L-Glutamine: 7 Do’s and Don’ts for People with Leaky Gut & Autoimmunity

“Ewwww, does that mean my poop is leaking into my body?”

Only those of you dealing with chronic gut issues can appreciate a questions like that.

But it’s actually a question that came up for me when I first learned about leaky gut.

Back then I was struggling with chronic constipation and low energy, I was still trying to figure out my health and “Leaky Gut” sounded pretty darn weird to me.

Now, after years of studying it, that simplistic question isn’t far from the truth. Here is what concerns me most: leaky gut syndrome is a huge part of why autoimmune disease starts and if left unfixed can be part of why the symptoms keep getting worse.

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So, then the question becomes how do we heal a leaky gut? We believe a pleiotropic approach is necessary, which means you must approach healing from several angles at once to actually flip the body back to health. This includes making dietary changes, adding supplements, reducing stressors and correcting underlying root causes of disease.  

And when it comes to supplements, L-Glutamine is one of the most talked about for digestive health. At this point, the research is pretty clear on L-Glutamine being a very valuable supplement for anyone dealing with chronic health issues.  

Whether it works to help fix your gut wall, helps you sleep better, helps you recover from exercise or helps reduce cravings, it’s a very safe, cheap and readily available supplement to think about trying.  

I’ve used it on and off for over 15 years for various purposes, have watched it work in consulting clients and also seen it NOT work. I think there’s actually an art to using it and I’ve got some very simple do’s and don’ts that everyone should be aware of.  

4 L-Glutamine “Do’s” You Need to Know About

Researchers are finding that L-Glutamine plays a critical role in healthy digestion and brain function. [1] Glutamine has been shown in studies to protect against mucosal breakdown in the gut. [2] [3] There are even studies looking into how glutamine can aid in reducing side-effects of chemotherapy treatments. [4]

And I’ll show you in a just a minute that not having enough of it around can and does cause big problems for the lining of the gut wall. Basically the more sick and broken you are, the more likely this is a supplement you should try using.  

1) Test It

The short story is if you have autoimmune or gut health issues, L-Glutamine should be something you test adding to your supplementation routine. We’ve seen it be especially helpful for those suffering from multiple food allergies.  

Your gut is made of a delicate tissue called epithelial tissue. Like anything in the body, this tissue requires maintenance. When this tissue breaks down you get leaky gut, which leads to increased inflammation and is tied to all kinds of chronic health conditions. Researchers are looking into how glutamine can support gut maintenance, claiming that when you are deficient in glutamine, your intestinal tissue suffers and can actually atrophy. [2] Supplementing with glutamine could be a way to avoid this tissue breakdown. [5]

One study puts it this way: “Glutamine has protective effects on intestinal mucosa by decreasing bacteremia and epithelial cell apoptosis, enhancing gut barrier function, and influencing gut immune response.” [3] It’s saying that glutamine can fight against bad gut flora, keep the epithelial cells from dying, and support the immune system’s ability to kick butt.

As you can see, it’s a pretty amazing molecule. And having more of it in the body can help with gut health, brain health and muscle repair. However, everything is a test, meaning that all the research in the world won’t tell you whether you should be using it. In the end, you need to just test it and do so at different dosages.

So, let’s explore how to use it…  

2) Ramp Up Slowly

Too much, too soon of any supplement can cause issues and L-Glutamine is no different. The best way to use this supplement is to slowly ramp the dosage up over a few weeks. This allows the body to grow comfortable and reduces the chances of overwhelm.

Based on the research and real-world application, the dosage you are trying to build up to is 10g to 40g a day. I’ve even done protocols, and seen others do them, of up to 100g a day.  

But the sweet spot for really solid results seems to be around 20g to 40g a day.  

And the way to do this is to slowly work your way up to these ranges – always pausing or stopping if you notice any negative reactions.

Here’s an example of how to do this:

  • Day 1 – 2.5g AM and PM with food
  • Day 2 – 2.5g AM and PM with food
  • Day 3 – 5g AM and PM with food
  • Day 4 – 5g AM and PM with food
  • Day 5 – 7.5g AM and PM with food
  • Day 6 – 7.5g AM and PM with food
  • Day 7 – 10g AM and PM with food
  • Day 8 – 10g AM and PM with food
  • Day 9 – 12.5g AM and PM with food
  • Day 10 – 12.5g AM and PM with food
  • Day 11 – 15g AM and PM with food
  • Day 12 – 15g AM and PM with food
  • Day 13 – 20g AM and PM with food
  • Day 14 – 20g AM and PM with food

By the end of week 2, you’ll be at 40g per day (which is where the studies and most people report really good results). It’s best to always take this with food, typically at the end of a meal.  The thinking here is that this is an amino acid and that it will be better absorbed with other amino acids. When you take it, try to consume as little water as possible so as to not dilute the stomach acid needed to digest your food.

Last reminder, if you experience any negative reactions, stop the supplement or reduce your dosage right away. More on why this happens below, but for now take a few days at a lower dosage, or off, and then try again. If you still react, then it’s probably not right for you at this time.  

3) Use a Powder… Not Pills (Brands Included)

As I mentioned above, the amount of L-Glutamine you’ll be taking is much higher than a typical supplement. And so picking the right brand and type of L-Glutamine supplement is very important.

If you do some looking around, you’ll see that there are two main ways to take L-Glutamine: in pill or powder form. Do not buy this supplement in pill form. The main reason is that you’ll be using such a high amount, which means you would need to take 10-20+ pills with each meal.  

