For the majority of people, going to the bathroom “to make a number two” is a regular occurrence that happens at least daily. So, when something is different, like when you have diarrhea, you tend to take notice.

Particularly when that something different happens frequently.

You may think that diarrhea is just, well, diarrhea. But if you have diarrhea that lasts longer than 4 weeks, it’s known as chronic diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea is a common problem. Nearly 18% of Americans have loose stools more than 25% of the time, or experience more than three diarrhea episodes per day.

Other symptoms of chronic diarrhea include cramping, nausea, bloating and an urgent need to have a bowel movement. Chronic diarrhea can cause dehydration, so it is important to treat it promptly and effectively.

And that is where L-glutamine, or just Glutamine, comes in.

What is Glutamine?

Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body and is involved in more metabolic processes than any other amino acid. When the body does not have a readily available source of glucose, the body converts glutamine into glucose.

Glutamine serves as a source of fuel for the cells lining the intestines, and without it, these cells may waste away. It is also important for immune function, as it is important for the function of white blood cells. In animal research, glutamine has shown anti-inflammatory effects. Glutamine is found naturally in high-protein foods such as meat, fish, beans, and dairy products.

Glutamine is one of 20 different essential and nonessential amino acids that create proteins. Essential amino acids can only be acquired through food, while nonessential ones, like Glutamine, are produced by the body. Under normal conditions, your body can produce enough Glutamine to meet most of its needs.

Why is Glutamine Important?

Glutamine is well known as a key to the metabolism and maintenance of muscle. It can be considered, along with other amino acids, as a primary energy source for the immune system. Glutamine is of particular interest to people with digestive disorders because it’s the primary nutrient for the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract. It’s an important nutrient for the large bowel and helps maintain normal functioning of the mucosal cells that line the colon.

In both healthy and stressed individuals, glutamine is a fuel source for cells in the small intestine and large bowel. It is the preferred fuel source by the gut and is necessary for the maintenance of gut villi therefore preventing bacteria from entering the small intestine or bowel wall.

How Can Glutamine Help with Diarrhea?

It has been discovered that Glutamine plays a very important role in the digestive system, particularly when it comes to helping to reduce the duration of chronic diarrhea.

According to a paper published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, the duration of diarrhea was significantly shorter in children supplemented with Glutamine. Another research study published in the Journal of Epithelial Biology & Pharmacology states that Glutamine decreases diarrhea by preserving the intestinal barrier.

So, exactly how does Glutamine help? It performs several very important tasks:

  1. Glutamine absorbs water from the stools, meaning you should have less diarrhea. This happens within the first days of taking it.
  2. Glutamine repairs the intestine and the intestinal wall.
  3. Glutamine provides a major fuel source for cells of the immune system.
  4. Glutamine improves nitrogen balance in times of stress.

One of Glutamine‘s primary effects is the increased transport of water from the inside of the colon back into the body. This lessens the loss of electrolytes and water from the intestines that usually occurs with diarrhea. Glutamine aids the absorption of water and sodium from the intestines back into the body; this reduces the loss of water and electrolytes and firms the stool.

How Do You Take Glutamine?

Generally speaking, taking Glutamine is safe. Make sure to stick to the recommended doses, as taking too much potentially can be bad for your health.

Typically, the maximum dose of Glutamine in the treatment of chronic diarrhea is 30 grams per day. This is split into 5 grams taken six times per day, according to the Mayo Clinic, mixed in cold or room temperature water or non-acidic juice. You also can mix it with other foods, or put it in a protein or diet shake

You can buy Glutamine in powder form, and it’s practically tasteless and odorless. Store your glutamine in a cool, dry place, but do not refrigerate.

How Long Until the Glutamine Takes Effect?

Supplementing with Glutamine for chronic diarrhea takes effect rather quickly. Within a few days your stool will be formed and semi-solid. If you’ve had diarrhea for a long time, your body will have grown used to only soft, watery stool passing through, so there may be some initial discomfort.

It’s important to keep in mind that Glutamine only has this effect on chronic diarrhea when taken on an empty stomach.

Are There Any Side Effects or Issues with Taking Glutamine?

Side effects may happen if you’re allergic to L-glutamine, or if you’ve taken too much. Some effects include, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, or hives. Glutamine is also known to be a neuro-transmitter, so it may excite you. For some, this causes some light insomnia, but nothing too serious.

You can expect a bit of an uncomfortable period as your colon learns to adjust to a new process of passing a different consistency of stool. It’s best to take it slowly and give your colon plenty of time to adjust gently to the changes.

You should not take Glutamine if you have kidney or liver disease.