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  • Dr. Kali MacIsaac

Success Story: Nebulized Glutathione for Viral Lung Infection

Woman using steroid inhaler

Reduced glutathione (GSH), commonly referred to as simply glutathione, is found in the cytosol of almost every cell in the body. A master antioxidant, glutathione protects against cell damage. It is also involved in detoxification through liver pathways. All year round, I administer glutathione intravenously for patients to support cellular protection against a type of damage called oxidative stress. But at this time of year, with colds and flus in full force, there's another route of administration of glutathione that I offer at the clinic: nebulized/inhaled glutathione.

In the respiratory tract, glutathione is considered to be one of the first-line defenses against oxidative stress, a type of cellular damage; it may also improve oxygenation and host defense against infection. The only known method of increasing GSH levels in the epithelial lining fluid (ELF) of the lungs is inhalation. When taken this way, glutathione has been shown to be effective for the following conditions: cystic fibrosis (CF), chronic otitis media with effusion, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, chronic rhinitis, and in HIV seropositive individuals. There are some case reports on the use of glutathione for post-viral cough syndrome. At current, nebulized glutathione cannot be recommended for emphysema, lung cancer, and asthma (most importantly asthma with sulfite sensitivity), and patients should be first tested for sulfite sensitivity before administration (this is done with a simple in-office urine test).

At one of my patients' recent follow up visits, J reported struggling with acute onset of shortness of breath - a new symptom she'd never had before. She described feeling a tightness/heaviness in her chest, lethargy, and trouble taking a full breath, but didn't seem to have other symptoms of a viral cold (like sore throat or runny nose). After numerous trips to the ER, her family doctor, and numerous tests, J was diagnosed with a viral infection in the lungs, all other possible pathologies having been ruled out. She was prescribed inhalers, which were helpful, but J didn't want to have to keep taking inhaled steroids if we could do something naturally to support her recovery. Knowing of the benefits of glutathione to support cellular health in the lungs, and the use of nebulized glutathione and NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) for post-viral cough, I suggested a series of nebulizer treatments for J along with a couple of immune-boosting IVs. After three visits in close succession, she was off of her inhalers and reporting back to her respirologist that she had cleared the infection, and her symptoms, with some safe and simple nebulized glutathione. Here's her own account of her experience with nebulized glutathione and NAC:

"I was diagnosed by the doctor with a viral infection in my lungs after 2 trips to the ER and multiple visits and lab tests. They put me on 2 inhalers, one for symptoms, the other was the steriod that was supposed to help with inflammation. I didn't like the side effects of either of these and after 4-5 days of this not being very effective, I went to see Kali at Acubalance. She is the ND there and put me on the nebulizer with [glutathione] mist. This cleared up the symptoms I was having which was very laboured breathing and tightness in the chest immediately. I did this 3 times in a week and a half and I no longer have any issues with my breathing. I gave the inhalers back to the pharmacy and let my doctor know about how effective this was for me. End of story!"

If you're suffering with a lingering post-viral cough, or other respiratory complaint, nebulized glutathione may be of benefit to you. Remember that you should be tested first for sulfite sensitivity (by a urine test that can be done in the office), and it may take a few treatments to resolve symptoms. I'm happy to chat with patients about nebulized glutathione, immune boosting IVs, or other natural approaches to immune system health, during a free 15-minute consult.

In health, Dr. Kali MacIsaac HBSc, ND Naturopathic Doctor

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