It is hard to overstate the importance of glutamine and gut health to every aspect of our well-being, both physical and emotional. In many ways, our gut acts a second brain. A growing number of studies show that this delicate system plays a major role in determining our overall health, mood, and even the way we think. Now, new research demonstrates how closely glutamine and gut health are related. That means getting your glutamine levels worked out can not only improve your gut health, but the cascade of symptoms that come with it including blood sugar levels, cravings, appetite, inflammation- the list goes on.
Why is Gut Health Important?
Gut health has been the subject of many research papers in recent years due to growing scientific agreement that impaired gut health is linked to many common diseases. Some of these diseases and conditions include depression, anxiety, cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders. Why? Our gut is home to billions of gut bacteria which make up more than 70% of our immune system.
Because gut health is a major factor in overall wellness, many refer to it as the foundation of our entire health. There are many ways to keep your gut health in check and one of them is by supplementing with glutamine.
Before we dive in on the connection between glutamine and gut health, let’s first review why it’s critical to have a healthy gut.
Benefits of a Healthy Gut
Strong immune system
The first and foremost benefit of a healthy gut is having a really strong immune system. As mentioned above, 70% of antibodies come from the gut as nutrient distribution is far more concentrated in the gut than any other part in the body. Therefore, developing a strong immune system means making sure we eat foods that promote or enhance gut flora growth.
Helps lose weight
Some of the best food sources for gut health comes from really fibrous food, and eating fiber also happens to be one of the best ways to help you lose the extra weight. Fibrous foods promote satiety (the feeling of being full) which prevents overeating and keeps you from feeling hungry.
Improves cardiovascular health
Apart from keeping you from excess eating, fiber also helps control cholesterol and triglyceride levels which promote cardiovascular health.
Optimizes mood and mental health
While the brain often has control whether we feel good or not, researchers discovered the gut also has a say on our mood. This is the reason why doctors sometimes prescribe antidepressants on patients with irritable bowel syndrome, a common disease in the gut.
Lowers the risks of infection
A healthy gut is a balanced gut, and balance pertains to both good and bad gut flora with good usually outnumbering bad. When a person’s gut flora becomes imbalanced, essentially making bad outnumber good, pathogens are more likely to adhere to the intestinal walls and cause infection. Infections lead to inflammation and inflammation leads to all sorts of gastrointestinal issues.
What is Glutamine?
Glutamine, made from glutamic acid, is the most abundant amino acid in your skeletal muscles, amounting to 61%. The others are distributed among your lungs, stomach, brain, and liver. Glutamine facilitates nitrogen metabolism, fueling intestinal cells, supports protein synthesis, and cellular immune response.
The kidneys are the primary consumer of glutamine since it’s where the ammonia from glutamine is removed to maintain the body’s acid-base balance. It goes without saying that as the body’s acidity increases, in response to intense training or a diet high in protein, so does the uptake of glutamine.
Glutamine supplements help offset nutritional deficiency, especially when it comes to athletes who train regularly. You may start to lose muscle, energy, and have an increased risk of getting infections if your glutamine levels are not sufficient. That said, benefits are not limited to competitive athletes. We all need glutamine, but as you ramp up exertion, you need more glutamine. I add glutamine to my post-workout smoothies.
What is the Connection between Glutamine and Gut Health?
Beyond the benefits of fiber outlined above, glutamine can help with a common ailment called Leaky Gut. Leaky gut is a condition where your intestinal lining has larger than usual gaps. These gaps let food particles, bacteria, and even waste products to directly contaminate the bloodstream. Some scientists speculate that leaky gut happens when you’re low on glutamine levels. Naturally, supplementing with glutamine has been shown to reduce the increase in permeability.
“Glutamine is an essential nutrient for gut mucosal epithelial cell growth, differentiation, mucosal integrity and barrier function…There is ample evidence to indicate that L-glutamine is the essential dietary supplement to help maintain mucosal integrity and barrier function under physiologic and pathophysiologic conditions. Human gut has little capacity to synthesize Glutamine and therefore it relies on the glutamine supply by other tissues and diet.”
L-Glutamine is essential when it comes to healing your leaky gut, stopping sugar cravings, and helping with insulin resistance. It is a strong anti-inflammatory which helps to repair the damaged lining of your intestinal walls, reduce inflammation, and restore nutrient absorption.
Glutamine has also been shown to help as a rehydration aid, as it can help in the uptake of water from the gut.
That’s not all glutamine can do. Click here to learn the 8 Benefits of Glutamine Supplementation (*Hint: sugar cravings are a big one)
Dietary Sources of Glutamine
Many whole foods which are high in protein are also high in glutamine. Check out these natural sources:
- Meat- Beef, chicken and lamb are all good choices. (*Watch your source for hormones and antibiotics. Try to buy grass-fed and organic when possible.)
- Seafood- Especially consider wild salmon since it contains Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Legumes- Peas, beans, try any legume that is high in protein.
- Skim Milk- *Dairy is not recommended for women with PCOS. Here’s why.
- Nuts– Try almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts.
- Tofu- Not recommended for women with PCOS. Here’s why.
- Eggs- These are a great source of Vitamin K, B Vitamin including biotin, thiamine, and Vitamin B12. They are also an excellent source of selenium, Vitamin D.
- Red Cabbage- Raw is more beneficial than cooked.
- Fruits & veggies- These typically have lower levels of glutamine, but are still decent sources. Try watercress, asparagus, and broccoli.
What if you can’t get enough glutamine naturally? This is where supplementation comes in. As with all supplements, glutamine dosage would vary from person to person, depending on level of activity and purpose.
I add high-quality glutamine powder to my post-workout smoothie to help my body recover and often take 1/4 tsp. when I have a sugar craving that won’t quit. Download my free PCOS Smoothie Guide for tips about what to add to (and leave out of) your smoothie as well as tons of recipes to keep things interesting!
As with any type of medication and supplement, it is important to avoid getting an overdose. Not only would it be inefficient for your body, as it won’t absorb more than it naturally needs, but it might also lead to the following side effects:
- Chest Pain
- Abdominal pain
- Dry mouth
- Crohn’s disease
- Back pain
- Rhinitis, laryngitis, and pharyngitis
- Flu-like disorder
Most side effects don’t require medical attention as some of these will go away once the body adjusts. If the symptoms persist even though enough time has passed, it would be best to consult your doctor.
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.
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