L-glutamine is one supplement I’ve taken consistently for at least five years. But every time I take a supplement that I don’t notice a direct cause and effect relationship with, I always wonder how much it’s really helping. So I thought I’d go back and revisit why I started taking L-glutamine and re-evaluate how it might be helping in the management of my Crohn’s. Should it stay or should it go?
A quick Google search will tell you that L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body and is a critical nutrient for the intestines. It is said to boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and soothe the intestinal cells…it can even help with sugar and alcohol cravings.
When I first started taking it, I don’t remember giving it much thought past reading all the potential benefits. I bought a powder and started adding it to my protein shakes and food; I then quickly moved on to looking up the next greatest supplement. Fast forward to today and I’ve now been taking L-glutamine for around five years. But like a lot of things, if you don’t pay attention to why you’re doing something, you can easily fall into the trap of doing something just because you’ve always done it. One interesting observation I’ve had in revisiting what L-glutamine is doing for me, is realizing that my current dose (probably about 5g per day) is nowhere near what it should be for a therapeutic gut use. Although it hasn’t been hurting me, at that low of a dose, it most likely has not been playing any role in my Crohn’s management.
Not every article I came across mentioned how much to take, which is probably why I never got into the habit of taking a high dose to begin with. I was just guessing and adding a scoop here and there to my food. This time, in researching the benefits, I came across two articles that gave clear, easy-to-understand guidance on how much to take for improving gut health and both recommended somewhere in the ballpark of 30g per day.
The article “The 5 Big Mistakes People Make When Taking L-Glutamine for Leaky Gut,” on the Happy Mammoth website, gives the recommendation of 0.5g of L-glutamine per kg of body weight; which would be about 30g for someone who weighs around 130 lbs. The article also refers to a study that found people who “took the L-Glutamine on an empty stomach had higher levels of nutrient absorption…”
In the article “L-Glutamine: 7 Do’s and Don’ts for People with Leaky Gut & Autoimmunity,” on the SCDLifestyle Healthy Gut site, the author Steven Wright states that, “the sweet spot for really solid results seems to be around 20g to 40g a day.”
Both articles focused on the benefits of L-glutamine for Leaky Gut–which intrigues me because many people argue that Leaky Gut is one factor in the beginning of autoimmune disease–but, I could only find anecdotal evidence of people using L-glutamine to help their Crohn’s or Colitis symptoms. I tried searching PubMed for articles and research, but everything I found there drew inconclusive results.
While the 2016 article, “Glutamine for induction of remission in Crohn’s Disease,” stated that “Glutamine plays a key role in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal mucosa and has been shown to reduce inflammation and disease activity in experimental models of Crohn’s disease,” the authors went on to say that their review of the data, “highlights the need for adequately powered randomised controlled trials to investigate the efficacy and safety of glutamine for induction of remission in Crohn’s disease.”
In a more recent 2017 article published online in the International Journal of Molecular Science, “The Roles of Glutamine in the Intestine and Its Implication in Intestinal Diseases,” the authors Min-Hyun Kim and Hyeyoung Kim, reviewed the roles of glutamine in the intestine and available data. In the end, they stated that while “significant progress has been made in uncovering the functions of glutamine, most of these are based on observational studies…current data from clinical trials do not support the use of glutamine supplementation in patients with intestinal diseases, despite in vitro and animal model studies having shown significant beneficial effects.” Further showing the need for better studies, the authors noted that the doses of glutamine in the studies they reviewed “varied up to 5-fold, and treatment period varied from 2 days to 8 weeks.” In the end they stated that, “a well-controlled clinical trial with a sufficiently sized population would be required to determine the efficacy of glutamine supplementation in intestinal diseases.”
Considering that there does not seem to be a definitive answer on the question about whether L-glutamine can help Crohn’s symptoms, it does seem to be the perfect scenario for me to do some N=1 testing and discover for myself whether this supplement is making a difference in the management of my own disease! Since I’ve only been taking about 5g per day, I will steadily increase the dose to about 30g per day over the course of the next five days. Then, during the next few weeks, I’ll observe whether I notice any changes in gut health, bowel movements, or how I feel. If I see positive changes, I’ll keep the L-glutamine in my diet. If I don’t notice anything, then I’ll cut it out altogether and see what happens.
Many people will often ask me what I’m doing to help manage my Crohn’s Disease and, truthfully, I don’t think it’s any one thing in particular. I think it’s about discovering how our bodies respond to many things in our environment–from the amount of sleep and stress we have in our day-to-day lives to the food we eat and medications we take. For me, learning to balance life with Crohn’s has definitely been a slow and winding journey. The more I’ve tinkered with diet and my lifestyle, I’ve found that quality sleep is critical, food impacts the way I feel, exercise helps me to be resilient, having a supportive and social network of friends is essential, and–more than anything–it’s important to remain open to new ideas, try things for myself, and continually look for ways to improve my life (from pursuing passions to indulging in self care).
Don’t ever let yourself become stagnant or passive in your own health; ask questions, explore options, and strive to be the best version of yourself possible.
Now, who else out there takes L-glutamine on a daily basis? Share your experience in the comments below!