The Facts About Glutathione, Detoxification, and Adrenal Fatigue

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

About Glutathione

Do you wonder about glutathione and what it does? It is a powerful antioxidant.Have you ever wondered about glutathione?  What exactly is it and how is it impacting your health? Glutathione is an important and powerful antioxidant that can be synthesized inside every cell in the human body. Intrigued? Continue reading to learn more about glutathione. Because it can be synthesized inside every cell in the body and by the liver, glutathione is one of the most important antioxidants in the human body. Glutathione is a peptide that is produced through biosynthesis of three non-essential amino acids: cysteine, glutamate, and glycine. Research about glutathione has found that beginning in your twenties, your body gradually produces less glutathione.

Glutathione’s highest concentrations are found in the spleen, liver, pancreas, and cornea. You may wonder what is glutathione good for and what about glutathione is valuable to me? Well, as a powerful antioxidant, glutathione prevents damage to cells by neutralizing free radicals and detoxifying heavy metals. Without the protective actions of glutathione, free radicals and toxins begin to accumulate in the body causing oxidative stress to cells resulting in overall congestion of the body and a sluggish detoxification system.  Keep reading to learn more about glutathione and its impact on your life.

What is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a neuroendocrine condition of the body caused by the adrenal glands’ inability to overcome stress. While not yet recognized as a treatable condition by mainstream medicine, AFS affects millions of Americans. AFS is characterized by a broad spectrum of non-specific, yet often debilitating symptoms like chronic fatigue, reduced memory and concentration, insomnia, an inability to lose weight, and a compromised immune system. If you suffer from AFS you may look perfectly normal to others from the outside, while constantly feeling overall tiredness or fogginess on the inside.

Continuous stress and metabolite overload are toxic to the body. Adrenal fatigue syndrome is not only caused by intrinsic factors like chronic mental, emotional, or physical stress but also by extrinsic factors like exposure to and accumulation of environmental toxins in the body. Environmental exposure to toxins like air pollution and heavy metals or poor lifestyle choices like excessive alcohol consumption or too much hydrogenated fat in the diet can cause your body to stockpile damaging toxins causing the adrenal glands to work improperly or insufficiently.

How Does the Body Detoxify?

About glutathione and the bodyA clean, healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and plenty of exercise as well as a conscious reduction of your exposure to known hazardous chemicals are important considerations for maintaining a healthy detoxification system. Many activities exist to rid the body from toxins such as exercising, fasting, and sweating. These activities and healthy lifestyle choices alone cannot entirely rid the body of dangerous toxins that the body has stored in fat cells. It is believed that an estimated 500 to 600 toxic substances can be stored in fat cells, untouchable by the body’s precious filter—the liver.

The body’s detoxification system is responsible for removing toxins and poisonous compounds from the body. Detoxification is regulated by the liver, the extracellular matrix, and the immune system. As adrenal fatigue advances, the body’s detoxification system can become sluggish and the body overly congested. This sluggishness and congestion can manifest due to drug or supplement hypersensitivity, paradoxical reactions to supplements, chemical sensitivities, pain of unknown origin, and detoxification reactions. The body’s vital detoxification response is aided by cleaning up the extracellular matrix, strengthening the liver, and boosting the immune system.

Today you are exposed to more toxins each day than ever before in human history. Each year, people who adhere to a standard-American diet are exposed to 2,000 to 3,000 toxic compounds from food sources alone. Toxic chemicals routinely found in cleaning supplies and personal care products like toothpaste, lotions, cosmetics, soap, and perfumes are rarely thoroughly tested for human safety. Over time, repeated exposure to chemicals in these products functions like a toxic cocktail in the human body inducing serious conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and adrenal fatigue syndrome.

How Does Glutathione Detoxify?

So, what about glutathione is detoxifying? Glutathione is a powerful weapon for those suffering from adrenal fatigue syndrome. Glutathione benefits the body’s detoxification system in three ways: (1) neutralizing free radicals, (2) assisting and strengthening the liver, and (3) recycling other antioxidants.

Glutathione, an antioxidant workhorse, helps to decongest and detoxify the body. The thing about glutathione is that it assists in detoxification by helping to repair cell damage and eliminating unstable free radicals. Restoring and maintaining healthy levels of glutathione can help to hasten the detoxification process by gathering the dangerous free radicals and toxins stored in fat cells and releasing them into the bloodstream so that the liver can then do its job.

About glutathione and energy.Glutathione can also improve low energy levels of those suffering from adrenal fatigue syndrome by helping to strengthen the liver. The liver has the amazing ability to break down old or damaged red blood cells. These red blood cells become damaged due to the effects of toxins. Glutathione’s abilities to neutralize free radicals, protect proteins, and aid in detoxification of the liver are considered key activities for slowing the effects of aging.

