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The Glutathione-Autoimmune Connection! (Part 2)

by Sean Croxton

NOTE: If you have not read yesterday’s blog, this one will likely go over your head. Check it out and come on back!

So now that we’ve met the players in this game, let’s discuss how we can keep them from screwing up team chemistry and resulting in autoimmunity.

Once considered quackery, the role of the gut mucosa, or intestinal barrier, has over the years become a more established factor in triggering autoimmunity. As you learned yesterday, when your gut is inflamed with big holes punched in it (intestinal hyperpermeability), undigested food particles and other not-so-nice stuff can make their way into the circulation (your bloodstream) and trigger an immune response.

But what happens when your immune system gets a little trigger-happy? What happens when that undigested rib-eye steak molecule you’ve been fighting off for years starts to look a lot like your thyroid, or your pancreas, or your adrenal glands?

In a case of mistaken identity, your immune system begins attacking tissues, organ, and glands. It can even attack hormones like estrogen, leaving you infertile. No bueno. This process is called molecular mimicry, confusing one molecule with another.

Environmental toxins, called haptens, can also trigger autoimmune reactions. Haptens include inorganic compounds like the formaldehyde coming out of your carpet, chemicals in your water, as well as heavy metals like mercury, lead, and cadmium.

Here’s where glutathione comes in. As I explained in last week’s Underground Antioxidant blog, one of glutathione’s primary roles is detoxification. It acts like sticky paper grabbing onto toxins and carrying them out of the body for you. In other words, when rogue chemicals and bad guys come into your body, glutathione takes the hit for you, allowing the immune system to rest.

However, when glutathione levels are depleted due to aging, toxicity, stress, and poor diet, YOU take the hit. And you take it right in the immune system! When environmental toxins enter the body with your glutathione defenses down, big bad TH-17 is upregulated, contributing to autoimmune flare-ups.

If you recall, the activity of the TH-17 system determines the severity of the autoimmune flare-up. If you are currently dealing with autoimmunity, or would like to avoid it altogether, downregulating TH-17 by way of maximizing glutathione levels is certainly in your best interest.

Note: If you are a practitioner and suspect toxicity is playing a role in your patient’s or client’s autoimmune condition, you may want to think twice about using heavy detox protocols (like chelation) without increasing glutathione levels first. Heavy metal chelation can be devastating to anyone with autoimmunity if glutathione is not there to take the hit.

Let’s get back to the TH-1 and TH-2 balancing act. Autoimmune conditions typically (but not always) show dominance in one system over the other. The role of the T-regulatory cells is to reduce this polarity. When there is a downregulation of these T-regulatory cells, TH-1 and TH-2 go off kilter, thus triggering the faulty immune process.

Glutathione to the rescue!

Research shows that glutathione plays a critical role in upregulating T-regulatory cells, bringing TH-1 and TH-2 back into balance and calming autoimmunity.

Speaking of research, this study published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Science demonstrated “a significant correlation between plasma glutathione and SLE (lupus) severity exists that may aid evaluation of the disease severity and usefulness of the management of SLE”. (sources: Pubmed & Kharrazian lecture slides)

SLE, or lupus, is the most destructive of all autoimmune conditions. This study showed that those with the most severe symptoms had the lowest glutathione levels.

If its role in the activation of the T-regulatory cells, the balancing of TH-1 and TH-2, downregulation of destructive TH-17, and improved detoxification isn’t enough for you, consider this. Glutathione also reduces intestinal barrier inflammation, promotes healing of the mucosa, and contributes to healthy gut function. In other words, it helps keep the flies out, reducing or eliminating yet another autoimmune trigger.

Glutathione’s ability to enhance tissue healing is critical not only for preventing autoimmunity but also for recovery from autoimmune flare-ups. This likely explains the reduced exercise-induced muscle soreness when taking my favorite supplement (can’t say the name due to dumb company rules), which is proven by peer-reviewed research to increase glutathione by 300%.

An additional therapeutic measure for dampening autoimmunity is to increase levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), another powerful antioxidant enzyme. Coincidentally, the discoverer of SOD is Dr. Joe McCord, the primary formulator of said supplement and winner of the 1997 Elliott Cresson medal for co-discovering the biology of free radical reactions in living organisms. That means he co-discovered the entire field of free radical biology.

I think he’s credible! 🙂

This paper from The Ohio State University published in 2011 demonstrates a threefold increase in SOD activity in the supplement-treated group.


I cannot say enough about how vital and imperative it is for you to maintain healthy glutathione levels, not only for preventing or dampening autoimmunity, but also slowing down cellular aging, reducing oxidative stress, and protecting you from chronic degenerative diseases. I hope that this series of blogs has opened up your eyes to the power of this critical antioxidant enzyme.

