What is L-glutamine?

L-glutamine, or just glutamine, is an amino acid. Amino acids are nutrients that help synthesize protein in the human body for nutrition. They can be found in protein-rich foods, including those from both plants and animals. Protein, in turn, is a necessary nutrient for good health.

L-glutamine is one of 20 different essential and nonessential amino acids that create proteins. Essential amino acids can only be acquired through food, while nonessential ones, like L-glutamine, are produced by the body. Under normal conditions, your body can produce enough L-glutamine to meet most of its needs.

L-glutamine may help with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Tissues in the intestine use this amino acid as a fuel source to function well. L-glutamine also appears to have a role in maintaining proper barriers within the intestine.

IBS is one of the most common intestinal disorders.

Symptoms of IBS may include:

  • bloating
  • constipation
  • cramping
  • diarrhea
  • general irregularity
  • chronic stomach upset
  • white mucus in stool

L-glutamine may help people who experience these symptoms regularly, or who’ve received an IBS diagnosis. In some instances, it’s believed that IBS itself could be the result of an L-glutamine deficiency.

L-glutamine deficiencies can happen for a number of reasons:

  • shock
  • trauma
  • major infections
  • vigorous exercise
  • radiation treatment
  • chemotherapy
  • significant stress

Inadequate L-glutamine consumption can also lower your levels. In other rarer cases, it may be due to an immune disorder, like HIV or AIDS.

L-glutamine is already produced by the body but can also be taken in powder or supplement form, which is available at stores or by prescription. Additionally, it can also be acquired through your diet. Sources of glutamine in foods include:

  • chicken
  • fish
  • dairy
  • tofu
  • cabbage
  • spinach
  • beets
  • peas
  • lentils
  • beans

Direct supplementation of L-glutamine may be recommended in order to correct any deficiency, especially in times of significant stress and severe illness.

Talk to your doctor about L-glutamine as a possibility for improving your IBS issues. If you think you have a deficiency from health problems or other issues — and have IBS — L-glutamine might help.

To date, no studies or research directly confirm that L-glutamine improves IBS. One government study was proposed in 2010, but wasn’t completed. Other studies brush on the subject, but are dated and no longer relevant.

The idea that L-glutamine improves IBS appears in one recent review. The studies reviewed concluded that L-glutamine does improve intestinal or gut permeability. This protects against unwanted toxins entering the digestive system.

It’s believed that IBS itself can result from lack of gut permeability, especially in diarrhea-dominant IBS. This suggests that L-glutamine can potentially improve IBS, though more research is needed to know for sure.

Generally speaking, taking L-glutamine is safe. Make sure to stick to the recommended doses, however. Taking too much is potentially bad for your health.

For IBS, the dose your doctor recommends will depend on your specific case. Typically, the maximum dose is 30 grams per day. This is split into 5 grams taken six times per day, according to the Mayo Clinic).

Side effects may happen if you’re allergic to L-glutamine, or if you’ve taken too much. Some effects include, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, hives.

If any of these side effects, or any other adverse reactions start happening, seek medical attention immediately.

Some studies show that certain types of cancer cells increase rapidly in response to L-glutamine.

Tumor cells are known to feed off L-glutamine as a preferred fuel source. For this reason, it may be advised for those with cancer, or with high risk of cancer, to avoid supplements. More research is needed to know how L-glutamine and particular cancers interact.

Taking L-glutamine is a safe and possibly helpful remedy for IBS symptoms. Make sure to talk to your doctor about it before you begin taking it.

Also make sure to follow their dosage directions and guidance carefully. If you do, you may find that you’re able to tolerate L-glutamine well, while experiencing some of its potential benefits for IBS.