Molybdenum is considered a trace mineral. This means your body only needs small amounts. But just because you don’t need much, it doesn’t mean it’s not important. So let’s take a closer look at the essential functions of molybdenum. We’ll then discuss how gluten can cause a deficiency and symptoms to look out for as well as the best foods to eat to prevent a molybdenum deficiency.
Key Roles of Molybdenum
Molybdenum is a cofactor for several vital enzymes in your body. This means that these enzymes need molybdenum to carry out the biological reactions they’re responsible for. In other words, without molybdenum, these reactions wouldn’t occur.
Proteins from your food and within your body must be broken down and rebuilt continuously to keep your cells healthy and functioning properly. And xanthine oxidase (XO) plays a role in this metabolic process. First, certain proteins are broken down into xanthine or hypoxanthine. XO then converts these compounds into uric acid.
Under normal conditions, your body is able to convert uric acid into a harmless substance that’s excreted through your urine. Because a build-up of uric acid isn’t a good thing. For example, it can cause oxidative stress, which can contribute to many serious diseases. It’s also associated with a painful condition known as gout that often affects poorly managed cases of type 2 diabetes.
However, our bodies need some uric acid. In fact, at normal concentrations, uric acid has antioxidant effects. Also, in the absence of XO or molybdenum to activate XO, xanthine builds up. And excess xanthine has been associated with a rare type of kidney stones, which can ultimately lead to renal failure if left untreated. Joint pain and muscle aches are also common complaints. There’s even been a link to lower survival rates with some types of cancer.
XO may also help prevent an excess of hypoxanthine from causing DNA mutations.
Aldehyde oxidase (AO) is mostly concentrated in your liver. And evidence suggests that it plays an important role in the detoxification of medications and potentially harmful environmental contaminants. This includes pesticides, food additives, air pollutants, and more.
Sulfite oxidase is responsible for converting sulfites into sulfates. Your body produces sulfites and they occur naturally in some foods. But nowadays they’re commonly added to processed foods to ultimately increase their shelf-life. And we’re learning that a build-up of sulfites can have a wide range of harmful effects.
For example, sulfites have been shown to restrict the growth of some species of beneficial gut bacteria. Sulfite toxicity has also been associated with neurological problems. Plus, there have been many adverse reactions linked to sulfite exposure, including asthma, dermatitis, diarrhea, and more.
Mitochondrial Amidoxime Reducing Component
While the function of this enzyme isn’t yet fully understood, mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component (mARC) is believed to also play a role in detoxification.
Therefore, molybdenum plays an important role in preventing the build-up of harmful toxins. This is especially important in modern times because our environment is filled with toxins. And even though we can limit our exposure to many, we can’t avoid them all.
Molybdenum Deficiency and Gluten
Even though trace amounts of molybdenum are needed, absorbing a sufficient amount can be difficult for those with gluten sensitivity. Because gluten destroys the lining of your small intestine where your food is fully digested and absorbed. Thus, nutrient deficiencies are common.
And then there’s glyphosate. An herbicide heavily sprayed on gluten containing grains (e.g., wheat and corn) that binds to molybdenum and prevents it from being absorbed. This further explains why molybdenum deficiencies are associated with celiac disease.
There aren’t many documented cases of molybdenum deficiency. However, below is a list of associated symptoms to look out for:
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Night vision loss
- Tachycardia (fast heart beat)
- Night vision loss
Some associated conditions include:
- Brain damage or disease
- Mental retardation
- Eye lens dislocation
- Celiac disease
Best Food Sources of Molybdenum
You won’t find molybdenum in processed foods packed with gluten and toxic food additives. To get the molybdenum your body needs, consider consuming more of the following whole foods:
- Black-Eyed Peas
- Mung beans
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pine Nuts
- Leafy vegetables
- Romaine lettuce
- Bell peppers
- Cod fish
- Sesame seeds
It’s important to note that too much molybdenum can also be problematic. For example, an excess may lead to a build-up of uric acid, which can cause gout as I mentioned previously.
It’s virtually impossible to overdo it by eating foods with molybdenum. But molybdenum supplementation is another story. So please be sure to consult with a licensed healthcare provider before supplementing.
And if you have gluten sensitivity and suspect a molybdenum deficiency, getting gluten out of your diet is most important. Because it’s the root of the problem. It’s likely contributing to your deficiency.
You may need to focus on foods rich in molybdenum or even supplement if that’s what your doctor recommends. But neither are a substitute for a gluten-free diet. Only once you fully eliminate gluten from your diet will your body begin to heal.