Believe Big Podcast

60-Dr. Lindsay Adrian - Be Resilient: The Power of Glutathione

October 10, 2023 Ivelisse Page & Dr. Lindsay Adrian
Believe Big Podcast
60-Dr. Lindsay Adrian - Be Resilient: The Power of Glutathione
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Kicking off Season 2 of the Believe Big podcast, Ivelisse interviews Dr. Lindsay Adrian, an integrative physician specializing in cancer care and chronic conditions. 

This episode is PACKED with practical examples and clearly articulated information about glutathione, sometimes hailed as the body's ultimate defense against free radicals and oxidative stress.  

Dr. Adrian sheds light on 

  • the significance of glutathione, especially for those navigating a cancer diagnosis,
  • glutathione as a crucial amino acid that acts as a master antioxidant in the body,
  • the importance of glutathione for healthy mitochondrial function, 
  • and how glutathione aids in detoxification.

The discussion highlights key cautions, emphasizing that glutathione should be judiciously integrated, particularly avoiding overlap with conventional treatments to prevent potential interference.  Dr. Adrian underscores the seriousness of working with an integrative practitioner who understands when and how to incorporate glutathione in a patient's treatment plan.

Connect with Dr. Lindsay Adrian:
Port Moody Health

Suggested  Resource Links:


Ivelisse Page:

Hi, I'm Ivelisse Page, and thanks for listening to the Believe Big Podcast, the show where we take a deep dive into your healing with health experts, integrative practitioners, biblical faith leaders, and cancer thrivers from around the globe. Welcome to today's episode on the Believe Big podcast. My name is Ivelisse Page, and it's an honor to be with you today. There are so many things to learn about when you're working through a cancer diagnosis, and that includes medications, therapies, supplements, and many other things. Glutathione is something that you may or may not have heard about. Today, we have one of our integrative physician friends, Dr. Lindsay Adrian, from the Port Moody Health in British Columbia, Canada, to talk to us about glutathione and what health benefits it can offer. Dr. Adrian is a naturopathic physician specializing in integrative cancer care and chronic conditions. She holds an undergraduate degree in chemistry, a graduate of Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, an active member of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and is a fellow to the Association of the College of Naturopathic Oncology. She is married with three wonderful children and loves rowing on the Fraser River and playing soccer. Welcome, Dr. Adrian, to the show.

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

Thank you very much, Ivelisse. It's lovely to be here.

Ivelisse Page:

Well, as you know, our listeners are always interested in discovering what our guest's favorite health tip is. I am sure you have many, but can you share one with us?

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

Absolutely. You know, I think a lot of the times we forget about the simple things and, and I think sometimes we undervalue some of the simple things. And so one of my favorite tips is deep belly breathing. And I think oftentimes, people hear about deep breathing and they feel like sometimes they're being minimized when they're told to breathe through some of their challenges. And I think that comes from not having a really great explanation of why. And so I just want to briefly share biochemistry because that's what really gets me jazzed. And so when we take this big belly breath, there's this big shelf of muscle called our diaphragm, and that muscle is flattened. It pulls down. But we have this lovely big nerve called our vagus nerve that travels from our brainstem past our esophagus and our heart and our lungs past our stomach and our liver and gallbladder and into our intestines and that vagus nerve is tethered to that shelf of muscle, that, that diaphragm. And so when you take your deep breath, that vagus nerve is pulled nice and tight and it vibrates right up into your brain. And it's this sneaky backdoor way to tell your brain to go into parasympathetic mode and parasympathetic is our rest, digest and repair. And so I always say you can't yell at the gerbil to get off the wheel when we're stressed and we're overwhelmed. Convincing yourself to calm down doesn't work, but you can sort of sneaky back door into that nice rest, digest, repair with deep belly breathing.

Ivelisse Page:

Wow. I have never heard that it was associated with your vagus nerve and how important that is. And so thank you for showing us and telling us about that cause I had never heard that I've heard the benefits of breathing. And even as you were speaking, I was"take deep breaths, Ivelisse, take deep breaths." And it is so true that it really helps our bodies to get into that rest and repair mode. But thank you for sharing that. I know that it'll be a great tip for everyone. So for those listening who don't know about glutathione, can you share with us what it is and its most important functions?

