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ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GLUTAMINE
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in our bodies. It works to support many healthy functions, including:
- Making proteins for muscle tissue
- Fueling cells that protect our intestines
- Supporting immune system cells
- Helping to detoxify the liver of foreign substances
Your body makes glutamine, but we also consume it in foods like wheat, peanuts, corn, and milk. Deficiency is very rare and not caused by inadequate intake but from a genetic disorder.
However, research suggests that supplementing with glutamine may offer some health benefits, and scientists continue to study the amino acid’s potential to prevent or treat certain conditions.
What Is Glutamine?
Glutamine is an amino acid. Amino acids are molecules that play many roles in the body.
Their main purpose is to serve as building blocks for proteins.
Proteins are crucial to the organs. They also serve other functions, such as transporting substances in the blood and fighting off harmful viruses and bacteria .
Like many other amino acids, it exists in two different forms: L-glutamine and D-glutamine.
They are almost identical but have a slightly different molecular arrangement .
The form found in foods and supplements is L-glutamine. Some supplements list it as L-glutamine, but others simply use the broader term glutamine.
While L-glutamine is used to make proteins and perform other functions, D-glutamine appears to be relatively unimportant in living organisms .
L-glutamine can be produced naturally in your body. In fact, it is the most abundant amino acid in the blood and other body fluids .
However, there are times when the glutamine needs of your body are greater than its ability to produce it.
Therefore, it’s considered a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that it must be obtained from the diet under certain conditions, such as injury or illness .
Also, glutamine is an important molecule for the immune system and intestinal health.
Found in both animal and plant proteins (including in high levels in both casein and whey protein), glutamine is also available in supplement form and widely popular in the fitness community and beyond.
Glutamine can be found in animal proteins, such as meats and dairy, along with plant-based protein sources, such as beans, raw spinach, parsley and red cabbage. It’s worth noting, though, that animal proteins tend to provide amino acids that are more digestible than plant proteins.
Studies estimate that most people probably consume between three and six grams of glutamine from their daily diets.
The foods with the most L-glutamine benefits include:
- Bone broth
- Grass-fed beef
- Chinese cabbage
- Cottage cheese
- Broccoli rabe
- Wild-caught fish (cod and salmon)
To obtain a healthy amount, a general recommendation is to consume at least three servings of these L-glutamine-rich foods daily.
While our body makes the glutamine it needs to function, it may require more when stressed from injury or illness.
Many clinical studies show that glutamine helps ease the effects of cancer treatments, like muscle wasting, oral inflammation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Supplementation is also linked with shorter hospital stays and lower mortality rates for sick patients.
These findings are supported by research on glutamine’s health effects, including:
Immune System Support
Glutamine is the main fuel source for your body’s lymphocytes, white blood cells that fight infection and disease. But your blood’s glutamine levels decline when we’re sick or injured, reducing these immune cells’ ability to defend your body.
While there’s conflicting evidence on whether it boosts immunity in healthy people, studies show it can improve recovery times and reduce complications when you’re sick.
Intestinal Health Regulation
Glutamine’s immune system support is closely related to its activity in our intestines. The amino acid helps maintain your intestinal lining, ensuring your body absorbs the nutrients it needs — supporting good health and protecting against serious problems like leaky gut syndrome.
Our gut is the largest organ in the immune system, which is why some scientists believe that glutamine may support better immunity.
There’s evidence that glutamine supplements may also benefit people with gut conditions, like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and gut inflammation.
Muscle Recovery Assistance
Glutamine is necessary to maintain muscle protein. It first rose in popularity as a fitness supplement promoted for muscle gain and fat burn. Scientists continue to study these claims, and while studies don’t confirm any muscle-building effects, it may help reduce fatigue and improve exercise recovery.
Studies show when supplementing with glutamine, athletes had less muscle soreness and strength loss. It also may reduce muscle damage and exercise performance as well, but research into these effects is ongoing.
Dosage, Safety and Side Effects
Since glutamine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body and found in many foods, there is no concern that it’s harmful in normal quantities.
It has been estimated that a typical diet may contain 3 to 6 grams per day, although this amount could vary based on the types and quantities of foods consumed .
Studies on glutamine supplements have used a wide variety of doses, ranging from around 5 grams per day up to high doses of approximately 45 grams per day for six weeks .
Although no negative side effects were reported with this high dosage, blood safety markers were not specifically examined.
Other studies have reported minimal safety concerns regarding short-term supplementation of up to 14 grams per day .
Overall, it is believed that the short-term use of supplements is likely safe. However, some scientists have raised concerns about their sustained use .
Adding glutamine to a regular diet may cause a variety of changes in the way the body absorbs and processes amino acids. Yet, the long-term effects of these changes are unknown .
Therefore, more information is needed concerning long-term supplementation, particularly when high doses are used.
It is possible that glutamine supplements may not have the same effects if you eat an animal-based, high-protein diet, compared to a plant-based, lower-protein diet.
If you follow a plant-based diet with low glutamine content, you may be able to consume supplements while still receiving a normal daily amount of it overall.
If you decide to take a glutamine supplement, it is probably best to start with a conservative dose of around 5 grams per day.