Should You Use L-Glutamine For Leaky Gut?

Can l-glutamine help with leaky gut

Note from Katie: I’ve written about leaky gut before and how it affects many aspects of health, and I’m excited to welcome Steve Wright of SCDLifestyle.com to talk more about how a specific amino acid can help the body resolve leaky gut. Enter Steve…

Leaky Gut is that scary problem in which your gut walls are allowing anything and everything into your body.  See, your gut is this hollow tube that is meant to keep the stuff that is outside your body from getting inside your body.  That means there’s an unchecked flow of particles that should stay outside of the body floating around inside of you.  Your immune system hates this.  It reacts violently to get rid of these invaders.

What does that cause?

For starters, it could be the reason you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Headaches
  • Post Nasal Drip
  • Skin Problems
  • IBS
  • Constipation
  • Brain Fog

Seems impossible, but researchers are showing that intestinal permeability (Leaky Gut) is related to almost every disease of western civilization, including diseases you might not expect like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis , celiac disease, asthma, IBS, and Hashimotos Thyroiditis .

Even though Leaky Gut Syndrome was discovered in the 1980’s, modern medicine is behind the curve with their adoption of new research.  That might not shock you, but it is a good reminder that we are ultimately in charge of our own health.

It’s our responsibility to be knowledgeable, ask the right questions, and when needed, take our health into our own hands, especially when it comes to our kids.

So, when it comes to a problem like Leaky Gut, that is literally affecting millions upon millions of people with all kind of diseases, where does one start?  Well, the first step is diet related.  Since you are reading this, I’m pretty confident that you’re eating a real food diet, and that’s the first start.  There are, of course, many small changes that you can make to that diet that will dramatically help someone with Leaky Gut, but I’ll cover more on that later.

The next step is to look toward some supplements that can help repair the gut lining.  This is where L-glutamine comes into the equation.

What is L-Glutamine?

Glutamine is an important amino acid for health. It is important for normal body function in many ways:

  • Removes waste like ammonia (which can be very harmful)
  • Synthesizes proteins
  • Important to gluconeogenesis (a thing your body does to keep blood glucose levels stable)
  • Synthesizes nucleic acids (the stuff that makes up your DNA)

Researchers are finding that it plays a critical role in healthy digestion and brain function [1].  Glutamine has been shown in studies to protect against mucosal breakdown in the gut [2][3]. There are even studies looking into how glutamine can aid in reducing side effects of chemotherapy treatments [4].

Your gut is made of a delicate tissue called epithelial tissue. Like anything in the body, this tissue requires maintenance. When this tissue breaks down you get Leaky Gut, which can lead to the problems previously mentioned. Researchers are looking into how glutamine can support gut maintenance, claiming that when you are deficient in glutamine, your intestinal tissue suffers and can actually atrophy[2]. Supplementing with glutamine could be a way to avoid this tissue breakdown [5].

One study puts it this way: “Glutamine has protective effects on intestinal mucosa by decreasing bacteremia and epithelial cell apoptosis, enhancing gut barrier function, and influencing gut immune response” [3]. It’s saying that glutamine can fight against bad gut flora, keep the epithelial cells from dying, and support the immune systems ability to kick butt. That’s pretty awesome stuff.

When our systems encounter high levels of stress (be it physical or emotional) or trauma (i.e. surgery), our need for glutamine ramps up. Under such conditions we use up our body’s natural production of glutamine, and it becomes an essential amino acid that we need to get through diet or supplementation, or our guts may be subject to destruction and permeability.

Should You Supplement With L-Glutamine?

Glutamine supplementation has spread in popularity, it has been used by athletes to recover from hard exercise training. Also, to help with chemotherapy side effects like diarrhea, nerve muscle and joint pain, and to support the immune and digestive systems during such treatment. It’s even been used for irritability, insomnia, depression, ADHD and more.

But we want to spread the word to people who are struggling with more “western diseases” like an autoimmune disorder, adrenal fatigue, or any digestive issues.  It’s very possible that if you have these issues, glutamine could help you, or more so your gut. Chances are if you are having any or some of the above issues, you also have Leaky Gut and need to support it.

