*This article is brought to you by AAMSSA: The Aesthetic and Anti-Ageing Medicine Society of South Africa*
Find an aesthetic practitioner www.aestheticdoctors.co.za
A closer look at what is dubbed as the ‘Master Antioxidant’: its purpose, uses, benefits, and of course, its controversial role in IV Therapy. Written by Dr Melanie Lambrechts, with input from Dr Craige Golding and with edits from Dr Debbie Norval.
Because the powerful antioxidant that is glutathione plays such a major role in the many different systems in our body, it is often referred to as ‘the master molecule’. In fact, the benefits of glutathione are so remarkable and vast, it ranges from improving a myriad of health conditions – to yielding amazing results in aesthetic and anti-ageing treatments.
With that said, glutathione does indeed have a dark side. If the right protocols are not followed (such as administering this antioxidant intravenously in large doses), severe complications have been noted – complications such as anaphylaxis and even death.
Dr Melanie Lambrechts provides a comprehensive report detailing the properties of this all-important antioxidant, its uses, benefits and – most importantly – how to correctly administer glutathione intravenously SAFELY.
In the world of wellness, integrative medicine and intravenous therapies, glutathione is the controversial middle child. Lauded as a skin pigmentation elixir to some, deemed a treacherous supplement to others, the truth is that this powerful antioxidant lies somewhere comfortably in-between. When used within careful protocols and is respected, glutathione is a true asset to health on so many levels. Indeed, like any sharp and propitious tool, learn how to use it, and then use it well.
Glutathione is one of the body’s most essential antioxidants. However, understanding what an antioxidant is, is the first step in understanding what glutathione’s purpose is.
Oxidants, or free radicals are group of compounds that are either natural or man-made, and have the ability to cause damage to living cells.
These free radicals have one or more unpaired electrons that make them highly unstable and reactive. They want to “steal” electrons from living cells, and in so doing, wreak havoc in living tissues (ultimately leaving them damaged and inflamed).
Fortunately, your body has a vast amount of antioxidants that it uses constantly to neutralise this toxic and reactive environment, with glutathione being one of the most important. Glutathione is a tripeptide of cysteine, glutamine and glycine, and is a storage form of cysteine.
Beyond being a pure antioxidant, it is also a storage form and transporter of nitric oxide – and is involved in the regulation of some transcription factors.
What’s more, glutathione assists in the metabolism of oestrogens, leukotrienes and prostaglandins – while detoxifying many toxins, endogenous substances, xenobiotics and mycotoxins as well.
Lastly, glutathione exists in two forms: an oxidized form and a free or reduced form.
However, only the reduced form has antioxidant activity. Once it is used or oxidized, it needs to be recycled back to the reduced form again before it can repeat its antioxidant behaviour. It is then recycled back, and fourth, over and over again.
The power of glutathione
1Now, because this antioxidant plays such a huge role in many different systems in our body, it is often referred to as ‘the master molecule’(and for good reason). In fact, the benefits of glutathione are so enormous, it can literally improve a vast myriad of conditions. Amongst others, glutathione can:
- Alleviate symptoms of multiple neurologic and muscular disorders (including ALS, MS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease)
- Assist in the healing process after a stroke
- Aid detoxification from mercury and heavy metals during cancer therapy
- Successfully fight against all forms of intestinal and inflammatory diseases (including Lyme’s Disease)
- Detoxify the liver
The dark side of glutathione
Aforementioned benefits aside, glutathione is mostly known and lauded as a “skin lightening” agent. Yet what most people don’t know, is that the dose of glutathione needed intravenously to attain any skin lightening is, in fact, too high to be safe. Indeed, it has been under these very circumstances in which the dreaded complications of glutathione have been noted, including anaphylaxis and even death. Obviously such high doses should be avoided.
The skin brightening side effect
Melanogenesis is caused by enzymatic conversion of tyrosine to melanin pigments. Research shows that glutathione IV for skin lightening purposes can change the brown melanin pigment to a red pigment that may increase risk for skin cancer. Hence we do not recommend glutathione for skin lightening purposes. In saying that, glutathione at safe and effective normal doses can have a remarkable skin brightening effect: skin looks healthier and more radiant. This is often a pleasing side effect of the improved health that glutathione supplementation brings.
There are several ways one can go about in elevating their glutathione levels, mainly:
Glutathione drips are often given safely in conjunction with IV Vitamin C and multi-vitamin and nutrient drips by medical doctors in IV clinics. The supplements all work in harmony to bring increased wellness and health to individuals.
When given intravenously, glutathione is safe and can even be given as an IV push. Safe doses range from low milligrams in a single push, which is mixed in sterile water and then slowly pushed over 3-5 minutes. Alternatively, it can be placed in a 50 millilitre normal saline bag and infused over 20 minutes. It should be repeated 2-3 times per week for the first month, followed by weekly for another month, and finally, every second week from then onwards.
All normal safety protocols should be followed, which include the IV glutathione being prescribed by a medical doctor who has consulted with the patient to ensure the glutathione is indicated to use in that individual. This treatment should be given in a medical drip clinic that has a doctor or qualified nurse to administer it, with all the necessary safety equipment on site. It is also essential for the patient to be closely monitored while the drip is being administered, with the IV immediately being stopped if any adverse reactions are noted.
Or not to drip…
For those who are not too keen on the idea of an intravenous supplementation, glutathione can also be elevated naturally. Consider NAC (N-acetyl cysteine 500mg twice daily), and, or whey protein daily. Alphalipoic acid 300-600mg daily is also particularly useful too.
Additionally, there are foods that are high in glutathione precursors, and can even increase glutathione transferase by 400%. These super foods include avocados, grapefruit, potato, strawberries, watermelon and rosemary.
Take home message
So, our troublesome middle child called glutathione has gone through the tough pubertal years. He’s caused a fair amount of trouble, crashed a few parties he was not meant to be at, and played at doses way too high to be safe. He’ also bragged that he can do things he shouldn’t be doing. But we now understand him better. We know his strengths and weaknesses.
And after all the trials and tribulations he has gone through, Glutathione is finally a valuable member of society. He can do great things. BUT, use him at the right dose. He’s meant to go slow. Keep an eye on him. Don’t pressurise him and over-promise his worth.
Written by Dr Melanie Lambrechts
MBBCH (WITS 1996), Dip Medical Aesthetics (FPD)
- Owner and Founder of the Centre of Wellness, Parkmore www.centreofwellness.co.za
- Owner and Founder of ESPRIT Medical IV Therapy www.espritiv.co.za
- Member of Allergan AMI Aesthetics Training Academy
- Medical Aesthetics trainer and writer
To report any unsafe practice or if you have any queries please feel free to contact Karen Nel at AAMSSA email@example.com
Find a doctor practising aesthetic medicine in South Africa by visiting www.aestheticdoctors.co.za
A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice.
This article was written by Dr Melanie Lambrechts and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine Summer 2020 Edition (Issue 35 – Dec 2020 to Mar 2021).
A2 Magazine prints only four magazines each year – reporting seasonally on everything you need and want to know about aesthetics, anti-ageing, integrative medicine, quality and medical skincare, cosmetic dentistry and cosmetic surgery in South Africa – where to go, who to see, what to expect, something new and so much more! Never miss an edition – click here for more info about where you can buy the print and/or digital copy of A2 Magazine (including back copies).
All original content owned by LeWeb Media. To make use of any of our content for re-publishing, kindly contact us for approval firstname.lastname@example.org