The following article covers the role of Glutathione in Detoxification.
What is Glutathione?
Glutathione is an antioxidant that is produced by the liver cell. It is a substance made up of amino acids glycine, glutamic acid, and cysteine (1). It helps in multiple body functions like detoxification of the body, tissue repair, tissue building, making proteins and other essential chemicals, and also helps to improve immunity.
Phases of Glutathione detoxification:
Glutathione plays an important role in the detoxification system of the body. Sometimes the demand for glutathione in the body is higher than the supply so to boost the level of glutathione in the body it is consumed through diet or supplements.
In three phases glutathione detoxification system works in the body.
In phase 1 of detoxification, specialized proteins called cytochromes (present in mitochondria) partially processed all types of xenobiotics and toxins. In phase 1 of the detoxification, toxins and xenobiotics are partially processed, and there are chances of them being converted into harmful free radicals. This can deplete glutathione, which is harmful and throws Phase 1 and Phase 2 activities out of balance.
In phase 2 of detoxification, multiple enzymes act directly on the partially broken-down toxins of phase 1. Glutathione is used by these enzymes to neutralize the toxins.
In phase 3 of detoxification toxins and xenobiotics are eliminated and removed from the body by the kidney (in the form of urine) and liver (in the form of bile). In the absence of glutathione, it is not possible for the body to effectively eliminate and neutralize the toxins (8).
Role of Glutathione in Detoxification:
The role of glutathione in the detoxification of H2O2 in rabbit lens:
A significant amount of H202 is present in the aqueous humor of the rabbit lens. Glutathione metabolism helps to protect the ocular tissues from oxidative damage. A study was conducted in which the role of glutathione (GSH) metabolism and the hexose monophosphate shunt (HMS) in the detoxification of peroxide in the lens has been assessed using C-1, C-2, and C-6-labeled glucose. The results of that study prove that the HMS pathway and GSH metabolism play an important role in the detoxification of H2O2 in the lens. (2)
Role of glutathione detoxification in protection from mutagens and carcinogens:
In daily life, humans are exposed to various chemicals. Some of them are even deadly chemicals like carbon monoxide that is released from vehicles and chemicals found in household cleaners, and it is also a professional demand of some people to work in hazardous conditions for extended periods of time as part of their employment. The way a chemical is processed by your body, or “metabolized,” determines whether the person will acquire cancer because of chemical exposure. Three categories of substances, referred to as carcinogens, have been linked to cancer:
- Procarcinogens: which are altered throughout metabolism and result in cancer.
- Cocarcinogens: which work in conjunction with another substance to cause cancer.
- Direct acting: Carcinogens are substances that can lead to cancer directly in their original
It is evident from multiple studies that Glutathione (GSH) and glutathione transferases help in the detoxification of agents which are involved in DNA alteration, it also helps in the detoxification of DNA hydroperoxides and lipids which may work in conjunction with other substances to cause cancer. So, glutathione proves to be a powerful detoxification agent that provides protection to the body from carcinogens and mutagens. (4)
Role of glutathione in Liver Detoxification:
Glutathione is one of the most beneficial antioxidants that is produced by the body on its own. However, with time as the person ages, the natural production of glutathione decreases. Moreover, some substances like alcohol, drugs, and several other compounds are also responsible for the decrease in glutathione in the body.
Glutathione conjugation aids in the liver, lungs, intestines, and kidneys’ detoxification and elimination of poisons and toxins (5). It helps the body in detoxification and plays a major role in maintaining good liver health. Phase II liver detoxification is a process of metabolizing molecules that need to be eliminated from the body. Conjugation with glutathione is one of the primary detoxification mechanisms in phase II (tripeptide consisting of three amino acids – cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine). Glutathione commonly binds to these molecules to eliminate them from the body. In simple terms, Glutathione has the ability and capacity to bind harmful compounds and toxins, identifying them as dangerous.
Role Glutathione detoxification in Immune Health:
Immunity plays an important role in maintaining the overall health of the body. With a weak immune system, a person can get sick frequently and may catch some severe diseases. Glutathione detoxification plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system. As per various research, autoimmunity is caused by depleted glutathione levels. If the glutathione level is less than the desired level, then the person is more susceptible to the attack of the immune system, as toxins, free radicals, and heavy metals get accumulated in the body. It also supports immune health by increasing the white blood cells in the body. This shows the importance of glutathione and how important glutathione detoxification is for immune health. 
Role of Glutathione detoxification in Preventing cancer progression:
Glutathione is an essential detoxification agent in the body. It helps in detoxifying xenobiotics and endogenous compounds. Glutathione detoxification aids in the excretion of organic pollutants (POP) and Hg from the body, it also aids in the excretion of HG from cells, moreover, helps in directly neutralizing many oxidative chemicals and POPs. (7) Healthy cells can be protected from free radicals by maintaining a sufficient amount of glutathione in the body. As glutathione detoxification helps in the removal of free radicals, this protects the cells from mutations that are caused by free radicals. Mutations that are caused by free radicals can make the cells cancerous. Glutathione Detoxification plays a vital role in preventing free radicals and destroying cancer cells which helps in preventing the progression of cancer.
1) Healthline “Glutathione Benefits” By Corey Whelan “https://www.healthline.com/health/glutathione-benefits” Accessed on 18 September, 2018.
2) Giblin, Frank J., Janet P. McCready, and Venkat N. Reddy. “The role of glutathione metabolism in the detoxification of H2O2 in rabbit lens.” Investigative ophthalmology & visual science 22.3 (1982): 330-335.
3) Angiuli & Gentile, LLP “Walk With Confidence” “https://www.aglawnyc.com/blog/2017/02/the-three-types-of-carcinogens-and-how-they-cause-cancer/” Accessed on 13 February, 2017.
4) ScienceDirect “Protective role of glutathione and glutathione transferases in mutagenesis and carcinogenesis” By Brian Ketterer “https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0027510788901972” Published on 10 January 2003.
5) Doctor’s Formulas “Glutathione: The most powerful potent antioxidant that detoxifies the entire body” “https://www.doctorsformulas.com/en/category/glutathione-the-most-powerful-and-potent-antioxidant-that-detoxifies-the-entire-body.htm”.
6)Amy Myers MD “Glutathione – The #1 nutrient for detoxification” by Amy Myers “https://www.amymyersmd.com/article/glutathione/” Published on August 6th, 2018.
(7) Integrative Medicine: A clinical’s Journal “Glutathione” by Joseph Pizzorno “http.s://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684116/” Published on February 2014.
8) Core Med Science “Glutathione 14 benefits of the Master Antioxidant” by Bogdan Popa MD “https://coremedscience.com/blogs/wellness/glutathione-3a-14-benefits-of-the-master-antioxidant-plus-diet-26-supplements”.