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Can L-Glutamine help with bloating?

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Over half of us feel bloated... so what are the options? L-glutamine has gained popularity online, but what effect does it actually have on our gut health?

Feel your waistband digging in? Or find yourself getting gassy in less-than-ideal moments?

According to our 2023 Gut Health Report, over half of us experience bloating and gas.

Poor gut health can move into our relationships with food, friends, and work, to name just a few. And, with #guthealth widely trending on TikTok, it’s not surprising that we’re after more potential ways to ease our tummy troubles.

One name you might have seen is L-glutamine... but what is it? And can it really help with bloating?

What is L-glutamine?

L-glutamine is one type of glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in our bodies.1 Glutamine is thought to support a wide range of our bodily functions, including digestion, immune function, and transporting nitrogen around the body.2,3,4 As an amino acid, it also helps the body make the proteins it needs to function.5

What’s the difference between glutamine and L-glutamine?

L-glutamine is one of the two types of glutamine: L-glutamine and D-glutamine. L-glutamine is thought to be the most useful to the human body: D-glutamine isn’t very common in nature and our bodies can function without it.5

So, if you hear someone talking about glutamine or you find glutamine supplements in the shops, it’s likely they’re L-glutamine – but it’s always worth checking.

Does it help with bloating?

As we heard from the UK, over half of us experience bloating.

Research suggests glutamine can support our normal digestive function, and one important job it has is to help maintain a strong and healthy mucus barrier in the gut.2

The mucus barrier is one of many layers in the gut barrier. Disrupting the gut barrier (increasing intestinal permeability) may trigger a range of unhappy gut symptoms, including bloating.6

If you’re lacking the L-glutamine your body normally produces, you might experience bloating for this reason. In this case, taking glutamine supplements may help replenish your supply and limit the bloating. However, you should always check with your doctor to see if your bloating is related to low L-glutamine and whether glutamine supplements are the right option for you.

But if your bloating is down to another condition – or you’ve just indulged a little more than usual – there's little evidence that glutamine supplements can help.

There are dozens of reasons you might feel bloated – including digestive conditions, food intolerances, your diet, and more – so it’s always best to find the root cause before trying a new supplement.7

Handpicked content: What is bloating?

Is L-glutamine good for overall gut health?

Yes and no!

Glutamine plays a crucial part in our normal intestinal health. But most of us produce all the glutamine we need, plus we get a small amount through foods like meat and fish, dairy products, leafy greens, and nuts.8

It’s what’s called a 'conditionally essential' amino acid, meaning our body produces it, but we may need more than usual if we’re very stressed or ill.9 In these cases, glutamine supplements may help, but they’re not likely to have many benefits if you already produce enough glutamine.

There's a small amount of evidence to suggest that glutamine may alter the gut microbiome in some people. One 2014 pilot study on 33 overweight and obese adults found that L-glutamine supplements reduced the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes bacteria in the gut. ¹⁰

However, the study was only short-term, and more research is needed to form any definite links between glutamine supplementation and the gut microbiome. Similarly, the FirmicutesBacteroidetes ratio has not been proven to be a reliable indicator of body type or health.11

So, there are some cases where L-glutamine may improve your gut health, but taking more than your body needs may not have any benefits.


Benefits of L-glutamine

As we already know, L-glutamine plays a huge role around our bodies.

As well as our intestinal health, it can play a part in:

  • immune function: Glutamine is needed to increase the production of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell found in our immune systems.3
  • transporting nitrogen: L-glutamine helps to transport nitrogen around the body.Nitrogen is an important component of protein, which makes up the structure of all the cells and tissues in the body. For example, it helps our organs function properly and our muscles grow.
  • muscle repair: Muscles grow by tearing very slightly and then repairing themselves with more muscle tissue. Because L-glutamine is a building block of protein, it’s needed to help our muscles grow and repair.

What about magnesium or probiotics with L-glutamine?

If you’ve heard about glutamine through social media, you might have seen a few popular pairings.

Magnesium and glutamine have become popular, since magnesium may also help an uncomfortable gut. It draws water into the intestines, producing a laxative effect which may help ease discomfort and bloating if you’re constipated. Plus, it may relax the muscles in the intestines.12

Probiotics are another popular name when it comes to gut health, and more recently they’ve been talked about online as a potential pair with glutamine for bloating.

According to the NHS, there’s some evidence that probiotics may help ease some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).13

However, they’re not considered safe for everyone. The NHS advises that you speak to a doctor before taking any probiotic supplements if you have an existing health condition or a weakened immune system.13

It might be tempting to try these combinations if you’re looking for something to help ease an uncomfortable gut. But, if you’re considering taking supplements to help a condition, it’s often better to try one thing at a time so that you know whether it’s having an effect.

How to take L-glutamine

If you’re thinking about L-glutamine for bloating, it’s worth remembering that your body usually makes enough for you to function normally.

Conditionally essential amino acids like glutamine usually only run low if your body experiences stress, such as when you’re ill. However, you can also be low in glutamine if you exercise often or particularly intensely, so it also might be worth considering if this is the case.

If you think your gut health issues may be down to low glutamine, you should speak to your doctor before taking any new supplements.

L-glutamine is most often found as a tablet or powder. Most people get about 3-6g of glutamine per day from the protein they eat.14 

Some research has shown no ill effects of glutamine when given in doses as high as 50-60g per day. However, this was only a short-term study and took place on hospital patients, so this may not reflect results on healthy subjects of different ages or different periods of use.15

If you take too much L-glutamine, you might experience symptoms like:16

  • nausea
  • bloating and gas
  • heartburn
  • stomach upset

The final say

While it’s seemed to be a winner for some people on TikTok, we can’t say for certain that L-glutamine will help reduce bloating – especially if you already produce enough.

But it does play some crucial roles in our gut, including keeping our intestinal lining strong.

If you’re having trouble with bloating, low L-glutamine might be one of the many reasons – but it’s always worth talking to your doctor to find out.

Last updated: 14 April 2023

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Before taking any supplements or minerals, it’s best to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients through your diet first.

Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

 

Sources

 

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