There are 50 million people in this country with autoimmune disease. One of the most well-known is former talk show host Montel Williams, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1999. MS develops when the immune system attacks the myelin sheaths coating the neurons in the brain. Symptoms include lack of coordination, double vision, jerky eye movements, involuntary leg movements, slurred speech, muscle weakness, and seizures.

This is not a sales pitch. I’m just sharing what I know can help millions of people boost health and fight disease. No more. No less.

That’s it for me today. It has given me much pleasure to share this life-changing information on nutrigenomics, hittin’ switches, NRF2, glutathione, and autoimmunity this past week.

Tune in tomorrow for another Inspire Millions challenge from Brett Klika and me! If you have low back pain, you won’t want to miss it!

I’m out! Keep hittin’ those switches!! ☺

Source: Lecture notes/slides from Dr. Datis Kharrazian’s Autoimmune Regulation by the Nitric Oxide and Glutathione Systems lecture




12 thoughts on “The Glutathione-Autoimmune Connection! (Part 2)

  1. WCB

    If only my GI doctor had taken the time to explain the role T-cells play in auto-immunity, then maybe I wouldn’t have wasted time and lots of money treating my Crohn’s disease with drugs that don’t get to the root cause.

  2. Bob

    Sean, if you haven’t already please let us know what foods we should eat and things we should be doing to try to reverse the problem. For those of us who might not be able to afford Protandim etc…Like the video you reposted about 20 dollars, you could do a video where you go into a store and buy stuff on a budget that’s good at fighting auto-immunity! It’s awesome to see an affiliation with Montel I’ve always thought it’d be cool if you guys did diagnostics on him. I hope he’s avoiding GRAINS. Keep up the good work. One day I want to have enough money to take the functional diagnostic nutrition courses and start helping people and helping myself!

  3. UW Sean Post author

    Thanks, Bob! I wrote a blog last week about which foods increase glutathione. Actually two blogs. Check out my “Top 3 Foods that Turn Your Good Genes On..” and “Glutathione: The Underground Antioxidant” blogs.

  4. Todd

    Oh no, if Montel is endorsing and promoting it, I have less than good feelings. Do you also want a high interest no credit check loan?

  5. Wendy

    Hey Sean!!

    I have heard that glutithione is best taken transdermally. That stomach acid can break down the glutithione before its hits the cells.


    Thanks for all the great info!

  6. UW Sean Post author

    Regardless of Motel’s infomercials and such, you have to admit that for a guy with MS, he’s doing VERY well! Protandim has played a significant role in that.

  7. UW Sean Post author

    Hi Wendy,

    Transdermal creams do increase glutathione levels. I blogged about this in my Glutathione: The Underground Antioxidant blog.

    Protandim does not actually contain glutatione, since glutathione is broken down in the digestive tract (as you correctly stated). What Protandim does is turn on the genes that increase glutathione production. Check out my Hittin’ Switches blog.


  8. Kathie

    It’s so hard to find good doctors, and the one thing I have discovered is that you have to be your own advocate. My ex had Crohn’s, he was the first person I had ever heard of with that disease. It was back in the 80’s so hopefully they will have better treatments that what was available to him. He struggled with it for years, and luckily for him, had parents that could financially take care of him. I hope you find something that works for you, and the sooner the better.

  9. Kathie

    I know what you mean about Montel and his infomercials. I was so dissapointed in him when he started doing that. But he has also done a lot of good helping people get affordable prescriptions through different programs.

  10. Johnny B

    Hey Sean. Not sure if you see new posts on old threads. I came upon this post researching SOD, but I’ve been a fan of yours for a while. Question: Are you familiar with Super Glisodin? It is touted as the first bioavailable oral SOD supplement. My favorite part is they use gliadin (non-digestable wheat protein) to protect the SOD from stomach acids. Pretty clever. I’m just curious what you think about it.



  11. Karen Kennedy

    Eureka!!!! My God, I wish I had known about this research years ago when my daughter was first diagnosed with Lupus (SLE) at age 17. She passed away almost 2 years ago when doctors ignored her cries for help and she had a massive stroke. Brittany had the form of Lupus that primarily attacked her kidneys, thus she was put on dialysis in 2009. Surgery after unnecessary surgery, test after test and medication after medication never did much good. She was used as a test subject and thrown away when she was too weak to fight anymore. At least someone got her organs (total sarcasm). This is awesome information that I will pass along to other Lupus patients to hopefully help them in their search for help. Thank you, thank you so very much for helping me to better understand this process.

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