Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid, but it has so many wonderful qualities that it should be! I must admit, I’m a bit biased about it as I swear by it and so were many of my clients when they discovered it. Unlike some vitamins, this is the example of supplement where you can actually see that it works.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid found in the human body, but the need or it heightens in times of stress, illness or strenuous exercise. Glutamine performs many important roles, such as supporting healthy immune system, digestion, appetite, brain function and muscles. It also helps to form B vitamins, glutathione (a potent antioxidant that our liver produces), DNA and human growth hormone. Low levels of Glutamine are associated with poor intestinal integrity that may compromise overall health. At the moment Glutamine is considered as a “conditionally essential amino acid” and it has been one of the most intensively studied nutrients in the field of nutritional supplements.
L-Glutamine in action.
Appetite. Taking extra Glutamine may help to manage normal appetite, because Glutamine is thought to act on the part of the brain which regulates it.
Brain. Glutamine is a cognitive enhancer and a precursor to GABA and dopamine. It is the only amino-acid that crosses blood brain barrier readily where it converts into Glutamic Acid. As a key neurotransmitter, it helps to increase mental function, alertness and acts as a mild anti-depressant. When needed, Glutamic Acid fuels the brain in place of glucose, without affecting blood sugar levels. Glutamic Acid also helps to dispose waste ammonia (protein breakdown substance) from the brain. It helps to make brain chemical GABA – Gamma Aminobutyric Acid. GABA helps to promote feelings of calm, balanced mood and restful sleep. Glutamine is especially high in fluid surrounding the brain and in the brain’s substantia nigra, which releases the mood-enchansing brain chemical dopamine.
Individuals with ADHD is often deficient in Glutamine, so they can’t make enough GABA.
B Vitamins. Glutamine helps to make vitamin B3 (Niacin), which is important for healthy brain, skin, nervous system, digestive system and craving control. Glutamic Acid also forms part of the Folic Acid, which is vital before and during pregnancy, helps to make red blood cells, stimulates stomach to make digestive juice and supports healthy brain, liver, blood circulation, appetite and mood.
Cancer. Tumors usually have high concentrations of Glutamine, so physicians are reluctant to add supplemental Glutamine to cancer patients. However, oral Glutamine administered to rats at 1g per kilo of body weight have increased the production of Glutathione by 25% and increased natural killer cell activity by 2.5%. This resulted in the decrease of prostaglandins that fuel tumor growth and tumors were inhibited by 40%. When Glutamine was taken during chemo- or radiotherapy, it protected the host and increased the efficiency of therapy. In human studies, cancer patients who were given Glutamine showed to have better weight and nutrient absorption and lesser occurrence of stomatitis and other oral inflammation associated with cancer treatments.
Cravings. Glutamine is a key component of Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF), which is important for blood sugar balance. By supporting it, Glutamine helps to manage cravings, especially for sugar, carbohydrates, caffeine and nicotine. Alcoholics might find Glutamine useful in managing their cravings. Taken after drinking and before bed, Glutamine also helps to support the liver (see below).
Detox. Glutamine is a precursor to Glutathione – a major antioxidant produced in the liver that neutralises excess free radicals. It also helps to deliver nitrogen to cells, which helps to reduce the formation of toxic levels of ammonia in the liver.
Digestive System. Glutamine is the main nutrient and the main source of energy for the epithelium cells of the gut mucus lining. Scientists at the National Institute of Health, USA, in 1970 found Glutamine to be the most significant nutrient for the intestinal tract. A healthy gut lining grows and regenerates rapidly and acts as a barrier to bugs, toxins and undigested food. This barrier becomes permeable to these substances if regular Glutamine supply becomes impaired, e. g. during illness or stress. Anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), alcohol and certain foods can also harm the gut lining, causing “leaky gut syndrome”. This allows foreign substances to enter the body and trigger the immune response. This is the major cause of allergies and skin disorders. Supplementing glutamine is extremely helpful for the conditions like leaky gut syndrome, crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, candida overgrowth, ulcers, gastritis (H. Pylori), etc. Researchers have found that Glutamine helps to improve gut barrier function as well as immune activity within the gut.
DNA. Glutamine helps to form DNA (genes) and is important for cell division and growth.
Growth. Glutamine is one of the several amino acids that make human growth hormone (HGH), that is produced by pituitary gland in the brain. It is important for the healthy growth of cells, organs, muscles and bones. We produce less HGH with age.
Immune System. Glutamine fuels immune system by supporting white blood cells multiplication when needed. It stimulates lymphocytes and phagocytes, and supports the intestinal antibody Immunoglobulin A (IgA) which prevents bacteria from attaching to intestinal walls. Individuals with autoimmune conditions can benefit from Glutamine supplementation, because it helps the production of Glutathione, that in turn, reduces the production of harmful cytokine activity.
Muscles. Glutamine assists the body in muscle development when illness cause muscle wasting, e. g. after fever, chronic stress, surgery or accident. Glutamine has also been athletes’, bodybuilders’ and fitness enthusiasts’ favourite for a long time and you probably have seen huge Glutamine jars in health food stores sport sections. This is because Glutamine is essential for muscle recovery and growth. It may help to reduce the rate of muscle breakdown (anti-catabolic effect) relative to muscle growth (anabolic effect) and increase concentrations of plasma arginine and glutamate – two amino-acids linked to muscle strengthening growth hormone. I can tell from personal experience, that I have much less muscle pain the day after exercise when I take glutamine in comparison to the days when I skip it. Glutamine is stored in muscles and helps with muscle metabolism and maintenance – especially after exercise or illness. Because body regenerate most while we sleep, glutamine is best taken before bed. Many of the sport proteins will contain extra Glutamic Acid for muscle recovery, but for maximum benefit, Glutamine is still best taken separately, before bedtime.
Cancer patients often experience catabolic effect on muscles and lose a lot of weight. Glutamine is reported to be beneficial to prevent muscle wasting and subsequent weight loss in critically ill patients and those undergoing cancer treatments.
Pancreas. Glutamine supports healthy pancreas growth. Pancreas makes insulin, which regulates blood sugar balance, and makes pancreatic juice, which contains digestive enzymes.
Supplementation and food sources.
Foods containing the most glutamine include: cabbage and its juice (it has been traditional remedy for gastric ulcers for this reason), poultry, beef and fish.
Glutamine has no known contraindications and anyone can take it. Although the body can make glutamine from food we eat, a supplement can be very useful in some situations. It is slightly sweet powder, which can be stirred into water or other cold drink, but it is also available in vegetarian capsules. I personally would recommend powder for its purity and fast action.
Recommended intake for adults and children over 10 is between 1/4 teaspoon (900mg) and 1. 1/4 teaspoon, and for children over 8 years – just 1/4 teaspoon – 1-3 times a day between or before meals.
Capsules: adults and children over 10 – 2-10 500mg capsules 1-3 times daily. As you can see, it’s much easier to take powder.
As with any individual amino-acid, it is best to take Glutamine away from any meal containing complete protein for better absorption. I. e. do not take glutamine right after you ate a meal containing eggs, fish or meat. It’s fine to take it on an empty stomach. As mentioned above, for detox and muscle regenaration purposes, Glutamine is best taken before bed. Otherwise, it can be taken any time, provided you take it away from protein.
Recommended brands that are available in UK: Higher Nature, Viridian, Solgar, BioCare, Now.