Why This Little-Known Supplement Could Be Game-Changing for Your Gut Health

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When it comes to healthy habits, my motto is simple: less is more. But it hasn’t always been that way. It’s taken years of unraveling unnecessary wellness “noise” to realize that at the heart of it all, simplicity reigns supreme. Prioritizing fundamental, time-tested rituals is what fosters genuine well-being. One practice that never gets old? Incorporating intentional supplements. Specifically, those that target multiple bodily functions. Enter L-glutamine! It’s the dynamo nutrient that goes the extra mile. We’re diving into what it is, how it helps (everyone), and where to get it. Plus, get the specifics on L-glutamine and gut health. In the realm of practical wellness, it’s one of the best-kept secrets.

Featured image from our interview with Inge Theron by Teal Thomsen.

Edie Horstman

Edie Horstman

Edie is the founder of nutrition coaching business, Wellness with Edie. With her background and expertise, she specializes in women’s health, including fertility, hormone balance, and postpartum wellness.

What is L-glutamine?

L-glutamine is a powerhouse nutrient. It plays a crucial role in gut health, including building and repairing tissues. More specifically, it’s a type of amino acid (the foundation of proteins). L-glutamine acts as a crucial ally, involved in many functions—especially as it pertains to digestive wellness, brain health, and immunity. It keeps intestines working properly and supports the body’s ability to fight off infections and illnesses.

Do we need L-glutamine?

Yes, but it’s a non-essential amino acid. Meaning (under normal circumstances), our bodies create enough L-glutamine to meet its basic needs. But in the event of stress, illness, or intense physical activity, we require more. Fortunately, certain foods and supplements fit the bill.

Woman portioning supplements_l-glutamine and gut health

Fun fact: there isn’t an established RDA for L-glutamine. That said, for general maintenance and gut health, a typical daily dose is 5-10 grams. If you engage in intense physical activity, you may benefit from a higher dosage, like 10-20 grams per day (split into multiple servings). For specific conditions—like IBS or during recovery from surgery or illness—your healthcare provider might recommend doses ranging from 15-30 grams per day.

Reasons to Increase Your L-Glutamine Intake

Sickness and exercise aside, there are plenty of reasons to up your L-glutamine intake. We tapped Jewel Zimmer—the founder of supplement brand, Juna—to get the low-down on why everyone benefits from L-glutamine.

Jewel Zimmer

Jewel Zimmer

Jewel Zimmer is the CEO and Founder of Juna. As a certified brain health trainer, Jewel is dedicated to helping women everywhere feel their best. She’s passionate about educating on optimal gut/brain axis, the connection between the two and helping people implement daily habits to reach their health goals. Her mission is to equip individuals with the tools to optimize their health, inspiring a wave of healthier, happier humans.

Lauren Ireland meditating.

Why is L-glutamine important?

Because of its reputation for strengthening and repairing the gut lining! And this is vital for our daily exposure to environmental pollutants (which lead to bloating and digestive discomforts). L-glutamine also provides fuel for our metabolism, boosts immune health, modulates inflammation and gut microbiota, and helps regulate cortisol. On top of all of this, it assists in collagen synthesis. Last but not least, it’s a precursor to GABA, the neurotransmitter that calms the brain.

What do you wish more people knew about L-glutamine?

L-glutamine (and other amino acid supplementation) were key to my postpartum mental health, and I don’t think we talk about them enough. 

Which Juna supplement is rich in L-glutamine?

Juna’s Gut Therapy. We always say: change your gut, change your brain, change your life.

Strawberry caprese salad.

How does L-glutamine support gut health?

While L-glutamine plays a multifaceted role in the body, let’s hone in on gut health. After all, it’s crucial for keeping our digestive system running optimally.

  • It’s fuel for intestinal cells. The cells that line our gut use L-glutamine for energy. In turn, L-glutamine helps maintain the integrity of our intestinal lining, which is crucial for preventing conditions like leaky gut.
  • It supports immune function. Our gut houses a significant portion of the immune system. L-glutamine aids in the proper function of immune cells in the gut, enhancing our overall immune response.
  • It promotes tissue repair. During times of stress or injury, the body’s demand for L-glutamine increases. This is particularly important for those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or other gastrointestinal disorders.
  • It balances mucosal barrier. L-glutamine maintains the first line of defense in the gut. And a healthy mucosal barrier is necessary for everything from nutrient absorption to protecting against pathogens.
Woman reading on chair.

Sources of L-Glutamine: Diet and Supplements

So, where can you get L-glutamine?

Dietary Sources. Good news! L-glutamine is available in various foods—particularly those high in protein. Rich sources of L-glutamine include both animal and plant-based ingredients.

  • Animal products: Meat (beef and pork), poultry, fish, dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt), and eggs.
  • Plant-based sources: Beans, lentils, spinach, cabbage, beets, parsley, and carrots.

Supplements. L-glutamine supplements come in various forms, including powders, capsules, and tablets. They are widely available and can be a convenient way to ensure adequate intake—especially if you have increased needs or follow a predominately vegetarian or vegan diet.

Are you deficient in L-glutamine?

