If you have IBS, you know how debilitating it can be. You may start to look for anything that can help to alleviate your symptoms or extend the time between flare ups. This has lead a lot of people to try L-Glutamine supplements. In this article, we'll discuss what IBS is, examine what L-Glutamine is, and demonstrate six science-backed reasons why you want to take L-Glutamine to help you manage your condition.
L-Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid. It plays an essential support role in building your muscles. Since your body naturally produces this amino acid, you usually don't need to get it from a supplement. However, if you suffer from a chronic illness or injury your body may become depleted of l-glutamine meaning that taking an l-glutamine supplement is necessary. (1)(2)
This amino acid helps your body direct other proteins and amino acids, and L-Glutamine is one of the most plentiful amino acids in your body. It's especially helpful for regulating your digestive tract and for giving your immune system a boost in productivity. . (3)
For people who have IBS, this is great news. Adding L-Glutamine to your diet could help with your symptoms, and it could help you manage and overcome this condition under the right treatment regime.
IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. You may also hear it called spastic colon, spastic colitis, mucous colitis, and irritable colon. This chronic disorder mainly affects your large intestine. IBS is a blanket term that refers to a series of symptoms that all occur at the same time in your intestines. (4)
The symptoms vary in severity from person to person, but to be considered as IBS they must last for at least three months at a time, and for at least three days per month. This is how doctors classify IBS, and the common symptoms are (5):
It's not unusual for people to have both constipation and diarrhoea almost when they have an IBS. It's important to note that a lot of IBS diagnoses are often misdiagnosed. Medical professionals often overlook reasons for IBS-like symptoms like an L-Glutamine deficiency, H.Pylori infections, Crohn's disease, IBD, bacterial overgrowths and leaky gut syndrome.
You can treat your IBS symptoms and overcome it if you find out what the root cause for your problems are. However, restricting your sugar and gluten intake, avoiding dairy, and taking L-Glutamine can help you with successful management. (6)
Earlier, we talked about how illness or injuries could cause your body to become deficient in L-Glutamine. It's simply not able to produce enough of this amino acid to meet your body's need. Since IBS is an ongoing and chronic issue, it can cause you to become deficient in L-Glutamine. Additionally, being deficient in L-Glutamine could also cause IBS symptoms making it a vicious cycle. (7)
So how does IBS cause you to become deficient in l-glutamine stores?
IBS can cause stress, and chronic stress can cause an L-Glutamine deficiency. Studies prove that people whose bodies experience higher stress levels can drain their L-Glutamine levels. This is because your body is concentrating on fighting off what it sees as a chronic infection. (8)
One cross-sectional study involving 60 participants showed that excess stress on their bodies due to illness had a negative impact on their L-Glutamine levels. They tested the participant's L-Glutamine levels on their admission to the ICU, and they re-tested them 24 hours later. They found that roughly 38% of the participants had deficient L-Glutamine levels due to stress, and those same participants also had higher levels of inflammation. (9)
So how then can an l-glutamine deficiency cause IBS?
This is a more complex answer but just like IBS can create chronic stress which can cause a depletion in l-glutamine, other things like trauma, infections, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immune disorders and other illness can cause us to become deficient in l-glutamine and therefore increase the risk of getting IBS. How?
Well, L-Glutamine works to coat and protect the lining of your stomach and digestive tract. It is like fuel for the intestinal lining of the gut. When you're deficient in key amino acids, this protective barrier can start to wear away which can lead to leaky gut, which is called intestinal permeability. This is where this protective barrier has become worn down. When this happens your gut becomes a focal point of inflammation which has been shown to coincide with IBS symptoms. (10)(11)
Aside from IBS, the following conditions may also be linked to an l-glutamine deficiency:
H. pylori is a type of bacteria that some people have throughout their stomach and intestines in the mucosal layer. H.Pylori is something which should be removed. The reasoning behind this is that a hidden infection of H. pylori can be mistakenly diagnosed as IBS. (12)
H. pylori bacteria can cause problems like gut irritation and ulcers which can often masquerade as IBS. In fact, studies show that roughly 50% of people who have IBS have an infection of H. pylori. This means that H. pylori can potentially cause IBS, and having IBS can make you more susceptible to the effects of H. pylori given your gut is already compromised. This creates a viscous cycle. (13)(14)
Since L-Glutamine helps boost your immune system, it's safe to say that it can help with an infection of H. pylori. Taking L-Glutamine will encourage your immune system to send immune cells to the problem areas in your stomach lining. Once they get there, they'll start to fight the H. pylori, and L-Glutamine will begin the cellular repair process. (15)
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology led a study examining L-Glutamine's effectiveness in combating a H. Pylori infection and treating stomach ulcers. They took 105 mice and divided them into two groups. One group got a traditional diet, and one group got a traditional diet with an L-Glutamine supplement. After 2 weeks, they divided the original two groups of mice again into two more groups. You now have:
They studied these mice with tissue and blood samples over a period of five months. At the end of the study, they found that the mice who were given L-Glutamine and H. Pylori had reduced levels of inflammation. They also found that the groups of mice who got the L-Glutamine supplements were protected from cellular damage due to H. pylori-induced ulcers. The groups that didn't get the L-Glutamine but were infected by H. pylori had ulcers and cellular damage. (16)
L-glutamine is therefore a good measure to protect against the effects of H.pylori.