It’s clear that when your body is broken down from disease, stress, or not functioning perfectly, L-glutamine may be a really important nutrient for you to supplement with.

In people who have Leaky Gut we’ve seen great results from using L-glutamine at doses ranging from 5g to 40g spread out through the day with food.  If you decide to supplement with it, ramp up slowly to the dose you and your medical provider agree on.  Most studies use between 10g and 40g per day.

If you’d like to learn more about leaky gut, including some simple signs that you have it and what diet to eat if you do, please come join Katie and me on a free informational webinar on Leaky Gut here.

Reserve Your Spot For The Webinar – Click Here

About the author: Steven Wright is the co-founder of SCD Lifestyle, a blog that helps people with digestive problems to heal their gut and live a symptom free life. He believes no one should have to live with stomach pain and that there are root causes that can be found and fixed to solve these pains. Steve is a Wellness Media featured contributor. Learn more about him at SCDLifeStyle.com.

Have you ever struggled with leaky gut? Ever tried L-glutamine? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. I found this when looking for glutamine in foods:
    “Glutamine is found in many high protein foods such as dairy products, fish, beef and beans. Taking a protein supplement rich in glutamine in addition to carbohydrate, post exercise, may be sufficient to maintain glutamine status(4).”
    My practice is: Try food first before supplements.
    Love your blog.

    • yes, I think you should try food first too. I tried Glutamine on an empty stomach. That is the way you are supposed to take it and you are also supposed to work yourself up slowly on it. But it make me sick to my stomach. I got the tablets, but they say the powder is better and you mix in water? Maybe everyone is different.
      But I felt very nauseated.

      • there are two kinds of glutamine and the one kind you can’t take on an empty stomach its called free form. You should take with food unless you buy the Trans-Alanyl which can be on an empty stomach. Also, you have to wean onto it in small dose to start like 2.5 grams twice a day.

  2. Thank you for posting this! The more info out there about leaky gut, the better. I wish doctors would consider it more. -Lily

  3. I am confused…was told by N.D. for gut and sugar craving to take L-Glutamine on empty stomach…it says here to take it with food .
    Should I take it with or without food. Merci!

    • I was told an empty stomach / between meals, as well

      • My doc also said between meals.

        • It hurt my stomach really bad it calls like a gas filling in my gut

          • It gives me gas every time.

    • Hmm… Maybe we’ll find out in webinar? If they don’t discuss it, maybe someone can ask during the Q&A and then post the answer here for the rest of us who can’t attend live. Thanks!

    • Hi Elysia,

      I’ve always taken it without food. I can actually feel its effects. Since it doesn’t need anything added to be effective, I would suggest you take it without. However, I’m also an experimenter by nature. Try both & see if you can feel a difference. It won’t be harmful. 🙂

  4. I have two year old daughter that is struggling with skin problems. Is this something she can supplement wit? If so how much and with what?

    • Mary,
      Most skin problems are directly connected to Leaky Gut. Supplementing with L-Glutamine rebuilds the intestinal wall to stop LG.

    • Please do NOT give children any supplements without talking to their doctor first!

      They process things differently and have different needs than an adult.

  5. Is the dosage amount 10-40 GRAMS or MILIGRAMS? Where do you purchase yours?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Grams. Though I’d start with 5, which is generally 1 scoop. I’ve been taking 1 scoop/5g for several weeks and just increased to 2 scoops/10g. 10-40g is quite a wide range – I want to do a little more research to see if there are other dose recommendations, and what they say in the webinar. For now I’ll stick with 10g. I use Swanson Vitamins Pharmceutical Grade AjiPure L-Glutamine Powder.
      Hope that helps 🙂 🙂

  6. Glad to know you are up-to-date on this supplement. My doctor has had me on this for some time now and it has helped tremendously. Also it was good to better know the science behind it.

  7. I’ve been putting l-glutamine powder into my coconut oil coffee. Would that be okay?

    • I just read that hot drinks destroys the glutamine. I would do more research on it.