Unfortunately, identifying an L-glutamine deficiency is a bit complex. That said, certain signs and symptoms may indicate a potential deficiency. Here’s how you can identify if you might need more L-glutamine in your diet:

1. You have digestive issues.

  • Frequent diarrhea: Chronic or recurrent diarrhea can deplete L-glutamine levels.
  • Leaky gut syndrome: Symptoms such as bloating, gas, cramps, and food sensitivities may be indicators of a compromised gut lining, where L-glutamine is crucial for repair and maintenance.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Flare-ups of these conditions can be exacerbated by low L-glutamine levels.

2. Your immune system isn’t as robust as it used to be.

  • Frequent infections: If you find yourself getting sick often, it might be due to a weakened immune system, which relies on L-glutamine to function properly.
  • Slow wound healing: L-glutamine is essential for cell regeneration and repair, so slow healing of wounds can be a sign of deficiency.

3. You’re losing muscle mass, coupled with fatigue.

  • Muscle loss: Unexpected loss of muscle mass, particularly if you’re engaged in regular physical activity, might indicate that your body is using more L-glutamine than it can produce.
  • Chronic fatigue: Persistent tiredness and fatigue (especially if it doesn’t improve with rest!) can be a sign of low L-glutamine, as it’s a critical energy source for many cells.

4. You feel chronic stress and anxiety.

  • Stress and Anxiety: L-glutamine plays a role in brain function and neurotransmitter production. Low levels can contribute to increased feelings of stress and anxiety.

5. You’ve recently undergone a serious injury or physical trauma.

  • Post-surgery recovery: If you’ve recently undergone surgery or suffered from a serious injury, your body’s demand for L-glutamine increases significantly.
  • Intense exercise: If you’re an endurance athlete or engage in heavy physical training, you likely have higher L-glutamine needs and can become deficient if your intake doesn’t meet demand.
Woman sitting on bed drinking tea.

Testing for L-glutamine Deficiency

While there’s no standard test for L-glutamine deficiency—as it’s not typically included in routine blood tests—chat with your healthcare provider about the following two options: amino acid profiling (a blood plasma test) or clinical assessment (medical history, dietary analysis, etc.).

How to Address an L-Glutamine Deficiency

Whether you’ve noticed certain signs and symptoms—or you’ve had a clinical assessment done, there are a few different ways to address an L-glutamine deficiency.

1. Dietary adjustments

  • Increase your protein intake: Ensure you’re consuming enough high-protein foods such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, beans, and legumes.
  • Include glutamine-rich veggies: Foods like spinach, parsley, and cabbage can also boost your L-glutamine intake.

2. Supplements

  • L-Glutamine powder or capsules: Consider taking L-glutamine supplements, particularly if you have increased needs due to stress, illness, or intense physical activity. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine the appropriate dosage.

3. Manage stress and recovery

  • Stress reduction: Implementing stress management techniques is key to reduce the body’s L-glutamine depletion. Incorporate meditation, yoga, and prioritize sleep.
  • Post-exercise nutrition: Ensure you’re getting adequate nutrition and recovery support after intense workouts, which can help maintain L-glutamine levels.
L-Glutamine Strawberry Matcha Smoothie

Easy Ways to Incorporate L-Glutamine Into Your Diet

Adding L-glutamine to your daily regimen is simple (and effective!). Pick and choose what works for your needs and lifestyle:

Toss it into your morning smoothie.

Add a scoop of L-glutamine powder to your morning smoothie. This is an easy way to integrate it into your diet without altering the taste significantly.

Add a scoop to your pre- or post-workout shake.

Exercise regularly? Try mixing L-glutamine with your pre- or post-workout shake to aid in muscle recovery and gut health—simultaneously.

Mix it with water or juice.

L-glutamine powder dissolves easily in liquids. Stir it into a glass of water or juice for a quick and delicious intake.

Take a capsule or tablet.

Prefer not to deal with powders? L-glutamine capsules or tablets are a convenient alternative. Simply take them with a meal or as directed by your healthcare provider.

Megan Roup stretching.

With L-Glutamine, Start Low and Slow

If you’re an L-glutamine newbie, below are a few tried-and-true tips:

Start low and go slow. Begin with a lower dose (i.e., 2-5 grams per day) to see how your body reacts, and gradually increase if needed.

Split doses. To minimize potential side effects, divide the total daily dose into smaller servings taken throughout the day.

Consult your healthcare provider. Always chat with your doctor before starting a new supplement, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.

Monitor for side effects. Keep an eye out for any adverse reactions—digestive discomfort, headaches, or changes in mental clarity.

Can you overdose on L-glutamine?

L-glutamine is generally considered safe when taken in appropriate amounts, but like any supplement, it is possible to consume too much. However, the likelihood of overdose is rare. Keep an eye out for abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, and confusion.

Woman drinking coffee in kitchen.

Change Your Gut, Change Your Life

It’s no secret that by prioritizing digestive health, we lay the foundation for long-term wellness and vitality. Beyond eating enough fiber, incorporating movement, and minimizing unnecessary stressors, supplementing with L-glutamine is key for restoring optimal gut function. This nutrient is worth the shelf space—promise.

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