When your gut is healthy, the bacteria species stay balanced. They help break down the food you eat, and the "good" bacteria and "bad" bacteria keep each other in check. However, when certain strains of bacteria get overgrown, you start to see problems because overgrowths can cause IBS symptoms. Often IBS is just a sign of an overgrowth of bad bacteria and nothing more.
Firmicutes are the main phyla of bacteria responsible for IBS when they become overgrown. This phyla of bacteria is one of the largest classes of bacteria in your digestive tract. They absorb the nutrients from your food, and they also stimulate your appetite. However, many species of firmicuties have been known to cause intestinal inflammation. Some species of Firmicutes that can cause problems include Enterococcus, Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus- (17)(18)(19)(20)(21)(22)(23)(24)
Researchers recruited 33 adults who were overweight (and had high levels of firmicutes pre-study) and put them on an oral L-Glutamine supplementation or an oral supplementation of L-alanine. At the end of the study, they measured the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. They found that the group who got the L-Glutamine supplements had a 0.3 reduction in the ratio of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. The group who got the L-alanine had an increase in the ratio of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes of 0.21. (25)
Intestinal permeability is another name for Leaky Gut Syndrome. People who have this condition develop small cracks in their intestinal walls. Bacteria from your intestines can slowly start to seep through these small cracks into your other systems. Your immune system sees these escaping bacteria as an infection, and will initiate inflammation to the area to try and stop it. (26)(27)
Leaky gut can be the sole cause of IBS in some instances because of the system-wide inflammation and increased bacteria numbers that spread throughout your body. It's rare to find a case of IBS without some degree of Leaky Gut Syndrome. (28)(29)
Two studies took people with IBS and measured their sensitivity levels in relation to chronic low-grade inflammation, as well as whether or not they had intestinal permeability. The first study took urine samples from patients who had constipation-predominant IBS and compared them to a healthy control group. They found that the people who had constipation-predominant IBS had a higher instance of intestinal permeability than the control group.
The second study took people who had constipation-predominant IBS and compared them to a group of people who had postinfectious IBS and to a healthy control group. Again, they found that the groups of people who suffered from some form of IBS had higher intestinal permeability than the healthy control groups. (30)
L-Glutamine supplements can help to repair your intestinal permeability. It slowly forms a thin mucosal layer between the bacteria in your intestines and the intestinal walls. This coating allows your intestinal wall to slowly start to heal while it contains the bacteria. (31)(32)
A pilot study took 48 patients and split them into two groups of 24 each. The control group had 23 patients, and the L-Glutamine group had 25 patients. They gave the L-Glutamine group an oral supplement of 0.5g/kg once a day for two weeks while the control group got a placebo. At the end of the trial, they found that both group's intestinal permeability was reduced, but the group that got the L-Glutamine supplement had a significantly higher reduction. Therefore, if your IBS symptoms are caused by leaky gut, this could be a good way to overcome it and reduce or stop your flares. (33)
As we talked about earlier, L-Glutamine also has anti-inflammatory properties that further help to treat intestinal permeability. The L-Glutamine will help deliver essential nutrients to your cells, and encourages new cell growth and repair. This can seal the small cracks or fissures, and it'll take the inflammation levels down as well. (34)(35)
Crohn's Disease is another medical condition that causes chronic inflammation throughout your digestive tract, leading to bloating, pain, redness, and visible swelling. Unlike IBS, which is usually restricted to your intestines and stomach, Crohn's can appear anywhere from your mouth to your anus, and you usually find it in the end of your small intestine. (36)
IBD is Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and is a broad term for both Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Unlike IBS, IBD and Crohn's Disease can lead to damage in your intestinal tract if you don't treat it. However, all three things can cause inflammation, and the inflammation can worsen your symptoms. Unfortunately, these conditions cause IBS-like symptoms that medical professionals often overlook as the root cause of IBS. (37)
Studies show that L-Glutamine may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiapoptotic properties that work well to help treat the symptoms of all of these conditions. Along with taking down the inflammation levels in your GI tract, the antioxidants work to repair any cell damage that may irritate your IBS further. Additionally, the antiapoptotic activity prevents any further cell death, and this can speed up the healing process. (38)(39)(40)(41)
A controlled trial of 14 patients with Crohn's induced IBS was split into a control group and an L-Glutamine group. The L-Glutamine group got an oral supplement of 0.5g/kg of L-Glutamine every day for a month, and the control group 0.5g/kg of whey protein. At the end of the trial, researchers found that both groups had reduced symptoms. (42)
A second study tested L-Glutamine's ability to help heal the intestinal permeability of patients with Crohn's induced IBS. The control group got 0.5 g/kg ideal body weight of whey each day for two consecutive months. The other group got 0.5g/kg ideal body weight of L-Glutamine every day for two months. Researchers found that the group that got the oral supplement of L-Glutamine had improved symptoms, and improved intestinal permeability. (43)
No matter how severe your symptoms are, IBS can be a debilitating medical condition with lasting effects on your body. Since there is no cure, you want to work on managing your symptoms and reducing the severity of your IBS flares. We outlined seven science-backed reasons why you should consider taking L-Glutamine to help heal the inflammation and reduce the symptom severity you have.
It's important that you consult with your physician before you start taking L-Glutamine or any new supplement. They'll be able to tell you if it'll have a negative interaction with any medications you are currently on, or on your personal case of IBS. However, if they give you the okay, you should consider trying an L-Glutamine supplement to help you lead a happier and healthier life.