If you are suffering with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) including Crohn’s disease (CD), ulcerative colitis (UC), it is possible that you could achieve remission by supplementing with amino acids. CD and UC fall under the IBD umbrella term, so from here on out I will be referring to all of them simply as “IBD.”
There is no known cure for inflammatory bowel disease, and traditional methods of symptom management are inadequate. Many various alternative methods are so individualized that studying them is near impossible because what works well for one patient often does not work for others. This presents a unique challenge for researchers, but certainly research is underway and much of it is promising. The current pharmaceutical treatments for IBD are corticosteroids, aminosalicylates, immunosuppressants, and TNF blocking agents or combinations of these (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER) (2018). These drugs are not without side effects; and remission rates (onset of remission as well as maintenance of remission) are disappointing at less than 50% in most cases.
In a systematic review of current therapies for IBD, Peyrin‐Biroulet and Lémann (2011) stated that current therapies simply fall very short of what patients need, and they have only a modest impact on surgical rates, which further indicates many patients are simply not obtaining remission.
Even patients who receive last resort treatment with TNF blockers (such as Remicade for Crohn’s disease) are likely to require intestinal resection (about one-fifth of CD and UC patients) (Peyrin‐Biroulet & Lémann, 2011). And while surgery often leads to clinical remission of IBD, most people end up eventually relapsing (Fedorak, Penner, & Tandon, 2017). We don’t know exactly what causes IBD–we have theories (and current treatments are typically based on those theories). Well, what if those theories are wrong?
Now that we have identified that the current treatments are essentially no better than a coin toss, their side effects only add new problems, and surgically removing part of the intestine is most certainly not a cure-all, what alternatives are available to IBD patients? There is very compelling evidence that amino acid therapy can lead to remission.
So which amino acids may help? Well, in one case study it appears that a combination of the serotonin and dopamine precursors L-tyrosine, L-cystiene, 5-HTP, and L-Dopa (5-HTP and L-Dopa are NOT amino acids) as well as their cofactors (needed for proper metabolism/absorption) lead to profound resolution of symptoms and remission after only six weeks of therapy followed by remission and maintenance of remission (Hinz, Stein, & Uncini, 2010). Here is the dosage table from this study that was done on a man who suffered with Crohn’s symptoms for 22 years with no relief from the traditional treatment methods we discussed earlier. The authors Hinz, Stein, and Uncini (2010) note that this protocol has been used successfully for a number of patients.
Take care to read the note in the table. Cofactors are essential. (I will be writing a specific post about which cofactors are needed for each amino acid, so stay tuned.) The protocol includes urine analysis of neurotransmitters to identify whether or not they were obtaining a balance between serotonin and dopamine with the amino acid supplementation. I know what you are thinking: “Wait a minute, isn’t serotonin just in my brain?” Nope. Serotonin actually plays a huge role in gastrointestinal motility and secretions. Far more research needs to be done on what is now being called the Gut-Brain Axis.
“Scientific evidence strongly suggests that serotonin – or 5HT – is one of the most important signalling molecules involved in the peristaltic reflex – and that alterations in serotonin signalling may be responsible for IBS symptoms. Ninety-five percent of the serotonin found in the body resides in the gut.” – Gastrointestinal Society (2018)
Other Amino Acids that Support Gastrointestinal Health (Hu, Liu, & Wang, 2017) (follow me for future posts that explain each one in depth).
L-Glutamine (the most abundant free amino acid in the human body)
L-Arginine (our body’s demands for this are highest in diseased states)
L-Glutamate (our nervous system’s most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter)
Sulfur-Containing Amino Acids (Methionine and Cysteine)
N-acetylcysteine (NAC): precursor of cysteine and glutathione (our body’s master antioxidant)
L-Threonine (a crucial building block for many other conditionally essential aminos)
Tryptophan (for the same reasons 5HTP seems to work so well, and so much more)
L-Glycine (the reason bone broth is a superfood).
L-Histidine (a powerful free radical scavenger)
One final note:
Diet and lifestyle modifications are your first step to healing. I believe the paleo diet or the ketogenic diet are ideal. When you are ready to make that change (which should be today), Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson is an excellent resource. He also has a blog called Mark’s Daily Apple. Healing from IBD is a process. Even if remission is achieved with amino acid therapy, it takes time to heal the damage done by IBD. If you need some direction on how to heal issues like hemorrhoids, anal fissures, intestinal strictures, bowel obstructions, anal stenosis, and many others you can check out Listen to Your Gut.
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Fedorak, R., Penner, R., & Tandon, P. (2017). Management of Crohn disease after surgical resection. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/management-of-crohn-disease-after-surgical-resection
Gastrointestinal Society. (2018). IBS and serotonin. Retrieved from https://www.badgut.org/information-centre/a-z-digestive-topics/ibs-and-serotonin/
Hinz, M., Stein, A., & Uncini, T. (2010). Amino acid-responsive Crohn’s disease: a case study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3108661/
Hu, C., Liu, Y., & Wang, X. (2017). Therapeutic potential of amino acids in inflammatory bowel disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622680/
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2018). Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353320
Peyrin‐Biroulet, L. & Lémann, M. (2011). Review article: remission rates achievable by current therapies for inflammatory bowel disease. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04599.x