Celiacs and Glutathione

Celiacs and Glutathione

Those familiar with my writings know that the subject of glutathione comes up often. (See this blog for an in depth analysis: Glutathione: Master Antioxidant)

And of course it would be referred to frequently, since glutathione (an internally-generated antioxidant) is responsible for helping us to detoxify almost every contaminant that the body needs to get rid of. Therefore, it is mentioned in my various articles, and book chapters, as essential for cleaning the body of heavy metals, mold and fungus, radiation, and chemical pollutants (including xenoestrogens). But glutathione does more than just detoxify us; in its capacity as a powerful antioxidant, it also protects us from “free radicals” and “reactive oxygen species”.

Free Radicals

As with many things in life, a certain amount of a thing is good, and even required, while an excess of the same thing can be detrimental. (For example, every trace mineral, essential for well being, when in excess becomes a “heavy metal”, toxic in nature.) So it is with free radicals, which are required for normal cellular functions but, in excess, are linked to a wide variety of disease conditions.

Free radicals are unpaired electrons, which (like most radicals) are “unstable and highly reactive”, and when unchecked, can wreak havoc in the body. Those free radicals which are most interesting to scientists, are the ones that are “oxygen-centered”, referred to as “reactive oxygen species” (ROS).

“ROS, and free radicals in general, are essential for cell signaling and other vital physiological functions; however, excessive amounts can cause alteration in cellular reduction-oxidation (redox) balance, and disrupt normal biological functions. When there is an imbalance between activities of ROS and antioxidant/scavenging defense systems, oxidative stress (OS) occurs. A good number of studies have shown OS is involved in the development of several disease conditions…” (Source)

Of particular interest here, is the fact that OS can lead to tissue injury in the intestines, leading to the development of celiac disease.

Celiac Disease

Just a quick refresher here on what exactly celiac disease (CD) is.

Gluten, the protein found in many grains (e.g. barley, rye, and wheat), triggers “an autoimmune enteropathy of the small intestine, in genetically susceptible individuals”.

And, according to current science, this disease is genetically-based, and constitutes an autoimmune condition. Personally, I would debate that belief, especially since we now know that epigenetics is more important than genetics, per se, when it comes to determining disease factors. (Epigenetics involves those environmental factors, including toxins and nutrients, which turn genes on and off.)

As we have seen in my blog, “How 3 Nutrients Can Heal Most Ailments“, many, many ailments are due to a chronic deficiency (often generational) in the three primary nutrients required for building and maintaining the mucosal membranes in the body. (The three nutrients are vitamins A and D, and iodine.) These mucous membranes include the fine “hairs” found in the sinuses, lungs and intestinal tract. In this case, CD causes an atrophy of the fine hairs (villi) found in the intestinal tract, along with an erosion of the gut lining.

Technically, CD affects about 1% of the general population, as that is roughly the number that show the genetic benchmarks, however a far larger percent of the population has a reaction to gluten that is comparable to those with officially diagnosed CD.

Unfortunately, CD runs in a vicious cycle, whereby the inflammatory effects of gluten trigger “inappropriate T-cell activation leading to severe damage of the gastrointestinal mucosa, causing atrophy of absorptive surface villi…and subsequent increase in intestinal permeability.”

As it stands now, the medical system believes “there is no cure or treatment for CD, except for avoiding dietary gluten”.

Maybe so. However, if we follow the protocol suggested in “How 3 Nutrients…”, and give the body those nutrients required for repairing the gut lining and the villi, as well as supplementing with supportive compounds (e.g. L-glutamine, L-plantarum, NAG, or colostrum extracts), then I feel it is likely that one can at least reduce the severity of symptoms, if not actually reverse the condition.

Now, let’s add to that protocol what we can learn from examining some studies on oxidative stress (OS) and CD.

First Study

“The aim of the present study was to investigate the role and potential use of ROS and other biomarkers of OS in the clinical management of CD.”

