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Does glutamine benefit your gut health? From a gut health dietitian

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

Are you on a quest for improved gut health? If so, you might be curious about the potential benefits of Glutamine or L-Glutamine supplementation.

In this blog, we'll uncover the science behind it, its potential advantages, and considerations to help you make an informed decision about incorporating Glutamine into your wellness routine.

Glutamine supplements for gut health benefits

What is Glutamine?

Glutamine is an amino acid, a fundamental building block of proteins, that plays a significant role in various bodily functions. When it comes to gut health, one of its key roles is in maintaining the health of the intestinal lining, particularly in our small intestine.

Glutamine helps maintain the structural integrity of the intestinal mucosa, which is vital for nutrient absorption and protecting against unwanted substances getting into our blood stream.

Where do we find glutamine?

Glutamine is considered a non-essential amino acid as our body makes it by itself. But we can also find it in protein rich foods such as:

  • Meat (beef, chicken, pork)

  • Fish (especially tuna, salmon)

  • Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)

  • Eggs

  • Soy products (tofu, tempeh)

  • Legumes (beans, lentils)

  • Nuts (especially almonds)

  • Seeds (such as sunflower seeds)

What does the science say about glutamine supplements for gut health benefits?

For gut health specifically, many claim that glutamine supplementation can help to prevent a leaky gut, improve bloating and support various gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or disease such inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Truth is? The science when it comes to leaky gut and glutamine supplementation is still evolving. The term "leaky gut syndrome" is not a recognised term, but it refers to when our intestinal barrier becomes highly permeable, letting in unwanted substances.

However, there are only select conditions that might be linked to this, such as IBD, IBS and Coeliac disease. Interestingly, research on glutamine supplementation in these conditions appears to show no benefits. Instead, permeability appears to improve once the trigger has been removed. For example, gluten is removed from the diet for those with Coeliac disease.

There are two or three studies looking at glutamine supplementation in IBS that show a benefit. But there is some key factors to consider before you add glutamine to your shopping cart:

  • The research in post-infectious IBS is fairly limited, what it does show is that there may be a benefit. However, one study may not have had the minimal amount of participants needed. More evidence is needed before I use this in practice.

  • For taking glutamine alongside a low FODMAP diet there is some evidence, but again the study has some things to consider. For example the placebo group (without glutamine) had more women, those with unspecified IBS subtype and constipation. These are just some factors that may have influenced the effectiveness of a low FODMAP diet in the first place. Again more evidence is needed!

For gut symptoms such as bloating, there is no research exploring this at present. Therefore, we cannot say that glutamine is effective for bloating.

Should I take a glutamine supplement?

With the current state of research, it's not looking promising that taking additional glutamine is going to benefit most people for their gut health. Whilst there may be some conditions such as intestinal injuries where evidence is starting to look promising, this is not going to apply to the general population.

Instead focus on evidence-based strategies to support your gut health. These are some things to include:

  1. Dietary Fibre: Consuming a diet rich in fibre from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can promote a beneficial balance of bacteria in our gut. Start slowly to prevent gut symptoms such as bloating.

  2. Live foods: Foods like yoghurt and kefir contain beneficial bacteria (aka probiotics) that can help maintain a healthy gut. They contain glutamine too.

  3. Prebiotics: Prebiotics act like fuel for our good bacteria in the fut. Foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, and asparagus are good sources.

  4. Hydration: Drinking enough water is essential for proper digestion and maintaining mucosal health in the gut.

  5. Stress Management: Chronic stress can negatively impact gut health, so stress reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can be beneficial for symptom management.

  6. Adequate Sleep: Quality sleep supports overall health, including the gut, so aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep per night.

If you are looking for 1:1 support in clinic for your gut health, you can always get in touch. We would love to support you on your journey.

We would also love to know your experiences of taking glutamine!

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