Glutathione Benefits Everyone, Including People with Celiac Disease

Everyone can benefit from antioxidant supplements, but a new study shows that it is especially important for people with celiac disease. Celiac is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. It is caused by intolerance to gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.

According to findings published in the September 2009 issue of the journal Clinical Biochemistry, individuals with celiac disease have a major reduction in their antioxidant levels due to a reduction in levels of the antioxidant glutathione.

The study looked at 39 children with different forms of celiac disease and 19 celiac-free children. Intestinal biopsies showed an increase in the activities of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase in children with active and silent celiac disease. The elevated activities of these enzymes are in response to the higher levels of reactive oxygen molecules, which cause free radical damage.

The level of lipid hydroperoxides (LPOs) was 80 to 100% higher in the children with celiac disease than in the control group. Lipid peroxides are the by-products of the chemical damage done to the lipid or fat components of cell membranes by free radicals. This oxidative damage is believed to be a basic mechanism underlying many diseases, chronic health problems and aging. An increase in oxidative stress is an important factor in the progression of celiac disease.

Additionally, the activities of glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase and the glutathione content were significantly reduced.

The scientists concluded that the antioxidant capacity of celiac patients is significantly reduced, mostly by a depletion of glutathione. Natural antioxidants and appropriate dietary supplements could be important complements to the classic therapy of celiac disease.1

Glutathione is vital to everyone’s health, not just Celiacs

Glutathione is the major antioxidant produced by almost every cell in your body, protecting it from free radicals. Glutathione plays many roles, including these:

  • Recycles vitamin C and vitamin E, keeping them in their active state
  • Enables the body to get rid of toxins and pollutants
  • Helps maintain a normal balance between oxidation and anti-oxidation, which regulates many of the cell’s vital functions, such as the synthesis and repair of DNA, the synthesis of proteins and the activation and regulation of enzymes
  • Carries out an immune response by helping lymphocytes and killer T-cells multiply and kill cancer cells and virally infected cells
  • Supports healthy mitochondrial function

How to increase your glutathione levels

Glutathione is available as a dietary supplement , and that may be your best bet.  You can also take other dietary supplements that are a precursor to glutathione.

N-Acetyl-Cysteine, also referred to as NAC, is a stable and bioavailable form of cysteine, which is a potent glutathione precursor. Acetylcysteine converts to cysteine within the cell, acting as a precursor to glutathione and contributing to its regeneration. In addition to raising the body’s antioxidant levels, NAC supports healthy aging, and is beneficial for preventing heart disease, memory loss and cancer.

Emblica (Emblica officinalis), also known as Amla, is an herbal antioxidant and has one of the highest contents of vitamin C of any natural plant. Studies show that it has the ability to stimulate our natural antioxidant enzyme systems including catalase, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase.

Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is best known as an adaptogen to improve the body’s ability to respond to stress, recover from exhaustion and fight disease. Schisandra also increases glutathione levels. Be sure to look for a Schisandra product that is standardized to contain schisandrins, the active ingredients found in schisandra fruit.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is both a disease of malabsorption—meaning nutrients are not absorbed properly—and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Celiac disease is genetic, and is also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Sometimes the disease is triggered after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection or severe emotional stress.

Symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system or in other parts of the body. Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and young children and may include

  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
  • Weight loss

Irritability is another common symptom in children. Malabsorption of nutrients during the years when nutrition is critical to a child’s normal growth and development can result in other problems such as failure to thrive in infants, delayed growth and short stature, delayed puberty, and dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth.

Adults are less likely to have digestive symptoms and may instead have one or more of the following:

  • Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Bone loss or osteoporosis
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Tingling numbness in the hands and feet
  • Seizures
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • Canker sores inside the mouth
  • An itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis

People with celiac disease may have no symptoms but can still develop complications of the disease over time. Long-term complications include malnutrition—which can lead to anemia, osteoporosis, and miscarriage, among other problems—liver diseases, and cancers of the intestine. 2


  1. Stojiljkovic, V., Todorovic, A. Pejic, S., Kasapovic, J., Saicic, Z.S., Radlovic, N., Pajovic, S.B. “Antioxidant status and lipid peroxidation in small intestinal mucosa of children with celiac disease.” Clinical Biochemistry, September 2009, Volume 42, Issues 13-14, Pages 1431-1437. Epub 2009 Jun 25
  2. National Institutes of Health. Celicac Disease, Publication No. 08–4269?September 2008.