“Fifty-four patients affected by CD were enrolled (age 44 ± 13 years). We collected duodenal specimens and blood samples from naïve patients (N-CD), patients on a gluten free diet (GFD) including responders (CD-GFD) and non-responders (NRCD). A significant increase of plasmatic OS biomarkers (ROS, peroxidated lipids, oxidized proteins, and nitrate concentrations) and decrease of antioxidant species (TAC and GSH levels) were found in NRCD and N-CD compared to CD-GFD. Comparably, a significant direct relationship between the severity of duodenal atrophy, ROS production rates and TBARS was found; conversely, TAC and GSH (glutathione) presented an inverse correlation.”

Thus it was established that OS is “involved in CD tissue damage and correlates with the degree of duodenal atrophy”. Furthermore, one can see that patients with CD had higher ROS levels, and lower GHS levels.

Second Study

Now, in another study, it is pointed out that the inflammation of the small intestinal mucosa which occurs when those with CD consume gluten, results in both atrophy of the villi, as well as malabsorption of nutrients.

So, those with CD are not going to properly absorb many essential nutrients required for the production of glutathione in the body. Such nutrients include, but are not limited to, vitamin C, selenium, and sulfur-bearing amino acids (methionine and cysteine).

And, glutathione (GSH) is the main detoxifier of ROS in the intestine, something essential to keep under control for those suffering from this condition.

This study, “examined the activities of GSH-related antioxidant (AO) enzymes glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and glutathione reductase (GR), as well as the concentration of GSH in small intestinal biopsies and peripheral blood of children affected by the celiac disease”.

“The results clearly demonstrate a significant malfunction of GSH redox cycle with a concomitant decrease in the capacity to regenerate GSH…in celiac patients, even after several years of GFD (gluten free diet).”

The study concluded that, “the oral administration of GSH and a diet rich in natural antioxidants, as well as appropriate dietary supplements, could be of great benefit to the patients”. Which makes a lot of sense, since, as we just saw, those with CD cannot

assimilate sufficient nutrients to generate enough GSH required to aid the body in coping with this condition.

Third Study

The objective of this study was to evaluate the relationship between inflammation, oxidative stress, and DNA damage in patients with CD. After examining levels of antioxidant markers (including GSH), the study concluded that “intestinal inflammation can have systemic effects, causing an imbalance between oxidant and antioxidant markers, which may promote increased levels of DNA damage”. And, in fact, “patients with celiac disease presented higher levels of DNA damage in comparison to controls”. (Study)

It is important to remember here that DNA damage plays a central role in both aging and disease manifestation (including most cancers).

What this all adds up to is that those with celiac disease have a much higher requirement for glutathione than the average person in reasonably good health. Not only to reduce adverse symptoms, but also to support general health and longevity.

While those of us in good health can eat certain foods (e.g. cruciferous vegetables, asparagus, avocados, peppers, spinach, melons, and squash), and take specific supplements (e.g. vitamin C, selenium, NAC, milk thistle, turmeric extract, and whey protein), in order to naturally elevate our glutathione levels, this will not be sufficient for those suffering with CD. (Glutathione precursors also do not work for those who cannot “methylate“.)

Liposomal Glutathione

As many of you are aware, the vast majority of glutathione products simply do not work to elevate glutathione levels in the body, whether or not one is healthy. The glutathione in conventional products is destroyed by stomach acid, and what is left is so poorly absorbed that such supplements are essentially useless.

Which is why, outside of intravenous glutathione, the only clinically effective way to take pure glutathione is when it is in the liposomal form. This form, where the molecule of glutathione is encased in a “bubble” of phosphatidylcholine, easily survives the journey through the stomach acid, and then enters directly into the cells.

Thus, it would be advisable for those with CD to consider taking a liposomal glutathione product on a regular basis, along with ensuring they also take in the aforementioned

supplements required for the repair and maintenance of the mucosal membranes and villi found in the gut.

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