That’s just annoying and unnecessary, especially since you can easily obtain this supplement in powder form, unflavored and without additives.  

Here are the brands we prefer:

All three are very highly respected brands. I personally trust Klaire and Numedica more than Jarrow, as they cater more towards the professional health crowd, gut health crowd and seem to carry higher quality standards. That being said, to my knowledge I can’t see a difference between the three.  

4) Use It for Cravings

When I switched to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I used to get massive cravings for sweets and foods that I didn’t even like before. For instance, one time I remember having a dream about cakes flying around me and I was trying to grab and eat fistfuls of them.  

I don’t even like cake – never have. I used to ask my mom to make me pies for my birthday.

The reason I mention this is when we switch to a real food diet like SCD, Paleo, etc., cravings can become a daily battle. And the cool thing about L-Glutamine is that it can be a life saver when these cravings begin to attack.  

Here’s how we think it works… it’s thought that L-Glutamine can, on an empty stomach, quickly make it’s way to the brain and become an energy source.  

The honest truth is no one understands why this works. It could be that L-Glutamine is easily converted to glucose, but that doesn’t really explain why it works so effectively. Because if you give someone who’s craving sugar straight glucose, they typically just want more. And of course there’s the small percentage of people who get brain problems when they supplement with this  (which I’ll tell you more about later).

In the end, does it really matter when the cravings come? I don’t think so, because the supplemental fix is good for your gut and cravings.  

Here’s what I do – take 5g of L-Glutamine the minute the cravings come. Test it out and let me know in the comments below how it helps or doesn’t.

3 L-Glutamine “Don’ts” You Need to Know

There are some important things to be aware of regarding L-Glutamine supplementation, including that there is a small percentage of people who do NOT do well supplementing with this amino acid.  

Now, in general, always know that some supplements just might not be right for you right now (meaning that they could still be helpful later on), so don’t just write them off as bad for you forever.

1) If You React, Don’t Keep Using It the Same

If you react negatively to L-Glutamine, then it’s time to change what you are doing. Don’t get all macho and try to press on through the issues.  

Note: There are some supplements that you do need to adopt that mindset for but this isn’t one.  

I’ve had all kinds of complications reported to me about L-Glutamine, including worsening of constipation, diarrhea, anxiety, heart racing, brain fog, headaches and almost anything else.

What does this tell us? Nothing specific other than each person’s genetics, epigenetics, gut flora and current hormone levels are different. The conclusion to be drawn if you try L-glutamine and it does make your symptoms worse is that it’s not the best supplement to be using right now.  

And this would be especially true if you get brain-related symptoms. There appears to be 5% or less of the population who report brain-related issues right away on the first dose (totally made up based on our interactions with people). Science is still unclear on why this happens, but, as mentioned in the cravings section, it seems to have to do with how glutamine is used in the brain.  

There are all kinds of theories and conjecture but no one really understands it yet. The take home point is that if you experience brain issues, reduce your dosage or stop altogether. If you experience GI related distress, then you most likely just need to lower the dosage.  

2) Don’t Use a Blended ‘Do-It-All Supplement’

There are a lot of gut-healing powders on the market. And many of them, rightfully so, include L-Glutamine. This makes it attractive to think that you can just grab one gut-healing powder and solve all your issues.

And while this can be true in some cases, most gut-healing powders have 2 HUGE problems.

The first is that they include a long list of ingredients, some of which are known to aggravate certain gut-related issues. For instance, things like slippery elm can and do help some people but can cause big time flare ups for others.  

The other big issue is that we know L-Glutamine is better at dosages above 5g a day. And most powders don’t nearly contain that amount. Instead, it appears to be added to the formula as a filler supplement not really giving you the bang for the buck you want.  

So, in general, I like to encourage you to use L-Glutamine only powder. It’ll likely be cheaper and you’ll understand better whether it’s right or wrong for you.  

3) Don’t Expect It to Fix Everything

Are you attaching unrealistic expectations to your supplements? Because I used to do this, I’m extra sensitive to this when I talk with others about their health.  

The reality is that supplements are both very powerful tools to use and far from being miracle workers that will fix everything.  

There’s just too many aspects of gut health, immune health and full body health for a supplement like L-Glutamine to fix the totality of leaky gut and autoimmune issues.

Another way to say this is: it has it’s role. And it’s an important role, but just like any great player on a team (for a team sport) it can’t do it all and win the championship. As mentioned earlier, when it comes to these complex problems in the body, we need a team effort (pleiotropic) approach to really get amazing health back.

This includes the right diet, supplement program, lifestyle changes and typically some testing…  

Which is why I want to encourage you, if you are struggling with leaky gut or autoimmune issues, to attend this free presentation we did all about how to use this approach. It’s called “How to Turn Off Your Autoimmunity — and Restore a Healthy Immune System.”

Click here to register and watch.

On this presentation, we talk about specific action steps, diet ideas and many more that, together with L-Glutamine supplementation, can really transform your health in just a few short months – even if you’ve been struggling for years.

-Steve

Steven Wright

About Steven Wright

Steve Wright is a health engineer and author. In 2009, he reached a breaking point when IBS took over his life and the doctors didn't know how to help. Since then, he has transformed his health and started SCDLifestyle.com to help others naturally heal stomach problems. You can check out his story here and find him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

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