Struggle with cravings? Here's our favorite supplement to add to your routine
We may think that our sugar and carbohydrate cravings are a measure of our will power, but really, it’s much deeper than that. Cravings for carbohydrates stem from a perceived lack of energy in the body when our blood sugar dips below a level we’re used to. When our blood sugar is low, the body sends out an alert to let us know that we are in need of energy, fast! Carbohydrates are the fastest acting sources of energy, so typically the body will prefer these types of foods as they are easier to digest, as well as more quickly available as an energy source. This is why things like bread, candy, and potato chips are easy grab and go foods we grow to depend on!
When cravings start to get out of control, we may be wandering into the territory of blood sugar dysfunction, of which there are varying degrees of severity. Once we become shaky between meals, highly irritable, or feeling a sense of calm after consuming carbohydrates, we are beginning the cascade of blood sugar dysregulation in the form of hypoglycemia. Leaving hypoglycemia chronically unchecked can then lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and even metabolic syndrome. Needless to say it’s important that we recognize these kinds of cravings as something our body is trying to tell us: to rebalance our blood sugar and energy sources.
Chronic dips in blood sugar followed by intense cravings can best be battled by making dietary changes. Teaching the body to run off of alternate sources of energy besides sugars (glucose) can help even out energy throughout the day. This looks like opting for more protein rich meals and snacks and including healthy fats for longer lasting energy than what you glean from carbohydrates.
Along with making dietary changes by including more healthy fats and proteins, there are other ways to give yourself a little extra support in curbing cravings. One way is to incorporate the supplement L-Glutamine into your daily supplement regimen.
L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body, as it is needed as a building block of protein to then go on and regenerate muscle tissues and other structures in the body we’ll look at a little later. It is created in our muscles and circulated into the bloodstream to fuel processes like sustained brain energy, cellular repair, metabolism, and even blood sugar regulation!
You might be wondering, how can a single amino acid curb your intense sugar and carbohydrate cravings? L-Glutamine can actually act as a source of energy, similar to glucose, without the effect of raising insulin levels. Typically when we consume carbohydrates our insulin levels increase to help move the broken down carbohydrates (glucose) into the cells to provide us with energy. But supplementing with L-Glutamine can provide the cells with energy and help restore glycogen levels in the muscles. So when cravings hit hard, L-Glutamine can provide the body with the energy it feels like it’s missing out on while you are working hard to consume less processed sugars and carbohydrates. Sounds like a win-win, right?
L-Glutamine has also been shown to help circulate insulin levels in both healthy individuals and those with blood sugar dysfunction (hypoglycemia, diabetes, etc), as well as increase levels of glucagon! (1) Glucagon is an important hormone secreted by the alpha cells of the pancreas and helps in keeping our blood sugar stable in between meals by raising blood sugar levels when they dip too low. It does so by stimulating the liver to release the stored version of glucose: glycogen. Since L-Glutamine helps to increase levels of glucagon and keep blood sugar levels more stable, this means that there is less room for carbohydrate and sugar cravings throughout the day.
Taking it even more in depth, L-Glutamine is also a champion when it comes to the health of the gut lining, namely the small intestine. The small intestine is a vulnerable part of our digestive system, as it is where we absorb the majority of the nutrients we ingest, and unfortunately it becomes subject to inflammation when digestion is compromised in any way. Which, sadly, is fairly prevalent these days. Under chronic inflammatory conditions, the epithelial lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and is unable to absorb nutrients as well as it should, leading to yet another cascade of unwanted digestive side effects.
L-Glutamine, being a restorative amino acid, then plays a large role in the reparation of the cells in the small intestine. This is important in the regulation of blood sugar because during times of chronic inflammation, the body’s stress response is elicited by way of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands release cortisol, a stress hormone, which stimulates the liver and skeletal muscle to release stored glycogen in order to provide the body with quick acting energy (glucose). And as you can imagine, this contributes to an already dysfunctioning blood sugar system. For instance, if you have hypoglycemic symptoms and your body is dealing with a stress response, your blood sugar regulation is at a higher risk of being thrown out of sync and therefore suffering from more cravings for sugar and carbohydrates.
Having severe small intestinal inflammation can lead to a condition called leaky gut, in which poorly digested proteins can permeate the epithelial lining of the intestinal tract and venture straight into the bloodstream. This condition can cause the body, once again, to activate its stress response and not only skyrocketing blood sugar via cortisol, but can lead to insulin resistance, as well as developing dietary allergies that weren’t present before.
So, the healthier your gut lining, the better chances you have at healthy blood sugar regulation.
If you are a person who deals with severe cravings and have tried cutting out processed carbohydrates to no avail, L-Glutamine could be your saving grace. You can find L-Glutamine in liquid, powder, and capsule form. Taking around 30mg per day split between meals will assist your body in maintaining stable blood sugar throughout the day to finally bring you relief from a dependency on carbohydrate-heavy foods. Once your blood sugar begins to even out from the combination of dietary changes and L-Glutamine supplementation, you’ll notice less cravings throughout the day, less irritability, and more sustained energy without having to reach for that salty sweet snack!