Last Updated: May 21, 2019 | Download my FREE Leaky Gut Recovery Guide
Whenever people get the ‘desert island’ question they usually hum and haw about what they’d take.
Maybe their favorite book. Or family photo album. Or perhaps their loved one.
Not me. I’ve already chosen my one thing. That’s right. It’s L-Glutamine!
In fact, I’m almost serious. You see, I always have a small tub of high quality, pure L-Glutamine powder with me. Even when I travel.
It’s such a simple and inexpensive supplement, and yet I find it has such a profound impact on my gut health.
But here’s the thing…
…in order to actually work, you need to search for a quality L-Glutamine product optimized for gut health and take it the right way for intestinal support, and NOT the same way that athletes (the other big users of L-Glutamine) take it.
This can be a bit complicated, so I’ll explain all of this below. Let’s dive in!
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Why L-Glutamine helps leaky gut…in plain English
So as you probably know leaky gut happens when your gut lining is too permeable, aka intestinal hyperpermeability. Meaning things that shouldn’t go through your gut lining and into your bloodstream, do.
Well, L-Glutamine helps strengthen the gut lining so this doesn’t happen. Here’s how:
L-Glutamine is 1 of 20 amino acids. But unlike many of the other amino acids, it is unique, because it is the primary fuel used by the cells in your gut lining. They love it!
So much so that they’re actually able to absorb it directly. Which makes supplementation even more effective.
And since it is their preferred source of fuel, these cells lining the mucosa of the small intestine, consume it ravenously in order to repair and regrow themselves.
By feeding these cells the fuel they love, here’s what happens
Your body is able to produce more intestinal mucus and Secretary Immunoglobulin Type A (SIgA).
Plus it can tighten up the openings in your gut lining themselves, thereby reducing the chances of large undigested food molecules and other toxins crossing the gut barrier and into your bloodstream (ie stopping leaky gut).
When the gut barrier strengthens like this, the inflammation in your body starts to slow down since fewer and fewer toxins are successfully hitting your bloodstream.
Plus your immune system starts to enjoy some relief – and unsurprisingly it is able to strengthen.
And that’s when you really start to enjoy the benefits that come from the repairing effects of L-Glutamine.
As you can see taking L-Glutamine is all about feeding your gut with the fuel it needs to be strong. Kind of the same way athletes and gym goers take protein powder to feed and support their muscles.
Best of all, L-Glutamine helps beyond leaky gut as it also supports your overall health
For example it can help support removal of waste (such as ammonia) from your system, synthesize proteins and even help your body to maintain stable blood glucose levels.
Because of the many and varied powers of L-Glutamine, unsurprisingly it is also used to support several other conditions too.
For example, people with sugar or alcohol cravings have been known to use it to reduce said desire. And that’s a huge side benefit for us leaky gutters who are trying to cut sugar out of our diets!
Are glutamine rich foods & protein powder good enough?
I eat a lot of foods high in glutamine like chicken, beef, fish, avocado and spinach, and I consume a daily protein drink, which contains approx 3-4g of glutamine.
Isn’t this good enough?
Well, not really.
For starters, when glutamine is taken alongside other amino acids (found in either your food or protein shakes), it has to compete for uptake in the body. So expecting all the benefits of glutamine to accrue whilst you ask it to duke it out with other amino acids is not realistic.
But for normal people without GI issues, glutamine through food and protein shakes may suffice.
By contrast, for those of us looking to support our gut health, we need higher doses of AND more pure sources of glutamine. So a L-Glutamine supplement is ideal.
How much L-Glutamine should you take for leaky gut?
If you Google around you might see some people complaining that L-Glutamine doesn’t work for their leaky gut.
But here’s the thing…
…whenever I dig into their leaky gut protocol, I usually discover they’re only taking 1-2g of L-Glutamine a day.
You see, most of these people decided to buy L-Glutamine in capsule form and on the label of these bottles it is often recommended to just take 1-2 x 1g capsules.
Unfortunately, this dose simply does not work for those with leaky gut. In fact, I’d argue it is not even good enough as a long term maintenance dose.
Why do these bottles recommend such a low dose of L-Glutamine?
Well, most L-Glutamine supplements are marketed towards athletes and weight lifters, who use L-glutamine to help their bodies and muscles recover after intense training.
