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Brain Fog and Blue Moods Could Be Signs of a Glutathione Deficiency, Doctor Warns

Find out expert tips for maintaining sufficient levels of the 'master detoxifier.'

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Your body can signals potential problems going on beneath the surface in a variety of ways. Prime examples? Frequent brain fog and fatigue. These health hassles are often associated with menopause. However, those symptoms may instead be the result of a glutathione deficiency. (Glutathione is an essential bodily substance made from three animo acids called cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine.) Keeping sufficient levels of glutathione in your body is necessary, as its antioxidant abilities help remove harmful toxins, especially in the liver. Fortunately, you can avoid a glutathione deficiency through simple changes to your diet.

“Glutathione deficiency affects almost every ill patient that walks into my office,” Mark Hyman, MD, author of the upcoming book Young Forever, says. “I call glutathione the ‘master detoxifier.’ It acts like fly paper to toxins, which stick to it in the liver so they can be eliminated by the body.” According to Dr. Hyman, toxins, poor diet, and stress can deplete glutathione. The result is a buildup of toxins that trigger fatigue, brain fog, blue moods, and more. Luckily, Dr. Hyman offers two recommendations for maintaining healthy levels of glutathione at all times.

2 Ways To Avoid a Glutathione Deficiency

If your doctor observes signs of a glutathione deficiency, they may order tests to confirm a potential diagnosis. In the meantime, start incorporating these tips into your everyday diet as shortfalls can be common:

  • Eat sulfur-rich vegetables. Consuming sulfur-rich vegetables, like Brussel sprouts, may elevate glutathione levels, a study in the journal Carcinogenesis found. In the study, eating 300 grams of Brussel sprouts each day for three weeks increased glucosinolate levels in tissues for 10 adult participants. “Sulfur is the sticky molecule that gives glutathione its magic,” Dr. Hyman says. He also advises avoiding processed foods, which contain glutathione-depleting chemicals.
  • Try this daily supplement. According to Healthline, adequate consumption of an amino acid called N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is key for replenishing glutathione in the body. “I take NAC every day,” Dr. Hyman notes. He adds that doctors typically advise taking 600 to 1,200 milligrams daily. (Note: Consult with your doctor before taking a new supplement.)

Concerns Surrounding the NAC Supplement

You may have heard about the controversy over NAC, which health experts recommend to boost glutathione and has been sold in supplement form for decades. But it’s still available, and Dr. Hyman says it’s safe. 

“Sales of NAC supplements are permitted by the FDA,” Megan Olson, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for The Council for Responsible Nutrition, assures. In 2021, the FDA questioned NAC’s status as a dietary supplement as an inhaled form was approved back in 1963. While some retailers stopped making NAC as a result, others are offering it again. The reason: Last August, the FDA determined NAC can still be sold as a supplement. “While our full safety review of NAC remains ongoing, our initial review has not revealed safety concerns with respect to the use of this ingredient in or as a dietary supplement,” the FDA said in a statement.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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