Immune System and Diseases

Diseases that produce any symptoms that we are aware of are a direct failure of the immune system to adequately respond to the intruding organism. Immune system disorders are tied together in many ways. The following will try to lay out some of the ways immune disorders and diseases are tied together in common and easy to understand terms.

The immune response seeks out, identifies and attacks threatening microorganisms, allergens and cancer cells collectively called antigens. The back bone of the immune system is made up of - B-cells, helper T-cells, killer T-cells and suppressor T-cells. When this system is disrupted the doors to diseases and infection are open and health is compromised.

The immune system relies on chemical warfare and overwhelming numbers to destroy most intruding invaders. To achieve overwhelming numbers the immune cells go through cloning. For chemical warfare they produce highly reactive oxidizers. The limiting factor in cell reproduction is the availability of the food required for this to take place - Glutathione (GSH). Surrounding cells can be and are sometimes damaged by the immune response. What the cells do to protect themselves is they bring as much available GSH to the cell wall as possible. This neutralizes the oxidants before they can damage the cell. A healthy immune system with all the available food it needs to mount a proper response can defend itself against most diseases. The available GSH corresponds directly to the effectiveness of the immune response. A good example of this is when a baby is being breast feed - mother's milk is loaded with all the things a baby needs to have a strong immune system and response, and babies rarely get sick as long as they are breast fed.

A more scientific way of saying this is: When a lymphocyte attacks a pathogen, it releases powerful oxidizing chemicals such as peroxide and protects itself against these chemicals by neutralizing them with GSH. In addition, lymphocytes must replicate themselves over and over again in order to attack the whole pathogen population. This requires the use of oxygen and releases further oxidants. In order to continue multiplying efficiently GSH is once again required and to counteract the effects of oxidation even additional GSH is required. So fighting off infection and diseases consumes GSH in two ways – by using it to stabilize free radicals and also to grow immune cells.

Glutathione in Health and Healing

The following are just a few diseases for your consideration:

Flu/ cold virus –

Accumulating evidence suggests that cellular redox status plays an important role in regulating viral replication and infectivity. While many studies have been performed concerning antioxidants and the role they play in defending the body against the flu and diseases, most have failed miserably. Once we realize that there are over 4,000 different antioxidants (that we know of today) and that our bodies need a good mix of many of them to function at its peak, we can come to the realization that selecting any one antioxidant will almost inevitably prove ineffective for the general population. The only exception to this that I have found is GSH; but being the master antioxidant, it makes sense that GSH would stand out in this way. Studies have shown a reduced chance of contracting influenza-like symptoms when GSH levels are raised. They also suggest that when GSH levels are maintained the severity of flu symptoms are reduced to 1/3 of the severity. See case studies here for additional information.

Aging –

Aging is discussed under Anti-Aging, but we cover it briefly here to point out that it is a natural process but one that can be greatly effected by diseases and by the overall health of our immune system. One of the major contributors to premature aging is oxidative stress. Glutathione prevents oxidative stress in most cells and helps trap free radicals that can damage DNA and RNA. There is a direct correlation with the speed of aging and the reduction of glutathione concentrations in intracellular fluids. As individuals grow older, glutathione levels drop, and the ability to detoxify free radicals decreases. Several studies have found a high level (higher than normal for the age group) of GHS in the blood occurs in persons in there golden years who are in excellent physical and mental health.

Parkinson’s disease -

Recent research has revealed two important findings: first, biochemical analysis of the affected brain tissue shows damage consistent with extensive oxidative stress and the circulation of the free radicals that allows it; second, GSH levels in these tissues are particularly low. Elevated GSH levels slow brain tissue damage. Some symptoms may even be reversed. Parkinson’s disease is characterized by a loss of the brain cells that regulate dopamine (neurotransmitter). Significant evidence points to the role of oxidative stress and dramatically low GSH levels as critical contributing causes of this damage. Studies have demonstrated that protecting these cells from damage and death by raising GSH levels can succeed both in the laboratory and in patients and is a welcome addition to conventional medical treatments. Here are some abstracts on Parkinson's diseases from that I found.

Alzheimer’s disease -

This disease is characterized by a degeneration of brain nerve cells and a shrinkage of brain tissue. Although it is certainly a multifactorial problem, certain aspects must be emphasized. It is unclear whether oxidative damage is a cause or just an effect of Alzheimer’s. However, this is no doubt that diminished oxidative stress can retard or slow down the disease progression. Here are some abstracts from that I found.


HIV destroys helper T-cells and leaves killer T-cells cut off and powerless. As a result, invading micro-organisms that the body would normally shrug off are able to cause severe infections that characterize AIDS. It attacks the immune system and is characterized by decreased GSH levels and a general lack of resistance to pathogens. In fact, glutathione deficiency is associated with decreased survival in HIV disease. Scientific studies have shown that supplementation aimed at maintaining GSH levels can diminish and sometimes reverse the wasting effect of AIDS. Here are some of the studies:

Whey Proteins as a Food Supplement in HIV-seropositive Individuals.

Place for an Anti-Oxidant Therapy in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection.

Neutriceutical Modulation of Glutathione with a Humanized Native Milk Serum Protein Isolate: Application in AIDS and Cancer.

