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Glutathione Side Effects 

Oct 12, 2023
Glutathione Side Effects 

Glutathione (GSH) is an antioxidant produced in the body and found in foods and glutathione supplements. As an antioxidant, glutathione protects your cells against oxidative stress and against age-related declines.

Medical conditions, environmental factors, poor nutrition, and stress are associated with low glutathione levels, leading many people to take glutathione supplements to support their overall and cognitive health.

All medications and supplements have potential risks and benefits, which means they may not be suitable for everyone. Discuss the risks and benefits of glutathione with your healthcare provider to learn whether this important antioxidant can improve your health. Read more to learn about glutathione side effects.

Glutathione Benefits

Glutathione comprises three amino acids: cysteine, glycine, and glutamate. People commonly take supplements to fill a nutritional gap. Low glutathione levels are more common with age and in people exposed to environmental stressors.

Supplements are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease. For this and many other reasons, there is little research on the benefits, recommended dosage, or side effects of many supplements.

Glutathione has the following potential benefits:1,2,3

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Supporting the immune system
  • Detoxifying the liver
  • Improving skin health
  • Lightening skin color
  • Improving insulin resistance
  • Recycling other antioxidants
  • Supporting sperm production

Glutathione can also protect your cells from threats such as:4

  • Chronic diseases
  • Chronic stress
  • Dietary deficiencies
  • Environmental toxins, pollution, and radiation
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Excessive or prolonged physical activity
  • Infections
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Smoking
  • Unhealthy dietary choices
Glutathione Side Effects 

Side Effects of Oral Glutathione Supplements

Glutathione is generally recognized as a safe supplement.5 The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements. The side effects associated with oral glutathione or other supplements are often not necessarily from the supplement but, instead, reactions to the binders or fillers used when making the product. Choose a supplement tested by USP, ConsumerLab, or NSF whenever possible.

Potential side effects associated with oral glutathione include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rashes
  • Itching
  • Excess gas
  • Loose stools

Tips for Dealing With Oral Glutathione Supplement Side Effects

Since oral glutathione products may vary in ingredients, switching to another supplement may improve your symptoms. Other strategies to reduce gastrointestinal and other symptoms include:

  • Stop taking the supplement until your symptoms resolve, and then restart it.
  • Gradually increase your dose to the recommended dose over several weeks.
  • Try taking the supplement with food or milk.
  • Drink plenty of water before and after taking the supplement.
  • Since increased glutathione may cause low zinc levels, ask your doctor whether a zinc supplement may help.
paper with possible side effects

Side Effects of Glutathione Supplement Injections

Many people choose glutathione injections over oral supplements because they bypass the gastrointestinal system and deliver glutathione more directly to the body cells.

Glutathione side effects are rare. The most common side effects associated with glutathione injections include:

  • Allergic reactions: Glutathione injections may cause allergic reactions in some people, including skin rashes, hives, and difficulty breathing.
  • Blood clotting problems: Glutathione injections may interfere with blood clotting, which could increase the risk of bleeding and bruising. However, a long-term phase 4 study has not found an increased bleeding risk after using glutathione.
  • Kidney and liver problems: Taking large doses of glutathione may cause kidney or liver dysfunction.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Some people may experience nausea and vomiting after receiving a glutathione injection.
  • Rash or irritation at the injection site: The injection site may become red, swollen, or painful after receiving a glutathione injection.

Tips for Dealing With Glutathione Supplement Injection Side Effects

If you have side effects from a glutathione injection, stop taking the injection and contact your healthcare provider for guidance.

Seek emergency care if you experience an allergic reaction involving facial, mouth, or tongue swelling.

For nausea and vomiting, drink plenty of fluids and consume a mild diet for a few days until your symptoms resolve. Don’t restart your injections until you have discussed your side effects with your healthcare provider.

Glutathione Dosage

There is some debate on the effectiveness of oral glutathione, as digestive enzymes in the stomach may break it down.5 However, researchers found that when participants in a clinical trial took either 250 or 1000mg of glutathione by mouth daily, they had significant increases in their body stores of glutathione. They also found that the glutathione increase was proportional to the dose.6

The recommended dosage for glutathione is unclear. Some studies have indicated that even doses up to 5 grams per day, either oral or intravenous, were not associated with toxicity.7

meats are high in glutathione

Natural Ways To Get More Glutathione 

In addition to supplements, high-quality sleep, exercise, and a nutritious diet are essential to maintain or boost glutathione levels.

Implement a Nutritious Diet

Glutathione can also be obtained by consuming foods naturally rich in glutathione.

Foods that can boost your glutathione levels naturally include:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Green tea
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Meats
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Spinach
  • Whey

Choose a well-balanced, nutritious diet focusing on minimally processed whole foods to boost your glutathione levels naturally.

Be Mindful of Sleeping Habits

Sleep is an active process during which your body processes waste, repairs cells, and removes toxins. It is essential to have high levels of antioxidants to support these processes, but to get the best results, ensure you get 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep each night.

Sleep deprivation is associated with decreased glutathione levels and increased oxidative stress.8

Tips for getting better quality sleep:

  • Avoid heavy meals before bedtime, especially if you are prone to gastroesophageal reflux and indigestion.
  • Establish a bedtime routine that tells your brain and body that it is time for sleep.
  • Help your brain set your circadian rhythm by spending a few minutes outside each morning, especially when the sun is out. If the season or weather is not cooperating, a light box can also help. Lightboxes are sometimes equipped with an alarm to make it easier to adjust your light exposure for optimum health.
  • Limit caffeine intake after noon and alcohol intake within three hours of bedtime.
  • Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Whether you need 7 hours of sleep a night or 10, set a schedule seven days a week. While it is tempting to sleep in on weekends to “catch up” on your sleep, it doesn’t work very well.
  • Sleep in a room that is cool, dark, and without distraction. Use blackout curtains and white noise to reduce stimuli that may keep your brain active.
  • Try to get plenty of exercise throughout the day to relieve stress and improve your sleep quality.
  • Turn off screens about an hour before bedtime. Electronic screens emit blue light that makes your brain think it is still daytime.

