Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body and over 60% of your muscle consists of glutamine. Strenuous exercise, viral and bacterial infections, stress and trauma in general, can cause glutamine depletion that starves the immune cells.
Glutamine functions and health benefits
- Metabolism – glutamine is involved in more metabolic processes in the body than any other amino acid
- Detoxification – glutamine is a component of glutathione, which is a powerful intracellular antioxidant and hepatic detoxifier
- Energy – glutamine is converted into glucose when more glucose is required by the body as an energy source, and plays a part in maintaining proper blood glucose levels
- Alkalinity and the correct pH (acid-base) range – glutamine assists in maintaining the proper acid/alkaline balance in the body
- Intestinal health – glutamine serves as a source of fuel for cells lining the intestines, and without it these cells waste away. Glutamine helps to protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract known as the mucosa and maintains the health of the mucosa (inner wall) of the gastrointestinal tract. Digestion and normal metabolic function of the intestines are dependent upon adequate amounts of glutamine.
- Immune function – glutamine is the primary source of energy for the different cells of the immune system, including T cells and macrophages.
- Genetic material – glutamine is the basis of the building blocks for the synthesis of genes (DNA and RNA). Glutamine regulates the expression of certain genes, including those that govern certain protective enzymes.
- Growth Hormone – glutamine increases the body’s ability to secrete human growth hormone (HGH). HGH assists in metabolizing body fat and helps to support new muscle tissue growth.
- Removing excess ammonia from the blood stream to regulate levels of toxic ammonia in the body. Levels of ammonia in the blood rise with significant liver dysfunction because the liver breaks down ammonia.
- In summary -The health benefits of glutamine include immune system regulation, protection against free radicals and toxins, muscle preservation, support of intestinal health, reduction of injuries, and much more.
- L-glutamine can be helpful for
- Inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, autoimmune diseases, fibrosis and connective tissue diseases
- Intestinal disorders such as gastritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, peptic ulcers, etc
- Critically ill patients – Glutamine inhibits muscle wasting. Many people with cancer have abnormally low levels of glutamine. Glutamine protects the liver during toxic chemotherapy, during acetaminophen toxicity, and following a severe inflammatory injury to the liver. Glutamine is used to protect the lining of the small and large intestines from damage caused by chemotherapy or radiation. In the advanced stages of AIDS (caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)), patients often experience severe muscle and weight loss. Glutamine combined with antioxidants or other nutrients may help people with HIV to gain weight
- Athletes- L-glutamine levels have been found to be decreased in endurance athletes who train too often and at high intensity. Athletes with a strenuous training schedule may be able to reduce the risk of infections by supplementing with glutamine.
Dietary sources of glutamine
Glutamine is plentiful in both animal and plant protein. Dietary sources of glutamine include plant and animal proteins such as beef, pork and poultry, milk, yogurt, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, raw spinach, raw parsley, and cabbage. Glutamine is found in many foods high in protein, such as fish, meat, beans and dairy products.
Glutamine deficiency – Glutamine deficiency develops during periods of fasting, starvation, strict dieting, cirrhosis, and weight loss associated with AIDS and cancer. Deficiencies cause increased permeability of the intestines to allergens and toxins inflammation of the intestines, food allergies, inflammatory arthritis (joint inflammation), fatigue, skin rashes, impaired immune function, poor wound healing and slow recovery from illness. HIV infection appears to induce glutamine deficiency, possibly secondary to the rapid turnover of immune cells that occurs in most stages of the infection. Glutamine deficiency may result in diarrhoea, villous atrophy, mucosal ulceration, increased intestinal permeability, and intestinal necrosis.
Available Forms of Glutamine
Glutamine, usually in the form of L-glutamine, is available by itself or as part of a protein supplement. These come in powder, capsule, tablet, or liquid form. The powder form allows higher doses to be used and quick absorption.
Precautions with Glutamine
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
Glutamine appears to be safe in doses up to 20 g or higher per day.
Glutamine powder should not be added to hot beverages because heat destroys this amino acid. Glutamine supplements should also be kept in a dry location.
People with kidney disease or Reye syndrome (a rare, sometimes fatal disease of childhood that is generally associated with aspirin use) should not take glutamine.
Glutamine supplement is considered safe when used in accordance with proper dosing guidelines. However, a small number of people may experience headaches and other side effects with glutamine. People with kidney disease, liver disease, or Reye’s syndrome should not take glutamine.
Persons sensitive to monosodium glutamate (MSG) may also want to avoid glutamine supplements, since the body can convert glutamine into glutamate. Methotrexate, a drug used to treat certain kinds of cancer, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis, may interfere with glutamine’s effectiveness in treating mouth ulcers resulting from cancer chemotherapy.