Lung Diseases –

The importance of GSH in the respiratory system cannot be overstated. There is a fragile balance in the lungs between oxidants and antioxidants. When oxidant levels grow too high or GSH levels too low, the inevitable result is tissue damage. Remember that GSH is the most critical of all naturally occurring antioxidants and that it effectively supports such antioxidants as vitamins C and E. An impressive amount of research has clarified the critical importance of antioxidants and GSH in all the pulmonary diseases. Unlike most other tissues the lungs can use GSH as-is – through direct contact – rather than having to first absorb its precursors and then manufacture it. There are many ways to elevate pulmonary GSH including oral, intravenous and inhaled therapies.

Cancer –

The immune system and cancer are tied together at the most fundamental level. Healthy cells have a built-in mechanism that only allows cellular replication for three purposes: normal growth, healing of injured tissue and replacement of cells lost in normal metabolism. Cancer starts with a mutation in the genetic code of the cell that results in uncontrolled growth. There can be many causes for a cell to mutate: pollutants, ionizing radiation, diet, and certain viruses. When the immune system is operating properly it repairs the mutations and prevents the cancer from starting this way, but when the immune system is compromised, the repairer does not occur and cancer gets a foothold. Cancer and the immune system are so closely tied together that our best and first line of defense against cancer is a healthy immune system.

Hundreds of medical articles have been written describing the role of GSH in cancer prevention, cancer treatment and as an alternative treatment for cancer. GSH plays a major role in cancer prevention as a detoxifying agent and as an antioxidant agent for higher immune response. A special role for GSH in chemotherapy and radiotherapy is because it enhances the effectiveness of arduous treatments while minimizing their side-effects. Cancer patients are typically heavily dosed with pharmaceutical drugs and suffer from poor appetite and low energy especially when undergoing chemo or radiation therapy. Undenatured whey proteins are an ideal way to increase GSH levels and simultaneously address protein requirements. While increasing your glutathione is considered one of many alternative cancer treatments, it is really one of the most researched and proven ways to complement general medical procedures while providing your body with the essentials it needs to fight and improve your quality of life. Elevated glutathione replenishes antioxidant defenses, contributes to synthesis and repair of DNA and helps detoxify numerous carcinogens and mutagens.

Prostate cancer and lung cancer are two particular cancers that benefit greatly for raised GSH. The reason that increasing your GSH works for prostate cancer is that prostrate cancer progresses very slow. Elevated GSH levels take time to work and time to restore natural prostate health. In the Cysteine-Rich Lung cancer trial (Click below to find it in the medical research articles on the application of a bioactive whey protein in cancer.) it is seen that in the first 4 to 5 months of use of Cysteine-Rich Protein the mortality rate is about the same, but there is a very remarkable difference after that amount of time. Understanding how our bodies work, how the immune system fights cancer and what it needs to fight cancer provides information as to why this is. In simple terms it is a war going on within the body; cancer cells on one side and your body's defenses on the other. You only have a limited amount of resources to fight the war and both sides are drawing from the same resources. When resources are high the cancer can remain dormant or advance a slower rate, but your defenses, your immune system can all but collapse when resources are low. This gives the cancer the edge it needs to win. But it does not have to be this way; you can beat the cancer at its own game. "When GSH production is over stimulated in cancer cells, they shut down glutathione production in a process called negative feedback inhibition, making them more susceptible to destruction. Meanwhile, normal tissue uses the precursors to make glutathione, leaving it with better defenses." (from GSH book by Gutman). The slow moving prostate cancer can then be dealt with much more effectively over the long run when GSH is kept at optimum levels.

Lung cancer is very insidious to the body, in that like other cancers it is using your resources to destroy your body but in an additional way it is also trying to limit one of your most vital resources- oxygen. As the lung cancer progresses it can cause shortness of breath (dyspnea) and greatly increase the already high oxidative stress that occurs in the lungs. Next to the liver and kidneys the lungs have the highest GSH content (2.9 u-mol/g). "An impressive amount of research has clarified the critical importance of antioxidants and GSH in all these pulmonary diseases. Unlike most tissues, the lungs can use GSH as-is - through direct contact-rather than having to first absorb its precursors and then manufacture it. There are many ways to elevate pulmonary GSH, including oral, intravenous and inhaled therapies." (from GSH book by Gutman). Ask your doctor which is the best way for you based on your condition.

Clinical trials:


Diabetes –

Glutathione plays an important role in the fight against diabetes. It can prevent circulatory problems such as arteriosclerosis and stroke – the main causes of diabetic death. GSH also enhances the immune system. Many visits to the doctor or the hospital could be avoided if diabetics were not so prone to infection. The blood and tissues of diabetics are marked by critically low GSH levels. Elevated GSH levels may help by providing: immune system support against infection; decrease of oxidative stress from hyperglycemia; decrease of platelet aggregation; prevention of vascular complications including atherosclerosis (heart disease, stroke), nephropathy, retinopathy, and neuropathy.

Fibromyalgia –

Fibromyalgia is characterized by high levels of oxidative stress resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction, DNA fragmentation, low activity of antioxidant enzymes, and low glutathione levels. Recent research indicates that combating oxidative stress in this difficult to treat disease may be key to reversing the symptoms. More details on the role of glutathione in fibromyalgia are here.

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