Gut Bacteria Insights: Simple Amino Acid Changes Your Microbiome

microbiome and glutamine

abhijith3747 / Dollar Photo Club

Regular readers of this blog will know that I consider the gut bacteria as one of the most important factors to do with health.

Probiotics showed up in the medical literature some 107 years ago (1908 to be exact).  To date, few physicians have any idea just how important the relationship is with the bacteria in the gut.  And until the discussion moves from antibiotics causing antibiotic resistance to destruction of bacterial gut flora the story will not change.

To put this in a visual perspective, imagine your doctor busy fidgeting with a leaky faucet while, in the background, he or she is completely unaware of the tsunami wave from Sri Lanka rising up not 100 yards to the doctor’s back.

It’s that bad.

Consider this.  As someone who has read on the range of 120 medical journals per month for the past 15+ years, I realize that the amount of information that has emerged in the past 5 years on the microbiome is massive.  Daunting.

And the more I learn, the less I realize that I understand.  Great.

As a result, I’m always looking for studies that can enhance my understanding of, not just the relationship between the bacteria in our gut and chronic disease, but how can lifestyle choices, exercise and supplements all modify the makeup of the bacteria favorably.  With that in mind, here’s the overview of what we already know.

  1. The bacteria in your gut (now termed the “microbiome”) is related to everything. Yes, EVERYTHING.
  2. Diversity seems to be incredibly important. You need a wide variation in the bacterial types in your gut.  Hundreds and hundreds if not a thousand different types.
  3. Antibiotics WIPE OUT bacterial diversity in the gut. After a single course of antibiotics your gut has not recovered TWO years later.  In most of use, your gut may never recover.
  4. There have been four major “families” of bacteria that have been identified. The most studied of these are Firmicutes and Bacteroides.  Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria are on the list as well.  Hunter-gatherer societies have almost no Firmicutes in their gut.  On this same vein, lower levels of Bacteroides is generally linked to better body composition.

With this as background, this particular study gives us some additional clues as to how we can modify our microbiome in a beneficial way.  In it, researchers looked at a small group of 33 overweight and obese adults (aged between 23 and 59 years of age) with a BMI between 25.03 and 47.12 kg/m2).

These participants were given one of two amino acids, either 30 g of l-alanine or 30 g of l-glutamine, daily for two weeks to see what happened to the bacterial composition in the gut.

Here’s what they found:

  • In the glutamine group the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes decreased from 0.85 to 0.57 (for the non-math wizzes, Firmicutes decreased and Bacteroidetes increased). This is consistent with an anti-obesity gut bacterial makeup.
  • In the l-alanine group, this ratio increased from 0.91 to 1.12.
  • To get specific, the bacterial types Dialister, Dorea, Pseudobutyrivibrio, and Veillonella (belonging to the Firmicutes phylum), dropped in number.

To put this into plain English, merely taking a scoop of an amino acid per day mimicked the bacterial changes associated with weight loss programs already seen in the literature.  I’m not quite willing to jump up and down and suggest that you can forgo the lifestyle changes and just add a scoop of glutamine and everything will be fine.

But, does it make sense to add glutamine into your daily regimen?  Absolutely (you can check out what Amazon has to offer here).

Interestingly, my thought process on glutamine has always been focused on healing the lining of the gut.  But maybe, just maybe, glutamine’s real benefit is on switching the bacterial composition in the gut.  Food for thought…


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.