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

Oh my, okay, well, how about I start with what it is. So glutathione is an amino acid that our body makes. Some people are really efficient at making it and other people are genetically a little slower, have a little harder time making it. Glutathione is our master antioxidant. So it is used in most of the tissues in your entire body. It's incredibly important for quenching free radicals. and reactive oxygen species. and probably from my perspective, one of its biggest roles is as our sort of mitochondrial repair regulator. And, and so glutathione is absolutely imperative for healthy mitochondrial function. And for those people who haven't heard that word, mitochondria is not just the powerhouse of the cell, which is what I think a lot of us learn in high school science. but it's also sort of this master regulator of all of our cellular functions. So it needs to be healthy and robust and work well.

Ivelisse Page:

Yeah. This summer, this past summer when we were both at a conference in Ecuador, I was having a bit of elevation sickness and just worn down from travel. And you gave me a great little glutathione packet that you travel with. And I mean, incredibly, it really helped me. So can you share why you travel with these packets and do you have a specific brand that you recommend or prefer?

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

So, I traveled specifically this time with some glutathione because I knew that we were going to be experiencing some very high elevations. And with those high elevations, we're not having great oxygen delivery to our tissues. That's why we often have those symptoms of headache and nausea and dizziness and breathlessness. And so when our tissue has not enough oxygen, it makes lactic acid. And that lactic acid can come with it a bunch of cellular injury and damage. And so the glutathione was there to try to repair those cells, also to make it so that the oxygen that we were getting was able to be used more efficiently by our mitochondria to make energy. When it comes to brands, there are a few great ones out there. I'm from Canada and so the brands that we have here are a little different than some of the brands you can get in the U S, but the big thing with glutathione is that it's a large molecule, so it is not very easily absorbed, so when people are looking at sources for glutathione, it needs to be from a company that understands how to make it bioavailable. Glutathione off the shelf at your local health food store is probably going to come out the same way it went in and not very much of it will be absorbed in your tissues. So I am very picky about making sure that the brands are lipolyzed, which means wrapped in a fat. Or, you know, some other way of making the glutathione itself as bioavailable as humanly possible.

Ivelisse Page:

Okay, that's a great tip. And if you do have some, brands that maybe I can check into, I can put those links in the show notes for people to check out because it is so important, not only the item, but the quality of it. And like you said, the bioavailable, availability, and I'm sure people will be asking about that.

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

My favorites are the Trifortify by Research Nutritionals. and theirs probably tastes the best out of all the ones I've had. And then actually there's a product by Designs for Health, and I know that they are accessible in both the US and Canada. And they have a very good product as well.

Ivelisse Page:

Okay. And so you mentioned about if you take something off the shelf and you're eating it and it's going to go out the same way it came in, recently, as many people know, I had a cancer diagnosis and I had to go in for a CT scan and it was with contrast and I was told that to have a 25 milligrams of high dose IV vitamin C, and then to do a glutathione push in order to help push out the contrast out of my body quicker. Is that something that you would recommend also, you know, with the physician's approval of course for each patient, but is that something that you recommend as well for your patients when they have to go through a CT scan or a PET scan?

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

Yeah. So a couple of things there, glutathione does have such low bioavailability by mouth. And so when you're working with an integrative practitioner who has access to IV therapies, absolutely the most useful way to use glutathione is intravenously because we're bypassing that gut absorption and getting a hundred percent of that glutathione that's going into your body into your tissues themselves. The other part of it is actually the other aspects of glutathione usefulness, which is your detox pathways. And so, for me, I'm mostly using glutathione for that physiological improvement in cellular function. And then obviously when you improve liver cells function or kidney cells function, you're going to improve detox sort of indirectly in that way, but glutathione has additional mechanistic support through direct, detox pathways. So what that means is that in our liver when we have toxins that enter our body and whether that's a contrast dye, whether that's the pesticides or herbicides in our food, whether that's the, you know, gasoline emissions that are in our smog every day, these molecules come into our blood and then go through the liver and then the liver has a few different pathways that it can use to sort of label that as a toxin and label it for elimination. I'm a very visual person, as you know, and so I think about this labeling like the liver pinning a tail on all of these toxins as they come through. And so it's like you've got a group of kids playing pin the tail on the donkey and they're all, you know, running around labeling these toxins with these different tails. And then those tails dictate that molecule that's in the blood should get moved into the bowel or moved through the kidneys for elimination. One of those tails is glutathione. And that's a pathway called glutathione conjugation. And so it's one of the many phenomenal uses for this nutrient. So that's what's happening with the contrast dye. Glutathione is great for helping to tag out that dye as the toxin that it is can help your body eliminate it. And it'll also help repair any of the oxidative damage that dye may have created while it was being used.

Ivelisse Page:

Okay, and could someone do that before the scan or do you recommend post?

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

You know, because glutathione is a nutrient that's kind of in and out relatively quickly and the administration of glutathione can be a little bit tricky, I do use it if somebody has easy access to IVs, I would use it the day before. Four and then probably a couple of times a week, for a week to two weeks after depending on a person's kidney function. But there's also a precursor nutrient to glutathione called n-acetylcysteine. Your body uses n-acetylcysteine to make glutathione. It's sort of the rate limiting nutrient. And although glutathione is very hard to absorb, n-acetylcysteine is very easy to absorb, and so it's a great sort of daily alternative. And we actually have phenomenal clinical trial data proving that n-acetylcysteine protects the kidneys, in particular, from our radioactively labeled contrast agents. So not just the dyes, but also the radioactively labeled agents.

Ivelisse Page:

Thank you, that is so interesting. Is there anything such as glutathione deficiency and is that something that should be considered for people with a chronic illness or cancer?

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

Yeah, so glutathione, like I said, your body makes it, but there are lots of things that increase its need. And then there are lots of things that block our ability to make it efficiently. And so, you know, in our perfect world with our lovely healthy bodies and our excellently functioning genes, you're never going to be glutathione deficient. But in our world that has lots of toxins, which requires lots of glutathione conjugation, lots of glutathione use for quenching those free radicals, and especially if we're in a nutrient deprived state, those sorts of things can make it so we don't have enough glutathione to be doing all the jobs that it needs. And then again, when we throw in each individual person's genetic ability to make it and to recycle it, because that's the other fun part about glutathione, we can actually use the same molecule over and over again, as the glutathione is oxidized when it takes on some of those reactive oxygen species, and then it gets reduced again. And there are nutrients like vitamin C, zinc, selenium, a whole host of B vitamins. All of these things help support the healthy, normal redox capacity or recycling capacity of glutathione.

Ivelisse Page:

That's incredible. And I read that it also helps to slow the progression of cancer. Is that true? Or how does it do that?

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

So this is where we get a little bit sticky. And so this is this is where I put my giant, you know, flashing caution sign up a little bit. Because glutathione is depleted by the vast majority of our conventional cancer treatments, but it also interferes with pretty much every one of our conventional cancer treatments. So there is a very big, strong"must". We must not use glutathione during chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It is an absolute contraindication and an absolute no, same with glutathione's precursor N-acetylcysteine. Both of these are the type of antioxidants that directly interfere with the function of traditional chemotherapies and radiotherapies. Now, when a person is not using traditional chemo or radiotherapy, glutathione is incredibly important for, like we talked about at the beginning, a function of the mitochondria. And there are some cells in our body that are really very good at managing cancer that do require healthy mitochondrial function. And those are our white blood cells. And so when we have nice, healthy glutathione levels, then our white blood cells, and in particular our cytotoxic T lymphocytes and our natural killer cells and our dendritic cells, these guys can do their job much more efficiently. And so in that way, glutathione does help with slowing the growth of cancer, with preventing cancer, and with preventing cancer recurrence.