  8. I won’t be able to attend this webinar but really want the information! Is it all available in the surviving to thriving ebook? I was diagnosed with leaky gut/high intestinal permiability 6 years ago and it is just getting worse. Severe sinus infections, hormonal imbalance, insomnia, adrenal fatigue and iron deficient anemia are just some of the manifestations of this problem. I eat a nourishing traditions gluten free diet but this is not helping me.

    • It says the webinar recording will be available the day after it airs live. If you click through and sign up, they should send you a link once it’s available. I can’t attend live either 🙂

    • Have you considered food sensitivity? I had a Cyrex test completed and learned that I was eating a lot of foods (healthy foods) that I had sensitivity to. I could eat them and feel fine, but it was causing body aches. Once I removed them, I haven’t had anymore body aches.

    • Hi anitha,

      I am Sumi here. Did you really test for leakygut or its just through clinical symptoms.

    • Hi Anitha,

      I am sumi from India. What kind of diet do you follow for leaky gut ???
      Please share.

      Sumi

  9. Hi Katie! Thanks as always for the great tips.
    is it safe to take while pregnant?

  10. Hi Katie–

    I’m exclusively nursing a 3 month old and I’m a type 1 diabetic that has recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I’m wondering if L-glutamine is something that is OK while breastfeeding. I’m having a really hard time finding good information about it’s impact–positive or otherwise!

    Thanks very much for your insight!
    Kori

    • It seems to be a controversial topic but I’d definitely ask a doctor to be sure

  11. Firstly, I LOVE you Wellness Mama!! I learn so much from you and you make me believe that there is hope that I can get my family eating better – one practical and doable step at a time!
    My second comment is….Check out this article on L-Glutamine. It’s not for everyone I’m afraid.
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/05/01/glutamine.aspx
    Keep up the fabulous work!! 🙂

    • I’m not sure I would trust that article. It is 10 years old and very confusing with large pieces of missing information. He states that this excitotoxin issue occurs with high/mega doses and ONLY if it is inside the brain cell, otherwise it is harmless. But he never defines “high dose” – for all we know, high dose could be 100 grams! And he does not say what would make it go inside the brain or stay outside. He also does not cite a single source, other than this one doctor. The purpose of the article seems to be to back up Dr. Mercola’s original opinion on the issue, not to give a neutral, objective look at it. I think this would be a great question to bring up in the Q&A during the webinar! Maybe they can shed some light on these concerns.

      • I have bad reactions to many drugs so this will likely not be your experience. However, l-glutamine isn’t the right answer for everyone. I was diagnosed with leaky gut, have been gluten free for over 6 years (very strict gf) and I was unable to tolerate even 2 grams of Source Naturals L-Glutamine powder. I think those of us who can’t tolerate it are extremely rare, judging by the success of everyone I see using it online in supplement reviews, etc. But wow, I have tried it several times since I bought a big canister of it, and nope. It is not for me! It makes me feel terrible and I wake up with my face very puffy. It apparently affects the kidneys and liver and brain if your body is unable to utilize it for some reason,

        • any updates about your l glutamine/

          risky for kidneys? liver?

        • I too could not tolerate l-glutamine. I began using it because I was hoping to heal my leaky gut. I took 1/4 tsp in the morning and a 1/4 teaspoon in the afternoon mixed with juice. Within 3 weeks I was angry and depressed. It also caused dermatitis on my face, which NO ONE anywhere says anything about it causing rashes. I know for a fact that the l-glutamine was causing it. As soon as I stopped taking it I was better within two days and my rash is almost gone. I also was developing frozen shoulder, which miraculously left when I stopped the l-glutamine. Everyone should approach the use of this supplement with extreme caution.

  12. Is there a brand that you recommend?

    • I’d like a product recommendation too.

  13. Thank you for another great article. I am also confused with all the conflicting information on glutamine, glutamate, and glutathione! Dr. Mercola isn’t the only one who has written articles on the excitotoxins. Do all forms have the possibility of causing excitotoxins and/or negative effects?

