Chances are you’re already aware that some substances are more significant than others in performing certain processes within the body. Indeed, individual molecules provide benefits that are distinct to them. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids are most well-known for promoting heart health. Protein is commonly associated with building muscles. As for glutamine—an amino acid—research shows that it may help improve gut health by resolving conditions like leaky gut syndrome and gastrointestinal diseases. Learn more on how glutamine for leaky gut syndrome works.
Gut health is a key factor in optimizing overall well-being. In fact, Dr. Will Cole, a specialist in functional medicine describes gut health as “the foundation of your entire health”. He explains that a large number of modern conditions including depression, anxiety disorders, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular issues, and cancer have been attributed to a compromised digestive system.
According to Dr. Ruairi Robertson, an expert in human nutrition and microbiology, the gut microbiome affects essential bodily functions in various ways. For instance, an imbalance of gut bacteria can lead to unwanted weight gain, intestinal diseases, heart problems, diabetes, and interference in nerve transmissions. This is why it’s highly important to support gut health by sustaining the balance of microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract.
The National Health Service Constitution reports that the functions of the gastrointestinal tract include digestion of food, extraction, and absorption of necessary nutrients, and removal of waste products from the body. Any abnormal or foreign activity that antagonizes the gastrointestinal system is an indication of a health problem.
Now, how exactly does glutamine promote gut health? Dr. Marvin Singh, an integrative gastroenterologist in San Diego, California discusses its use as an ingredient in many commercial formulations for healing a leaky gut and treating inflammatory bowel disease. Let’s cut to the chase and discuss the ways your digestive tract can benefit from glutamine.
According to Dr. Singh, a specific study has found that laboratory mice which have been given glutamine got a boost in the immune system. A medical review supports this as glutamine supplementation has been found to reduce the rate of acquired infections in hospital settings. It also consequently decreased the length of patients’ hospital stay and in-patient mortality rate.
Dr. Grant Tinsley, an assistant professor at Texas Tech University describes glutamine as a molecule vital for the immune system. It helps fight disease-causing pathogens by boosting the immune system’s activity. It also aids in transporting substances to various parts of the body through blood circulation.
Here is the connection between a high immunity and gut health—more than 70% of the immune system is actually in the gut. Therefore, by intensifying activity in the immune system, harmful pathogens are prevented from penetrating the gut and leaking into the bloodstream.
Improves Intestinal Barrier Function
Dr. Cole asserts that many studies support the ability of glutamine to enhance the permeability of the gut through supplementation. One particular study has assessed 107 children participants. About 50% of the children are supplemented with glutamine and the other 50% are given a placebo. Within about four months, the children who took glutamine supplements have shown improvement in their intestinal barrier function.
Having a strong intestinal barrier allows ease of absorption of nutrients while limiting the transport of potentially harmful microorganisms. Thus, glutamine helps the gut by preventing malabsorption of essential nutrients and blocking antigens that cause diseases.
Enhances Antioxidant Production
Glutamine supports the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant. Dr. Anju Sood, a clinical nutritionist, and lecturer at the University of Delhi state that glutathione is required to regulate the body’s normal pH level. It also aids in improving nerve efficiency, heightening cognitive function, and resolving mood swings. Now how exactly does this relate to gut health?
According to the John Hopkins Center, the enteric nervous system is involved in mood swings, and when emotional shifts are experienced by people with bowel problems, symptoms tend to worsen. Therefore, by maintaining a positive feeling, regulating stress, and avoiding unhealthy mood changes, bowel problems may be avoided.
Treats Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Glutamine supplements are often used for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These conditions lead to the occurrences of ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract as a consequence of an autoimmune attack that antagonizes the bowel.
Dr. Singh states that some clinical data suggest that glutamine can block activation of nuclear factor-kB and signal transducer and activator of transcription—both are pro-inflammatory mediators. Therefore, by interfering with the activation of these mediators, the expression of inflammatory cytokines—which significantly contribute to inflammation—can also be reduced.
Dr. Cole discussed that research has found that glutamine can reduce inflammatory bowel disease symptoms. In fact, monitored patients who received glutamine supplements showed improvement in symptoms within four weeks. Surprisingly, when the patients stopped their glutamine supplementation, symptoms of inflammatory bowel syndrome began to show again.
Relieves Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
According to an article reviewed by registered dietician and health writer Natalie Butler, glutamine promotes intestinal health and shows promise in the treatment of IBS. Tissues found in the intestines actually use glutamine as a source of fuel to promote proper functioning. As discussed previously, glutamine also improves the function of intestinal barriers.
Symptoms associated with IBS include abdominal cramps, severe stomach upset, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and release of white mucus after a bowel movement. Research shows that there may be a link between glutamine deficiency and the development of IBS. It’s therefore likely that increasing glutamine intake may reduce or even dissipate IBS symptoms.
Good Sources of Glutamine
Some rich sources of glutamine include meat, seafood, milk, eggs, organ meat, dark leafy greens, red cabbage, asparagus, herbs such as cilantro and parsley, legumes, nuts, white rice, and corn. Protein-rich liquids such as bone broth and protein drinks also contain high amounts of glutamine. Glutamine is also widely available as a food supplement in pill or powder form.
Risks of Glutamine Supplementation
Although glutamine supplementation is generally safe for most people, some individuals may have to avoid taking it. For instance, people who suffer from liver disease, kidney disease, or Reye’s syndrome are advised to avoid glutamine supplementation.
Some studies also show that specific tumor cells multiply from being fueled by glutamine. Therefore, individuals with cancer or who have a high likelihood of developing cancer must also avoid taking glutamine supplements.
There are also people who show an allergic reaction from glutamine intake with symptoms like joint pain, hives, nausea, and vomiting.
Before you start glutamine supplementation, it’s highly advised that you consult your healthcare provider and discuss more options for improving gut health.