Sugar cravings, everyone has them at one point or another. This is especially true for people who are trying to cut down their sugar consumption or cut it out of their diets completely. These sugar cravings are normal as your body starts to get used to not having its usual daily dose, and they should go away in time. However, taking an L-Glutamine supplement can help you combat your sugar cravings. We're going to explain four big reasons how L-Glutamine can help and what L-Glutamine is.
L-Glutamine is an extremely important conditionally essential amino acid that your body naturally produces. You can also get it from the foods you eat. Amino acids are building blocks that the proteins in your body use to perform several functions. They're especially important to your immune and digestive systems. (1)
L-Glutamine helps to direct the other proteins in your body to perform their required functions in your body's systems. They can also help to transport substances through your blood and boost your immune system so it can fight off bacteria more efficiently. (2)
As we mentioned, L-Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid. This means that while your body can produce enough of it under normal circumstances and you wouldn't necessarily need it from your diet, you'll have to get it from other sources in the event of an injury or illness. These are conditions where your body's natural production of L-Glutamine won't keep up with the demand. (3)(4)
A normal diet consists of between three and six grams of L-Glutamine each day. If you're on a specific diet, this amount can vary. However, you get the most L-Glutamine from animal products because they have a high protein content. For example: (5)
It's also important to note that plant-based foods typically have a lower protein content overall but they have decent levels of L-Glutamine. Additionally, it can be difficult to understand the exact levels of L-Glutamine you're actually getting from your food because of how the content is measured. Plant and fruit sources include: (6)(7)(8)
Since you usually need more L-Glutamine in your diet than you can reasonably get, L-Glutamine supplements are the preferred method of increasing your dietary intake. This is why people choose to take L-Glutamine supplements in addition to eating a healthy diet.
Now that you know what L-Glutamine is and where to find it, we're going to talk about four science-backed ways you should try L-Glutamine to combat your sugar cravings.
Firmicutes are a class of bacteria that naturally occur in your digestive tract. They include bacteria such as streptococcus. There are over 250 different strains of bacteria in this class. They produce shortchain fatty acids and they also secrete special proteins that mimic hunger-regulating hormones. Additionally, Firmicutes love carbohydrates, and this means that they love any form of sugar. In turn, when you start getting a greater ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes, you may start to notice increased cravings for sugar and carbohydrates because the Firmicutes need it to continue to grow and survive. (9)
There are hormones that play important roles in regulating mood, gut bacteria and food cravings, and they have ties to Firmicutes. They include: (10)
Ghrelin and Leptin
Ghrelin comes from your intestines and stomach, and it's typically present in very small amounts. Your pancreas and brain also play a role in this hormone's secretion. Although it has direct involvement in several bodily functions, it has the nickname of the hunger hormone. It works to stimulate your appetite, promote fat storage, and increases your food intake. (11)
Leptin is one of the hormones that has direct links to fat storage and obesity. Your fat cells are responsible for releasing Leptin from the adipose tissue. It also sends out signals straight to the hypothalamus in the brain. The primary function of this hormone is to help people maintain their weight. This means that it helps your body hold onto any excess fat it has. (12)
Taking L-Glutamine is a natural way to reduce Firmicutes. Once the Firmicutes level decreases, it can also decrease the amount of Ghrelin and Leptin-mimicking secretions that come from this bacteria class. L-Glutamine accomplishes this by increasing the growth of Bacteroidetes in your system and stablising the ratio of bacteroides to firmicutes (Side Note: Bacteroidetes are the other major class of bacteria found in the gut). (13)(14)
In one study, 33 overweight or obese adults were split into two groups. The two groups were randomly assigned to take either 30 grams of L-Alanine or 30 grams of L-Glutamine every day for a period of two weeks.
Researchers analyzed the participants' gut microbiota before the study and at the study's conclusion. They found that the group who took the 30 grams of L-Glutamine every day had a decreased ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes, down from 0.85 to 0.57, while the control group who took the L-Alanine saw an increase in the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes from 0.91 to 1.12. (15)
Interestingly, L-glutamine has also been shown to decrease the secretion of ghrelin, which as we have discussed plays an essential role of appetite. When ghrelin is high, sugary and high calorie foods become more appealing as opposed to when ghrelin is low. (16) This may also play a key reason in why l-glutamine may reduce sugar cravings.
It's also relief to know that the reason you can't seem to stay away from sugar isn't due to willpower. It can be due to an imbalance of the bacteria in your gut. (17)
L-Glutamine may help to control your sugar cravings because of its nutrient profile. While we do need more scientific research and studies to explore this phenomenon further and to get concrete answers, we've come up with three reasons why L-Glutamine's nutrient profile may help to regulate your sugar cravings. They are:
L-Glutamine is a protein, and ingesting large amounts of protein can produce a satiety effect. This satiety effect simply means that you feel fuller while still eating smaller portions of food. It comes from having a higher protein intake than other types of diets.
