Research into treating multiple sclerosis is updated all the time, partly because it’s now been determined that more than twice as many people suffer from the disease as thought just a year ago. It’s also one of the biggest mysteries in science, with no clear cause for the autoimmune reaction of the body and no cure for the ailment. Therefore, anything that can assist in treating symptoms of MS or help to slow the advancement of the degenerative disease is a bonus.
One of the latest supplements suggested to go with traditional therapy is glutathione, which is a natural substance that already exists in the body. As something humans produce on their own, it might seem strange to consider supplementation, especially for a serious neurodegenerative disease. However, the properties of glutathione and how it functions in the body lead to a belief that it could very well be a breakthrough in helping to manage symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
What is glutathione?
Much of the body uses amino acids, which are a type of protein, to build muscle and feed the metabolism. Glutathione is a combination of three different amino acids – cysteine, glycine, and glutamine – that the body produces naturally. Glutathione is an antioxidant, which means that it fights and clears free radicals from the body. Free radicals are molecules that have an extra electron, which looks to pair with another electron in another cell. This leads to damage in the body because these free radicals bond with and destroy other cells.
More importantly, unlike some antioxidants, glutathione can regenerate itself. When it returns to the liver, full of free radicals, it empties itself, becomes inactive, and then when it is needed again, reactivates itself to continue its work. In healthy bodies, glutathione is in abundant supply, with about ninety percent of the supply active at all times. However, research has found that many people with chronic illnesses and diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, have a deficiency in glutathione, which leads to the question as to whether that’s a cause or effect of the illness.
How glutathione works
Several important factors come into play with glutathione for all people, not just those suffering from multiple sclerosis. Some of the things that glutathione does include:
- Playing an essential role in the immune system, providing a first line of defense against infection and illness
- Decrease muscle damage in patients with chronic illnesses that affect the musculoskeletal system
- Decrease recovery time from an injury or illness
- Increase overall strength and endurance
- Help redirect metabolic function from producing and retaining fat to producing and developing muscle
- Reducing risk of cancer by keeping mitochondria healthy and performing properly
Production of glutathione in the body decreases with age, and lack of a healthy lifestyle can lead to depletion or an overload of work for the antioxidant. When it can’t keep up with the toxic load, it also can’t reactivate, so the body no longer has enough supply to remain healthy and remove free radicals.
How does this relate to MS?
In multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the central nervous system, damaging and eating away at the myelin that coats the nerves. Myelin is a protection against damage from outside agents and also a conduit that helps speed along the signals through the nervous system. With myelin gone, nerves are exposed and more easily damaged.
As researchers have found, chronic illness or disease, such as MS, usually coincides with an insufficient amount of glutathione. There are several ways in which scientists believe glutathione supplementation could assist MS patients by reducing their symptoms.
- With the nerves exposed, it leaves them open to attack and bonding by free radicals, which are extremely detrimental to the overall health and function of any cell. With a reduced amount of glutathione, there is little to be done to fight this. However, it’s possible that a glutathione supplement could help reduce the free radicals found in the nervous system in MS patients, therefore aiding in reduction of nerve damage, which could both manage symptoms and prolong advancement of the disease.
- Because glutathione plays a role in the functionality of the immune system, it may be possible that supplementing the amount of it in the body could lead to a healthier immune system and, therefore, one that doesn’t misfire as frequently in autoimmune reactions, such as that which is the factor in multiple sclerosis.
- Because glutathione is shown to increase strength and endurance, it could help combat fatigue in MS patients.
- By reducing recovery time from certain conditions, it may help people with multiple sclerosis recover from a relapse earlier.
- Reduction of muscle damage could help with pain and mobility in MS patients.
How to take glutathione
Because it doesn’t process through the digestive system, taking glutathione as a pill doesn’t work. However, there are many ways to raise the levels of glutathione in the system, including partaking in a regular exercise routine, even if it starts slow and builds. Other ways to boost glutathione include:
- Adding folate, selenium, N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), vitamins C and E, milk thistle, and vitamins B6 and B12 to the diet, which are crucial in the production and recycling of glutathione in the body
- Eating a good, whole-food diet to assist in cleansing the liver (which is where glutathione is recycled)
- Taking turmeric or adding it to meals, since it is a precursor to the production of glutathione
- Eating foods such as onions, garlic, collards, kale, watercress, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, which are all rich in sulfur
Some people also benefit from an organic, all around nutritional supplement or multivitamin.
A patient should always consult a physician first, determining the viability for their circumstances and to determine the right dosage or foods that may or may not be good for them, depending on their personal experience with multiple sclerosis. Likely, there will be no resistance to the idea of adding more glutathione to the regimen of therapy and treatment.