Glutamine benefits your health by supporting your immune system and strengthening your gut lining. This nutrient is the most abundant amino acid found in the body.
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Amino acids are the body’s building blocks, providing much-needed protein as they work hard to support the immune system.
As a key amino acid, glutamine benefits the body in many different ways. It’s probably most popular for its effect on muscle recovery. But supplementing with glutamine can provide other health benefits; for example, this amino acid supports your intestinal system.
Should you include a glutamine supplement as part of your fitness journey?
In this article, we will:
- Explain what glutamine is, and discuss how it supports the body
- List foods that naturally contain glutamine
- Discuss the ways in which glutamine benefits your health
- Share dosage recommendations
What is glutamine?
Amino acids provide our cells and tissues with protein. After water, these acids are the second most abundant compound in the human body.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body, and it’s also the most versatile.
Hard-working and multi-talented, glutamine benefits the overall functioning of the body in these ways:
- Assists in protein synthesis, creating proteins that are used to support the development of muscle tissue
- Helps generate cells that protect your intestines and support intestinal lining
- Provides vital support for immune function
- Helps detoxify the liver of foreign substances
D-glutamine and L-glutamine
There are two different forms of glutamine: L-glutamine and D-glutamine. Both these forms are almost the same, but they differ slightly in how their molecules are arranged.
The glutamine that’s present in food and supplements is of the L-glutamine variety. Some supplements describe this form as L-glutamine on their ingredient list. But many others simply describe this form using the broader term glutamine on their packaging.
Between L-glutamine and D-glutamine, it’s clear that the L-glutamine form does more for the body. This type of glutamine benefits cell metabolism and the creation of vital proteins. It serves as fuel for rapidly dividing cells, and it also provides support for the transportation of nitrogen between organs. D-glutamine, on the other hand, seems to play a much more minor role when it comes to your health.
The body is able to generate L-glutamine naturally. However, in certain circumstances, your body may need more L-glutamine than you’re able to produce.
This is evident when there is illness or stress. During these times, the body’s glutamine requirements may outpace its capacity for glutamine generation, and glutamine deficiency can kick in.
The glutamine that’s created in the body is generated mainly from muscle tissue. If there is a decrease in muscle mass due to illness, this may affect the body’s ability to produce this amino acid.
This type of glutamine depletion is especially obvious in those who are hospitalized and critically ill.
Making matters worse is the fact that people in this situation are often fed intravenously. Standard intravenous nutrition (also known as parenteral nutrition) typically does not contain glutamine; this is because glutamine is unstable during prolonged storage. As a result, people who are being fed in this way aren’t getting any glutamine from their diets, at a time when the body’s production of this amino acid is likely to be low.
Parenteral glutamine supplementation becomes essential in cases such as this. People who are seriously ill and in hospital are often given supplemental L-glutamine to support their recovery and minimize their hospital stay.
Conditionally essential amino acid
Let’s take a minute to explore the differences between essential and nonessential amino acids.
Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body. This means they must be obtained via the diet.
Nonessential amino acids are made by the body. Because of this, your body is able to access these acids in sufficient quantities even if they aren’t included in the foods you eat.
Glutamine falls somewhere in the middle between essential and nonessential. Since the body is capable of producing it, glutamine isn’t classed as an essential amino acid. But when it’s under stress, the body will produce less glutamine than it needs, which means you’ll need to get extra glutamine via supplementation.
Because of these unique qualities, glutamine is classified as a conditionally essential amino acid.
Which foods contain glutamine?
L-glutamine is present in many different types of foods. However, this amino acid is found in highest quantities in foods made with animal products. This is because glutamine tends to be most prevalent in foods with high protein content, and many animal-based foods are rich in protein.
Still, there are some plant-based foods that are sources of this amino acid. The top options tend to be those plant-based menu items with abundant amounts of protein.