Researchers wanted to test this in people who had well-controlled Type II diabetes. They gave a group of participants a large dose of L-Glutamine once a day for four weeks and recorded their feelings of hunger and fullness. At the end of the four weeks, they found that the group reported eating less while feeling fuller after they had the L-Glutamine supplement. (18)
Recent studies also show that L-Glutamine supplements may be effective for helping to control sugar cravings by stabilising and controlling blood sugar levels. This is particularly helpful for people who have Type II diabetes because blood sugar fluctuations can cause severe health problems. In 2014, researchers performed a trial to see to see if giving people a dose of L-Glutamine would help lower blood sugar levels in Type II diabetics over a longer period of time.
The 13 participants got a dose of L-Glutamine before breakfast and another one before dinner. At the end of the study, they found that their blood sugar levels were similar to what they were at the start of the study. However, they did note that each participant's A1C levels were significantly improved. A1C is a long-term marker for blood sugar control. (19)
Studies show that L-Glutamine can increase endogenous glucose production for a short period of time. This feature could be one of the reasons l-glutamine reduces sugar cravings in the short term given it provides the body with something which does not have the affects of oral glucose but which increases endogenous levels in the body thereby inducing satiety.
One recent study took a group of Type II diabetics and obese patients who were non-diabetic as a control group. Both groups got an L-Glutamine supplement every day for the course of the study. By the end of the study, researchers found that both groups had a positive increase in their levels of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), polypeptide and insulin concentration. GLP-1 and polypeptides help to increase blood sugar levels over the short term. (22)
However, despite raising blood sugar in the short term, another study showed that l-glutamine still raised blood sugar less than a glass of water. So in some regard, it was more effective at reducing blood sugar than water (23). Putting science to the side, a number of anecdotal experiences have also reported that l-glutamine has helped them reduce hunger and sugar pangs after taking a small amount of l-glutamine at times of cravings.
Leaky gut syndrome is a blanket term used to describe a condition where you have small fissures or cracks in your intestinal walls. These small holes in your intestinal lining allow for bacteria to slip through, and it also allows for valuable nutrients to slip through instead of being absorbed by your body. In turn, you can experience increased cravings for sugar or salty foods. (24)(25)
The problem with leaky gut is your intestinal lining can become damaged and your food will simply pass through your digestive system without most of the nutrients being absorbed. Additionally, this damage means that your intestines won't produce the enzymes needed for digestion. Since carbohydrates are a good source of dietary sugars and they aren't broken efficiently when leaky gut syndrome is present, you can start to have nutrient deficiencies. (26)
The nutrients your body can start to crave include things like zinc and magnesium. When you don't have enough magnesium in your system, it can't effectively regulate your levels of insulin, glucose or dopamine. This can manifests in an intense craving for sugar, usually chocolate. (27)
Zinc also plays an important role in regulating your body's use of insulin and glucose, and a deficiency in this mineral can cause sugar cravings. (28)
Leaky gut syndrome can also cause you to be more resistant to insulin because it can cause inflammation. Your bacteria in your gut releases lipopolysaccharides, and these inflammatory molecules travel through your bloodstream. Once they get to your cells, they can interfere with their ability to make insulin. This can lead to insulin resistance. (29)(30)
Insulin resistance is where the cells in your body don't respond to the insulin your pancreas releases. They can't absorb the glucose in your blood. This can cause your pancreas to create too much insulin. Your blood sugar can start to fluctuate in response causing hunger and craving pangs. (31)
L-Glutamine is essential when it comes to healing your leaky gut, stopping sugar cravings, and helping with insulin resistance. First, L-Glutamine has powerful properties that act as anti-inflammatory agents. They go to the damaged lining of your intestinal walls and start to take the inflammation away. (32)(33)
The second thing L-Glutamine does is help to heal your systems at a cellular level once the inflammation is gone. This helps with both insulin resistance and leaky gut. Since L-Glutamine is an amino acid, one of its main functions is to heal damage and help to rebuild strong cells. This will slowly repair any fissures or cracks in your intestines, which can increase your nutrient absorption. Your body will start getting the nutrients it needs, and this can reduce your sugar cravings. (35)
L-Glutamine is a powerful aid in helping to control sugar cravings. We've outlined four big reasons why you want to consider adding it to your diet if you're experiencing cravings. As always, we do recommend that you talk to your doctor before you make any changes. They'll be able to help you decide if L-Glutamine is appropriate for your lifestyle or not.