Exercise Often 

Regular exercise is another excellent way to boost your glutathione levels, and it has many other benefits as well! As your body adapts to increased exercise, it stores more glutathione to deal with the increased oxidative stress associated with exercise. While all exercise is important, aerobic exercise boosts glutathione levels the best.9 After exercising, ensure your body has plenty of time to rest and recover.

Conclusion to Glutathione Side Effects

While glutathione is widely recognized for its health benefits, including antioxidative properties and potential to improve various health conditions, it’s essential to consider the potential side effects before deciding to supplement with it. Whether you’re contemplating oral supplements or injections, being informed about the possible reactions can help you make a well-considered decision. If you’re looking to enhance your health regimen safely and effectively, and are interested in exploring the benefits of glutathione for yourself, ensure to buy glutathione from reputable sources. Consulting with a healthcare provider beforehand can also provide personalized guidance based on your health profile.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the side effects of using glutathione?

Some potential side effects of using glutathione supplements may include gastrointestinal discomfort such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Additionally, allergic reactions or skin rashes can occur in some individuals. It’s essential to discontinue use and consult with a healthcare professional if you experience any adverse effects while taking glutathione supplements.

Who should not take glutathione?

Glutathione supplements may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals who have allergies to glutathione or any of its components should avoid taking it. Additionally, individuals with certain medical conditions or those taking specific medications should consult with a healthcare professional before starting glutathione supplementation to ensure safety and avoid potential interactions.

What happens if I take glutathione everyday?

Taking glutathione supplements daily is generally considered safe for most people when used as directed. However, it’s essential to follow recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications. Long-term use may offer continued benefits, but individual responses may vary.

Is glutathione hard on the liver?

Glutathione is actually beneficial for liver health. It plays a crucial role in detoxification processes within the liver and helps protect liver cells from damage caused by oxidative stress and toxins. However, excessive doses of glutathione or certain forms of administration may potentially overload the liver’s capacity to process it, leading to adverse effects. It’s essential to use glutathione supplements responsibly and under the guidance of a healthcare professional to ensure liver health and safety.

Disclaimer
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

Glutathione Side Effects 

Leann Poston, M.D.

Dr. Leann Poston is a licensed physician in the state of Ohio who holds an M.B.A. and an M. Ed. She is a full-time medical communications writer and educator who writes and researches for Invigor Medical. Dr. Poston lives in the Midwest with her family. She enjoys traveling and hiking. She is an avid technology aficionado and loves trying new things.

References

  • Pizzorno J. Glutathione! Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Feb;13(1):8-12. PMID: 26770075; PMCID: PMC4684116.
  • Mak TW, Grusdat M, Duncan GS, Dostert C, Nonnenmacher Y, Cox M, Binsfeld C, Hao Z, Brüstle A, Itsumi M, Jäger C, Chen Y, Pinkenburg O, Camara B, Ollert M, Bindslev-Jensen C, Vasiliou V, Gorrini C, Lang PA, Lohoff M, Harris IS, Hiller K, Brenner D. Glutathione Primes T Cell Metabolism for Inflammation. Immunity. 2017 Apr 18;46(4):675-689. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2017.03.019. Erratum in: Immunity. 2017 Jun 20;46(6):1089-1090. PMID: 28423341.
  • Kumar, P, Liu, C, Hsu, JW, et al. Glycine and N-acetylcysteine (GlyNAC) supplementation in older adults improves glutathione deficiency, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, insulin resistance, endothelial dysfunction, genotoxicity, muscle strength, and cognition: Results of a pilot clinical trial. Clin Transl Med. 2021; 11:e372.
  • Baudouin-Cornu, P., Lagniel, G., Kumar, C., Huang, M.-E., Labarre, J., 2012. Glutathione Degradation Is a Key Determinant of Glutathione Homeostasis. Journal of Biological Chemistry 287, 4552–4561.
  • Weschawalit S, Thongthip S, Phutrakool P, Asawanonda P. Glutathione and its antiaging and antimelanogenic effects. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017 Apr 27;10:147-153. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S128339. PMID: 28490897; PMCID: PMC5413479.
  • Richie J.P., Jr., Nichenametla S., Neidig W., Calcagnotto A., Haley J.S., Schell T.D., Muscat J.E. Randomized controlled trial of oral glutathione supplementation on body stores of glutathione. Eur. J. Nutr. 2015;54:251–263. doi: 10.1007/s00394-014-0706-z. 
  • Wang HL, Zhang J, Li YP, Dong L, Chen YZ. Potential use of glutathione as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Exp Ther Med. 2021 Feb;21(2):125. doi: 10.3892/etm.2020.9557. Epub 2020 Dec 4. PMID: 33376507; PMCID: PMC7751460.
  • D’Almeida V, Lobo LL, Hipólide DC, de Oliveira AC, Nobrega JN, Tufik S. Sleep deprivation induces brain region-specific decreases in glutathione levels. Neuroreport. 1998 Aug 24;9(12):2853-6. doi: 10.1097/00001756-199808240-00031. PMID: 9760133.
  • Kerksick, C., Willoughby, D. The Antioxidant Role of Glutathione and N-Acetyl-Cysteine Supplements and Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2, 38 (2005).

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