Let's get straight into it! Last week we covered the first 2 elements to healing your gut - Probiotics and Bone broth, please click here to read if you missed it.
This week we will be covering another 2 key elements to gut repair - Glutamine and Fermented Foods!
Glutamine is an amino acid (building block of protein) that is probably the most important one for mucosal repair. This protein molecule provides the fuel for our intestinal mucosa as well as for our lymphocytes (white blood cells) and macrophages (another white blood cell that gobbles up debris and waste product like ammonia and removes it from our body). Those white blood cells are what we call the front line of our immune system so if glutamine levels are low, not only is our digestion poor but our immune system is also compromised.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body as our body can make enough glutamine for its regular needs, but after extreme stress your body may need more glutamine than it can make. Most glutamine is stored in muscles followed by the lungs, where much of the glutamine is made.
Now this makes sense doesn't it? Think about when your tummy troubles started? Was it after illness, surgery or an extended period of time when your body was under stress? Unfortunately, life these days can be very stressful and our body can remain in 'fight or flight' mode which is a stress response for long periods of time. In this case, your body has probably been using more glutamine than it can make and therefore your intestinal mucosa has not had adequate levels of this fuel needed to keep healthy. Nor has your immune system had enough fuel. That is another reason why we can get sick when we are run down after stressful times.
So where do we get more glutamine?
We can get it in our diets, here are the most common food sources of glutamine:
- cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, milk and yoghurt
- most animal protein sources (eggs, fish, chicken, pork, beef)
- vegetarian and vegan sources are raw spinach, raw parsley, and cabbage
The highest source of glutamine that is not an animal source is oats. So it's another good reason to get stuck into your porridge of a morning in the cooler months. Please make sure you get hold of gluten free or 'uncontaminated oats' as gluten is not good for the gut lining and is a highly inflammative protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and some oats. Some people do not do well on oats as they can upset a sensitive digestion and if you are going grain free for health reasons, source your glutamine in supplement form or from the foods listed above. Oats are also classed as a 'nervine' which means they help relax and nourish the nervous system. A bowl of porridge is sounding quite good now isn't it?
When someone has really low levels of glutamine or is suffering from any digestive issues where the bowel is involved (Crohn's, IBS, Ulcerative colitis, multiple food intolerances) they will probably need glutamine in a supplement form to really help repair that gut lining. Glutamine, usually in the form of L-glutamine, is available by itself or as part of a protein supplement. These come in powder, capsule, tablet, or liquid form. The supplemental range is 500-3000mg/day. Athletes will need more, as tissue injury or overuse of the muscles will deplete glutamine constantly (remember where we make it in our body?) and that is why you see athletes taking it and why it's available from all the sports supplements brands.
Glutamine supplements should not be taken with hot food or hot beverages as the heat will destroy it and children under 10 years should only consume amino acids in their whole protein form (food source), not as individual amino acid forms. I also advise that you take glutamine under the supervision of your health practitioner.
Below is a list of conditions that Glutamine can help with
- behavioural problems
- bone formation
- chemically sensitive individuals
- exercise trauma
- gut irritation
- leaky gut syndrome
- poor concentration
- radiation damage
- wound healing
You can also have too much glutamine! Have you ever felt funny after consuming MSG otherwise known as Monosodium glutamate? This is a taste enhancer commonly found in Chinese food and processed and packaged foods to enhance flavour. Any ingredients classed with the numbers 620 - 637 are a form of MSG. If you unknowingly consume this, you can use Vitamin B6 to overcome the symptoms of excess glutamate (nausea, flushing, burning lips, insatiable thirst are the most common). I would advise to just not eat anything you know has MSG in it and always check if dining out or getting take away if they add this substance to the dish. It is very unlikely you would ever get these symptoms from consuming glutamine in supplement form as it acts very differently in the body to glutamate! But if the gut lining is quite compromised then glutamine can actually go down the wrong pathway in the body and contribute to exciting the nervous system in the way that MSG would...so if you take a glutamine supplement and you find yourself experiencing any symptoms of anxiety or insomnia, then it might be best to discuss with your natural health practitioner about whether you should be trying an alternative supplement for gut repair.
Fermented and Cultured Foods
I almost don't know where to start with this one...I have to say now....it's my FAVOURITE WAY to heal the gut and provide ongoing maintenance.
Why? Well they can be used at all ages and incorporated into your daily diet. What the fermentation of food and drink does is provide the good bacteria that keeps us in balance in so many areas as mentioned in last week's blog. The good bacteria will keep the gut healthier and therefore the immune system stronger, your body's immune response will be faster and your acid/alkaline balance will be better. If good bacteria is extremely compromised, I do suggest probiotic supplements first but when the levels have been replenished, get fermenting baby!
Fermented and cultured foods and drinks include - yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, labne, certain cheeses, pickled vegetables of any sort, pickled fruits, miso, tempeh...there are probably more that I have not thought of! Here are a few recipes to start with -
A very easy peasy recipe of mine that will have you a champion fermenter in no time is this one below which also explains a bit more about fermenting - Triple C Sauerkraut
And the very popular and yummy fermented drink - Kombucha
And Water Kefir is another drink you may like to try