Glutathione: The Great Fixer

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Glutathione for Lyme Disease Support

Glutathione is a very strong antioxidant found in everyone's cells. It may

  • lower cellular waste products called oxidation agents and free radicals,
  • repair cell damage, and
  • remove toxins.

In chronic Lyme disease and coinfections, based on its function and my clinical experience, it is a useful support for

  • liver detoxification,
  • liver inflammation,
  • herxheimer reactions,
  • injured nerves, and
  • severe cognition (thinking) dysfunction.

Marty Ross MD Discusses Glutathione

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Liver Detoxification

Glutathione is the master detoxification agent. The liver is the organ that removes fat-based toxins, and it contains the greatest concentration of glutathione found throughout the body. There are two general steps it uses to remove toxins. These are called Phase I and Phase II detox. Glutathione is used in both of these steps. Through liver detoxification fat-based toxins are transformed in to water-based toxins. These are then moved through the gall bladder and bile system in to the intestines where they are then pooped out.

When liver detoxification is impaired, the problem is usually more of a Phase II detox issue than a Phase I. This is a problem because Phase I changes toxins into even greater toxic substances before they are made into water-based toxins in Phase II. Many mistakenly use the herb milk thistle to protect the liver and to support detox. The problem with this is milk thistle mainly supports Phase I detox. If Phase II detox is blocked then milk thistle leads to even greater toxin production. So this is where glutathione comes in. It supports both Phase I and Phase II detox. It can be used by itself to improve liver detox. Or it can be combined with milk thistle and other herbs.

Herxheimer Die-off Reactions

When Lyme germs are killed they release toxins, free radicals, and oxidizing agents. Free radicals and oxidizing agents are made inside of all cells. They are waste products created in cell metabolism and cell chemical reactions. These chemicals damage cell membranes and even the DNA in our genes. Obviously this is a problem, but in Lyme disease the greater problem is that oxidizing agents and free radicals trigger more production of inflammation chemicals called cytokines. In addition, toxins also trigger excess cytokine production.

The release of excess cytokines caused by the killing of Lyme germs is called a Herxheimer die-off reaction. For this glutathione is a good support. For more information about this and the steps you can take to limit it see Herxheimer Die-off Reaction: Inflammation Run Amok on this site.

So glutathione may help in Herxheimer die-off reactions for two reasons. First, it helps the liver remove toxins released from inside of the dead lyme germs so they do not trigger cytokine production. Second glutathione is a powerful anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants can decrease oxidizing agents and free-radicals which decreases cytokines too.

Nerve and Brain Repair

Glutathione is found in every cell of our body. By lowering oxidizing agents and free radicals, it allows for normal cell repair functions to occur. In this way it is the master repair agent of a cell. Excess cell damage and decreased cell function can occur from Lyme germs and other stressors. Under assault there is greater cell production of oxidizing agents and free radicals. Ultimately these damage the cell power factories called mitochondria. Without power cells can not heal. And without adequate glutathione, mitochondria cannot heal as free radicals and oxidizing agents continue to bombard these cell power plants.

The problem in chronic infection states like Lyme is the cell glutathione levels eventually become too low trying to keep up with mitochondria and cell injury caused by Lyme germs and the coinfections. This is particularly a problem in nerve cells.

Filling up a cell's glutathione gas tank can help nerve cells repair and recover. In my experience I have seen marked improvements in thinking and neuropathy (nerve damage) when I used glutathione with my patients. For more information on this see My Brain Isn't Working .... I Think.

Liver Repair

Certain antibiotics, infections including the Lyme germ, and toxins can inflame the liver. As I describe above, glutathione is the master repair agent for all cells in the body. This includes liver cells as well. Liver inflammation is measured using two liver enzymes called ALT and AST. In my practice I would allow these to increase up to two times the upper limit of normal. But if they got higher than this, I would have my patients take glutathione. This did work to lower the enzymes about 90 percent of the time. I would have my patients then remain on the glutathione while they continued the medicines that could increase liver inflammation.

Supplements to Raise Glutathione

There are two different ways to use supplements which support raising glutathione. The first is to take oral glutathione. For those that cannot tolerate this due to taste or allergies, then the building blocks for glutathione called glutathione precursors can help. Of these the oral glutathione is the strongest.

Liposomal Glutathione 500 mg 1 or 2 times a day. Glutathione is mixed with fats called phospholipids This can increase the abosorption of glutathione. This is known as liposomal glutathione. Without these fats, the glutathione is mostly destroyed in the gut.

Glutathione Precursors. A supplement that includes N-Acetyl Cysteine 200 mg, Alpha Lipoic Acid 200 mg, and Glutamic Acid 200 mg. One capsule of this combination 3 times a day. These are building blocks used inside of cells to construct glutathione.

Glutathione with Physician Assistance

There are two other ways to take Glutathione. Both of these are stronger than using the supplements above because they go directly into the bloodstream.

Glutathione by Nebulizer. A nebulizer is a machine that you can find over the counter in any pharmacy. It converts liquid glutathione into a fine mist that a person breaths in. The lungs have great blood flow and the glutathione is easliy absorbed into the bloodstream this way. It can be given in three different strengths that are mixed up by a compounding pharmacy. It requires a prescription.

It comes as 60mg/ml, 100mg/ml and 200mg/ml. Patients nebulize 2 ml of either of these strenghts 2 times a day. This substance can be irritating at first creating a burning sensation in the lungs, Because of this, for some it could be better to start at the 100 mg or 60 mg dose, but my preference and most effective dose is the 200mg/ml.

Glutathione by IV. This is administered in an integrative medicine physician's office. I used Glutathione IV 1200 mg to 2500 mg 2 times a week for a minimum of four treatments. If it helps but there are still improvements with the last treatment, consider weakly treatments until improvements plateau. People often feel more tired after the first treatment.

I reserved IV Glutathione for people who were having severe Herxheimer die-off reactions or severe neurologic Lyme not improving with the supplements above.


The ideas and recommendations on this website and in this article are for informational purposes only. For more information about this, see the sitewide Terms & Conditions.


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About The Author

Marty Ross, MD is a passionate Lyme disease educator and clinical expert. He helps Lyme sufferers and their physicians see what really works based on his review of the science and extensive real-world experience. Dr. Ross is licensed to practice medicine in Washington State (License: MD00033296) where he has treated thousands of Lyme disease patients in his Seattle practice.

Marty Ross, MD is a graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine and Georgetown University Family Medicine Residency. He is a member of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The Institute for Functional Medicine, and The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).

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