Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cautions about GSH Supplementation

Glutathione (GSH, L-gamma-glutamyl-L-cysteinylglycine) is the predominant anti-oxidant in the aqueous cytoplasm of cells. Virtually all cells require glutathione for viability and function. Glutathione is synthesized from three amino acids in a two-step process, beginning with the combination of glutamic acid & cysteine and ending with the addition of glycine. The liver & lungs are the primary sites of glutathione synthesis. Glycine & glutamic acid are plentiful in cells, so it is the availability of cysteine that controls the reaction rate. Neuronal overexpression of the rate-limiting enzyme for glutathione synthesis in transgenic fruit flies has been shown to increase mean and maximum lifespan by up to 50% [JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY; Orr,WC; 280(45):37331-37338 (2005)].

Manufactured L-glutathione (GSH) is one of the experimental and unregulated supplement that some CF patients are using to treat inflammation. The human body makes a certain amount of glutathione on its own. It is speculated that by using glutathione supplements, inflammation that occurs in response to infection, can be decreased. It is important to keep in mind that because GSH is used as a supplement, it cannot be approved as a viable treatment option for people with CF. For this reason, people who elect to use GSH supplements do so at their own risk. Click here to read about how GSH is used by cystic fibrosis patients.

Here's some of what I learned:

1. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation forbids its accredited Care Centers from telling patients about the supplement.

2. This quote was attached to a guide that describes how GSH should be used. This warning alone makes me not want to touch the stuff with a 10-foot pole.

Warning: Before inhaling GSH, consult with your doctor and obtain their permission. This therapy treatment is experimental, clinically unproven, and has caused serious side effects, including bronchial constriction and increased congestion in some users. Before taking any GSH, see Reported Detrimental Effects. People choosing to use this therapy must do so AT THEIR OWN RISK. The authors cannot be responsible for any direct or indirect damage caused by using GSH. The authors do not endorse the use of GSH, nor do they guarantee beneficial results. Detrimental side effects in addition to those listed in this guide might occur. The authors do not testify that the statements in this paper are accurate; many statements will be revised as more reports come in. This guide was not written to endorse the use of GSH; it was written so that the experiences of people who have inhaled GSH can be shared. Last update: 1/11/99.

3. GSH is a yeast product. Yeast is a fungus, so it stands to reason that inhaling GSH could cause some bad allergic reactions, perhaps even anaphlactic shock. It's quite possible that people with allergic bronchopulmonary aspergilliosis would exhibit a similar allergic reaction to GSH.

4. I found a highly suspect "testimonial" about someone whose daughter has been on the stuff. They boast weight gain, improved growth. The reason I say this is suspect is because just about EVERY child will naturally gain weight and grow taller as he or she gets older.

5. GSH is not regulated by the FDA, and therefore its makers have no accountability when it comes to the safety of the supplement. This also means that they aren't subject to "truth in advertising," so basically they can say whatever they want to to promote it.

6. People who are allergic to MSG (monosodium glutamate) should not use GSH.

7. Unpleasant and detrimental side effects may include:
  • Bronchial constriction
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Feeling of congestion an hour or more after inhalation
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Shakiness
  • Flu-like feelings
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness

Trust your doctor's recommendations about which preventive medications you or your child should be taking to treat inflammation. GSH supplementation may not be a safe or reasonable choice.

More information:

Rethinking CF Pathology

MSG usage is Unnecessary and Unscientific

Glutathione Response to Pseudomonas Infection

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