The common amino acid known as L-glutamine plays a key role in keeping the cells that line your intestines functioning at their best, boosting immune function and more. But does that mean it can play a role in preventing or treating gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
Read more: GERD: Its Signs and Symptoms
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More About L-Glutamine
L-glutamine is a protein that your body often has in abundance without much effort. "This is an amino acid that can be obtained from many foods like chicken, fish, dairy, tofu, cabbage, spinach, beets, peas, lentils and beans," says Jeffrey Landsman, MD, a family and geriatric medicine specialist with Mercy Personal Physicians in Lutherville, Maryland. "I typically do not recommend taking L-glutamine supplements, as most patients should be able to get this through their diet."
However, some people may require supplemental glutamine by prescription or through over-the-counter supplements. The University of Michigan points out that there are several situations that call for supplements, such as being diagnosed with an L-glutamine deficiency — it's possible to lose L-glutamine as the result of an injury or illness. L-glutamine may also be prescribed along with human growth hormone to treat short bowel disease.
According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research (CSIR), L-glutamine benefits show some promise for Crohn's disease, celiac disease and cancer, among others. And yet another condition that L-glutamine may help with is gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining. The CSIR states that L-glutamine may promote blood flow to the gut, improving healing for individuals with the condition.
L-Glutamine for GERD
L-glutamine's potential for other GI conditions may leave you wondering if it could be a treatment for GERD. However, the majority of evidence indicates that it's not the answer for GERD treatment. "L-glutamine supplementation would not typically be recommended for GERD," Dr. Landsman says.
In fact, Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, coauthor of Why Diets Fail and author of What to Eat When You're Pregnant, says that L-glutamine supplementation may be harmful for those with GERD. "L-glutamine has actually been shown to aggravate acid reflux due to its effect of increasing pH in the stomach," she says.
Other GERD Treatments
The Mayo Clinic points to many other effective ways to both prevent and treat most cases of GERD. Making certain lifestyle changes can help. Some things that can contribute to GERD include:
- Eating large meals.
- Eating late at night.
- Eating fatty or fried foods.
- Drinking alcohol and coffee.
- Using NSAIDs (nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs) like aspirin and ibuprofen.
Read more: The Dos and Don'ts of Eating With GERD
There are several medical options available for GERD as well, Mayo Clinic. says The right treatment for you will likely vary based on the severity and/or frequency of your GERD. The typical first line of defense is over-the-counter medications such as:
- H-2 receptor blockers.
- Proton pump inhibitors.
If the over-the-counter options are not effective, there are medications available from your doctor with a prescription. These include stronger H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors, as well as a medication known as baclofen that strengthens the lower esophageal sphincter and prevents it from relaxing as frequently, which is a common cause of GERD symptoms.
There are also surgical options available for people with severe GERD that can't be controlled by medications. These include a procedure known as fundoplication, which involves wrapping the top of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter to prevent reflux symptoms.
Two other surgical techniques that may help include the implantation of a LINX device, which is a ring of magnetic beads wrapped around the junction of the stomach and esophagus, and transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF), which involves the use of polypropylene fasteners to tighten the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Canadian Society of Intestinal Research: “What Is Glutamine?”
- Jeffrey Landsman, MD, family and geriatric medicine specialist, Mercy Personal Physicians, Lutherville, Maryland
- University of Michigan: “Glutamine”
- Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor, neuroscience, Mount Sinai Health System, New York City; coauthor, Why Diets Fail; author, What to Eat When You’re Pregnant
- Mayo Clinic: “Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)”
- Mayo Clinic: "Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) - Diagnosis and Treatment"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.