  14. I’ve been researching L-Glutamine, and I’m seeing some confusion about its safety for nursing mamas? Anyone have thoughts on this? Katie do you take it while nursing?
    Thanks 😀

    • I did with doc approval for my specific case but I’d ask a doc or midwife to be sure.

      • Hi Katie,
        How much L-glutamine did you take while nursing? Were there other supplements you took while nursing that helped heal your leaky gut or put your AI in remission?

        • I only needed 500-1000 mg a day to drastically help my hashimotos, but I’d definitely check with a naturopathic doc if you are nursing also..

          • Is 500 to 1000mg the same as 5 – 10 gram? I to have hashimotos.

  15. My doctor advised me to take L-Glutamine for 2-3 months only… have you heard anything about this being only a temporary supplement. If you aren’t fully healed in 3 months would you keep taking it?

  16. I’m also curious about the with or without food question. My ND told me to take it with food. Also, is it tolerated by most? I have some and used it for a while but question whether I was tolerating it or not. If not, any suggestions for other ways to get it from food sources? Thanks!

    • Bone broth is highly recommended for leaky gut – I recently started making it myself. I can’t remember but I think it may contain l-glutamine? A quick Google would probably answer that.

  17. As I read your article, I immediately thought of GMO foods. If I understand GMO correctly, eating GMO foods will cause the intestinal walls to become thinner and thinner. It’s how a bug is killed from GMO crops; it explodes their gut. Is this correct?

    • This is what I think as well.

    • Wow! I never knew that about GMO. I will definitely research this now. Now on to the topic at hand. .
      My 12 year old daughter has extreme ache on her forehead and I’m wondering if it could be caused from her gut?

      • Try cod liver oil capsules with Vitamin K and butter oil Green. Pasture is a good brand.

  18. I have read to take it before meals on an empty stomach. I was taking 1 gram in the morning (capsule) until I read about the range of safe dosages being 4-10 grams. Thinking I was starting out slow, I took 4 grams the other morning and within two hours was doubled over with vomiting and diarrhea. Be careful!!

  19. When I was first beginning my quest to find things that would help my Graves’ Disease, L-Glutamine was one of the things that kept coming up in my research. I was taking it with other supplements at the time (haven’t taken it for a while, as I’m feeling MUCH better) but I feel that it made a great difference for me. I was taking about 30g a day, in 2 – 15g doses, morning and evening. I’m going to see if I can include it in some gelatine gummies, just to make it easier to take regularly – it’s kinda grainy stuff to drink in almost anything! Has anyone tried this? Please comment if so.

  20. Hi Katie,
    I would like to attend the Webinar but every time I click the link, I get a warning that states the link is an unsecured site, with my personal information exposed…not sure what is happening.
    I am new to your blog and am so thankful I found you. I have 4 autoimmune diseases, one of which is Hashimoto’s. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s 30 years ago with an antibody count of over 10,000. My doctor, at the time, said my counts were the highest he had seen in his 30+ years of practice. Unfortunately, he also said there was nothing I could do to help change it. When I found your blog, I wanted to cry. For the first time in my life, I heard there are things I can do to help bring healing for my Hashimoto’s and leaky gut. I’ve eaten an unprocessed food diet for many years hoping it would help me. I’m sure it has but I now know there is more I can do.
    Thank you, Katie, for all your hard work and research.
    May you and your family have a blessed weekend.

  21. Hi, I have read that glutamine can be a problem for those sensitive to glutamate. Do you have any information on this? There was an article on chriskresser.com recently about free glutamates and some people mentioned in the comments reacting to bone broths. I would really like to see this topic addressed, thanks 🙂

    • I also react very badly with bone broths… tried pork knuckles… andalso chicken…native and free range..still bad reaction

      but im very okay with tender pork ribs and bones just 1 hour boiling

      i bought glutamine too…took two one day…felt drunk…it was bad

  22. Trying to buy L-Glutamine. Wholefoods is where I was searching. They have capsule form, and they have a powder but it’s just called Glutamine recommended for after sports.

    Can you recommend one, Katie?