Here are some glutamine foods to consider if you want to include this amino acid in your diet:
- Bone broth
- Red cabbage
- Whey protein
- Dark leafy greens
Plant-based foods typically contain a lot less glutamine than certain types of animal foods. For this reason, those who follow a plant-based diet are likely to benefit from glutamine supplementation.
L-glutamine benefits your health in these ways:
1. Supports intestinal health
Glutamine strengthens your body’s gut barrier function. It helps reduce intestinal inflammation throughout the digestive tract, and it supports the health of your intestinal lining (also known as intestinal mucosa). It also decreases intestinal permeability.
Your intestinal lining plays a key role in maintaining wellness. It prevents toxins from passing from your intestines to your bloodstream, and it helps make sure your body is able to properly absorb the nutrients needed for good health.
Glutamine helps keep your intestinal lining healthy and sound. If there isn’t enough glutamine available, your intestinal lining could deteriorate, causing problems that could affect your immune function and overall health.
2. Assists with muscle recovery
Some claim that glutamine is effective for muscle gain and fat burn, and it’s often taken as a supplement to assist with these goals. Currently, there isn’t enough conclusive scientific data to support the claim that glutamine is good for fat loss and muscle building.
However, glutamine benefits your workouts in one way that’s supported by scientific evidence: Studies show that oral glutamine relieves muscle soreness. In this way, glutamine can help hasten recovery after an intense workout.
3. Helps heal leaky gut and stomach ulcers
Ever heard of leaky gut syndrome? This condition occurs when there are holes in the intestinal lining. These holes cause toxins to leak from the intestines to the bloodstream.
Leaky gut syndrome is a key causative factor in autoimmune diseases. It can trigger thyroid issues such as Hashimoto’s disease. It can also lead to the development of conditions such as arthritis and psoriasis.
Glutamine helps strengthen the intestinal lining, so it’s no surprise that clinical studies show this amino acid can help heal leaky gut.
Additionally, glutamine benefits those with stomach ulcers. Research shows that this amino acid can help reduce the severity of infections that occur with this condition.
4. Supports brain health
Glutamine is a precursor to glutamate, a key neurotransmitter that impacts the way your brain functions. If the glutamate-glutamine cycle is disrupted, it can cause brain-related issues such as Reye’s Syndrome, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and epilepsy.
Adequate glutamine intake can help give your brain the support it needs to maintain good health.
5. Improves irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that strikes the large intestine. It’s a chronic condition that can cause cramping, abdominal pain, constipation, gas, diarrhea and bloating.
L-glutamine supplementation can help mitigate the symptoms of IBS. This amino acid helps balance mucus production in the bowels, and this helps support healthy gut function.
6. Helps ease the side effects of cancer treatments
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can cause undesirable side effects. These include muscle wasting, nausea, vomiting, oral inflammation and diarrhea.
Studies show that l-glutamine benefits those who are dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment. This supplement can help mitigate some of the most difficult symptoms faced by those who are being treated for cancer.
7. Supports the immune system
The immune system relies heavily on glutamine to do its work.
Glutamine is found in blood plasma and skeletal muscle. Your immune system can be compromised if plasma glutamine concentration is low. A low plasma glutamine level can be caused by things such as endurance exercise, injury, sepsis, burns and surgery.
Animal studies show that adding glutamine to the diet supports the immune system in ways that increase the body’s ability to survive a bacterial challenge.
Interested in boosting your glutamine intake? Tablets and capsules are available, and you can also take L-glutamine powder.
A typical dose usually runs between 5 and 30 grams per day. When starting out, it’s best to begin conservatively with a 5-gram dosage.
Glutamine is an amino acid that’s naturally produced by the body. As a result, it isn’t harmful when taken in normal quantities by healthy people. However, this amino acid may worsen your symptoms if you have liver or kidney disease.
Ready to experience the ways glutamine benefits your health? If you think you’d benefit from upping your intake of this amino acid, head to your local health food store and purchase a glutamine supplement. Another option is to consume more glutamine-rich foods to support you on your health journey.
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