Unless you’ve experienced Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Gastrointestinal issues such as leaky gut first hand, then you don’t really know how painful, debilitating, and embarrassing it can be. Coping with IBD such as Crohns Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Ulcerative Colitis can cause horrible stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, and chronic fatigue. Recently, there has been an overwhelming amount of clinical evidence that has emerged linking the potential health benefits of L-Glutamine supplementation on Gastrointestinal health and IBD.
What Is L-Glutamine?
L-Glutamine is the most abundant free-amino acid in the entire human body. Often referred to as a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning the body naturally produces it, however, in times of extreme physical or metabolic stress, the body’s stores of L-Glutamine can be depleted and therefore need to be supplemented or obtained through your diet. This can happen during high-intensity training, or during times of physical trauma such as surgery, sepsis, chemotherapy, or IBD.
L-Glutamine has numerous health benefits and is used as a treatment for various health conditions. Most commonly, L-Glutamine is used as a sports performance supplement, to help repair muscle mass breakdown, and reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness.
Recently however there has been more evidence pointing to L-Glutamine as a potential treatment option for Immune health, digestive health, and alleviating symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
How Does L-Glutamine Work?
L-Glutamine has four main functions; it plays an integral role in
- maintaining nitrogen balance
- the cellular redox state
- regulating glucose metabolism
- regulating acid-base homeostasis.
L-Glutamine assists in rebuilding and repairing the intestinal tract and lining of your gut. Since L-Glutamine regulates the nitrogen balance in your body, it decides when and where to place nitrogen atoms to be most efficient and effective in repairing your body. This can be extremely beneficial for those that have gastrointestinal issues such as leaky gut, and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's, IBS, and Ulcerative Colitis.
Does L-Glutamine Help Treat Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's Disease is a chronic relapsing inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and is traditionally very difficult to treat. (4) With characteristics such as severe diarrhea, bleeding, bloating, stomach pain, and electrolyte loss coping with Crohn's can be severely challenging, frustrating and a bit embarrassing.
The pathology of Crohn's is not completely understood, however, it’s hypothesized that increased gut lining permeability could be a factor in the pathogenesis. Since L-Glutamine plays a key role in feeding the small mucosa of the gut lining and maintaining gut lining integrity, L-Glutamine supplementation could in fact help restore gut permeability in patients with Crohn's disease. (5)
In a randomized controlled trial conducted at the Department of Gastroenterology and Human Nutrition at the India Institute of Medical Sciences, 14 consecutive patients with abnormal intestinal permeability were randomized into a glutamine group and an active control group and were given either glutamine or whey protein at 0.5g/kg per ideal body weight for two months. The study concluded that intestinal permeability significantly improved within the glutamine group. (6)
Recent studies have shown promising results in using L-Glutamine as a potential treatment option for Crohn's Disease. However, considering the study design and sample size of most studies, results have been mixed, and better-designed studies still need to be implemented in order to determine L-Glutamine as a potential treatment option for Crohn's Disease.
According to the Canadian GI Society of Intestinal Research,
“In metabolically stressed individuals there is an increased demand for L-Glutamine, making supplementation essential. This includes people with acute or chronic bowel disease, burns, trauma, sepsis, or immune disorders, and can include people with temporary increased metabolic needs resulting from extreme physical activities.
In both healthy and stressed individuals, glutamine is a fuel source for cells in the small intestine and large bowel. It is the preferred fuel source by the gut and is necessary for the maintenance of gut villi, therefore, preventing bacteria from entering the small intestine or bowel wall.
Evidence shows glutamine supplements may benefit Crohn’s disease. Patients with Crohn’s disease have been shown to benefit from oral glutamine, especially in preventing gut permeability associated with taking indomethacin.” (7)
Recommended Dose Of L-Glutamine For Crohn's Disease
L-Glutamine is most effective when taken on an empty stomach without food. The recommended dose of L-Glutamine for Crohn's is dependent upon disease state, yet the average dose is 30g per day.
Does L-Glutamine Help Treat Ulcerative Colitis?
Much like Crohn's, Ulcerative Colitis is an idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the colon, often characterized by bloody stool, and abdominal pain. (8) The innermost lining of the colon becomes inflamed and ulcers may also appear on the surface.
The immune system usually attacks and kills foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms. Under normal circumstances, the harmless bacteria in the intestines are protected from such an attack. In people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), these bacteria are mistaken for harmful invaders and the immune system mounts a response and attacks. (9)
One of the many benefits of L-Glutamine as a potential treatment option for IBD is that it can increase intestinal-friendly microbiota (Bacteroidetes and Actinobacteria), while decreasing pernicious bacteria (Oscillospira and Treponema) (9) to help improve disease symptoms and intestinal structure.
Several studies also indicate that Glutamine has anti-inflammatory properties, by influencing inflammatory signaling pathways. (10) Considering that Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease, studies suggest that L-Glutamine could help suppress inflammation in IBD (11) and rebuild intestinal lining to further prevent permeability (12)
Recommended Dose Of L-Glutamine For Ulcerative Colitis Disease
L-Glutamine is most effective when taken on an empty stomach without food. Dependent upon disease state, most studies range from 3-30g of glutamine taken daily for Ulcerative Colitis.
Is L-Glutamine Good For Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common chronic disorder that affects the large intestine and is characterized by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and or constipation.