For them, a 2g dose of L-Glutamine after training and before they go to bed (on training days) works. It gets the job done.
But if you are looking to repair your gut lining, you need to feed your intestinal tract more L-Glutamine. Like a lot more!
There are several L-Glutamine protocols out there designed for intestinal health support.
The Charles Poliquin L-Glutamine protocol
One of the most popular protocols was pioneered by Charles Poliquin, a world class athletics training authority.
He is obsessed with ensuring high performance athletes can absorb all the nutrients they take in, especially since they can be on such high calorie diets. And his key insight was the importance of addressing intestinal permeability via high doses of L-Glutamine.
His infamous L-Glutamine protocol suggests taking 80g of glutamine a day for 5 days and then tapering off to a long term dose of 10-20g.
During the 5 day ‘megadose’ phase, Poliquin recommends that you take the L-Glutamine in small sub-doses throughout the day.
My favorite L-Glutamine protocol for leaky gut
I personally think Poliquin’s protocol is a tad too aggressive. Both the megadose amount and the long term maintenance dose (up to 20g/day) seems unnecessarily high to me.
Instead, I find it much better to…
- Work up slowly to a megadose of 30 g over 3 days – so your body has time to get used to it and you can see how you respond to smaller amounts, before trying larger amounts.
- Then sit on 30 g for 4 days – this being the core of the megadose phase.
- Then once you hit day 9 simply taper off to a smaller long term dose of 5-10g a day – depending on how well you recover.
- These days, I stick at 5-10g a day when using L-Glutamine for more than a week. It is almost as an insurance policy of sorts and especially helpful during times that I’m not eating so well (hello holiday season my old friend!).
Some helpful notes on my L-Glutamine protocol
So during the first 3 ‘build up’ days I go from 10 to 20 to 30g.
And the reason I love this build up is it gives your body a chance to get used to the L-Glutamine and see how it sits with you.
Many people find going from 0g to 80g basically overnight (per the Poliquin protocol) can play more than a little havoc with their gut!
If you dose per my protocol you shouldn’t experience any noticeable stomach problems. But you sure will notice the L-Glutamine working (in a good way).
Once again though, make sure you spread your dose throughout the day. For example, during the 30g days I would take 1 heaped teaspoon (5g) in a small glass of water every 1-2 hours.
But of course this might not be convenient for you. In which case taking 2 heaped teaspoons (10g) when you wake up, before lunch and before dinner will also work to get you to 30g for the day.
Either way, you can look forward to the positive effects of L-Glutamine kicking in very soon since the cells can take up glutamine powder very easily and the gut itself can regenerate fast.
Alternatively, try the ‘Go-Slow’ L-Glutamine megadose option
Of course, if you want to take things slower, then you can edge up by just 5g a day, or even 2.5g.
So say we go with 5g increments, then that would look like day 1 5g, day 2 10g, day 3 15g, day 4 20g, day 5 25g, day 6 30g, day 7 30g, day 8 30g, day 9 25g, day 10 20g, day 11 15g, day 12 10g.
And then onto a maintenance dose of 5-10g per day.
As with everything, please speak to your doctor
Let’s not pretend to play our own Doogie Howser MD! In other words, before commencing any type of supplement protocol, much less a megadose focused protocol like the one above, you should absolutely talk it over with your doctor.
Especially since some people do NOT respond well to L-Glutamine, either in large or small doses.
I also recommend you pair the L-Glutamine protocol above with a leaky gut supportive diet. The two go hand in hand.
You can see my exact approach for eating a leaky gut friendly diet in this free guide here.
The #1 secret to supplementing with L-Glutamine
You can follow my protocol above and still not get results. Seriously.
And when I hear from readers who unsuccessfully used the L-Glutamine protocol I always discover the same cause…
…they took L-Glutamine WITH food.
That’s a big no no. Because as I talked about above, you want to consume pure L-Glutamine and by itself, so the body can take it up easily. I.e. the L-Glutamine is not having to compete with other amino acids.
How to take L-Glutamine – water, juice, tea, coffee, shake?
L-Glutamine is best taken with cold or room temperature water. Simple. And typically it is best to mix 5g of L-Glutamine (approx 1 teaspoon) with 8 ounces or 240ml of water.
By comparison, mixing L-Glutamine in hot or warm drinks like tea and coffee is a big no no.
