Glutathione, Antioxidants and Inflammation

Source: Theodore Hersh, MD, MACG
Professor of Medicine, Emeritus, Emory University 

No Copyright Infringement Intended

The characteristics of inflammation include redness, swelling, heat and pain. Inflammation is common in many types of arthritis, infections and ulcerations of the skin and mouth. It is also present in various types of dermatitis, including psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. In skin, joint, muscle or soft tissue inflammation, there is a marked increase of white blood cells that aid in the fight against an infective bacteria or virus, and against "allergens", the noxious molecules that cause allergic responses in the body giving the patient symptoms depending on the target organ such as skin, gut, or lungs.

These white blood cells, called leucocytes, and the other inflammatory cell defenders also release countless free radicals in the area of inflammation which require antioxidants to scavenge and neutralize these free radicals. Many white blood cells also release potent enzymes which can cause local destruction of tissues. These enzymes overcome the body's local defenders, anti-enzymes, known collectively as "protease inhibitors" (e.g., trypsin or elastase inhibitors).

In psoriasis, these leucocytes release the potent enzyme "elastase" which is capable of digesting proteins, cell membranes and other supporting tissues such as collagen and elastin. Psoriatic scales have been shown to contain high amounts of this enzyme elastase, which contributes to the lesions in psoriasis.

Treatment of psoriasis should thus include agents that reduce inflammation, such as salicylic acid dermatologics. In addition, the reactions caused by the free radicals can be neutralized with topical creams, lotions and sprays which contain antioxidants, particularly glutathione and its synergistic antioxidant partners. These antioxidants, like the anti-inflammatory drugs, help reduce inflammation and the numbers of inflammatory white blood cells are also thus reduced. As a result, fewer free radicals and tissue destructive enzymes are made, thereby helping the healing process and eliminating the many symptoms of inflammation. In psoriasis then, antioxidants are adjuncts to therapy which help control the itching, redness, scaling and flaking hallmarks of psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis lesions in the skin and scalp.

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