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Glutathione – Cellgevity for Fertility, and PCOS

Glutathione has been referred to as the “master antioxidant” and though it’s arguably the most important antioxidant out there, very few doctors know about it. Glutathione is produced by our own bodies (neat!), and is made up of three amino acids. It contains a whopping amount of sulfur, the compound that gives it much of its power. Glutathione can also be recycled, meaning that your body can use it over and over again. It’s main function is to quench all sorts of damaging chemicals that regularly float about in our bodies from inflammation and toxins. Each and every cell in our bodies need and use glutathione, and when it’s deficient, our health will suffer.

Genetics and Glutathione

Some people are naturally less able to recycle glutathione, due to their genes. For people who recycle less glutathione, there can be a much greater negative impact of toxins on our cells.

Glutathione and Fertility

Glutathione is important for both male and female fertility. It can improve sperm health and quality. When it comes to the women’s ovaries, glutathione has an important role to play. Our eggs develop slowly and gradually in a process known as folliculogenesis over a period of many months before ovulation occurs. During this process, the many cells surrounding the egg, known collectively as the follicle, replicate. Each one of these tiny cells requires glutathione to shield it from damage. As such, the egg quality is dependent on glutathione – one of the ovary’s main protectors.

In fact, research has shown that oocytes with higher levels of intracellular glutathione produce healthier, stronger embryos. Other research has shown that in our younger years, women’s ovaries actually have higher intracellular glutathione levels. As such, increasing our glutathione can potentially turn back the ovarian “clock”. Research has shown that glutathione deficiency is related to premature ovarian aging and even ovarian cancer. Another study found that for women undergoing IVF, higher levels of glutathione in a woman’s follicles translated into increased fertilization rates.

Glutathione and PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels.

Women with PCOS produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones. This hormone imbalance causes them to skip menstrual periods and makes it harder for them to get pregnant.

PCOS is a problem with hormones that affects women during their childbearing years (ages 15 to 44). Between 2.2 and 26.7 percent of women in this age group have PCOS

Many women have PCOS but don’t know it. In one study, up to 70 percent of women with PCOS hadn’t been diagnosed

PCOS affects a woman’s ovaries, the reproductive organs that produce estrogen and progesterone — hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. The ovaries also produce a small amount of male hormones called androgens.

The ovaries release eggs to be fertilized by a man’s sperm. The release of an egg each month is called ovulation.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) control ovulation. FSH stimulates the ovary to produce a follicle — a sac that contains an egg — and then LH triggers the ovary to release a mature egg.

PCOS is a “syndrome,” or group of symptoms that affects the ovaries and ovulation. Its three main features are:

  • cysts in the ovaries
  • high levels of male hormones
  • irregular or skipped periods

In PCOS, many small, fluid-filled sacs grow inside the ovaries. The word “polycystic” means “many cysts.”

These sacs are actually follicles, each one containing an immature egg. The eggs never mature enough to trigger ovulation.

The lack of ovulation alters levels of estrogen, progesterone, FSH, and LH. Estrogen and progesterone levels are lower than usual, while androgen levels are higher than usual.

Extra male hormones disrupt the menstrual cycle, so women with PCOS get fewer periods than usual.

PCOS isn’t a new condition. Italian physician Antonio Vallisneri first described its symptoms in 1721

For women with PCOS, glutathione is also exceptionally important. A recent study challenged a group of 36 lean women with PCOS with a load of glucose. As would be expected, the women produced higher levels of insulin and testosterone in response to the dose of sugar. The study concluded that the glucose caused a significant increase in the oxidative stress markers, lowering the glutathione levels – and that this reduction in glutathione was associated with an increase in testosterone.Another study that set out to evaluate DNA damage in the ovaries of women with PCOS concluded that there may be significantly less glutathione in the ovary as a result of the condition. As many women with PCOS have seen when trying to conceive, egg quality is a key issue. Even for those women with PCOS who ovulate regularly, the time to conceive can be long – most often related to the quality of her follicles.Glutathione is protective for the egg quality of women with PCOS and increasing these levels can not only improve the chances of conceiving but also can increase the general rate of ovulation.
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