Patients with IBS or post-infectious IBS have a very high prevalence of intestinal hyperpermeability. Therefore, it’s hypothesized that Glutamine could be a potential treatment option and good for IBS since one of its key functions is maintaining the barrier of the intestine and rebuilding the lining of the intestinal tract.
In a double-blind, randomized control trial (RCT) published in the leading international gastroenterology journal, Gut 115 patients were administered 15g of L-Glutamine or a placebo for 8 weeks. Increased intestinal permeability was defined as meeting a reduction of greater or equal to 50 points on the IBS Symptom Severity Scale. Secondary endpoints included changes in daily bowel movement frequency, stool form as measured by the Bristol Stool Scale, and intestinal permeability. The results were extremely impressive with nearly 80% of the Glutamine group achieving their primary endpoint. Glutamine also significantly reduced daily bowel movement frequency (3 vs. 5) and Bristol Stool Scale scores (4 vs. 6.5) and normalized intestinal permeability. (13)
Recommended Dose Of L-Glutamine For Irritable Bowel Syndrome
L-Glutamine is most effective when taken on an empty stomach without food. The recommended dose of L-Glutamine for IBS is anywhere from 15-20g per day.
Does L-Glutamine Heal Leaky Gut?
The intestinal wall, is the first line of defense for many potential harmful ailments and bacterial substances, to protect the immune system. Leaky Gut syndrome, is characterized by an increase in intestinal permeability, meaning those harmful ailments and bacterial substances can get through your gut lining, causing inflammation, infection, bloating, and stomach pain
Since L-Glutamine is the preferred fuel source for the mucosa of the small intestine, your body is able to rebuild and repair your gut lining to mitigate the toxins from crossing your gut lining.
There is ample evidence from numerous clinical studies, that supports the use of L-glutamine as a dietary supplement to help maintain gut barrier function and strengthening lining, to reduce intestinal permeability and help treat leaky gut syndrome. (14)
Recommended Dose Of L-Glutamine For Leaky Gut
L-Glutamine is most effective when taken on an empty stomach without food. The recommended dose of L-Glutamine for Leaky Gut is anywhere from 15-30g per day.
Is L-Glutamine Good For Digestive Health & IBD?
Overall, there is an overwhelming body of clinical evidence that supports the use of L-Glutamine to be a potential treatment option for, IBS, and Leaky Gut. Considering that most of these disease states and ailments are the result of chronic inflammation and gut permeability, L-Glutamine is proven to help rebuild and repair the lining of the intestinal tract and help with normalizing intestinal permeability. That being said, the role of Glutamine as a potential treatment option for IBD, is controversial and further evaluation needs to be done, in order to determine L-Glutamine as a potential therapeutic agent for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Preliminary results are promising, yet larger sample sizes are needed for a more thorough evaluation.
Do you suffer from IBD, IBS, or Leaky Gut?
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- Oliveira GP, Diasi CM, PelosiP, Patricia RM (2010) Understanding the mechanisms of glutamine action in critically ill patients. An Acad Bras Cienc 82(2): 417-430.
- Kathleen A and Julie J (2004) Inflammatory Bowel Disease Part II: Crohn’s Disease -Pathophysiology and Conventional and Alternative Treatment Options. Alternative Medicine Review 9:4.
- Liu, Yulan et al. “Therapeutic Potential of Amino Acids in Inflammatory Bowel Disease” Nutrients vol. 9,9 920. 23 Aug. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9090920
- Den hond E, Hiele M, Peeters M, Ghoos Y, Rutgeerts P. Effect of long-term oral glutamine supplements on small intestinal permeability in patients with Crohn's disease. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1999;23(1):7-11.
- Benjamin J, Makharia G, Ahuja V, et al. Glutamine and whey protein improve intestinal permeability and morphology in patients with Crohn's disease: a randomized controlled trial. Dig Dis Sci. 2012;57(4):1000-12.
- (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/glutamine/
- Daniel J. Mulder, Angela J. Noble, Christopher J. Justinich, Jacalyn M. Duffin; A tale of two diseases: The history of inflammatory bowel disease, Journal of Crohn's and Colitis, Volume 8, Issue 5, 1 May 2014, Pages 341–348
- Zhang Y., Lu T., Han L., Zhao L., Niu Y., Chen H. l-glutamine supplementation alleviates constipation during late gestation of mini sows by modifying the microbiota composition in feces. BioMed Res. Int. 2017;2017 doi: 10.1155/2017/4862861
- Rhoads J.M., Wu G. Glutamine, arginine, and leucine signaling in the intestine. Amino Acids. 2009;37:111–122
- Kim, Min-Hyun and Hyeyoung Kim. “The Roles of Glutamine in the Intestine and Its Implication in Intestinal Diseases” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 18,5 1051. 12 May. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms18051051
- Lorenzo AG, Zarazaga A, Garcıa Luna PP, Gonzalez Huix F, Lopez Martınez J, et al. (2003) Clinical Evidence for Enteral Nutritional Support with Glutamine: A Systematic Review 19: 805-811
- Zhou Q, Verne ML, Fields JZ, et al. Randomised placebo-controlled trial of dietary glutamine supplements for postinfectious irritable bowel syndrome. Gut. 2018;
- Rao, RadhaKrishna and Geetha Samak. “Role of Glutamine in Protection of Intestinal Epithelial Tight Junctions” Journal of epithelial biology & pharmacology 5,Suppl 1-M7 (2011): 47-54