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Selenium deficiency, gluten intolerance, and metabolic disorders

Selenium deficiency, gluten intolerance, and metabolic disordersA selenium deficiency may increase the risk of gluten intolerance/celiac disease, which can lead to metabolic disorders and vice versa. Because selenium deficiencies may be a result of eating a poor diet and suffering from malabsorption, this may easily turn into a vicious cycle.

The trace element selenium is crucial for our health. It supports more than 30 different selenium-dependent proteins, which all cells need. Selenium also supports a number of unique and very powerful antioxidants that protect cells and tissues against some aggressive molecules called free radicals. We all get exposed to free radicals, to a greater or lesser extent, as they are a natural byproduct of cellular oxygen utilization. The free radical impact is increased substantially by such factors as stress, ageing processes, overweight (mainly too much abdominal fat), smoking, mercury, medicine, radiation, and chronic inflammation. The more free radicals we get exposed to, the greater our need for selenium becomes, needless to say.

Celiac disease may be caused by a selenium deficiency and free radical attacks on the small intestine

If we have too little GPX, a certain type of selenium-containing antioxidants, in our small intestine, cascades of free radicals may attack the intestinal mucosa and cause chronic inflammation. This may also lead to malabsorption of selenium from the diet. Active celiac disease causes interleukin-15 (IL-15) to overreact, which stimulates the T-cells of the immune defense and reinforces the destructive mechanisms on the intestinal mucosa. By blocking IL_15, it is possible to prevent the serious tissue destructions and other complications of celiac disease.
Because selenium-containing proteins and antioxidants play such a vital role in the immune defense and in the entire protection of cells and tissue, including the intestinal mucosa, it is generally very important to get enough selenium. This is even important when it comes to preventing the disease.

Celiac disease is a form of gluten intolerance, and it is an auto-immune disease that causes inflammation in the small intestine with different complications throughout the body. The condition is chronic, but an entirely gluten-free diet can cure the patient completely, as long as the small intestine has not sustained irreversible damage.

The vicious cycle of celiac disease, common metabolic disorders, and selenium deficiency

Celiac disease and the two common metabolic disorders, Hashimoto's disease and Graves disease, are all auto-immune diseases. Several studies link these conditions together and even link them all together with selenium deficiency, as it has been observed that many people with Hashimoto's and Graves also suffer from celiac disease or other forms of gluten intolerance. Because the connection is that well-documented, researchers recommend that everyone with auto-immune metabolic disorders gets tested for gluten intolerance and vice versa. It is also a good idea to increase your intake of selenium from the diet or from supplements.

Hashimoto's disease, which slows down the metabolism (hypothyroidism), causes inflammation of the thyroid gland.

Graves disease causes the metabolism to speed up (hyperthyroidism) and is also caused by inflammation of the thyroid gland.

Both selenium deficiency and celiac disease are now linked to these two conditions

Why selenium deficiency is so common

The best selenium sources are organ meat, fish, eggs, shellfish, and whole-grain. However, because the agricultural soil in large parts of Europe contains very little selenium, and because many people avoid fish and organ meat, one can easily become selenium deficient. It is also known that people with celiac disease/gluten intolerance can easily become selenium deficient, as they avoid wheat. Researchers have not yet come to an agreement as to how much selenium we humans actually need. In several studies of patients with Hashimoto's disease and Graves disease, daily dosages of up to 200 micrograms have been used.

Selenium yeast is the best and most natural source for supplements

Selenium yeast that contains many different organic selenium compounds is the closest one can come to the natural selenium variety one gets from eating a balanced diet. Supplements of selenium yeast have been shown to increase the activity of the powerful GPX antioxidant that protects the thyroid gland and the mucosa of the small intestine against free radical attacks.

Important selenium-containing compounds

Selenium-containing compound Function
Deiodinase type 1-3 Thyriod hormones
GPX 1-6 (Glutathione Peroxidase) Powerful antioxidants
Selenoprotein P Antioxidant and transportation of selenium in the body
Selenoprotein R og N1 Antioxidants with several other functions
Selenoprotein T Supports cellular structures and proteins
Even minor selenium deficiencies can cause selenium-dependent proteins to malfunction

Auto-immune disease causes inflammation and free radicals

All auto-immune diseases and many other chronic diseases are characterized by inflammation, and this is not always something that is felt directly. But the inflammation literally bombards the body with free radicals that attack cells and are extremely harmful.


Anyone who has a metabolic disorder should be tested for gluten intolerance and vice versa.


Pernille Lund: Har du problemer med dit stofskifte. Ny Videnskab 2015

Stazi AV, Trinti B. Selenium deficiency in celiac disease: risk of autoimmune thyroid diseases. 2008

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