Kidneys and Glutathione

kidneys_glutathione-300x181The kidneys are the “waste removers” of the body. The kidneys work to keep the blood clean and chemically balanced. They are an essential companion to the liver. If you think of the liver as the washing machine of the body, cleansing it of damaging toxins before they enter the bloodstream, the kidneys are sort of like the filter on the dryer removing the waste products that build up in the blood and expel it as urine.

The kidneys are twin organs that reside on either side of the backbone. They only account for roughly 0.5 percent of the total weight of the body, yet they receive 20 to 25 percent of the arterial blood pumped by the heart.

Each kidney also contains about one million nephrons. Neprhons are, in fact, the basic structural and functional unit of the kidneys that filter about 200 quarts of blood every day.

Two of these quarts are removed from the body through the urine and the other 198 quarts are then recovered.

According to Wikipedia, nephrons are vital to life and their primary function is to “regulate the concentration of water and soluble substances, like sodium salts, by filtering the blood, reabsorbing what is needed, and excreting the rest as urine.” Nephrons eliminate wastes from the body and perform such vital tasks as regulating blood volume, blood pressure, and the pH balance in the blood.


The kidneys are extremely important to our overall health. Proper nutrition can go far in giving our kidneys and other organs the boost they need to function at optimal levels.

One thing you can do to give your kidneys the proper support is cut back on sodium. Cutting out fast foods and foods high in salt and fat is a good place to start. Salty and greasy foods can raise blood pressure, which can affect your kidney’s ability to properly cleanse your blood. Drink plenty of water and juices. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables—especially dark fruits like cranberries, prunes, and plumbs which are high in antioxidant content.

Glutathione: The Kidney’s Ultimate Detoxifier

As with other organs of the body, antioxidant activity—particularly glutathione—plays a vital role in the kidneys. The kidneys are not unique in that oxidative stress, resulting from free radical activity, leads to problems of various kinds.

Speaking specifically of the kidneys, one article stated that “part of the oxidation burden originates in inadequacy of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.”

The article stated that diminished anti-oxidant levels, specifically glutathione and catalase, were the cause of oxidative stress in the kidneys, which led to other, even more significant problems. The same article cited a study that tested the effect of the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a precursor to glutathione, and its ability to prevent oxidative injury in the kidneys. The study showed that NAC effectively inhibited destructive oxidant response.

According to research, kidney (or renal) toxicity is often caused by “exposure to heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead.” Studies have shown that the body detoxifies these substances primarily through glutathione-related enzymes.

These glutathione enzymes have distinct distribution along the nephron in the kidneys, making them central to kidney detoxification and function.

By acting as both a detoxifier and antioxidant, glutathione prevented lipid peroxidation (which is the oxidation of lipids or fats by free radicals) in the kidneys and other organs. Studies show that the treatment increasing intracellular glutathione levels led to marked improvement in kidney function..

The liver, kidneys, and urinary tract work together to expel toxins and wastes from the body. Because of the complementary functions of both organs, a number of studies have concurrently examined glutathione’s role in the liver and kidneys.

A 2005 RiboCeineTM study conducted on mice set out to determine if enhanced glutathione through a RiboCeine treatment was able to protect against acetaminophen-induced toxicity in the liver and kidneys in one group of mice. While another group was given a chemical compound that actually had the effect of reducing levels of glutathione in the cells.

Not surprisingly, the acetaminophen-induced damage in the latter group was not diminished, while the RiboCeine treated group was effectively protected against organ toxicity.

Another study examined the effects of a free radical scavenger—a potential sulfhydryl group donor—on glutathione levels in the liver and kidneys in rats. Six hours after the scavenger was administered, significant increases of glutathione were measured. The study concluded that the scavenger may have had a protective effect against free radical-induced tissue injury.

Such studies confirm that glutathione supports these vital organs in their ability to function more efficiently, thus more effectively ridding the body of harmful toxins. By supplementing a healthy diet with products proven to increase intracellular glutathione, we ease the burden of vital organs like the kidneys. Considering how hard such organs work for us, it’s the least we can do.


1. The Kidneys,

2. Huemer R., “Chronic Renal Disease: Orthomolecular Ramifications.” Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 2006 (4) 48-54. Full article

3. “How the Kidneys Work.” Website

4. Nephron,

5. Davidson, A. “Nutrition for Kidneys.” Website

6. Huemer R. Ibid, page 49.

7. Huemer R. Ibid, page 49.

8. Huemer R. Ibid, page 49.

9. Huemer R. Ibid, page 50.

10. Anddreoli E. Andreoli, “Kidney Failure and Dialysis.” Full Chapter

11. Martin, S. “Cell-Specific Biomarkers in Renal Medicine.” Bioformulation and Manufacturing, page 86. Article

12. Andreoli, T. Ibid, page 181.

13. “Liver, Kidney and Urinary System.” Website

14. Slitt, A, et al, “Effect of ribose cysteine pretreatment on hepatic and renal acetaminophen metabolite formation and glutathione depletion.” Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicity, 2005 (96) 487-494. Full Article

15. Milner, L et al, “Enhancement of renal and hepatic glutathione metabolism by dimethylthiourea.” Toxicology Letters, 1993 (66) 117-123. Abstract


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