Dermatologists Explain Why This Skin-Care Ingredient May Have Helped Some COVID Patients

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This summer, one of my dearest friends had a very bad experience with COVID-19. Unlike those who have been tested and found to be asymptomatic, she had weeks of aggressive symptoms that knocked her out physically and made it very difficult for her to eat, stand, walk or even breathe. “Everyone thinks it’s respiratory,” she said. “But it’s actually vascular.” A lightbulb went off in my head and the whispers I’d heard about how a skin-care ingredient was helping some COVID patients started to make sense.

The Backstory
A few months after the COVID outbreak, I had a discussion with a New York dermatologist on how a skin brightening agent was being experimentally used to help some patients breathe better. “Glutathione is the name,” said Marina Peredo, MD in May, when she alerted me to the early murmurs about this supplement.

Dr. Peredo cited a New York Post story about a medical student who in an attempt to treat his mother’s COVID-related respiratory issues conferred with his mentor, Dr. Richard Horowitz on how to help improve his mother’s breathing. Dr. Horowitz, a lyme disease specialist, suggested trying glutathione, an antioxidant produced by the liver that is often used to reduce inflammation in his patients. 

While it is important to note that there have not been any studies conducted to verify the benefits of taking glutathione, in the case reported on by the New York Post, the medical student’s mother said her breathing was improved after one 2,000 milligram dose, of which she then continued to take for five days before making a full recovery. 

What Is Glutathione?
So, where does glutathione come from? “Glutathione is made by mitochondria in our cells,” says Dr. Peredo. “It’s a great body detoxifier, immune stimulator and it’s also used as a skin brightener. It’s the superhero of antioxidants and it’s safe to use because the body makes it.” 

“It seems to also help with COVID as it is an antioxidant that appears to have antiviral properties which prevents oxidative stress and inflammation,” adds Montclair, NJ dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD. “As individuals get older, glutathione is depleted, and a recent Russian study is pointing to lower levels of glutathione as a possible a reason why older individuals are possibly more susceptible to COVID.”

Should We Up Our Glutathione Levels?
“Patients need to keep in mind that this has not been clinically proven and large clinical trials need to be done,” advises Dr. Downie. “They should always check with their doctor to make sure this does not interact with any other medications that they are on.”

As far as glutathione dosing and treatments, the doctors we spoke to said steer clear of any facilities offering IV treatments as they can cause internal damage. “In IV form, glutathione has been known to shut down the kidneys and cause liver failure,” adds Dr. Downie. “I do not recommend it for use in IV form at any of these infusion centers in New York City and around the country.”

While the jury may still be out on glutathione’s effects on COVID, after hearing my friend’s description of the vascular presentation she experienced, I’m going to keep a close eye on antioxidant treatments and how they play a role in our ongoing fight against Coronavirus. 

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