stealing an electron from the DNA, glutathione repairs the mutated DNA by giving up an electron to the DNA (replacing the DNA’s missing electron).
• Protein synthesis
Glutathione maintains our proteins in their proper form. Its sulfur atom reacts with unnatural sulfur-sulfur bonds in proteins, breaking them and allowing the proper pairings to form.
• Amino acid transport (transport - movement into, out of, within a cell, or between cells, by means of some agent such as a transporter)
Glutathione is predominately located in the cell, whereas a major fraction of the cellular y-glutamyl transpeptidase (glutathione enzyme) is on the external surface of cell membranes. This means intracellular glutathione is translocated out of many cells – glutathione moves substances, such as amino acids, in and out of the cell.
• Enzyme catalysis
Glutathione provides the mechanism by which many enzymes are changed (reduced, transformed or changed from one state to another state). Glutathione is the bridge (catalysis) in the chemical reaction between some enzymes.
• Enzyme activation
The highly reactive sulfide bond in glutathione wakes up or activates enzymes so that they carry out their function or are moved from one phase to the next.
• Metabolism of toxins (metabolism or biotransformation – breaking down, activating or transforming)
In the liver, the enzyme glutathione S-transferase takes the sulfur from glutathione and attaches it to toxic molecules, this makes the toxin more water soluble (it is diluted in water easily). Once a toxin is water soluble, it is transported to the body's elimination systems and is excreted from the body.
• Metabolism of carcinogens
Glutathione enzymes transform carcinogens, through chemical reaction, to unreactive and non-genotoxic compounds that can be eliminated without causing damage to the cell or DNA.
• Metabolism of xenobiotics (xenobiotics - chemical components (drugs and poisons) foreign to the body)
Glutathione interacts with foreign chemicals (primarily, it is a scavenger of harmful xenobiotics that have been oxidized) compounds to neutralize and break them down, then eliminate them from the body.
• Conjugation to heavy metals (conjugation – joining with and transforming by becoming part of)
Glutathione joins with heavy metals to neutralize them and eliminate them from the body.
• Conjugation to xenobiotics
In some instances, depending on the state of the xenobiotic, glutathione joins with it instead of metabolizing it.
• Enhancement of systemic immune function
The immune system works best if the lymphoid cells have properly balanced glutathione. The cloning of T-cells consumes large quantities of cysteine. Macrophages (type of white blood cells), which are only present in sufficient quintiles when there is sufficient glutathione, provide the cysteine for the T-cell cloning. Glutathione regulates the binding, internalization, degradation and T-cell proliferation by increasing, as much as two times, the number of binding cellular receptors. More receptors equates to more T-cells being produced simultaneously (multiple T-cell cloning). Cellular GSH also affects the growth and replication of T-cells through growth stimulating cytokines.
• Enhancement of humoral immune function
The role of glutathione in the humoral response is that it protects the cells taking part in the humoral response all along this complex process.
A quick synapsis of the humoral immune response: “humoral” means circulating in the bloodstream. This is an immune response (chiefly against bacterial invasion) that is mediated by B cells and involves the transformation of B cells into plasma cells that produce and secrete antibodies to a specific antigen.
The process in a nutshell: macrophages engulf and digest the invading pathogen. The digested pieces activate helper T cells which in turn activate the proliferation of B cells that are programed for the specific invading pathogen.
• Resistance to UV radiation
Glutathione detoxifies reactive oxygen radicals created by radiation which reduces the damage to the cell. Glutathione also interacts covalently and noncovalently (neutralizes the reactivity in several ways) with parts of the cell that keep the cell from triggering apoptosis (cell death).
• Decreases radiation damage
The action of glutathione in decreasing the damage from radiation is the same as in resistance to UV radiation above.
• Decreases free radical damage
The crucial cysteine molecule is the key to the protection afforded by glutathione. Its sulfur atom scavenges destructive molecules (peroxides and free radicals) converting them to harmless compounds, such as water.
• Decreases oxyradical damage
Glutathione detoxifies reactive oxygen radicals by giving them an electron which effectively neutralizes them, or glutathione joins with the oxyradical which again neutralizes it.
• Metabolizing of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)
Glutathione biotransforms hydrogen peroxide by turning it into harmless water.
• Recycling of other antioxidants (master antioxidant role)
Glutathione recycles oxidized lipoic acid, vitamin C and E by restoring them to an active state, mostly by donating the electrons that they used in metabolizing (neutralizing) free radicals. So, instead of having this army of antioxidants flushed out, they are recycled by glutathione and sent back out to work.
• Storage and transport of cysteine
Glutathione is a tripeptide made up of amino acids CYSTEINE, glycine and glutamate. Glutathione provides and determines the amount and availability of neuronal cysteine.
• Regulation of homocysteine
The methionine cycle and the transsulfuration sequence compose the mechanisms for homocysteine metabolism. Transsulfuration sequence requires large quantities of cysteine. It is suspected that the rapid turnover of glutathione in the liver, kidneys, small intestine and pancreas accounts for the metabolism of homocysteine in these organs. Homocysteine metabolism also involves multiple enzymes. Excessive homocysteine is a known contributing factor of hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis).
• Participation in nutrient metabolism
• and more
Jean Carper in her book "Stop Aging Now!" claims: "You must get your levels of GSH up if you want to keep your youth and live longer. High levels of GSH predict good health and long life. Low levels predict early disease and death."