Glutathione for Liver Support

By Ross Pelton

Scientific Director, Essential Formulas

Ross Pelton is a pharmacist, nutritionist, author and a health educator who is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on drug-induced nutrient depletions. He was named one of the top 50 most influential pharmacists in the United States by American Druggist magazine for his work in Natural Medicine.

Reduced Liver Function Is One of America’s Most Significant Health Risks

By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Scientific Director, Essential Formulas

Liver dysfunction has been a ‘silent epidemic’ and is now recognized as a global health crisis. i It is interesting to compare COVID-19 with this condition. COVID-19 was a rapid-onset health crisis that resulted in a fast global emergency response. Reduced liver function has a gradual onset. Consequently, many people are either complacent or unaware of its signs and symptoms.

 An article published in Scientific American announced that liver issues are one of America’s most significant health risks. ii Current estimates suggest that they affect nearly two billion people globally, or 25% of the world’s population.

 What Are the Symptoms?

Sufferers often have no symptoms, but when symptoms do occur, they may include fatigue and tenderness or pain in the upper right abdomen. In its most severe form, it often includes liver inflammation, scarring (cirrhosis), and liver failure, which can have the following symptoms:

  • Red palms
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Yellow eyes and skin
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Enlarged veins just below the surface of the skin

 Talk to your doctor if you regularly experience these symptoms.

What Causes Reduced Liver Function?

Some people naturally collect fat in their liver while others do not, and doctors are unsure why. Some individuals’ livers treat excess fat as a toxin, which can lead to cirrhosis.

 While research into causative factors is ongoing, researchers have found low liver function to correlate with certain conditions vii

  • High fat levels, especially triglycerides
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Insulin resistance
  • High blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • Metabolic syndrome

Long-Term Health Consequences

Left unchecked, liver dysfunction progresses to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is liver scarring that happens when the liver is injured, in this case, with inflammation. The scarring (fibrosis) increasingly replaces liver tissue over time. Without intervention, cirrhosis causes some unpleasant and potentially fatal conditions.

  • Swelling of veins in the esophagus
  • Abdominal fluid buildup
  • Slurred speech, sleepiness, confusion
  • End-stage liver failure

Improving Your Liver with Lifestyle Changes

No pharmaceutical medication can cure liver dysfunction. Sometimes liver issues stop independently and can even reverse, but in many cases, they progress. See your doctor before making major lifestyle changes, but there are some steps you can take that have been shown to help:

  • See a liver specialist
  • Lose weight
  • Limit over-the-counter medications
  • Take medication to reduce blood pressure
  • Take medication for diabetes
  • Take medication to bring down cholesterol or triglycerides

Glutathione’s Role in Liver Function

Increased levels of oxidative stress and free radical damage play a vital role in liver health. v The liver is the primary organ responsible for detoxification, and liver tissue has the highest glutathione levels of any organ in the body. Numerous studies have reported that patients with liver dysfunction have low levels of glutathione. vi

 In addition to the conditions mentioned above, lifestyle and environmental factors deplete glutathione levels, increasing risks to the liver. These glutathione-depleting factors include nutrient deficiencies, a sedentary lifestyle, alcohol consumption, OTC and prescription drugs, especially those containing acetaminophen, and exposure to agricultural chemicals, mycotoxins, and other environmental toxins. viii,ix,x,xi

Can Glutathione Supplements Help?

The use of glutathione to treat liver issues constitutes medical practice, so only physicians can order it. Until recently, glutathione supplements were unavailable because glutathione is not well absorbed orally. xii 

 Because of this, the general public isn’t nearly as aware of glutathione compared to high-profile supplements like vitamin C, vitamin D, and omega-3 fish oils. However, glutathione is gaining respect as information about its importance spreads.

 Increasing glutathione levels is one of the most important proactive steps you can take to improve your overall health. Glutathione levels are now recognized as a reliable biomarker of aging. xiii

 The Science

Even though oral glutathione supplements are generally not well absorbed, one human clinical trial reported a positive outcome. In this study, patients took 300 mg of glutathione daily for four months, resulting in an average 12.9% decline in the critical liver enzyme ALT, high levels of which signal liver damage. xiv 

However, in this trial, the patients underwent a three-month program of diet and lifestyle improvements before taking the glutathione supplement daily for four months. Thus, improvements in liver enzymes could have been due to the three months of diet and lifestyle changes rather than the four months of oral glutathione supplementation.

 Results from a study titled Glutathione: in Sickness and in Health revealed that the body’s production of glutathione declines with age and that glutathione levels are also directly proportional to health status.xv The results of this study revealed that healthy young people have higher glutathione levels than healthy older adults.

