Glutamine Benefits, Supplementation, And Side Effects

(Written By: Dr. Edward Group)  Glutamine is an amino acid that is vitally important to health and well-being. As the most abundant amino acid in the body, it supports more metabolic processes than any other.[1, 2] Glutamine encourages a healthy gut, promotes normal blood sugar levels, and is a building block for muscles.[3, 4] In the body, glutamine is stored in skeletal muscle; it circulates in the blood to the kidneys, liver, intestines, and immune cells where it helps perform critical functions.[5]

Benefits of Glutamine

Glutamine supports a number of important functions in the body, including the immune system, the body’s detoxification abilities, gut health, and even muscle growth and repair. Let’s take a closer look at how glutamine enables these actions.

Detoxification and Liver Health

Consuming meat can cause ammonia to build up in the body, negatively affecting the brain and liver. As support for the kidneys and liver, adequate glutamine stimulates the body’s detoxification processes to regulate ammonia levels.[6] Glutamine also promotes liver metabolism and proper pH balance.[7]

Gut Health

The digestive tract has a protective barrier known as the mucosa. Without this protection, toxins and harmful organisms could leak from your gut into your body—a condition known as leaky gut.[8] Glutamine supports the mucosal lining and studies have evaluated the relationship between glutamine and gut health. One study reported that glutamine might reduce occurrences of diarrhea in people with digestive ailments.[9]

Promotes Normal Body Weight

Some illnesses can cause wasting—severe, unintended weight loss. In one study with HIV patients, glutamine proved to be a cost-effective therapy to help maintain body weight. Promoting gut health and improving nutrient absorption are among the methods of action by which glutamine promotes normal body weight.[10]

Recovery and Immune Health

Because amino acids are the building blocks of muscles, glutamine is a popular supplement among athletes seeking to hasten recovery. Glutamine may also support endurance during aerobic exercise.[11]

Strenuous exercises like marathon running can wear down a healthy immune system. It’s not uncommon for runners to feel ill following a long race. One double-blind placebo-controlled study had a group of athletes take a glutamine supplement immediately following two hours of intense exercise. During the seven days that followed, the athletes who took the glutamine supplement said they felt better than those who did not.[12]

Other Health Benefits of Glutamine

  • Beneficial for some intensive medical treatments.[13]
  • Might help support growth hormone levels.[14]
  • Preserves gut integrity.[15]
  • May help with nutrient absorption.[16]
  • Supports brain health.[17]
  • Supports memory.[18]
  • May curb cravings for alcohol.[19]
  • Supports the body’s ability to heal wounds.[20]
  • Helps regulate blood glucose levels.[21]
  • Resists harmful organisms.[22]

Best Sources of Glutamine

Your body produces glutamine, there are also dietary sources of glutamine such as raw vegetables and nuts, as well as meat, eggs, and dairy. Glutamine can also be obtained through supplementation.

Vegan Food Sources of Glutamine

Below are nine vegan food sources of glutamine. Be advised that vegetable sources of glutamine should be eaten raw because high heat breaks down glutamine and negatively affects its bioavailability.[23]

  1. Red Cabbage
  2. Nuts
  3. Beans
  4. Legumes
  5. Spinach
  6. Parsley
  7. Broccoli
  8. Beets
  9. Asparagus

Glutamine Supplements

Most healthy adults receive adequate glutamine from either their body’s natural production or their diet. In some instances, glutamine supplementation may be warranted or desired. Because of its close relationship with muscle mass, glutamine supplements are popular among bodybuilders and weightlifters.[24] Additionally, doctors may recommend supplemental glutamine for gastrointestinal issues or other health concerns.[25]

Glutamine has few, if any, side effects and is generally considered safe. If you and your trusted health care provider decide a glutamine supplement is right for you, choose a plant-based formula from a reputable company. Avoid products with synthetic, animal-based, or artificial ingredients.

When comparing glutamine supplements, you may see some products advertised as “glutamine” and some advertised as “L-glutamine.” Glutamine, like other amino acids, exists in two distinct forms: L-glutamine and D-glutamine. L-glutamine is the form most desired by your body. All glutamine supplements, even if they only say “glutamine,” are L-glutamine.

Does Dr. Group Take a Glutamine Supplement?

Personally, I don’t take a standalone glutamine supplement. I follow an organic, plant-based diet that provides the majority of the nutrients I need. To fill any gaps in my diet, I take IntraMAX®. It’s a liquid multivitamin that provides over 415 essential vitamins and minerals (including glutamine), each one derived from natural and organic plant sources. I believe it’s the best, most complete formula available.

Is glutamine part of your supplement routine? If so, what’s your motivation? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.