Since the human body is constantly and routinely being bombarded by stress and toxins in the environment, the body’s natural detoxification system benefits from having a variety of detoxifying helpers to assist with detoxification. All antioxidants neutralize free radicals, thus preventing cellular damage to the body. Glutathione also helps detoxify the body by recycling other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Glutathione takes free radicals from other antioxidants and safely disposes of them, freeing up the other antioxidants so that they can continue to perform their job. Wow, how about glutathione! Continue reading about glutathione supplementation to learn how easy it can be incorporated into you life.

Glutathione Supplementation

There are several ways to increase this natural and critical antioxidant in your body: exercise, eat glutathione-rich foods, or take glutathione-boosting supplements. Exercise is a great way to boost your immune system and improve your body’s natural antioxidant defenses. Sulfur-rich foods like eggs, garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) support glutathione synthesis.

When making considerations about glutathione and glutathione-boosting supplements, it is best to start slowly. If your glutathione has been depleted for an extended period of time and toxins have been allowed to build up in your body, high dosages of glutathione-boosting supplements may cause toxins to move very rapidly into your system exacerbating your symptoms and making you feel worse.

About glutathione supplementation with a pill.What about glutathione different supplemental mediums?Well, there are two ways to supplement glutathione: orally and intravenously. Bioactive (or natural) whey protein is a great source of cysteine and the amino acid building blocks of glutathione synthesis. Bioactive or natural whey products are not denatured or pasteurized. These products have not been heated or cured as is the case when making cheese and other dairy products from whey. Heating reduces the amount of bioavailable cysteine required to synthesize glutathione. But even though consuming natural whey protein products provides the building blocks needed to make glutathione, the yield is unfortunately quite low. And for those with advanced adrenal fatigue, digestive issues can further exacerbate the benefits of ingesting whey protein as a glutathione supplement.

A more effective delivery mechanism for supplementing glutathione involves nano-particles and a liposomal delivery system. Using liposomes as the delivery system can drastically increase the bioavailability of glutathione in the bloodstream. LipoNano Glutathione, an example of a commercially available oral glutathione supplement, contains a reduced form of glutathione in small liposome capsules derived from lecithin. Because glutathione is protected inside the liposome capsule, it does not get broken down by stomach acids; instead, the lipid encapsulated glutathione gets absorbed into the body passively making it highly bioavailable. This allows glutathione to enter directly into your bloodstream then into every cell, reducing the stress and energy required by the body to make glutathione on its own. Those who are overly fatigued, weak, or terribly exhausted benefit greatly from a liposomal delivery system.

Supplementing with optimal levels of glutathione is an important and effective way to increase your cell’s ability to eliminate toxins and stabilize healthy cell function. Healthy cells naturally produce glutathione, helping to detoxify the body. Once the body becomes less toxic and congested, the body spends more energy healing itself and helping the adrenal glands recover. When your body is less toxic, synergistic supplements become more effective as well, helping to expedite detoxification and recovery from adrenal fatigue.

Intravenous glutathione injection is another option. Intravenous glutathione works by utilizing several types of cells that have the ability to remove glutathione from the blood, break it down, and resynthesize it inside the cell through a process known as the gamma-glutamyl cycle. There are also several other types of cells that can remove glutathione directly from the blood. A glutathione injection requires a visit to your physician, and it is a more costly treatment option. Research has shown that absorption and bioavailability of oral liposomal glutathione is nearly equivalent to absorption and bioavailability of intravenous glutathione in the body.  If you are worried about glutathione and which supplement style is best for you, just talk to your health professional.

Synergistic Antioxidant Supplementation

Other useful antioxidants such as vitamins C and E also help neutralize free radicals in the body. Taking recommended, optimal levels of these antioxidants is a very effective way to raise glutathione levels in the liver. Silymarin, a flavonoid complex from the milk thistle plant, is a powerful antioxidant and liver detoxifier. Silymarin taken with other antioxidants can dramatically improve the function of the liver, raise glutathione levels, and boost glutathione benefits.

Vitamins should be taken together in ideal amounts because each vitamins works in a specific way on a specific part of the body. For example, the water-soluble vitamin C fights free radicals in blood plasma. Vitamin C also helps to regenerate vitamin E, and vice versa. Vitamin C is also recycled in the presence of glutathione. Glutathione donates electrons to vitamin C, regenerating vitamin C’s antioxidant power. Together they form a dynamic duo in donating electrons within and outside of cells thus reducing oxidation both intracellularly and extracellularly.

Mercury and Glutathione: A Word of Caution

About glutathione and mercury.If you have been lacking in glutathione for an extended period of time (months or even years), there is a chance that your body has accumulated high levels of mercury. Silver fillings in teeth and consuming large amounts of coastal fishes that have been exposed to ocean pollution and toxins can considerably raise mercury levels in the human body. If high levels of mercury are present in your body, supplementing with the amino acid cysteine used to make glutathione should be limited.

