Glutamine can help soothe irritable bowel syndrome

It is estimated that around 45 million Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is often described as an uncomfortable condition as it causes abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. One of the many ways to treat IBS is to supplement with glutamine, an essential amino acid. Although it is produced by the body, it can also be found in certain foods.

A study published in the journal Gut looked at the effectiveness and safety of oral glutamine supplement – also known as L-glutamine. A team of researchers from Tulane University School of Medicine, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas Medical Branch recruited 106 participants who recently developed IBS after an intestinal infection. The participants were assigned to either take an oral glutamine supplement or a placebo every day for eight weeks.

After the treatment, the research team found that those who took oral glutamine supplements experienced significant reductions in IBS-related symptoms compared to the control group. In addition, the glutamine group experienced improvement in intestinal hyperpermeability, which is the degree to which material passes through the gut wall into the rest of the body. Supplementation with L-glutamine was also found to be safe.

Taking glutamine is not only beneficial for gut problems like constipation and diarrhea, but also for many bodily functions, such as the growth of immune and gut cells, the storage of glycogen, and the fueling of mitochondria. The amino acid is also beneficial to people with weakened immune systems, anxiety, low muscle mass, poor wound healing, and frequent sugar or alcohol cravings.

Glutamine stores in the body can decline due to heavy exercise, stress, and anything that compromises the immune system. Besides taking supplements, you can avoid depleted levels of glutamine by eating foods like beef, eggs, rice, and tofu. (Related: It doesn’t work that way: Review tries to debunk potency of supplements by taking a “one size fits all” approach.)

Other natural ways to treat IBS

A review of studies published in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggested natural remedies that are effective at relieving the symptoms of IBS:

Probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that can be found in fermented foods like kefir and yogurt or in probiotic supplements. Several randomized clinical trials in the review suggested that the intake of probiotics can soothe abdominal pain and other IBS symptoms better than placebo. However, taking probiotics should be done with caution because they can alter the amount and ratio of natural gut bacteria, which may do more harm than good. It is best to consult a health professional first before taking probiotic supplements.

Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil is found to be the most effective herbal remedy for treating IBS symptoms. It is said to be a natural anti-spasmodic, and it appears to be beneficial for relieving abdominal pain. The pain-relieving effect could be attributed to peppermint oil’s effect on gut motility. It has been found to relax the muscles of the gut, which can reduce muscle spasms that add to abdominal pain. It’s important to note that overusing this essential oil can do more harm than good, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and a slowed heart rate.

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