Glutamine has recently been the focus of much scientific interest. A growing body of evidence suggests that during certain stressful times, the body may require more Glutamine than it can produce. Under these circumstances Glutamine may be considered a "conditionally essential" amino acid. Glutamine is involved in maintaining a positive nitrogen balance (an anabolic state) and also aids rapidly growing cells (immune system lymphocytes and intestinal cell enterocytes). In addition, Glutamine is a regulator of acid-base balance and a nitrogen transporter.*
What is Glutamine?
Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid; non-essential because it can be made in the body from another amino acid (AA) in the diet called Glutamic Acid. It is more appropriately considered a “conditionally essential amino acid” since some people may benefit by supplementation. Glutamine is the most abundant AA in human plasma and muscle.
What are the functional properties of Glutamine?
Glutamine is unique in that, along with glucose, it is one of the preferred energy sources utilized by rapidly growing cells. It is a major fuel source for the brain and - together with the stimulating neurotransmitter Glutamic acid and the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA - they form the most abundant amino group in the human brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals used by nerve cells to communicate with each other.
Glutamine also supports intestinal cells’ health and normal function. It has been used clinically to improve nitrogen balance and minimize protein loss in those suffering with catabolic states (muscle breakdown) caused by surgical stress and gastrointestinal illness. In combination with N-Acetyl Cysteine, Glutamine promotes the production of a powerful cellular antioxidant called Glutathione that plays a critical role in the defense against free radical damage.
Will Glutamine help me with my health maintenance and exercise program?
Glutamine plays a major role in DNA synthesis and serves as a primary transporter of nitrogen into the muscle tissues. It serves to replenish nitrogen loss due to excessive muscle training and speeds up recovery. It is so vital to the building and maintenance of muscle tissue that 60% of the human intracellular amino acid pool is Glutamine. The very fact that muscle is the most important tissue for Glutamine synthesis and storage is evidence of Glutamine’s vital role in maintaining positive nitrogen balance and building these important support structures.
Glutamine is utilized at a high rate by the cells of the immune system. It is also necessary for the production of hormone-like proteins secreted by immune cells that regulate the intensity and duration of an immune response to foreign organisms.
L-Glutamine, A Versatile Amino Acid
By Nilesh Patel, NOW Research & Development Department, NOW Foods
NOW® Foods offers a high potency L-Glutamine, a multi-functional amino acid, at a dose of 1,500 mg. per tablet. NOW also sells other potencies of L-glutamine in capsules and tablets, and L-glutamine is part of almost every protein source, as this single amino acid accounts for about 60% of all free amino acids in the body.
L-glutamine is normally made from other amino acids in the diet, but as more may be needed by some people under certain circumstances it is called a “conditionally essential” amino acid. It is a key ingredient added to brain/mind formulas because it is effective at getting across the blood-brain barrier and it can serve as the brain's backup source of energy. L-Glutamine is the only amino acid that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier. Once in the brain, glutamine is converted into L-glutamic acid, known simply as glutamic acid. While glucose is the brain's primary source of energy, the brain can utilize glutamic acid as a backup fuel.
L-glutamine has been effective in increasing the IQs of mentally deficient children. L-glutamine is also the precursor for the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) for proper brain function and mental activity. It is found in both plant and animal proteins. L-Glutamine assists in maintaining the proper acid/alkaline balance in the body, and is the basis of the building blocks for the synthesis of RNA and DNA. No other nutrient is as important as glutamine for gastrointestinal health. Glutamine rapidly facilitates healing and restores the health of mucous membranes inside the colon (large intestine). Unlike other amino acids that have a single nitrogen atom, glutamine contains two nitrogen atoms that enable it to transfer nitrogen and remove ammonia from body tissues, regulating blood pH and protecting the kidneys and those with peptic ulcers. Glutamine supplementation reduces stomach inflammation caused by chemotherapy and can be useful in cases of diarrhea. The body often cannot synthesize enough glutamine to heal wounds, preserve lean tissue and nourish the immune system following major surgery or physical stress. Providing supplemental glutamine avoids all of these complications, normalizes amino acid levels, speeds healing, and improves overall surgical recovery.
Glutamine is also the primary source of energy for the immune system. One of the reasons that cancer patients lose lean tissue (muscle mass) is because of a depletion of glutamine. An analysis of polyps in the colon shows that they have a significantly lower glutamine content than healthy colon tissue. When our T-cell reserve (a standard measurement of immune activity) is low in glutamine the macrophage cells lose strength. But when L-glutamine is given in large doses, the immune system responds. This versatile amino acid also is a component of the important antioxidant glutathione.
Glutamine can inhibit fatty buildups inside the liver and aid medical treatment of cirrhosis, and also has been used to curb the desire to drink alcohol. Cravings for sugar can be alleviated by taking L-glutamine, preferably with just a touch of non-sugar sweetener, hopefully a natural one. The National Institute of Mental Health has acknowledged glutamine's influence on sugar cravings. By preserving lean tissue, which encourages the burning of fat, this amino acid helps cleanse the body of waste products that are created by fat metabolism, thus helping achieve proper weight maintenance. Prolonged exercise causes microscopic injuries to the muscles and, for a long as two weeks after a workout, lowers body's glutamine stores. Glutamine supplements, like all amino acid supplements, should be taken on an empty stomach with no other protein sources, preferably in the morning or between meals. For peptic ulcers take 500 mg daily on an empty stomach.
Sources: Many plant and animal substances contain glutamine, but cooking easily destroys it. Raw spinach and parsley are good sources. Soy proteins, milk, meats and cabbage are additional sources.
Precautions: Glutamine should not be taken by persons with cirrhosis of the liver, kidney problems, Reye's syndrome, or any type of disorder that can result in an accumulation of ammonia in the blood. For such individuals, taking supplemental glutamine may only cause further damage to the body. Because L-glutamine possibly reduces sugar and alcohol cravings, it could be considered for treating recovering alcoholics. L-glutamine should be kept absolutely dry or the powder will degrade into ammonia and pyroglutamic acid.