WTF is Glutathione IV and is it really the Fountain of Youth?

The other day I clicked on an email from Equinox (my gym), and noticed they were interviewing Sharon Dorram, the woman who owns the eponymous Sharon Dorram at Sally Hershberger salon where I get my color and brows done).   I was expecting the usual “my beauty routine includes…..” but stopped dead in my tracks when I read her top health tip was:

“Glutathione IV. I swear by my doctor, Mitchell Gaynor. He’s an oncologist, and I see him preventively because I really want to stay healthy. I often go and get a Glutathione IV. It’s the strongest and best dose of antioxidants out there.”

Two questions here:

1. First, have you ever heard of seeing a preventative oncologist?  I always imaged people like the president, celebrities or the idle hypochondriac rich did, but didn’t think this had become a “thing”.

After doing some investigation, turns our Dr. Gaynor is kind of a big deal in the world in alternative cancer treatments.  Not only does he have the requisite Western medicine bona fides, he’s a pioneer in the world of “integrative oncology” which means he attacks and/or prevents the disease thru not only big guns like chemo, but thru nutrition and the environment (among other things like music therapy, yoga, meditation, etc.).   His nutritional focus is specifically focused on anti-inflammatory nutrients, hormones and detoxification, which is where the glutathione IV comes in.,

I was fascinated and called for an appointment, only to learn that an initial consult with Dr. Gaynor can be mine for only $1600, with at least 4 follow-up visits of about $400.  And that doesn’t include all the injections, supplements and whatever else one might need.   No insurance.

Wow, so this is what luxury healthcare looks like.  Dr. Gaynor is the Manolo Blahnik of cancer.

The bigger question for me, is what is this IV Glutathione?   I’ve heard of celebrities getting super vitamin drips when they’re exhausted from being famous, and some even cop to doing it on a regular basis like Simon Cowell, Suzanne Summers and Magic Johnson (although the latter two have clearly had health related concerns).  Could this be the fountain of youth that absolves me from Botox and spinning class?

Who me? My radiance comes from my warm and generous spirit

Lets break it down (and big disclaimer, I am in no way a doctor, this is the result of my research):

More than ever, our bodies are assaulted with toxins thru what we eat (think mercury tainted seafood), the environment (pesticides) and the products we use (household cleaning, parabans).  Too many toxins can weaken our immune system, make us sick and can accelerate aging.

Glutathione IV is apparently a powerful anti-oxidant one can use to counteract these toxic free radicalsIt acts as a major detoxifier thru a process called “conjugation” that gets all this bad stuff in your liver quickly escorted out the door (thru your urine and feces).  It’s especially effective at eliminating heavy metals like mercury and lead.

The good news is, our body naturally produces glutathione in the liver and the lungs.  The bad news is, that as we age our supply can get naturally depleted which means more free radicals, which means more disease, which is why there is so much interest in the anti-aging community.

Why would I want IV glutathione?

On the medical side of things, IV glutathione is used to treat diseases related to the brain (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS), liver (alcoholism) or help those with suppressed immunity (HIV or patients undergoing some chemotherapies like cisplatin).  It’s also been said to help with male infertility.  Good stuff!

The anti-aging community is excited (by which I’m defining as medical doctors, osteopaths, nutritionists, naturopaths, holistic health professions) because glutathione IV might be one of the closest things we have to a fountain of youth because of its powerful antioxidant qualities.  They theory is that because its supreme ability to detox the liver, this slows the aging process, provides tons of energy and also helps athletes in their performance and recovery.  However, there hasn’t been enough large-scale clinical trials to make a definitive claim, or understand the longer term side effects just for sole purpose of putting more spring in your step.

But the dirty little secret about IV glutathione is that it’s being used rampantly thru out Southeast Asia as a skin-whitening agent. 

Apparently, because glutathione IV reacts with your melanin, there can be an overall whitening of the skin, incredible radiance and reduction in acne, age spots and freckles.  Women in Southeast Asia go to great lengths to get this, either traveling to injection centers in Manila or…ordering glutathione powder and Vitamin C on line and injecting it themselves.


There are a few problems with this.  In May 2011, FDA chief Dr. Suzette Lazo warned Filipinos of the dangers of fatal skin disorders such as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis, which can occur when IV glutathione is injected at high doses (600 milligrams to 1.2 grams once or twice a week).  Second, they often fall victim to fake glutathione and because they are trying to inject themselves (gross), risk air embolisms, infections and all sorts of yuck.

Is it safe?  What are the side effects?

The headline here is that for skin-whitening, glutathione is not FDA approved.

Otherwise, when it’s administered by a medical doctor (a point I can’t underscore enough) who has a total picture of your health and body chemistry it is relatively safe.

However, people with milk allergies, organ transplants, asthma should avoid it, and some have speculated that it can actually promote growth of precancerous cells (although that appears to be only a hypothetical at this point).

What’s up with the IV?  Can’t I just pop a pill?

While oral glutathione is available, the UV glutathione is said to be more effective when taken orally, only about 20% of the drug is absorbed by the body.    Second, many health care practitioners create a cocktail of glutathione to enhance it’s deliver.  This may or may not include  Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, amino acids, glycine and cysteine.  Be skeptical about orals.

Can I get it, how much does it cost?

After all that, if you still want it, you can talk to your doctor who will likely refer you to another doctor who will evaluate if this is right for you.  You will need a prescription of course, and because this is an infusion, it will be done it the doctor’s office.

You will spend a fortune.  Many people on IV glutathione go once or twice a week and at $900 a pop, well, you do the math and determine if it’s worth it.

For the love of God, please don’t even think about buying this off the Internet or go to a medi-spa.

If you’re otherwise healthy, you don’t have to go nuts with injections

Most of us get enough glutathione in our diets, but if you want to turbo charge your natural levels of glutathione, the FDA says you can get it thru watermelon, avocado, broccoli, spinach and tomatoes.  Sulfur rich foods also contribute, like broccoli, kale, watercress and cabbage (but already knew they pretty much fix everything).   Oh and yes, exercising 30 minutes a day also helps.

If you want to do more, you can try supplements like selenium, B6, B12, folate, vitamin C&E and milk thistle, but as with everything else make sure you’re treating the whole picture because everything comes with trade-offs.

Personally, I think I’ll sticking with watermelon.

I found this subject intriguing, and hope you found what I learned helpful.  Truthfully, there isn’t a lot of credible information out there and would love to hear if anyone else has any experience with IV glutathione?

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