Can Glutathione Help Relieve Menopause Symptoms?
Various symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats often mark the menopausal transition. Women may experience irregular and heavy periods, mood swings, fatigue and anxiety.
When these symptoms become too disruptive and long-running, some women turn to glutathione. Does glutathione support women going through menopause?
What is glutathione?
Glutathione is an antioxidant present in all cells in the body. It is particularly concentrated in the liver. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage contain glutathione.
The biggest potential benefit of this antioxidant is its ability to reduce oxidative damage. Oxidative stress causes damage and deterioration to cells and may lead to premature cell death.
The primary function of antioxidants like glutathione is to eradicate free radicals. These toxic chemicals are produced by pollution, cigarette smoke, various medications and radiation, or they are created as waste in the body.
The potential benefits of antioxidants include the following:
- Reduce damage to the cells and the decay of tissues, skin and organs
- Support DNA, the building block of proteins and cells in the body
- Support the production and quality of sperm cells
- Enhance the function of various vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins C and E
- Improve the efficiency of the liver and gallbladder to break down fats
- Support cognitive functions
- Improve insulin sensitivity
Your body naturally produces crucial antioxidants, but you can make dietary changes to increase your levels.
"I'm not a big proponent of supplements. We should be getting nutrients through food. The best way to deliver nutrients for optimal absorption and utilization is still looking to food for those sources,” said Barb DePree, M.D., a Michigan-based gynecologist and the director of the women’s midlife services at Holland Hospital, Holland, Michigan.
"Great food sources of antioxidants are red beans, pinto beans, black beans, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, green leafy vegetables."
Some research suggests foods rich in vitamin C, selenium, and sulfur could help increase your body’s glutathione levels. Choose dairy and protein-rich products or whey protein, and you could potentially improve your ability to create glutathione naturally.
Can glutathione help relieve menopause symptoms?
It’s natural to want to experiment in the hopes of finding relief from menopause symptoms. After all, menopause can bring on an increased risk of certain health conditions, such as heart disease. Could glutathione improve common symptoms?
"There is no data to support evidence that glutathione has meaningful reduction of menopausal symptoms," DePree said. "Clinical evidence of benefit requires double-blinded placebo-controlled trials to determine significant benefit of a product over placebo and in the supplement/nutraceutical field that work is mostly absent."
So maybe glutathione supplementation isn’t the answer for menopausal women and their side effects?
"Claims for a stated benefit are usually based on user-reported outcomes, which is then marketed as proof of benefit, without clinical evidence to support this. In nearly all clinical trials, placebo has about a 30 percent benefit for any stated symptoms, which isn't too shabby, so many of these OTC products are able to provide that result," DePree said.
There are no comprehensive large-scale clinical studies on the connection between the benefits of glutathione and menopause. But some small-scale trials suggest potential benefits of dietary antioxidants in reducing symptoms.
"There is very little data that specific antioxidants help menopausal symptoms," added Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a Connecticut-based gynecologist and a clinical professor at the Yale University School of Medicine. "There are a number of reports, but not a lot of prospective randomized data, that antioxidants may help keep blood pressure lower or keep lipid profiles better."
Given the loss of estrogen at menopause, women's blood pressure may go up somewhat and lipid profiles can get worse, so antioxidants may offer some help there, she noted.
What are some ways to help ease menopause symptoms?
The symptoms of menopause vary from person to person. Even so, experts believe some lifestyle and dietary factors can help tone down certain side effects—and better support your body as you navigate this new stage of life.
Minkin shared the following tips to help relieve menopausal side effects:
- Exercise regularly (aerobic and strength training).
- Eat a balanced diet (such as a Mediterranean diet) and don’t bother with special supplements.
- Don't smoke (can make hot flashes worse and worsens osteoporosis).
- Avoid excessive alcohol (can make hot flashes and sleep worse).
- Wear layered clothing.
- Keep your bedroom cool at night to sleep better.
- Get a dual-control electric blanket if you have a bedmate.
Is menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) right for menopause relief?
"Many women have been told hormones are 'bad,' and they shouldn’t take them. The evidence does not support this and, in fact, supports the use of hormones in most women. It is important to find providers that will listen, educate and have the proper training in hormonal care," said Angela DeRosa, D.O., the founder and CEO of the Hormonal Health Institute in Arizona and a member of the HealthyWomen Women's Health Advisory Council.
Menopause often occurs at a difficult time for a lot of women, said Gillian Lockwood, D.Phil., a medical advisor and fertility specialist at Fertility Family in the United Kingdom. They may have children leaving home. Their parents may need extra support. Some may be dealing with the realization they'll never have children. And hormonal changes exacerbate any fatigue, anxiety and stress.
"For women facing severe symptoms, especially if their menopause has come early, then HRT is a safe and highly effective treatment," Lockwood said. "For women with distressing but manageable symptoms, then there are diet and lifestyle changes that can help."
"If you are having challenges in managing menopausal symptoms, I would recommend finding a provider who has training, expertise and interest in this area. A resource to find a certified menopause provider is the North American Menopause Society (NAMS)," DePree said.
The bottom line
Glutathione might provide benefits to the body. But increasing the levels of glutathione in your body through supplementation may not be the answer to menopausal relief. If weight gain, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence or other symptoms of menopause are slowing you down, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor.