Pregnancy and Newborn

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The content of this article is from the book “The Comprehensive Guide to Glutathione”
by Dr. Jimmy Gutman MD FACEP

The immune system coordinates a variety of specialized cells to fight off infection and other threats. The healthy growth and activity of these cells depends upon the availability of glutathione. Glutathione is at the heart of most immune functions, explaining why low levels are seen in many diseases. This is best exemplified by AIDS, which is characterized by a severely compromised immune system. 

Raising and maintaining glutathione levels can minimize the risk of these diseases. Although only very ill people are severely deficient in glutathione, those in good or fair health will benefit from glutathione supplementation, especially considering the environmental toxins and

drug-resistant bacteria we’re exposed to these days. 

The use of glutathione supplementation fights all kind of diseases from respiratory to auto immune to degenerative diseases.

Without question, the best type of preventive medicine is an optimized immune system, and a critical means to optimize it is by feeding it glutathione.

Glutathione as a dietary supplement.

We must first clarify an important, frequently misunderstood part of the glutathione story.

Upon learning about glutathione for the first time, many people go to their health store, buy it, and start dosing themselves. However, while glutathione is freely available in this form, this sort of oral, ingested glutathione will have negligible effects on your health. The product decomposes rapidly in the digestive system and is quickly removed from the gut. Apart from a few very specific instances, glutathione cannot be introduced into the body in this way. It must be made within your cells -which is where it’s naturally found. The effective way to stimulate the production of glutathione is to provide your body with the basic elements it needs to make glutathione by itself. Some pharmaceutical medications, such as N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), have been developed to provide these precursors. There are also natural ways to increase glutathione levels, in particular the use of denatured (bioactive) whey proteins.

These are discussed throughout this website.

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From the book “Glutathione Your Key to Health” Jimmy Gutman MD/Stephen Schettini


Women undergo drastic physiological changes during pregnancy. More so, in fact, than at any other time except for their own birth. Pregnancy is challenging at the best of times. It is fraught with hazards and potential complications. Mother and child are at the mercy of their genetic makeup, which may be the main cause of some of these challenges. However, they are also susceptible to the environment — mainly the air, food, and liquids they consume. It is especially important to avoid or limit exposure to toxins and teratogens (substances causing birth defects). Good general health and nutrition are important for both mother and child. Vitamins and antioxidants naturally have an important role to play. Glutathione wears several hats in this scenario and proves itself indispensable.

The list of pregnancy-related illnesses is very long. We cannot describe them all in this chapter but will cover those in which the role of glutathione has particular relevance. Since the newborn’s glutathione levels greatly depend on the mothers’ glutathione status, we will also discuss the brief but eventful stages of childbirth and the neonatal period (from birth to six weeks).

Many pregnant women are susceptible to hypertension (high blood pressure) is caused by hormonal shifts and changes in blood volume and circulation. Some women are always hypertensive and some experience this problem only during pregnancy. About one in twenty have a more serious condition called pre-eclampsia.


Symptoms of pre-eclampsia are hypertension, proteinurea (protein in the urine) and edema — accumulation of water in the tissues leading to swelling, particularly of the hands, feet and face. It usually occurs between the 20th week of gestation and the week following birth. Its exact cause is unknown but most obstetricians (pregnancy and delivery doctors) consider it a vascular disease. It occurs most often in first-time pregnancies and in women who already have high blood pressure.

If left unchecked, one in 200 cases of pre-eclampsia progresses to eclampsia, a very serious condition featuring convulsive seizures and coma. If not dealt with promptly eclampsia is usually fatal, so it must be treated aggressively. Another major complication of pre-eclampsia is the HELLP syndrome: Hemolysis (red blood cell breakdown), Elevated Liver enzymes (indicator of liver damage), and Low Platelet count (impaired blood clotting).

Treatment for a mild case of eclampsia includes bed rest, increased fluid intake and nutritional support. Attempts to stimulate urination and stabilize fluid levels with diuretics and salt restriction have no effect. Blood pressure and neurological symptoms are best controlled with intravenous magnesium sulfate and hydralazine. The definitive solution for eclampsia patients is childbirth, which is often induced or cesarean.


Many scientists have noticed that when pregnancy is complicated by preeclampsia, there is a precipitous drop in the patient’s antioxidant function. This has been linked to the oxidation of circulating fats (lipid peroxidation) which damages the sensitive endothelium (lining of the blood vessels. Subsequent constriction of the muscles in the artery wall leads to narrowing of the passageways and decreased blood flow. Combined with the demands of gestation, this triggers a complex cascade of events that can lead to full-blown eclampsia.

Researchers have consistently found glutathione levels of hypertensive pregnant mothers to be very low. G. Chen and his team at the University of Glasgow believe this depletion might account for some of the important features of pregnancy-induced hypertension — elevated intracellular calcium, decreased red blood cell deformability and endothelial damage. D.W. Branch’s team at the University of Utah thinks the lipid peroxidation that follows may be part of the pathological process in cells of pre-eclamptic placentas — the foam-cell formation of the decidua. It also seems that measuring glutathione levels may be a good way to determine the severity of this disease.

The HELLP syndrome is a serious complication of pre-eclampsia. Patients suffer liver damage, breakdown of red blood cells and loss of blood-clotting cells. Glutathione loss is particularly pronounced. Researchers have established a threefold correlation — severity of the pre-eclampsia, cell fragility, and the level of glutathione -oxidation.

C. Lees’ obstetrical team in London, England attempted to control symptoms in a test-group of pre-eclampsia patients. Women with severe cases not responding to traditional therapy were given S-nitroso-glutathione. Arterial pressure, platelet activation, and uterine artery resistance all improved without further compromise of fetal well-being. In other words, it slowed or reversed the symptoms of the disorder.


Some women enter pregnancy with a long history of diabetes while others only suffer the disease’s high blood-sugar levels when becoming pregnant. is called ‘gestational diabetes’ and occurs in one to three percent of pregnancies. A number of gestational diabetics will develop true diabetes later in life.

The main cause of death among newborn children of diabetic pregnancies is abnormality of the child in the uterus (congenital malformation). causes can be traced to inadequate control of the mother’s diabetes during pregnancy. Diabetic mothers run the risk of larger babies and tougher deliveries. As a result, births are usually induced if they haven’t occurred by the forty-second week of pregnancy. Aside from developmental defects these babies are also at higher risk for developing jaundice, respiratory difficulties, blood sugar abnormalities, low blood calcium and other metabolic abnormalities.


All diabetic patients are subject to higher levels of free radical production and lipid peroxidation. In a diabetic environment, embryos develop a higher incidence of malformations and developmental problems. The phenomenon is called “embryotoxicity.’ The exact mechanism of embryotoxicity in diabetes has yet to be elaborated, but it is clear that oxidative damage to cells plays an important role. Low glutathione levels in these patients’ embryos place the fetus at risk from the ravages of free radicals.

A Japanese study confirmed that restoring glutathione status in embryo cultures normalized the growth retardation and embryo malformations seen with untreated mothers. A Swedish group had similarly positive results treating embryo cultures with NAC (N-acetylcysteine), a potent glutathione-enhancing precursor.


We are all exposed to toxins from our environment. They come from the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breath, the medications we take, the jobs we hold and bad habits like drinking and smoking. The embryo is exposed to the same toxins as its pregnant mother, but is at much higher risk because they affect its fundamental growth and development.

The consequences range from low birth weight to malformations or even fetal death. Sometimes the consequences are so subtle that they may not appear for years — such as diminished IQ scores in later childhood. mother is the only one who can keep these risks to a minimum. Above all, she must ensure that her built-in detoxification processes are working well.


According to recent research, the fetus seems to be low in antioxidant defenses. Perhaps it depends on its mother’s good health, in which case anything that further depresses these levels could compromise fetal development. After all, the fetus grows from the embryo, and glutathione levels are very high in the embryo’s conceptual tissue. Conceptual tissue is the extraordinary mass of cells that differentiates and grows into the organs and systems of a human fetus. process of organ development (organogenesis) is extremely sensitive, but at this stage is especially well protected by higher glutathione levels. Researchers in toxicology are studying the possibility that elevated glutathione levels may protect unborn children from foreign substances (xenobiotics). If this proves so, measuring glutathione in early pregnancy may also be a way to identify possible risks of toxicity.

Some pediatric researchers have tried to match levels of antioxidant defense systems to the frequency and severity of birth defects, W.D. Graf and his associates at the University of Washington compared the frequency of neural tube defects with glutathione enzyme levels and established just such a connection. In a very significant Ukrainian study, scientists collected the placentas of women from around the country. All lived in areas affected to a greater or lesser extent by radioactive pollution. As expected, the placentas from the most polluted areas had the lowest glutathione levels. They were simply depleted by the overwhelming demands of an ongoing radiation threat. The group was able to show that placentas with low glutathione levels were associated with more difficult pregnancies, harder deliveries, and poor postnatal health. concluded that “glutathione status [is] a prerequisite of the detoxifying activity of the fetoplacental barrier.” In other words, without placental glutathione the fetus is largely unprotected from toxins and other xenobiotics.

The two most common toxins found in pregnancy are alcohol and tobacco. Although most pregnant women can and do choose to avoid them, abuse of these drugs is not uncommon. The mother may have a habitual dependence on these drugs or may simply be exposed to second-hand smoke. In either case, glutathione plays an important role in protecting mother and child against such toxic threats.


Most drug-induced malformations of the fetus result from alcohol abuse during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a clinical condition leading to a long list of possible abnormalities, the most serious being severe mental retardation. In tests on laboratory mammals, the presence of alcohol drained glutathione from the liver much more quickly in the fetus than in the mother. Other studies combined alcohol with cocaine, which further magnified the fall in glutathione. At the University of New Mexico researchers gave test animals glutathione-depleting drugs.

This increased the severity of fetal alcohol syndrome. On a more positive note, G.I. Henderson and his team at the University of Texas used antioxidants on their test animals and showed that much of the damage of fetal alcohol exposure could be avoided by maintaining adequate glutathione levels.

Women who smoke during pregnancy risk many complications, including early labor, premature rupture of membranes and premature delivery. A possible cause was identified by researchers who demonstrated that cigarette smoke interferes with signals between certain white blood cells and blood platelets, thus interfering with normal blood clotting. The same researchers were able to stop this interference by raising glutathione levels.


Many other studies have shown that antioxidant defense systems — notably the glutathione system — play an indispensable role in detoxifying the newborn of numerous xenobiotics, including heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic, drugs such as hydantoin, phenytoin, and various poisons. In the lab, glutathione -enhancing drugs like NAC actually diminish the toxic effects of mercury on congenital abnormalities and death. NAC is in fact recommended as an emergency measure for pregnant women who have overdosed on acetaminophen.


One of the major complications around childbirth (the perinatal period) is inadequate oxygen supply to the baby (hypoxia). Before the separation, the baby is dependent for its oxygen on umbilical supplies, but this can be compromised during delivery. For a number of reasons the baby might also suffer respiratory difficulties. In either case, the consequences of hypoxia are problematic and every effort is made to avoid it.

When the baby does not get enough oxygen individual cells are unable to maintain energy levels. THis results in hypoxic damage. One molecule — adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — is responsible for carrying energy from the power generators (mitochondria) of individual cells. Because glutathione stimulates ATP-production it can be considered anti-hypoxic. Another complication of the hypoxic child is lipid peroxidation, which is also addressed by glutathione. And there is every reason to believe it would also help infants suffering from diminished liver function (jaundice).


Premature infants often need oxygen therapy. This brings energy production up but also increases oxidative stress, explaining why visual problems are often encountered by premature infants. Excessive oxygenation causes immature tissue such as that at the margin of the retina to shut down their blood vessels. This condition is called retrolental fibroplasia or retinopathy of prematurity, and has such serious consequences as retinal detachment. Antioxidants may be a potential antidote to this side effect of oxygen therapy. A. Papp from Hungary suggests that giving mothers sulfur-containing amino acids sustains glutathione levels and helps prevent this problem.

Other problems relating to high oxygen levels include developmental changes to the nervous system and oxidative lung injury. Newborn animals depleted of glutathione with BSO (a glutathione inhibitor) experienced a dramatic increase in these types of damage. J. Sastre and his group from Spain conducted a laboratory test to demonstrate NAC’s ability to lessen oxidative stress in newborns. The NAC was administered to the mothers. L.A. Brown of Emory University in Atlanta was able to prevent oxygen-induced lung injury in mammals with glutathione supplementation. There is every reason to believe that elevated glutathione levels in the mother will counteract the negative effects of many perinatal complications.


Lactation and breast-feeding are usually discussed alongside pregnancy and childbirth. In this context, glutathione is particularly interesting. One could say it plays a starring role.

It is impossible to overestimate the benefits of mother’s milk on the health and development of newborns, especially considering its long-term effects on the immune system. Compared with bottle-fed children, those who are breast-fed suffer from fewer infectious diseases, especially ear infections and pneumonia, fewer problems with allergies, and fewer cases of childhood cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma, and bone and brain tumors.

Compared to the milk of other mammals, human milk has the lowest proportion of protein. But the protein make-up is also very different. The two major protein constituents of milk are whey and casein. The whey to casein ratio is much higher in human milk, and these predominant whey proteins contain the critical precursors of glutathione, including beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, serum albumin, and lactoferrin. These proteins are high in sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine and cystine. The structure of these proteins as well as their content is very important. Because the cysteine and cystine are integrated into these larger proteins, they can survive the rigors of digestion and arrive intact in the cells of the infant. There, they are subsequently used to manufacture glutathione. Breast-feeding therefore profoundly affects the baby’s immune function by giving it high levels of glutathione precursors.

It is possible to extract these proteins intact from cow’s milk. The extraction of whey must be carried out carefully because these proteins are extremely fragile. Their structure easily changes to a form that is biologically inactive. In spite of its unchanged food value, denatured protein loses its capacity to deliver

Glutathione precursors. New technologies have been developed to extract these proteins from mammalian milk without denaturization. In a sense, this is mother’s milk protein for adults — a natural way to raise glutathione levels.


Glutathione’s role in embryonic, fetal, and placental development is crucial. It is constantly at work as a scavenger of free radicals and as a detoxifying enzyme of dozens of foreign substances and toxins. Without glutathione, these substances can push the child towards an unnerving variety of developmental and health problems. Once past the stage of organogenesis, the unborn child’s principal glutathione protection comes from outside its own body — the placenta. There is an interesting similarity between the placenta and the liver. Among their many other functions, both acts as filters for toxins and both have high levels of glutathione within their tissues. It is no coincidence.

Many common complications of pregnancy including high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, and gestational diabetes coincide with low glutathione levels. Decreased glutathione can cause many difficulties in pregnancy. A great deal of research is being carried out using glutathione enhancing strategies to combat these problems. There is already some success and much optimism.

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Drugs NAC and OTC can raise glutathione levels, but their effects are short-lived. These pharmaceutical drugs also have little nutritional value. Whey proteins have excellent nutritional value but usually lack glutathione precursors. The ideal source of dietary cysteine should be natural, nutritional, bioactive, and undenatured and As many of you are aware, whey protein, especially whey protein isolates (over 90% protein), are sometimes referred to as the “perfect” proteins because they contain all the essential amino acids required for your body’s protein synthesis.

The use of glutathione supplementation fights all kind of diseases from respiratory to auto immune to degenerative diseases.

Without question, the best type of preventive medicine is an optimized immune system, and a critical means to optimize it is by feeding it glutathione.

This is not the same glutathione that you see at the health food store. This is glutathione precursor. It’s very different because glutathione must be made inside your cells and the precursor is the food your cells   require to make its own glutathione as nature intended. That is the most natural and effective approach to boost your immune system.

It’s all natural with NO side effect. 

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