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Parkinson’s Disease

While glutathione is useful for virtually any disease or health challenge, it is particularly useful for debilitating neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease (PD). There are studies using intravenous (IV) glutathione that demonstrate its ability to improve Parkinson’s symptoms. People with this chronic progressive neurological disorder have high levels of oxidative stress and premature cellular die off in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. Another hallmark of PD is the loss of the brain’s ability to make dopamine. While more studies are needed to further determine the ways in which glutathione helps PD, we have some solid medical theories, the premise of which continues to be borne out as research progresses.

We know that glutathione reduces specific free radical activity that interferes with the proper levels of both dopamine and acetylcholine, which is believed to be the neurochemical imbalance underlying Parkinson’s disease (PD).

As early as 1996, a study entitled “Reduced intravenous glutathione in the treatment of early Parkinson’s disease” found that the progression of PD was reduced, and symptoms improved by 42% after only 30 days of treatment. However, the practice of using glutathione for PD was not widespread, because it had to be administered directly into the veins (IV), necessitating clinic visits and medical staff inserting needles for proper administration.

In another 2009 study, Dr. David Perlmutter, a neurologist at The Perlmutter Health Center, oversaw a human pilot study on the use of IV glutathione for PD, the results of which he published in Movement Disorders. The researchers reported significant improvement during one month of glutathione treatment. When the treatments stopped, the symptoms worsened again. Dr. Perlmutter’s group stated that glutathione was safe and well tolerated.

Research on using therapeutic glutathione is incredibly encouraging for this incurable neurological disease. The stumbling block has always been that it has to be given IV, in a clinic licensed for administration of intravenous drugs, in order to be effective. There are not many clinics nationwide offering this service, and it is very expensive. It is truly a medical break-through to be able to provide this glutathione in an oral form that is still absorbed in its most effective form, without the need for needles, clinics, and huge amounts of medical bills.


Cancer is a disease of improper cellular replication. Cell DNA is damaged and the cell’s offspring no longer die on schedule. Oddly, when our body makes immortal cells, our own mortality is in danger. This is the origin of cancer. The immune system destroys cancer cells because it detects this abnormality. However, when too many cancer cells are created, and/or our immune system cannot keep up, we end up with cancer. Not all cancer is the same – there are a myriad of causes and it can affect each person in a highly differentiated manner.

One commonality, however, is that glutathione is useful for the prevention of all cancers via a variety of mechanisms. By protecting the DNA even from the harshest free radicals, our blueprints remain undamaged and less likely to become cancerous cells. And by promoting rapid and effective detoxification, glutathione greatly reduces our overall cellular exposure to toxins, many of which are known carcinogens.

Researchers have explored how glutathione may be useful during cancer treatment as well. In a 2008 study in Japan, doctors found that using IV glutathione dramatically reduced nerve damage in patients being treated with certain kinds of chemotherapy that cause neurotoxicity.

Because glutathione is so crucial to detoxification and immune system vigor, many integrative practitioners use glutathione as part of their clinical protocols for a wide variety of cancers.

Lyme Disease

Many health issues are made even more challenging by the burden of free radicals. Consider the tick-borne Lyme disease, caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which sometimes manifests itself in “bullseye” pattern skin lesions, but can later progress to muscle dysfunction, arthritis, facial palsy, and more. The body’s glutathione levels are depleted in an effort to reduce the damage and spread of the disease.

However, antibiotic treatment doesn’t address the need for the body to help heal itself. In fact, Polish researchers found that patients using antibiotics to treat the skin lesion phase of the disease still had heavy free-radical activity. Even though antibiotics in this case are standard medical procedure, the resulting oxidative damage weakens the system.

This is why glutathione, because it replenishes the body’s own levels, has become a standard practice in the integrative treatment of Lyme disease. I believe it is good practice to bolster your glutathione ratio with an oral form anytime you are going to spend extended time outdoors, or if you live in a particularly tick-heavy environment during the spring, summer, and fall months. If you already have Lyme disease, an oral form should help reduce recurring flare-ups.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Serbian researchers examined the relationship between oxidative stress, free-radical activity, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Even though patients with RA showed higher plasma levels of superoxide dismutase (another of the body’s “super antioxidants”), they also had high levels of pro-oxidants, and increased nitric oxide, an inflammatory marker. Other research with RA patients in Italy showed a strong correlation between inflammation, oxidative stress, and lowered glutathione levels in the bloodstream. In fact, a clinical study in Jordan found that patients with RA showed a 50% depletion of reduced glutathione compared to healthy controls. The researchers concluded that “defense mechanisms against reactive oxygen species are impaired in RA.” To me, this sounds like a strong reason for anyone with RA to add active glutathione to their daily regimen.

Since rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease – meaning the body is working against itself – many of the treatment options can seem limited to pain reduction, rather than helping the body get its immune balance back in shape. However, many current studies examining the relationship between RA, oxidative stress, and inflammation seem to share the conclusion that getting those factors under control is critical to stopping the arterial stiffness and damage of the disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Virtually all neurological diseases have some level of oxidative damage as a root cause or major contributor to dysfunction. Therefore, it is not surprising that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have been the focus of much glutathione research.

A recent study entitled “Elevation of glutathione as a therapeutic strategy in Alzheimer’s disease” concludes: “Increasing glutathione remains a promising therapeutic strategy to slow or prevent MCI and Alzheimer’s disease.” Considering that glutathione levels continue to decline as we age, and that both AD and MCI increase with age, supplementation with effective glutathione can play an important role in prevention, or slowing the progression of this disease.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

One hallmark of HIV is the inability of the immune system to function properly. People with HIV often develop infections that can become life-threatening, and one such infection is tuberculosis. Researchers extracted immune system cells from people with HIV to see how well these cells would control the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis. They found that the infection itself caused a depletion in glutathione, and that the immune cells, in turn, could not control the mycobacteria. By boosting the body’s levels of active glutathione, the cells could once again control the mycobacteria. The researchers theorized that glutathione depletion may play at least a partial causative role in reduced immune response in people with HIV, and that increasing systemic glutathione could improve immune system function in this group.

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