I've mentioned the TV programme called the Food Hospital before on this blog in a post not so long ago about Crohn's disease and the LOFFLEX diet. Having watched the episodes so far as well as the various social networking chatter about the series, my conclusion is that it is rather a brave programme to broadcast in terms of 'treating' various medical conditions simply with adjustments to diet. I will perhaps lay my stall out to you in that I am swayed by some of the arguments that food, certain foods, do place certain people at a health disadvantage outside of known food-related conditions such as coeliac (celiac) disease and PKU. The emerging data, albeit preliminary, on some cases of autism and ADHD seems to be pointing in that direction for example.
The latest programme aired on Tuesday 13 December (2011) again presented some interesting 'cases' and the potential link to food. One particular cases was that of a woman diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I don't want to get too bogged down with a description of CFS (and CFS/ME) because it is quite complicated. Without blowing my own trumpet, I was involved in a paper on trying to describe CFS a while back which suggested that quite a few symptoms might be variably expressed including physical, somatic features alongside other more cognitive issues. The bottom line is that CFS/ME is a real and very often complicated condition.
The Food Hospital suggested a few things in terms of diet which might be useful for the particular lady with CFS in question. Outside of chocolate being suggested (and not doing particularly well in this case) I thought I also heard the suggestion that a glutamine-rich diet might also be something to try. My attention was grabbed by this suggestion for a very good reason: glutamine (also called L-glutamine) has some interesting effects on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and in particular, intestinal permeability.
Maybe I should back up a little here. Glutamine is an amino acid, a building block of protein. For quite a few years, glutamine has been finding some favour in relation to improving the structural integrity of the intestinal barrier in both humans and animals and potentially relieving the so-called 'leaky gut'. Leaky gut is a bit of a misnomer because everyone has leaky gut to some degree; the better description would perhaps be gut hyperpermeability or excessive leakiness.
With regards to CFS/ME, as with other conditions, leaky gut has been reported in the research literature and commented on elsewhere. One name seems to crop up quite a lot in this area of investigation, Dr Michael Maes and not just with regards to CFS/ME. It seems leaky gut might have the potential to do all manner of things. So putting leaky gut, CFS/ME and glutamine together might make some sense? Aside from the paper from Maes, I have been unable to find any other published trials of glutamine for CFS/ME which is a shame really, given that a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a solitary supplement like glutamine should be a pretty straight-forward experiment to do (he says with a straight face). Any budding researchers out there with a few hundred thousand pounds to spare could do a lot worse than put such an experiment to their boss and local ethics committee.
I would finally add that as per the tenets of this and my other blogs, I don't give out medical advice and am not suggesting for one minute that glutamine is a cure-all for CFS/ME. I do however reiterate that for a condition like CFS/ME where more questions are being asked than answered, every experimental and research avenue should be explored.