Ivelisse Page:

Okay, very interesting, and I'm glad you differentiated the difference between someone in treatment and someone out of treatment. And that's also another reason why having an integrative practitioner like yourself along with a conventional oncologist is so important because knowing both sides and knowing these therapies so well, you'll be able to guide and direct patients when to use those medicines in the best way possible. So I appreciate you sharing that so we know when it should not be used. Are there any side effects or risks with taking glutathione?

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

So because glutathione should be an incredibly abundant antioxidant in our body, taking glutathione has very few risks. Now there are sort of two caveats that I see clinically. One of those is that glutathione is a very high sulfur containing nutrient and some people are sensitive to sulfur and have a little bit of a hard time processing extra sulfur. There is a nutrient called molybdenum, which is one of my favorite words to say, molybdenum. so, this is a trace mineral that if you are deficient in it, then you have a harder time breaking down sulfur compounds. So, if somebody is molybdenum deficient, then they might experience things like some nausea, or a flushed face, similar if you think about how some people look when they drink wine, right? They get a little flushed, they can get a little dizzy maybe, they can get a little bit nauseous, and those would be some sulfur sensitivity symptoms. Typically, I give molybdenum for a couple of weeks, and then they can tolerate those sulfur compounds much better. So that's one. The other, and this isn't talked about so much, very often, but this is my patient population in particular. I tend to work with a lot of people who not only have cancer or have a history of cancer, but have this complex chronic disease picture. And that can be anything from chronic infections to various environmental toxins. And I find that every now and then, somebody will take some glutathione and it stirs the pot. So because glutathione is such a strong detox support with that liver conjugation, if you've got somebody that's had very sluggish detoxification and they've bioaccumulated a bunch of junk, and then all of a sudden you're pushing those detox pathways, if they haven't got a, if their system isn't ready for that, if their other detox pathways, their bowels, their kidneys, all of those other supportive pathways that work with glutathione, if those aren't functioning very well, it's a little bit like you've taken a rain barrel where there's a bunch of sludge on the bottom and you've just shaken it up, and the whole barrel just looks messy. That's that sort of detox reaction to glutathione. And to me, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just a frustrating thing, but it's shown us that there is in fact a bunch of sludge and we have some work to do to get it out. It just means that I need to pull back on the glutathione, open up all those detox pathways, and then very gently and slowly reintroduce that support.

Ivelisse Page:

Okay. That's great. You explain things so well. I love it. I'm a very visual person. So hearing all your visuals, I like, I got it. I get it. So thank you.

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

That's what I love. I love for people to really understand why and how and how their body works with all of these things.

Ivelisse Page:

And I know that eating the whole food is always best and I know that we can get selenium and all these other minerals and nutrients from food. Are there natural sources of glutathione that we can be aware of to add to our diets?

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

So because glutathione is made in our body, there's very few sources of dietary glutathione. But there is research to show that our glutathione levels naturally increase when we eat certain foods. Those foods tend to be cysteine and methionine containing foods. For those individuals who tolerate dairy, there is great benefit to a nice hydrolyzed, easy to digest source of dairy protein. So like a hydrolyzed whey, a really nice clean Greek yogurt that doesn't have a whole bunch of sugar in it. Those are typically the sources of dairy proteins that I suggest, but there's definitely evidence that shows that good clean dairy will increase glutathione. I've also seen some research on things like nuts and seeds that are nice and high in vitamin E and some of those good healthy fats and are also quite high in a lot of those minerals, those little microtrace minerals. They also seem to increase glutathione levels, but overall I find it's that whole foods, getting all of your nutrients, giving your body everything it needs to be able to support that normal healthy production that, that gives us that.

Ivelisse Page:

Okay, that's great. And I've actually shared with you today like things that I've heard and from other physicians or my personal experience with it, but what has been your personal experience within your practice on the best use of glutathione with the cancer patients that you help.

