Glutathione, produced from the amino acid cysteine, is the body’s primary defence against oxidative (free radical) damage within cells. Exposure to toxic chemicals stimulates the secretion of glutathione from the liver into the plasma. Once in the plasma, glutathione complexes (conjugates) with the toxins. The resultant conjugate is then converted to mercapturic acid, which can be excreted by the kidneys. Glutathione also deactivates hydrogen peroxide and other peroxides. Many individuals with chemical sensitivity are deficient in glutathione.
Glutathione is also needed for the production of prostaglandins and it is a coenzyme for the breakdown of insulin in the liver and kidney.
Glutathione can be taken as a dietary supplement, in which case its most effective chemical form is known as reduced glutathione. (Also see Detoxification.)