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Glutamine - for a healthy gut

Our gut is the largest immune organ in the human body; trillions of bacteria and defence cells are located here. Even small changes in intestinal colonisation lead to disorders or diseases in the digestive tract. Various factors are important to maintain intestinal health. In this blog post, we explain how glutamine can help with this.

Table of contents:

  1. The gut
  2. Glutamine
  3. Glutamine and the effect on gut health
  4. Glutamine can bring about positive changes in the intestinal flora
  5. Glutamine has a protective effect on the intestinal mucosa

The intestine

The intestine is the largest organ in our body. Due to its many protrusions (also known as villi), the intestine has an area of around 400 square metres, which is the size of a football pitch. However, the intestine not only absorbs individual components from food, but also recognises pathogens and unwanted substances, renders them harmless and excretes them again. It is therefore not surprising that about 70% of all immune cells in the human body are located in the gut.

The intestinal flora consists of trillions of bacteria that have vital functions. They eliminate hostile substances, process food and help build up various nutrients. However, the intestinal flora has a specific composition that can easily become unbalanced due to external and internal factors. If such an imbalance prevails, the intestine can no longer fully perform its functions; abdominal pain, digestive problems and flatulence are the result. Due to its important function in immune defence, an increased susceptibility to infections or inflammation is often a possible consequence of a weakened gut.

Glutamine

L-glutamine is a semi-essentialamino acid. Semi-essential means that under certain circumstances, such as intensive training, stress or a weak immune system, it must be taken in through food or supplements. This is because the body's own production of glutamine is often insufficient under stress or in the event of illness.

In our body, it is the most abundant amino acid, both in muscle tissue and in blood plasma; this is why this amino acid is often offered in the sports industry to promote performance. Glutamine not only has positive effects on athletic performance, but also on the immune system and intestinal health.

Glutamine and its effect on gut health

Many studies now show that glutamine has positive effects on our intestinal health. It protects the intestinal villi from harmful substances, helps to build up intestinal cells and repairs the intestinal mucosa in the event of injuries or infections. Glutamine also inhibits inflammatory substances and has a positive effect on the barrier function of the intestinal mucosa, helping to minimise the occurrence of inflammatory bowel diseases and allergic reactions. The amino acid is also helpful for irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhoea, as it balances mucus production. Furthermore, L-glutamine serves as an energy supplier for both intestinal cells and some intestinal bacteria.

Glutamine can bring about positive changes in the intestinal flora

Several studies also show that the amino acid can bring about positive changes in the intestinal flora by shifting the firmicutes/bacteroidetes ratio in favour of the bacteroidetes. Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes are the two dominant groups of bacteria in the human gut, accounting for over 90 %. A higher proportion of Bacteroidetes has a positive influence on intestinal health.

Numerous studies in recent years have also shown that the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio in faeces correlates with a person's body weight. The lower the proportion of Firmicutes or the higher the proportion of Bacteroidetes, the lower the body weight. This was also shown in a study on overweight and obese test subjects. The test subjects were given either 30 g alanine or 30 g glutamine over a period of 14 days. The intestinal flora was analysed before and after the administration of the two substances. After the 14 days, the administration of glutamine resulted in a shift in the ratio of Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes in favour of Bacteroidetes.

Glutamine has a protective effect on the intestinal mucosaGlutamine supplementation after surgery also shows positive effects. Eighty test subjects with gastric carcinoma who had undergone surgery were divided into two groups: One group received the usual enteral nutrition after the operation, while the other group received additional glutamine. The subjects who received glutamine had an improved immune response due to a faster build-up of the intestinal mucosal barrier.

Sources:

  • https://www.ganzimmun.de/ganzimmun-diagnostics-ag/?get_file=5301
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21713704
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24965526
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28498331
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Oral+supplementation+with+L-glutamine+alters+gut+microbiota+of+obese+and+overweight+adults%3A+A+pilot+study