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

So, you know, I'm glad you asked this question cause this is where I get very jazzed. Okay. And we talked briefly about this past summer. It was so nice to get to spend some time with you. And for those of you that don't know, Ivelisse and I not only were in the beautiful country of Ecuador in South America, but we spent many hours on a bus together. Yes, There was plenty of opportunity to get to chat. But you know where I mostly use glutathione with my cancer patients is actually in survivorship and secondary prevention because most of the time people come into my practice having a diagnosis of cancer. Most of the time it's a relatively new diagnosis and they're about to undergo all of those very important therapies that I can't use glutathione during, right? I can't use it during chemo or radiotherapy. So I'm not using it at the beginning necessarily. And I'll give you a couple of examples of where I can sneak it in, but most of my patients will go through their primary therapies, right, their primary treatment. We walk that path together. I help them with other nutrients to try to manage the side effects of therapies and heal well, and all those wonderful things that I'm sure your listeners have had lots of great, podcast content on. And, and then afterwards, typically, I start about one month after chemotherapy is finished, because that's when the physiological effects of chemo are finishing. But what I find is at that point, I like to do this really nice evaluation of organic acids. I do testing for our terrain, right? The soil. I love some of the philosophies in Believe Big about, you know, really getting a sense for the health of the soil in the person and the health of the soil in the planet and how they're, you know, so integral to health and wellbeing. So I use testing to assess that soil. And I look to see if there's any particular toxins that have potentially been part of this cancer process and the carcinogenesis process. And unfortunately, in the vast majority of people who get cancer, there are those present. And in particular in my young patients. I would say every one of my young patients who develops cancer, even if there are genetic conditions like Lynch or BRCA gene mutations, there's always a trigger for that cellular damage. And so my job at that point is seeing if those triggers are still present. And then helping people to eliminate those triggers. And so glutathione, like I've just mentioned, is so helpful for eliminating toxins, but also repairing that mitochondria because chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapies, they in some people with some types of cancer are necessary evils. And we have to use all of the most appropriate tools to support people. And sometimes that means those big drugs. Those drugs are important, but they are not without consequence. And that's the other area where glutathione is really helpful. So it repairs damage, it supports the healing of the healthy cells themselves, and it reinvigorates the white blood cells and the immune cells. So we've got this lovely, healthy surveillance system that is sort of rebooted in a nice, quick way post treatment. So, again, in cancer, typically I'm using it for repair and then elimination of all of those various toxins that were part of the cancer process or might have worsened things like inflammation and damage, and so we're using it that way. Now, in the very occasional populations that I get where I have patients who come in and they've been diagnosed, a good example is something like a low grade prostate cancer, where, the patient is in what's called watch and wait. We know cancer is there, but they're not concerned enough to be going in and cutting or blasting away at it yet. This is actually a lovely golden opportunity to get in with these nutrients and glutathione is a great one, to try to get that immune system functioning really well. To try to evaluate and eliminate any of the triggers that were involved in the formation of those cancer cells, and generally to make that person as healthy and robust and cellularly resilient as humanly possible, so that if and when they have to go through surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, that the healthy cells of their body are very well equipped to handle that big exposure.

Ivelisse Page:

Well, Dr. Adrian, I have written down, I've just been writing notes and notes down. The information you've shared today has been just so incredible and I really appreciate you taking the time to be with us today and sharing with us about the importance of glutathione either post treatment or in other circumstances. And so I really appreciate your knowledge and everything that you've shared with us today. And, just grateful for you and all that you do for cancer patients every day. So thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. Lindsay Adrian:

Thank you so much for having me, Ivelisse. It's just lovely to chat with you.

Ivelisse Page:

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What is your favorite health tip?
What is glutathione and its most important function?
Why do you travel with glutathione packets and is there a brand you recommend?
Glutathione and PET/CT scans
Is there such a thing as glutathione deficiency?
Does glutathione help slow the progression of cancer?
Are there any risks or side effects with taking glutathione?
Are there natural sources of glutathione we can add to our diets?
What has been your personal experience within your practice on the best use(s) of glutathione?