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Glycine: A Cornerstone Amino Acid for Gut and Immune Health

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on October 4, 2023

Glycine is a non-essential amino acid that plays a pivotal role in maintaining overall health. At the Portland Clinic of Natural Health, our naturopathic physicians appreciate the importance of glycine, understanding its function not only in the creation of bile acids but also in the synthesis of the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione. By looking at the body holistically, these healthcare professionals underscore the importance of adequate glycine intake for optimal health. (1)

Glycine: Beyond Simple Amino Acid

Glycine is more than just a building block of proteins. It is involved in several vital physiological processes:

Bile Acid Formation: Glycine contributes to the synthesis of bile acids. These acids are crucial for the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine. (2)

Additional Insight on Glycine's Role in Bile Acids

Glycine’s contribution to the formation of bile acids is a testament to its importance in digestive health. Bile acids are synthesized in the liver from cholesterol, with glycine (or taurine) acting as a crucial conjugating agent in this process. This conjugation enhances the solubility of bile acids, allowing for more effective emulsification and breakdown of dietary fats in the intestines.

Furthermore, glycine-conjugated bile acids are vital for the absorption of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins, including Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Without sufficient glycine, the efficacy of bile acids is compromised, which can lead to impaired fat digestion and nutrient absorption, underscoring the importance of adequate glycine intake for optimal digestive function and nutritional health. The awareness of glycine’s integral role in supporting digestion and nutrient absorption is a fundamental aspect of the holistic care approach practiced by the naturopathic physicians at Portland Clinic of Natural Health.

Glutathione Synthesis: Recognized as the body's "master antioxidant", glutathione is a peptide consisting of three amino acids: glycine, cysteine, and glutamate. Glutathione protects cells from oxidative stress and supports the immune system. Adequate levels of glycine are necessary for optimal glutathione synthesis, aiding in the body’s defense mechanisms against diseases and aging. (3)

Delving Deeper: Glycine’s Role in Glutathione Synthesis

Glycine holds a critical role in the synthesis of glutathione, a tripeptide that's pivotal in safeguarding cells from oxidative stress and bolstering the immune system. Functioning as one of the three amino acids within the glutathione molecule, glycine works synergistically with cysteine and glutamate to afford the body its primary defense against oxidative damage. During the synthesis of glutathione, glycine aids in facilitating the stable structure of the molecule, ensuring its efficacy in neutralizing free radicals, toxins, and carcinogens.

As our bodies are perpetually exposed to various environmental stressors and toxins, maintaining adequate levels of glutathione is vital for preventing cellular damage and inflammation, thereby supporting overall health and wellness. Ensuring sufficient intake of glycine is foundational to this process, as it directly influences the body’s capacity to produce and utilize glutathione effectively. Recognizing the importance of glycine in the synthesis and function of glutathione, practitioners at the Portland Clinic of Natural Health emphasize its significance as part of their comprehensive, holistic approach to healthcare.

Foods Rich in Glycine

Dietary sources of glycine are diverse, ensuring that with a balanced diet, individuals can obtain adequate amounts:

Animal Proteins: Meat, particularly pork and poultry, contain high levels of glycine. Fish is also a good source.

Dairy Products: Cheese and yogurt provide a reasonable amount of this amino acid.

Plant-based Sources: For vegetarians and vegans, foods like beans, spinach, and kale are valuable sources of glycine.

Bone Broth: Traditional bone broths are rich in glycine and provide additional health benefits, including support for joint and gut health. (4)

Holistic Approach at Portland Clinic of Natural Health

At the Portland Clinic of Natural Health, our naturopathic physicians recognize the intricate connection between dietary intake of essential and non-essential amino acids and overall wellness. Adopting a holistic approach, they evaluate the comprehensive health profile of each individual, understanding that nutrients like glycine are crucial for various physiological processes, including detoxification, immune function, and cellular repair.

Glycine a Fundamental Amino Acid

Glycine is a fundamental amino acid, essential for multiple physiological functions, including the synthesis of bile acids and glutathione. Including glycine-rich foods in your diet can support your body’s health and wellness. At the Portland Clinic of Natural Health, our expert team of naturopathic physicians is committed to providing holistic care, helping individuals achieve and maintain optimal health through balanced nutrition and lifestyle practices. For personalized dietary recommendations and health assessments, consider scheduling an appointment with our experienced practitioners who understand the importance of glycine and other critical nutrients in promoting health and preventing disease.

Resources:

  1. Pérez-Torres I, Zuniga-Munoz AM, Guarner-Lans V. Beneficial Effects of the Amino Acid Glycine. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2017;17(1):15-32. doi: 10.2174/1389557516666160609081602. PMID: 27292783.
  2. Chen I, Cassaro S. Physiology, Bile Acids. 2023 May 1. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 31747172.
  3. McCarty MF, O'Keefe JH, DiNicolantonio JJ. Dietary Glycine Is Rate-Limiting for Glutathione Synthesis and May Have Broad Potential for Health Protection. Ochsner J. 2018 Spring;18(1):81-87. PMID: 29559876; PMCID: PMC5855430.
  4. Razak MA, Begum PS, Viswanath B, Rajagopal S. Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:1716701. doi: 10.1155/2017/1716701. Epub 2017 Mar 1. Erratum in: Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2022 Feb 23;2022:9857645. PMID: 28337245; PMCID: PMC5350494.

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