When you’re managing a health issue like psoriasis, you may wonder whether taking vitamins and supplements could help improve your symptoms. Along with vitamin D and probiotic supplements, glutamine is also necessary for making proteins and supporting immune health, so some MyPsoriasisTeam members have asked one another about its benefits and formulations.
“Does L-glutamine come in pill or powder form?” one member asked. Another said, “I add it to my water. L-glutamine has really helped for gut health.”
While mainly studied for its role in gut health, glutamine may also play a role in autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis. Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that causes the buildup of skin cells that form lesions. Perhaps surprisingly, some researchers have linked gut health and psoriasis together. Unfortunately, there are no distinct studies available to show that glutamine supplementation can directly help psoriasis.
Amino acids are essential building blocks used to make proteins. The body is richest in one amino acid, glutamine. Glutamine comes in two forms — L-glutamine and D-glutamine. These amino acids come in slightly different molecular shapes, which can affect their function in the body. L-glutamine is the most common form of glutamine in the body and is used as a supplement.
Typically, the body makes enough glutamine on its own, storing it in the muscles and lungs. However, physically stressful events — such as being injured or exercising heavily — can reduce your glutamine levels, and supplementation may be necessary.
In addition to being available in supplements, glutamine can found in both plant and animal products, including:
Like any amino acid, glutamine plays an important role in building proteins in the body. It’s also involved in removing excess waste from the body, particularly ammonia, along with supporting the immune system, digestion, and brain function.
Specifically, research shows that glutamine helps the body heal from injuries, trauma, and infections. Glutamine levels can drop during physically stressful times, and supplementing with the amino acid can help reduce complications.
L-glutamine has also been studied for its role in gut health. One condition, known as leaky gut syndrome, affects the permeability of the intestines. The gut lining is made up of tightly packed epithelial cells that control the movement of substances between the intestines and the bloodstream. In some people, these cells are more loosely held together, allowing more substances to move between the two spaces. This can affect the bacteria that live in the intestines (known as the gut microbiome) and cause inflammation.
While the medical community recognizes leaky gut syndrome only as a hypothetical condition, studies show that the condition is connected to several autoimmune diseases that affect the digestive tract. These include celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Recent studies show that L-glutamine plays a vital role in intestinal barrier function and maintaining tight junctions between the epithelial cells that line the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, the intestines use around 30 percent of the body’s total glutamine. This amino acid helps the intestines make new epithelial cells, which renew every four to five days. L-glutamine also helps the cells stick together tightly by increasing the expression (production) of important proteins on the outside of the cells.
Additionally, L-glutamine’s role in the immune system comes into play for gut health. Several studies have found that the amino acid has anti-inflammatory properties at the cellular level, which may help treat inflammatory diseases of the intestines.
Although the connection between L-glutamine and gut health appears strong, research findings have been mixed as to whether the protein can improve gut health. One review of multiple studies found that supplementing with L-glutamine improved certain conditions in some cases but not in others. For example, L-glutamine supplementation improved inflammation in participants who had recently received chemotherapy treatment. Another study, however, showed that supplementation with L-glutamine had no beneficial effects in people with gastrointestinal failure.
Dietary choices can also affect gut bacteria, leading to inflammation and potential damage to the intestinal barrier. Diets that are high in sugar and low in whole foods and fiber can drive intestinal permeability, or material passing from the intestinal tract through the rest of the body.
Obesity can also lead to inflammation in the body. One study found that supplementing with this amino acid helped change the composition of healthy bacteria in the gut. The ratio of bacteria is used as a biomarker in people with obesity — changing this ratio is beneficial.
Some researchers believe there is a link between gut health and psoriasis. Many people with psoriasis have increased gut permeability. When a person has leaky gut syndrome, substances such as disease-causing pathogens can slip out between the intestines and the bloodstream. When immune cells come in contact with these substances, they can trigger inflammation and, potentially, symptoms of an autoimmune disease.
Research shows that this phenomenon may contribute to psoriasis. Many factors come together to influence the condition. Genetics and diet can affect the bacteria in the gut, which leads to increased inflammation and permeability. This allows bacteria and other substances to escape the gut, driving inflammation throughout the body. As a result, this can trigger the progression of psoriasis.
With this, it may be beneficial to supplement with L-glutamine in order to support a healthy gut and intestinal lining. One study found that people with psoriatic disease (psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis) have lower levels of glutamine than those without the condition. The researchers believe it may be due to the fact that in psoriasis, cells divide rapidly and may take up more glutamine. Immune cells, which are also overactive in psoriasis, use a large amount of this amino acid.
Other inflammatory skin conditions are being studied for their potential link with L-glutamine. Researchers studying atopic dermatitis, or eczema, found mutations in the CARD11 gene, which is responsible for moving glutamine inside cells. This evidence further supports glutamine’s role in skin health and autoimmune conditions.
Unfortunately, there are no distinct studies linking L-glutamine as a treatment for psoriasis. While there appears to be a connection between the two conditions and amino acid levels, more research is needed to determine if this would be beneficial.
If you are looking to add more L-glutamine into your diet, talk to your dermatologist or a gastroenterology professional. They will help you determine the right dose for your needs and discuss any interactions the supplement may have with your current medications or health conditions. This is especially important for those with liver disease, kidney disease, or Reye’s syndrome. It is always safest to discuss adding supplements with your doctor first. You want to ensure that you aren’t causing new health problems while trying to relieve others.
L-glutamine is available as tablets, powders, capsules, and liquids. The typical dosing is 500 milligrams in capsules or tablets. If you choose to use glutamine powder, be sure to add it to cold or room temperature beverages. Adding it to hot liquids destroys the glutamine, making it ineffective.
It is important to note that glutamine is different from gluten, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and glutamate (glutamic acid). Typically, glutamine does not cause any side effects associated with sensitivity to MSG, such as tingling or burning sensations or headaches.
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