Covid is still a very real concern for those of us with children with Down syndrome. As the USA and other parts of the world open up and are adjusting to the "new normal" of mask wearing and social distancing, you still may not feel safe.
Maybe your child with Down syndrome won't or can't wear a mask.
I know my daughter with DS will only wear them for so long before she removes them.
Maybe your child lacks social inhibition and you find it hard to stop him from contacting or approaching strangers in public.
After all, people with Down syndrome are known to be extremely friendly and outgoing.
Maybe you're just plain tired of staying indoors and you want your child to have some sort of social interaction but you're weary of him/her catching COVID.
If you can relate to feeling this way, I get it.
After months of social distancing and for some, social isolation, it can seem unbearable but necessary to continue to social isolate to keep your child safe.
While prevention by using proper social distancing measures, good hygiene, and even better nutrition is absolutely key to keeping healthy, there is a super supplement that can boost your child's immune system and help him/her fight COVID more effectively.
What's this super supplement?
Glutathione is an endogenous (body made) molecule that is crucial for maintaining good health.
In fact, it has intracellular (inside the cell) concentrations just as high as glucose (commonly called blood sugar) and cholesterol.
Clearly, this is an important molecule.
Among the crucial jobs of glutathione is free radical scavenging and detoxification.
Free radicals are unpaired electrons that can cause cell damage, leading to premature aging and illness.
Glutathione helps to prevent cellular damage which often precedes even more serious complications like ß-amyloid plaque deposition which leads to Alzheimers (common in the DS community).
Glutathione also helps to detoxify foreign substances like pharmaceutical drugs and pesticides on the food we eat. It is essential in detoxifying environmental pollutants.
Glutathione is made in the liver which means that liver health is paramount for people with Down syndrome.
Unfortunately people with Down syndrome have a higher incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and higher oxidative stress in the liver  which impairs the production of glutathione making the need for this master antioxidant even greater.
With less glutathione production or even a frank glutathione deficiency, the chances of developing a serious COVID infection that may even become fatal increases.
This is because COVID, like many viral infections, increase oxidative stress. High amounts of oxidative stress in COVID patients have been linked to serious COVID cases, COVID complications like pulmonary fibrosis, and even death .
A glutathione deficiency contributes to higher amounts of oxidative stress and unfortunately people with DS have higher amounts of oxidative stress, free radicals, than typical individuals .
So how do you know if your child with Down syndrome needs more glutathione?
While research suggests that the vast majority of people with DS are deficient in glutathione , there is a lab test that can measure the need for glutathione indirectly.
One way to measure the need for glutathione is to look at gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), a lab often ordered to look into the health of the liver.
GGT is upregulated, or produced in greater quantities in the body, when there is a higher need for glutathione. As the GGT is made, it's then broken down for the amino acid cysteine, to make more glutathione.
Cysteine is the rate limiting step in glutathione production. This means that the amount of cysteine determines how much glutathione can be produced.
Your primary health care provider probably won't order a GGT unless your child is displaying signs of liver disorders like yellowed skin and eyes, dark urine, or pale stools.
You can always request this test or you can contact your local naturopathic doctor to have this test run.
Elevated GGT has been correlated to many diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, fatty liver, atherosclerosis, and cancer. Interestingly, GGT levels in the high normal range have been linked to a 20-40 times higher risk for diabetes .
Since an elevated or high normal GGT shows a greater need for glutathione, people with DS should be aware of their GGT values.
Even if you haven't had a GGT run on your child with DS, it is more likely than not that he/she needs more glutathione.
How can you increase glutathione levels in the body?
Since the liver makes glutathione, one great way to increase glutathione levels is to make sure that your child has a healthy liver.
You can do this through making sure that your child stays active. You can add in both aerobic and resistance exercises for your child since both types of exercise have been shown to decrease fat deposits in the liver and improve liver health .
For really young children, you can incorporate both aerobic and resistance training by having them transfer single drinking water bottles in a relay race or push a small boxed filled with rocks.
Eating a healthy diet is another surefire way to increase glutathione levels since many foods naturally contain glutathione like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, garlic, spinach, walnuts, avocado, and cabbage.
Adding these foods to your child's diet regularly, can help to maintain healthy glutathione levels.
One of the best ways to increase glutathione levels is through supplementation.
If choosing supplementation, liposomal glutathione works best to raise glutathione blood levels. Other supplements that raise glutathione in the body include, R-lipoic acid, and N acetyl-cysteine (NAC).
Always make sure to talk to your naturopathic doctor when choosing supplements for your child with DS.
While we are still in the midst of COVID, you can help support your child's immune system with the master antioxidant, glutathione.