 Also, healthy older adults had substantially higher glutathione levels than older people with chronic or acute health problems. However, because orally ingested glutathione gets broken down before it can be absorbed, very few studies have been conducted using oral glutathione supplements. xvi

The Glutathione Revolution: Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3

About 20 years ago, a revolutionary breakthrough occurred when scientists discovered a strain of probiotic bacteria named Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 that synthesizes glutathione. xvii 

 Although oral glutathione supplements are not effectively absorbed, taking capsules containing Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 has been proven to be a very effective method of boosting plasma glutathione levels. Human clinical trials have documented the effectiveness of orally ingesting capsules containing Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3:

  1. 16% reduction in oxidized LDL-cholesterol = reduced risk of cardiovascular issuesxviii
  2. 20% decrease in 8-isoprostanes = reduction in free radical damage in the cellular membranes throughout the body xix
  3. 49% increase in the ratio between plasma levels of reduced to oxidized (active vs. inactive) glutathione xx
  4. 26% increase in total antioxidant activity throughout the body; additional reduced glutathione also recycles oxidized vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, and lipoic acid. Thus, orally taking ME-3 doesn’t just boost glutathione levels; it also improves other essential antioxidants.

Where Can I Get Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 Supplements?

Reg´Activ® by Essential Formulas is the brand name for products that contain Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3. Essential Formulas has the sole right to distribute Reg’Activ products in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

 There are four Reg´Activ formulations: Detox & Liver Health™, Immune & Vitality™, and CardioWellness™. Each contains several additional ingredients; the recommended dose is two capsules daily. A fourth formulation, Essential ME-3,  focuses specifically on Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3; the recommended dose is one capsule daily.

Lactobacillus Fermentum ME-3 is Acid Tolerant

Unlike oral glutathione supplements, Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 survives stomach acid and pancreatic digestive enzymes. xxi This is a critical feature regarding Reg’Activ products.

 When the Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 bacteria pass through the stomach and arrive in the small intestine, they produce glutathione 24/7. This daily easy-to-take capsule effectively boosts glutathione levels, creating a revolutionary breakthrough in health and medicine.

 No other product has shown the health benefits in human clinical trials that Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 has. Thus, taking one of the Reg’Activ products daily boosts glutathione levels and helps improve overall health*. You can purchase Reg’Activ products at most fine health food and vitamin stores or on the Essential Formulas website.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Existing Sources 

i Lazarus JV, et al. NAFLD—sounding the alarm on a silent epidemic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020 Jul;17(7):377-379.

ii Jamal HZ. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: America’s Greatest Health Risk of 2015?

iii Younossi, Z. M. et al. Global epidemiology of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease-Meta-analytic assessment of prevalence, incidence, and outcomes. Hepatology 64, 73–84 (2016).

iv Pierantonelli, I.; Svegliati-Baroni, G. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Basic Pathogenetic Mechanisms in the Progression from NAFLD to NASH. Transplantation 2019, 103, e1–e13.

v Irie M, et al. Reduced Glutathione suppresses Oxidative Stress in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Euroasian J Hepatogastroenterol. Jan-Jun 2016;6(1):13-18.

vi Kalhan SC, et al. Plasma metabolomic profile in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Metabolism. 2011 Mar;60(3):404-13.

vii NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

viii Nivukoski U, et al. Combined effects of lifestyle risk factors on the fatty liver index. BMC Gastroenterology. 2020;20(109).

ix Kalsi SS, et al. A review of the evidence concerning hepatic glutathione depletion and susceptibility to hepatoxicity after paracetamol overdose. Open Access Emerg Med. 2011 Dec 23;3:87-96.

x Panemangalore M and Bebe FN. Short- and long-term exposure to low levels of pesticide and flavonoid mixtures modify endogenous antioxidants in the tissues of rats. Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B. 2009 May;44:(4):357-364.

xi Guilford FT and Hope J. Deficient glutathione in the pathophysiology of the mycotoxin-related illness. Toxins (Basel). 2014 Feb 10;6(2):608-23.

xii Watch A, et al. The systemic availability of oral Glutathione. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1992;43(6):667-9.

xiii Mischley LK, et al. Glutathione as a Biomarker in Parkinson’s Disease: Associations with Aging and Disease Severity. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:9409363.

xiv Honda Y, et al. Efficacy of Glutathione for treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: an open-label, single-arm, multicenter, pilot study. BMC Gastroenterol. 2017 Aug 8;17(1):96.

xv Nuttall SL, et al. Glutathione: in sickness and in health. The Lancet. 1998 Feb 28;351(9103).645-6.

xvi Zhang H, et al. Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase in glutathione biosynthesis. Methods Enzymol. 2005;401:468–483.

xvii Mikelsaar M and Zilmer M. Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 – an antimicrobial and antioxidative probiotic. Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2009 Apr;21(1):1-27.

xviii Kullisaar T, et al. An antioxidant probiotic reduces postprandial lipemia and oxidative stress. Central European Journal of Biology. 2011;Vol. 6(1): pp. 32-40.

xix Kullisaar T, et al. Antioxidative probiotic fermented goats’ milk decreases oxidative stress-mediated atherogenicity in human subjects. British Journal of Nutrition. 2003; Vol. 90; pp.449-456.

xx Kullisaar T, et al. Probiotics, Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Diseases. 4th Central European Congress on Food. May 15-17, Caveat, Croatia

xxi Songisepp E. Evaluation of Technological and Functional Properties of the New Probiotic Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3. Thesis dissertation. The University of Tartu, Faculty of Medicine. May 18, 2005.


By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Scientific Director, Essential Formulas

Ross Pelton is a pharmacist, nutritionist, author and a health educator who is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on drug-induced nutrient depletions. He was named one of the top 50 most influential pharmacists in the United States by American Druggist magazine for his work in Natural Medicine.

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