Intestinal fuels: glutamine, short-chain fatty acids, and dietary fiber.
Evans MA, Shronts EP. Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455.
In recent years, considerable research has focused on the physiologic effects and clinical uses of three dietary constituents thought to be trophic to the intestinal tract in human beings: glutamine, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), and dietary fiber. Glutamine is an important nitrogen-carrying amino acid that may be "conditionally essential" in certain disease states to support the gut barrier and immune function and overall protein use. Colonic irrigations with SCFA preparations have demonstrated enhanced healing of bowel tissue in animals and human beings.
Dietary fiber supports bacterial SCFA production, normal stool output, and the gut barrier and immune function. However, optimal fiber doses for various medical conditions are not known, and the risk for gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction, diarrhea, gas, and bloating necessitates careful selection of patients and daily monitoring of fiber tolerance. A review of the current literature indicates that widespread use of glutamine and SCFA additives parenterally and enterally awaits further evidence of safety and efficacy in human beings, establishment of appropriate doses, and advances in formulation technology.
Administration of dietary fiber to enhance bowel motility should be considered in long-term tube-fed patients with intact GI function and sufficient fluid tolerance to permit hydration of fiber. Industrywide agreement on fiber analysis methods and labeling standards (eg, fiber fermentability vs solubility) would facilitate selection of enteral products. To streamline studies and optimize research efforts in future clinical trials, standard criteria for evaluating GI function, diarrheagenic factors, and intestinal outcome variables should be established.