  23. When I had Leaky Gut, I tried taking L-Glutemine , it made matters worse. My blood sugar kept dropping and had a raw feeling in my gut. I contacted the company where I got it to find out what it was made from as the label only said it was fermented. The only answer I got was “we are not sure” More than likely it was from Corn. I do have issues with Glutamates, I stopped taking it and found something else to fix my leaky gut. My DH also took it and did nothing for him.

    • Hi Lisa:
      Thanks for sharing your experiences with L-glutamine, and mentioned being helped by something else…Of course, people will be wondering that is, if you would not mind sharing it. Thanks very much!

    • What did you take?

    • L glutamine makes me breakout with a rash on neck,and severe stomache cramps,be careful,but I do have multiple chemical sencitivity caused by leaky gut too.I muat be turning the l glutamine to glutamate in my body,maybe. What did you take?

    • What did you take? I am having problems with l-glutamine. Thank you for your time

  24. Are there any similar recommended vegetarian alternatives to bone broth?

  25. Naturaqure is safe and made only of Aloevera plant. It helps heal the gut and all the autoimmune deseases.

  26. Katie,

    Given that the supplement world isn’t very well regulated and it can be tough to find a quality supplier, I was hoping you might be able to advise which L-Glutamine supplement you use. I’ve looked at several suppliers but am wary about what I’m buying. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi, I work at a naturopath’s office… we sell the brand “pure encapsulations” for l-glutamine. they are very picky about which brands they sell or recommend so i’d try that brand if you can find it!

    • Meghan, I asked this same question. Katie kindly replied that she uses this one:
      L-Glutamine 1000mg [1 gram] 90c by Pure Encapsulations
      You can purchase it at Amazon.com go to this link … http://tinyurl.com/od4qhga

  27. Interesting to hear glutamine doesn’t work for everyone. I’m currently taking this, along with herbs and medication for candida and my stomach is so bad right now. I also have IBS and eating is quite difficult right now. I just hope it will work to heal my gut once and for all.

    • Have you continued taking this? I just started and my stomach has been very tight and upset as well.

  28. I’ve asked this before and no one seems to reply. Perhaps you can. What brand or form does l-glutamine or glutamine come in? I don’t want to buy something I don’t need. Thanks.

      • I really respect your advice and I read you take l lglutamine with food correct? I think that might help me tolerate it because on an empty stomach all my symptoms are worse. So you do believe it works with food? Do you take it in the middle of the meal or at the end? Please help. This has been the most confusing supplement I have ever taken. Thank you!

        • I do typically take it with food, either right before eating or during the meal. Hope that helps!

  29. My 4 year old was prescribed L glutamine. Any suggestions on how to get him to take it??? I have tried mixing in his coconut yogurt but no luck! Thanks for all the helpful articles.

      • How much of this did you give your child?

  30. By chance I stumbled on to a Japanese formulation of L Glutamine by the brand name Glutazene which contains only 663.30 mg of L Glutamene with water soluble Azulene of 2.01 mg in sachet form. The recommended dose is 3 sachets per day each sachet costing 10 Indian Rupees. I have started only last week and it is already showing improvement in my chronic IBS and flatulence condition.
    Please try it.

    • Hi parashuram,

      I suffer from leakygut and would like to try some reliable brands of glutamine. Between, where did you buy this glutamine from???

  31. Glutazen hmm,I only no of the l mino acid l l glutamine.i dont no why it formed the rash on neck and I wasnt able to take,switching foods and playing around with enzyme therapy now seeing how it will do.i have a real severe case of leaky gut ,had it for over twenty years now.im in a world of trouble.
    ,

  32. Thanks Katie! I was hoping for your recommendation. Can finally feel confident in putting my hands on a product!

  33. Hi Katie,

    So I’ve been watching the truth about cancer a global quest and on last nights episode a doctor briefly mentioned that glutamine feeds cancer in much the same way that sugar does. I was wondering if you have heard about this and what your thoughts are on the subject. I take glutagenics daily as it is the one product that has helped control my gastrointestinal issues. Now I’m wondering … Hmmmmm

    Thanks and I look forward to your response,
    Donna

  34. Hi Kate,

    I am also curious what your thoughts are on Glutamine after watching The Truth About Cancer. Also, in Mercola’s article on this subject he doesn’t specify what entails a high dosage. I am currently taking 5 grams a day.

