Our gut is our bodies largest immune organ, it houses more inhabitants than your body has it's own cells, it helps us absorb all the necessary components for life including water, food, and vitamins, it is your bodies first access point for many invaders and houses the largest surface area of your body. Your gut is so, so, so vitally important- and having a healthy gut can assist in enjoying optimal wellness. We talk a lot about the microbiome that lives in our gut, however, we don't often talk about the cells that line our digestive tract, and the topic of today's blog is an important component of protein that these cells rely on: Glutamine.
Protein is made of amino acids, and glutamine is just one of twenty our bodies require. Glutamine, that amino acid from above is an important "food-stuff" for the cells of the gut lining. 20-30% of the bodies glutamine is used by these cells alone. It is an essential component for the maintenance of gut metabolism, and function especially during periods of trauma or when gut health is compromised.
If an individual is lacking adequate glutamine they may experience fatigue, weakened immune system, and even chronic inflammation. When gut cells lack the necessary glutamine, cell function decreases, and our first line of defense (in terms of immunity) can become severely compromised. Glutamine supports essential healing processes and works to regenerate and repair the cells of the intestine.
It is also an important amino acid used for removing toxins from our body - in this way it removes excess ammonia. It is also important in the production of a neurotransmitter known for calming effects on the body and mind in stressful situations (GABA).
Conditions (or habits) that can compromise gut health and function include:
Since glutamine is so important, even if you are not experiencing one of the above listed conditions or habits it is important to make sure your body is provided enough glutamine.
Food sources of glutamine include:
Dairy - ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt
Meat- chicken, beef, pork
Dark Leafy Greens - spinach, cabbage & parsley
You can buy glutamine as a supplement, If you walk into a healthfood store they will probably think you are trying to be a bodybuilder, that is why most people take glutamine. This amino acid won't bulk you up, instead it helps slow muscle catabolism (or breakdown), which is partly why it is so helpful for those intestinal cells. If you think that you would like to supplement with glutamine, all supplements are not created equal, and I recommend consulting your functional medicine dietitian (ME!) before adding it to your routine.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
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