A new paper shows supplemental creatine may be great for your gut! I have to admit, I absolutely love when science begins connecting the dots in some of my theories. A recent study published in the journal PNAS does this nicely.
In the study, researchers took a look at the GATM gene which is the rate-limiting step in creatine synthesis. They noticed some abnormalities in the gut of mice with defective GATM genes. Specifically, damaged colonic epithelial cells in these mice weren’t repaired properly and as a result these mice were susceptible to colitis(1).
Another major factor was that mice with the defective gene weren’t able to replenish their mucus layer. The mucus layer prevents bacteria, good or bad, from coming in to contact with your gut wall and activating the immune system.
How supplemental creatine promotes gut health
The mechanism behind this is simple. Epithelial cells and the mucus layer reproduce very rapidly and both are dependent on a rapid rate of ATP production. Animals with a defect in the GATM gene don’t synthesize enough creatine. As a result, damaged epithelial cells don’t get replenished fast enough and this causes the intestinal barrier to become compromised. A so called “leaky gut”.
Look at it this way. Creatine is the fastest source of recharging ADP to ATP because it takes place in the cytosol of cells. Low creatine synthesis will create a gap in the seamless flow of ATP being used by these cells and this can cause cell death and poor cell renewal. The solution to this problem is simple as demonstrated by this study: take supplemental creatine. Mice in this study saw a resolution in their colitis with supplemental creatine.
This brings together 2 important concepts I’ve discussed on this blog previously. First, sufficient creatine is absolutely necessary for supporting a healthy gut. This also brings in people with methylation problems, who are likely more prone to gut disorders.
Methylating creatine takes up approximately 40% of the methyl groups created during the methylation cycle. If you have SNPs in the methylation or choline cycles that impair methylation, this will lead to poor creatine synthesis which will impair your mucosal defense system.
I’ve gone over these things in previous blogs. You can take a look at how methylation, creatine, and “leaky gut” are related here. You can also take a look at how creatine functions in energy metabolism with a specific emphasis on gut motility here.
Creatine supplementation provides a simple, cheap solution to improving your gut health. In my opinion, ensuring an adequate creatine supply is one of the first things you need to do to improve your gut health. But how much should you take?
The typical recommended dosage is 5g/day, taken with food. You can take it all at once, or spread it throughout the day. Some people experience stomach upset, so you can tweak the dosage lower as there is likely a benefit at half the recommended dose.
Every single process in the gut is dependent on sufficient ATP. Gaps in the flow of ATP in the gut will certainly impair the digestive process from enzyme secretion to motility to barrier integrity. Supplementing with creatine can seal those energy gaps.
People often focus on supplementing with things like glutamine because there’s evidence it will help seal a “leaky gut”. The problem is it won’t do anything without adequate creatine levels. Oddly enough, I don’t recall ever seeing a gut health supplement that includes creatine as one of its ingredients. This recent study indicates that this is likely a mistake.
Interested in learning more about gut health? Join the private facebook group here where I discuss a bunch of other “outside of the box” concepts in private blogs and discussion in the group. You won’t find this stuff anywhere else.