Amino Acids and Bowels

Amino acids are substances in your body that play a role in digestion and absorption in the bowels. Amino acids are the building block of proteins. Supplements may be beneficial for the bowels, but some may cause adverse effects. Speak to your doctor about taking amino acid supplements if you are experiencing abdominal pain, nausea or other gastrointestinal symptoms.

The digestive tract runs from the mouth to the anus. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Amino Acids

Amino acids are organic substances that make up proteins. The body uses amino acids for several important functions, such as breaking down food for digestion and to grow and repair tissue. Amino acids are generally classified as essential and nonessential, but a third category, conditional amino acids, also exists. Essential amino acids are the compounds your body needs to absorb from food because the body can't make these amino acids on its own. The body can make nonessential amino acids, and absorb them from food. Conditional amino acids are those that you need when ill or stressed; they are otherwise not essential.


The bowels play an essential role in digestion. The bowels, or intestines, are at the end of the digestive tract. Food is broken down into small, absorbable molecules beginning in the mouth and progressing to the stomach before reaching the small and large intestines. Proteins must be broken down into amino acids because protein molecules are too large to pass through the intestinal wall for absorption. Once food reaches the large intestine, waste moves through to the rectum where it is later excreted as feces through your anus. Bacteria in the large intestine assists in digesting any last food particles.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The digestive tract is lined with a protective tissue called mucosa. The amino acid glutamine protects mucosa. Glutamine is a conditional amino acid that may nourish intestinal cells; it is the most abundant amino acid in the human body, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Some experts believe that people with the gastrointestinal disorder, inflammatory bowel diease, do not have enough glutamine. Supplementing with oral L-glutamine may therefore be beneficial for IBD, says Dr. Ronald Hoffman, the founder and medical director of the Hoffman Center in New York City. However, The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that clinical trials have shown that glutamine supplements may not help people with Crohn's disease, which is a type of IBD.

Adverse Effects

Amino acid supplements may be beneficial for conditions from inflammatory bowel disease to cancer, but taking these supplements may create adverse effects in your bowels. Taking low, recommended doses are unlikely to cause problems, but taking high doses of certain amino acids may result in gastrointestinal side effects, according to an article published in the "Journal of Nutrition" in June 2007. The study found that taking the amino acids arginine, cystine, ornithine and citrulline caused a variety of gastrointestinal side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and bloating. Non-gastrointestinal side effects such as skin rash are also possible.

Load comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.