And that’s because heat denatures L-Glutamine and thus diminishes the effectiveness of it. (This is another reason to store your L-Glutamine in a cool dark place).
So for the small minority of readers who have been adding glutamine to their hot drinks and understandably not experiencing great results, switch over to water.
And what about adding L-Glutamine to your shakes?
Well, that’s easy – like we talked about above, avoid taking L-Glutamine with any other types of food (including protein powder), so that you give the little L-Glutamine guys the best chance for uptake when they arrive down into ye olde intestinal tract!
What is the best L-Glutamine supplement for leaky gut?
Well, the most important thing to look for in a L-Glutamine supplement for intestinal health is the form it comes in, i.e. capsules v powder.
Because if you are going to be taking high doses of glutamine you do not want to buy it in capsule form. After all, who would want to swallow 30 (1g) pills of glutamine a day?!
So powder is the way to go. Especially since it is also going to be easier for your body to digest. Which is particularly important if your digestive system is already in poor health.
When it comes to L-Glutamine powders, look for one like this
- Highly absorbable – unfortunately, a lot of L-Glutamine products are designed for body builders and so they cram all kinds of other amino acids into them. Which is great if you’re trying to look like a mini Arnold Schwarzenegger, but not so great if you’re looking for gastrointestinal support. For optimal absorption, L-Glutamine by itself and in free form is the way to go.
- Mixes easily – L-Glutamine can often clump making it hard to drink. So a blend that mixes with just a spoon is preferred. No need to carry your Nutribullet everywhere!
- Unflavored & odorless – for some reason a lot of L-Glutamine supplements, especially those mixed with other ingredients, tend to include a heavy dose of flavors to mask the taste and odor. Often they’re artificial ingredients or other sweeteners that can cause gastric distress. So a formula without them is best.
- Convenient size – most L-Glutamine fans like to take it often. Which makes those 2 pound tubs locked away in some cupboard at home pretty inconvenient. Ideally you have a nice size tub you can keep nearby at all time and travel with.
- No fillers – surprisingly when you read the ‘Other Ingredients’ section of many L-Glutamine powders they include ingredients all kinds of unpronounceable ingredients. Who knows why. Look for a L-Glutamine powder that doesn’t even have an ‘Other Ingredients’ section. That’s when you know it is good.
- 100% L-Glutamine – if you look at the amount of L-Glutamine per serve in ‘leaky gut support’ powders, you’ll often find only 1-2g. This is well short of most people’s preferred 5g target per serve. So check the label dosing guidelines carefully.
Unsurprisingly, it can be hard to find a L-Glutamine supplement that ticks all the boxes above
That’s why I got together with my research team at Essential Stacks and created Clean L-Glutamine (currently available in USA only).
It is a high quality, bioavailable L-Glutamine powder designed for people looking to support their gut health and NOT for those trying to look like mini Arnold Schwarzeneggers.
That means it is free-form L-Glutamine (highly absorbable), mixes easily, super easy to take and comes without gut-irritating nasties like artificial flavors, sweeteners and fillers.
It contains everything in the graphic above and I think you’ll really love it.
In fact, I know you will, because it is the #1 supplement readers tell me made THE difference for them.
And let’s not forget it is also my desert island companion (my family will love reading this article!).
If you live in the US, you can order this L-glutamine powder here on Amazon.
Whilst for my international readers, rest assured, I’m working hard to make it available worldwide.
Just before we end, it’s worth remembering that whilst L-glutamine will help feed your gut the fuel it loves, you should also consider:
- Digestive enzymes (link to my enzymes article) for breaking down your food, as this reduces inflammation since large food particles will get broken down before they hit your gut, and it increases nutrient absorption allowing the gut to get better faster.
- Probiotics (link to my probiotic article) for rebuilding your gut flora.
Whilst it is hard to get enough L-Glutamine and digestive enzymes from food alone, it is possible with probiotics, eg sauerkraut.
So if you’re not a big fan of supplements, then consider eating your probiotics and supplementing your L-Glutamine and digestive enzymes.
Want a simple solution for your leaky gut that actually works?
Stop Googling till 3am, reading dozens of blogs or buying expensive courses. Instead, just download my FREE leaky gut recovery guide (PDF) below. Everything you need to know to is in this simple step-by-step guide.