Glutamine Benefits

Glutamine is one of the many non-essential amino acids which are the building blocks of protein.  By non-essential, it means the body is unable to produce enough of it especially in the context of stress, and must therefore be supplied in the foods we eat.

To better understand the benefits of glutamine, it is important to take a look at how it works in the body:

  • Glutamine, like all other amino acids with exotic names, is crucial to protein synthesis, or the process wherein cells construct proteins;
  • It regulates the acid-base balance in the kidney by producing ammonium.  Ammonium is an alkali;
  • Next to glucose, glutamine is a source of cellular energy.  This is the reason why ketogenic diets result to rapid weight loss:  the diet is protein-rich but carbohydrate-poor.  We know that carbohydrates are sources of glucose, so when the body does not have enough of it, it strips down the muscle tissues (instead of fat tissues) to extract protein to fuel the body’s metabolic processes;
  • It helps minimize the rate of muscle breakdown, thus preserving muscle tissue;
  • It transports ammonia in the circulatory system;
  • It is essential in the completion of the Krebs cycle where carbon dioxide is produced (thus taking all toxins out of the body through exhalation), along with another chemical (which scientists call ATP) that infuses cells with energy so muscle cells can be repaired or produced anew.

Because of these important functions, glutamine confers innumerable benefits:

  • Fast-tracks healing of wounds and recovery from illness.  Injuries and surgical procedures are just a few of the body’s stressors that send cortisol levels shooting upwards.  When cortisol levels are up, glutamine stores are low, which means the body’s source of energy is depleted, and muscle cells breakdown.  Hence, for faster recovery from any form of trauma or injury, intake of glutamine supplements, be it synthetic or natural, is critical;
  • Builds muscles.  Body-builders do not just take protein supplements; in particular, they take glutamine supplements.  As mentioned above in the functions of glutamine, this amino acid slows down muscle degeneration and preserves muscle tissues that have already been built.  Further, it increases the rate of recovery of torn tissues and sore muscles from intense workout;
  • Elevates the mood and staves off depression.  Glutamine breaches the blood-brain barrier.  This means that nutrients that are transported by blood do not reach the brain in record time; the nutrients have to undergo further processing first.  Therefore, glutamine-rich foods enable the nutrients to bypass this barrier to nourish the brain without the roundabout synthesis.
  • Aids the gut.  Glutamine is especially beneficial to sufferers of Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), where the lining of the colon and small intestine is compromisedGlutamine boosts the lining of the gastrointestinal tract so inflammation is less likely to develop;
  • Prevents kidney stones.  As mentioned, glutamine keeps in check the kidney’s acid-base balance by producing ammonium, an alkali that combats acidity.  However, too much ammonium can lead to renal sedimentation, and eventually, formation of kidney stones;
  • Removes toxic waste from the blood.  Glutamine transports ammonia and urea in the circulatory system and out of the excretory system in the form of urine.  In so doing, glutamine aids in keeping the volume of water in the body constant.

Glutamine supplements are welcome in the diet.  But unless you are seriously building muscles or in the intensive care, you can easily get your required glutamine from these natural sources:  beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, dairy products, wheat, cabbage, beets, beans, spinach, and parsley.

However, glutamine supplements (which are, by and large, synthetic) should not be taken by people who are:

  • Pregnant, suspecting they are pregnant, or breast-feeding;
  • Suffering from liver disease;
  • Allergic to monosodium glutamate;
  • Suffering from mental disorder and seizures.