What is L-Glutamine?
L-glutamine is an amino acid naturally found in the body and used as a building block for proteins. It is important for giving “fuel” (nitrogen and carbon) to cells throughout the body. Glutamine is produced by the muscles and circulated throughout the body to assist in an array of biological processes; including but not limited to gut function, wound repair, immune, brain, and digestive health. Around 60 percent of skeletal muscle is comprised of glutamine, and glutamine supplementation has become widely used in the fitness community as a means to lose weight, build muscle, and burn fat.
Why is Glutamine important?
During times of stress, it is possible for the body to utilize more glutamine than the muscles can produce, which can lead to muscle wasting. This can be particularly true after surgery, traumatic injuries, those with HIV/AIDS, and those undergoing chemotherapy. Supplementing with glutamine can help boost the immune system, fight off infections and diseases, as well as aid critically ill patients.
How Does the Body Get Glutamine?
Glutamine can be found in both animal and plant proteins and is also available in supplement form. Most people do not get enough glutamine from their diet alone and can receive many benefits through supplementation. An example includes improving the ability to fight infections and diseases and boost the immune system (1).
What Are Some of the Benefits of L-Glutamine?
Help Leaky Gut and Ulcers
Our intestines are lined with a layer of epithelial cells that are linked together by “tight junctions”. In a healthy functioning GI, nutrients are absorbed through specialized channels, allowing only specific material to be absorbed into the body. It is important that these tight junctions remain small enough that unwanted substances do not get absorbed. When these epithelial cells are damaged, it can cause the tight junctions to become more separated, and allow foreign substances to pass through into the body, that otherwise should not. When this occurs, it is known as “leaky gut.”
Leaky gut syndrome is one of the main causes of autoimmune diseases and food intolerances. It can present itself in a wide array symptoms, including gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, thyroid problems, nutrient malabsorption, inflammatory skin conditions (ex. psoriasis), mood issues, autoimmune diseases, and food sensitivities. The list goes on! When unwanted particles make their way into your bloodstream, acute as well as chronic inflammation can occur. Chronic inflammation is the the root cause of most disease.
Glutamine is the main food source for the intestines. Glutamine is an essential amino acid used by the cells lining the GI tract. These intestinal cells use glutamine as fuel, as well as to repair and keep themselves healthy. Supplementing with L-glutamine can help repair and heal a leaky gut. (2,3) Glutamine may be an alternative to antibiotics as well as help with gastric damage that leads to ulcers. (4)
Aid in Gastrointestinal Health
Because glutamine is a vital nutrient for the health and well-being of your intestines, it can be beneficial in a wide variety of digestive issues. Poor diet, chronic stress, bacterial imbalances, and toxin overload can all contribute to damage within the GI. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, diverticulosis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, as well as symptoms of leaky gut can all be improved with glutamine supplementation. L-glutamine has been found to reduce intestinal inflammation that contributes to many common GI issues. (5) Two to five grams a day of L-glutamine is typically a good dose for most people.
Assist with Diarrhea and IBS
Diet plays a big roll in diarrhea and IBS conditions. In addition, by balancing the mucus production in the GI, glutamine has been shown to improve IBS and diarrhea symptoms as well as improve quality of life. Therefore if you suffer from a condition such as IBS, L-glutamine needs to be a part of your IBS diet. IBS and diarrhea do not have to be a part of your day. Talk with your doctor about how you can improve your diet, lifestyle, and overall quality of life. (6)
Promote Muscle Growth, Aid in Athletic Performance and Workout Recovery
Glutamine supplementation is very common in athletes as well as the body building industry and community. Many athletes combine glutamine with branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), as well as creatine. Research has shown glutamine to increase athletic performance, improve recovery, and help build muscle. During strenuous exercise, the muscles and tendons throughout the body require more glutamine. Without proper glutamine levels, muscle wasting can occur. This happens because the body utilizes muscles rather than carbohydrates. L-glutamine supplementation helps to repair skeletal muscle, increase strength, improve muscle hydration, and aid in faster recovery from intense weight training. (7)
It is best to take L-glutamine intra (during) or after (within 20 minutes) a workout. On average, 2-6 grams of L-glutamine can be consumed. Some even take more depending on their workout routines and goals. Any excess the body will utilize or excrete. However, make sure not to go too overboard with supplementation as it can have an impact on neurotransmission within the body.
Glutamine supplementation has been found to increase resting metabolic rate as well as improve the after burn effect post exercise. It does so by increasing human growth hormone (HGH) levels. The impacts of this aid in weight loss, building of lean muscle mass, as well as aid in burning fat. (8)
Improve Brain Health
A disrupted glutamine-glutamate cycle can lead to an array of problems including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcohol addition, epilepsy, anxiety, and depression. Glutamine is a precursor to glutamate and thereby important in the health of the glutamine-glutamate-GABA cycle. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter, and has been shown to be critical in areas of the brain such as the hippocampus and cortex. Glutamate is involved in memory, learning capacity, planning and organization, mood stabilization, and potentially helpful in brain injuries. Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) works as a neurotransmitter in the brain and is responsible for an array of chemical signals. GABA produces a calming effects, which can aid in anxiety, fear, and stress. It may also help prevent seizures. (9,10)
L-glutamine may help those with sugar and carb cravings. (11) In addition, lean muscle mass helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and repress insulin levels. Glutamine supplementation has been found to improve body composition and improve cardiovascular risk factors in those with type 2 diabetes. (12)
Glutamine has an array of health benefits! From improving your GI health, building muscle, or improving your diabetes, glutamine should be a part of your diet. You can find glutamine in an array of foods such as grass fed beef, cottage cheese, asparagus, cod, salmon, turkey, venison, as well as in dietary supplements. If you give it a try, chance are you will experience the beneficial effects of glutamine.