    Thanks,

    Cedra

  35. Be careful taking l glutamine ,it can turn into l glutamate in some people.Def try food before supplements.Meaning some people have an allergy,or a sencitivy to l glutamine,I did!But I also have some sevete health problems.

  36. I love you site, and I’ve used it to make products. I have a question. I have Lyme and my gut is a mess. I have issues with eating, gaining weight, and absence of crucial bacteria. Can you tell me a good brand, one that doesn’t have gmos or is organic. Not sure if that’s necessary, but with so many things, I never know.

    Thanks so much! Great blog!

  37. Hi there, I have been taking L-glutamine for about a month or so and have seen positive results. The supplements available are 500mg and I was sometimes taking them twice a day. It’s harder to find the powder in Canada and it’s quite expensive because it is mostly used as a workout supplement. Any thoughts?

    • I am in Canada, too and found a good quality l-glutamine powder for sale at a Naturopath’s office. The brand they sold was Jarrow. I took a quick look on Amazon.ca and saw it for sale there. Hope that helps.

  38. L-glutamine has helped me tremendously and healing my ulcerative colitis. We have talked about starting a family in the next year or so. What is your opinion of taking this if trying to conceive or are pregnant?

    • I’ve personally consumed it while nursing, but I’d definitely check with a doc or midwife to be sure.

      • Thank you for honesty and quick reply!

  39. I am just curious how long you would commend taking l-glutamine to heal leaky gut. Weeks, Months? Thank you

  40. Hello, i just finsihed watching the truth about cancer docu series and one of the doctors very clearly states that even though all the leaky gut diets are prescibing glutamine it actually feeds cancer and deteriorative brain disorders. So im feeling comfused about why in the world it would be prescribed if its known to feed cancer? Any insight into this? These are the clips in the series that talk about it if you have access to the series.
    Episode 4, 8:38 – Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). Anything that says “Glutamate” destroys brain cells. Every cell has glutamate receptors. It is like a fertilizer for cancer.
    Episode 4, 12:26 – Glucose (sugar) and glutamine feed cancer cells.

  41. How long should I wait to drink hot liquids, after taking my l glutamine?

  42. Is the 40g/day a high dose for a short period, or a permanent dose? If temporary, how long should it be kept up for?

  43. Nice article! Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid (a building block for proteins) in the body, and one of the best supplements for promoting recovery and lean muscle building.

  44. Hi Katie, there are several comments and questions above about the correlation between cancer (from Truth About Cancer) and Glutamine. Are you able to look into this and address it? I’ve been giving it to my 4 year old daughter and it’s been really helpful but after watching the show, I threw it out and freaked out!! I’ve asked my naturopath and she had no idea about it, I would love your thought?
    thanks, Kate

  45. I have candida for years and leaky gut and have tried all sorts
    Came across website saying Glutamine helps
    Also now reading like sugar it feeds cancer
    So would like some answers if it is safe to take to heal gut ?
    What other natural product can I take as have lymes which has loads of issues
    Pam k

  46. Hi

    I am currently taking GI-Revive supplement which contains L-glutamine. I have read so many mixed things on the internet and am VERY concerned about the safety of this supplement, especially since I would like to try to conceive in the next month or two. Has anyone taken L-glutamine immediately prior to conceiving?

    Thanks.

  47. Hi Katie,

    Thank you so much for your constant stream of helpful, well-researched information, and awesome guest contributors. I am dealing with what I suspect is leaky gut, or at least IBS. I recently tried a vegan elimination diet, where I cut out meat, dairy, gluten, and alcohol for 21 days, and it made my symptoms way worse. I am super bloated, and although my constipation temporarily improved, it is back full force. I used to supplement with collagen powder, but stopped with the cleanse. After reading this article, I’m wondering if rather than going back on the collagen powder, I should try l-glutamine. Are they redundant, or do you recommend both? Thank you for any information you can give! Lisa