Glutathione (GSH) is a very important antioxidant in the human body, helping to fight oxidation. When oxidation balance outweighs antioxidant stress, disease and poor health can manifest. Dr. Mark Hyman, MD calls it “the mother of all anti- oxidants, the master detoxifier and maestro of the immune system.” GSH is a relatively large and is found in many enzyme systems. It helps process oxidants that can cause damage to cells and tissues. In particular GSH is the major antioxidant in the lung (1).
When the lung tissue is exposed to toxins and other factors that increase oxidative stress, GSH concentrations are depleted and sometimes blocked from being recycled back into its usable form (2). When lungs are stressed with and respiratory tract infections (LRTI) & Lung disease their capacity to clear immune factors and fight against viral and bacterial sources becomes challenged. Increasing GSH concentrations in the lung therefore can be beneficial in getting over a cold and recovering lung function/ capacity.
Examples of LRTI include
- lung abscess
Examples of Lung diseases in which GSH might help:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Smoking (not a disease but causes considerable oxidative stress to lungs and depletes GSH)
How do we get GSH to the lung?
As mentioned earlier GSH is a large molecule and found throughout many enzymatic systems in the body. Delivery method is thus very important to ensure it reaches the lungs. Nebulized GSH administration has been heralded as the best delivery source over oral or injected and delivers intact GSH to the lungs and upper respiratory tract (3,4).
What is nebulization? It’s a funny word to explain how certain medications / nutrients can be administered in the form of a mist, which is inhaled into the lungs. Essentially a targeted delivery system to the lungs.
Typical treatments last for 10min and should be done a few times a week if possible up to 4-6 weeks. Maintenance protocols would be less frequent.
Side Effects / Contra Indications
During treatment you can expect to perhaps smell sulfur (rotten eggs) which is characteristic of GSH, experience a mild runny nose and maybe even some coughing. This mostly resolves after the treatment is finished.
Those who would not be candidate for this procedure are those with sulfite sensitivities as this can induce bronchospasms (spams in the airway) and thus should be avoided.
The status of antioxidants, adequate oxygenation and decent immune response are critical to optimal lung function. Deficiencies in these are often seen in respiratory condition and pulmonary diseases (4). To help restore these parameters and lung functions, nebulized GSH may be the ticket.
Dr. Sarah Kent is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor specializing in your health. She blends traditional knowledge with current scientiﬁc understanding to generate wellness within her patients. She has received specialized training in naturopathic sports medicine, applying the principles and tools of naturopathic care in treating athletes.
1. Gaby, A MD. Nutritional Medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing; Concord NH. 2011. Page 378.
2. Van der torn M, Smit-de Vries MP, Slebos DJ et al. Cigarette smoke irreversibly modifies glutathione in airway epithelial cells. Am J Physiol Lung Cll Mol Physiol 2007; 293 (5): L1156-L1162
3. Buhl R. Meyer A. Volgelmeier C. Oxidant-protease interaction in the lung. Prospects for antioxidants therapy. Chest 1996; 110:267S-272S
4. Prousky, J. ND. The Treatment of Pulmonary Disease and Respiratory Conditions with inhaled (Nebulized or Aerosolized) Glutathione. Evidence Based and Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. 2008 Mar; 5(1): 27-35