A main cause of aging is oxidation in the cells of your body. You might think of oxidation like rusting from the inside out.
This process contributes to wrinkled skin, decreased energy, and loss of mental clarity. At the same time it causes more serious problems such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cataracts, etc.
The name for this health-damaging process is “oxidative stress” and the damage it causes happens when your immune system becomes overwhelmed by free radicals. Some of these free radicals come from diet, while others come from exposure to environmental pollution, cigarette smoke (even second-hand) and other external toxins.
The diet part is fairly easy to manage: Reduce sugar intake, eat higher quality proteins, and avoid processed foods.
But how do you help your body fight off environmental pollution?
Antioxidants to the Rescue
The best way to counter free radicals is to increase antioxidants in the body. And the mother of all antioxidants is glutathione peroxidase, known more simply as glutathione.
Your body makes glutathione in the liver. You can think of it as the “mother of all antioxidants.” Every other antioxidant in the body relies on the presence of glutathione to function effectively. It’s like a clearing house in the battle against oxidative stress.
Researchers point out that glutathione instantly neutralizes free radicals. In addition, it helps the body detoxify pollutants, including automobile exhaust and cigarette smoke. It also helps rid the body of toxic heavy metals such as mercury and lead. These toxic substances are major contributors to oxidative stress.
Unfortunately, as we get older our glutathione levels decrease. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen deplete it as well. And when we are exposed to environmental toxins, it gets used up faster than we can replace it.
The Key Nutrient to Support Glutathione
It would be easy if we could just take glutathione as a supplement. Unfortunately, it cannot be absorbed when taken orally. However our bodies do create it from cysteine, which we can absorb by eating or by taking supplements.
Whey protein and eggs are particularly rich in cysteine. However there is an even more effective way to make sure you are supporting your glutathione levels. It is the supplement N-Acetyl-Cysteine, or NAC for short.
Here are just some of the benefits associated with taking NAC:
- It increases glutathione by increasing cysteine.
- It prevents the destruction of glutathione by preventing its oxidation.
- It enhances Interleukin 2, a substance made by the immune system that fights cancer.
- It reduces toxicity of a wide variety of toxic substances, including alcohol, tobacco smoke, homocysteine, fructose, sucrose, lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. It also helps remove heavy metals from the body.
- It is less toxic and more stable than cysteine and is metabolized and absorbed more efficiently.
- It helps protect DNA from damage due to oxidation.
- It supports the immune system, reducing the number and severity of colds and flu.
That’s a lot of benefits for one supplement!
The most tested dosages for NAC are 900 mg twice daily. You can usually find it in either 600 mg or 900 mg tablets or capsules. I recommend to my patients that they take it with food along with their other supplements.
Hyperhealth Pro Database, In-Tele-Health, Hansville, WA, 2008.
Redox Report, Volume 8, Number 2, April 2003 , pp. 69-79(11)
Block, W. New gene supplements may extend your life. Life Enhancement. April 2000.