The reasons for limiting supplementation of cysteine when high levels of mercury are suspected are twofold: (1) rapid mobilization of mercury can negatively affect the brain, and (2) mercury can inhibit the use of cysteine by the liver. If there is an excess of cysteine or N-acetylcysteine in the body, mercury can travel to the brain from other parts of the body by attaching to either of these two compounds. Initially, a dose of 300 mg of n-acetyl-cysteine per day is recommended with a high protein diet if your levels of heavy metals are elevated.

The second reason is that mercury can inhibit the use of cysteine by the liver, and if free cysteine levels are too high, it can act as a neurotoxin. It is important to have blood work done regularly to measure cysteine in plasma to ensure that it is being properly biosynthesized into glutathione.

If you have experienced high exposure to mercury and suspect that you suffer from mercury toxicity, it’s a very good idea to have your mercury levels tested. With the help of an experienced physician, mercury can be carefully and slowly chelated from the body.


Glutathione, the workhorse antioxidant, is synthesized inside every cell in the body and by the body’s primary detoxifier, the liver. Adrenal fatigue syndrome, characterized by a broad spectrum of non-specific (often debilitating) symptoms, is caused by the adrenal glands’ inability to overcome stress.

Detoxification in the body is supported, in part, by healthy glutathione levels in the body. If your adrenal glands have become sluggish and your glutathione levels have diminished due to stress or toxins, your body will become more vulnerable to serious conditions like cancer, heart disease, and adrenal fatigue syndrome.

About glutathione and what it can do for healthA healthy detoxification is supported by periodic fasting, regular exercise, and optimal supplementation. Nearly every person across all geographic and demographic variables can benefit from enhanced detoxification by glutathione supplementation. The benefits of enhanced detoxification through glutathione supplementation are particularly critical for people who have been consistently exposed to environmental toxins from industrial sources and for people who suffer from adrenal fatigue syndrome due to suppression or cessation of their body’s natural detoxification process.

When taken in optimal levels, glutathione-boosting supplements like LipoNano Glutathione, are an effective way to increase the cell’s ability to stabilize healthy cell function, increase neutralization of free radicals, eliminate toxins, and slow down the aging process. Synergistic antioxidants like vitamins C and E and silymarin (a powerful plant-derived antioxidant and liver detoxifier) when taken in proper dosages can raise glutathione levels and boost glutathione benefits. Glutathione supplementation offers numerous benefits and is a promising treatment option for those battling chronic adrenal fatigue syndrome. Because all antioxidants work synergistically, you will benefit greatly from supplementing glutathione in tandem with other antioxidants.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

It can indirectly by being a master recycler of anti-oxidants that helps to build the immune system.

About glutathione
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Thanks so much for such a prompt reply. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I ran into you trying to find out about the adrenals. With my diagnosis 15 years ago of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, I have determined that it was in fact not that but adrenal fatigue. I haven’t been able to find a doctor that knows anything about anything so I really am grateful for your articles so keep up the fantastic work in helping those of us who have not found help at the doctor level.



  • jeannie says:

    what about people who have SIBO and not able to break down the ingested food or supplement? I get terrible die off symptoms no matter what I take, milk thistle, NAC, glutamine, etc. I’ve had IBS since a little girl and now 50 years later diagnosed with hashimoto. I also have the MTHFR mutation C677T. Any insight would be very helpful!

  • Kat says:

    I have CAF and in the past have had several detoxes for mercury, lead etc. both of which I had VERY high levels. I managed to remove a lot of the mercury but that was several years ago and I believe I still have it in my system.
    My question is: I have some liposomal glutathione (sublingual drops) . On the bottle They recommend 1ml dose a day, (equalling 100mg reduced glutathione). Could I take more? seeing as I am probably desperately in need of it..

    • Dr.Lam says:

      IN general 100 mg is not a high dose. one can do IV with much more on slow push basis. everyone is different and you should check with your doctor first as some people do not do well with it.

  • SD says:

    You say:
    “Initially, a dose of 300 mg of _____________ per day is recommended with a high protein diet if your levels of heavy metals are elevated.”
    A dose of 300 mg of what??

  • Me says:

    How about consuming a sulfur supplement instead of one of its end products, glutathione? Just a thought. Maybe we should give our body a chance to take care of itself first. You do mention eggs, onions, etc., but these may not be sufficient for some people.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Suffer supplements are ok for health maintenance, but the actual conversion to glutahione is complex and slow. Taking glutsthione directly is much better.

  • Grace says:

    How does glutathione recycle vitamin c?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      it donates electron to the vitamin C and replenish vit c after the vitamin C has already donated its own electrone.