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Glutathione the Missing Link to Cancer Prevention?

Your Genes Don’t Determine Your Fate

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Chances are, you know someone who has been affected by a heartbreaking breast cancer diagnosis, or maybe you’ve even been directly affected yourself. On average, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, though older women face a significantly higher risk than women in their twenties and thirties.

You’ve likely heard about inherited gene mutations, particularly in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which bump up the risk of developing breast cancer to between 45% and 65%.

However, a gene mutation does not automatically seal your fate. Instead, environment factors like diet, exercise, and exposure to toxins are much more influential in determining cancer risk than your genes.


Glutathione’s Double Duty: Immune System Booster + Detoxifier

Glutathione, the most abundant antioxidant in our bodies, has been extensively studied but still too few people, including physicians, really understand glutathione’s role in health.

#1 — Few people know that chronically-ill patients almost always test out as deficient in glutathione.

#2 — Few people understand glutathione’s super-sultry secret: “sticky” sulfur groups in glutathione attach like Velcro to destructive free radicals and toxins and allow them to be carried out like the trash.

#3 — Few people realize that building up glutathione stores is simple and requires three simple amino acids: n-acetyl-cysteine, glycine, and glutamine.

For our geeky members, here’s an article on glutathione by the great naturopath, Dr. Joseph Pizzorno. For our less geeky members (and Teri is waving her hands high in the air on this one), Dr. Mark Hyman’s article might be a little more helpful.


What Glutathione Levels Say About Cell Health

Healthy, unstressed cells should demonstrate a ratio that exceeds 100 reduced glutathione molecules to oxidized glutathione molecules. Cells exposed to persistent oxidative stress have a ratio that is 10 times or even 100 times lower than healthy levels, a sure-fire sign that disease has set in. It’s no surprise then that glutathione levels are a pretty good indicator of how healthy our cells are.


Glutathione Concentrated in the Liver & Vital to Detoxification

Though glutathione is produced in all organs, it is especially concentrated in our livers where it filters out toxins correlated with cancer risk. Up to 90% of cancers are now thought to be a result of exposure to environmental toxins coupled with the liver’s inability to keep pace with detoxification requirements. Glutathione neutralizes and prepares toxins for safe elimination while simultaneously supporting the immune system in fighting cancer cells and other diseases.


Regulating Both Tumor-Suppressor Genes & Chromosome Stability

In healthy cells, DNA methylation ensures that genes are either expressed (turned “on”) or silenced (turned “off”) properly. If too much methylation occurs, certain tumor-suppressing genes are not turned “on,” thus allowing tumors to grow and cancer to spread. If too little methylation occurs, genetic mutations become likely. Methylation disturbances are seen in virtually all types of cancer, and this is where glutathione matters.  According to one hypothesis, glutathione pathways and the methylation cycle are biochemically linked.

When the body is exposed to toxins, it needs to produce more glutathione to get rid of those toxins. However, when glutathione levels are too low, toxins accumulate, methylation fouls up, and the conditions for cancer emerge all too predictably.

For many of our fair members, that’s enough of a science lesson. Let’s move on to more positive stuff, like how to boost glutathione levels in the body with nutrition.


Nutrients That Boost Glutathione Levels

There are a range of glutathione precursors that have been shown to pump up glutathione levels in the body, but n-acetyl cysteine seems to be the most well-researched. N-acetyl cysteine opens up the floodgates and lets glutathione flow unrestricted through the body. Researchers also cite the following nutrients as potent precursors to glutathione: resveratrol, selenium, whey protein, alpha lipoic acid, pycnogenol, spirulina, silymarin, and sulforaphane.

Moderate exercise and high intake of cruciferous vegetables are also thought to increase glutathione production.