Glutamine supplements have become popular over the years, but with so many different trendy supplements popping up, it’s hard to know which ones are truly worth the hype.
That’s why we’re going to take a deeper look into glutamine and glutamine supplements. We’ll discuss the functions of these supplements, as well as Glutamine benefits, effectiveness, and more so you can learn all there is to know. Let’s get started!
What is Glutamine?
Glutamine is an amino acid that performs a variety of functions within the human body and is essential in the production of protein. It also plays a vital role in our immune and digestive health.
Our body is able to produce Glutamine on its own. In fact, it is one of the most abundant free amino acids in the human body. You can also find it in many food sources.
Glutamine exists in two different forms: L-Glutamine and D-Glutamine. On the outside, these two forms appear very similar; however, L-Glutamine has shown to be essential in many body functions, while D-Glutamine doesn’t appear to share the same benefits for humans.
Both exist in all living things; however dietary sources of Glutamine, which include beef, chicken, pork, fish, eggs, dairy, and other animal products, as well as supplements, are typically in L-Glutamine form. They may also be simply listed as Glutamine.
D-Glutamine is found in the highest amounts in beers and can be potentially toxic to some people, including those with poor liver function. D-Glutamine does not share the same benefits for human health as L-Glutamine.
Various research studies have shown Glutamine to provide a variety of health benefits, such as improved exercise recovery, strengthened immune function, and improved gut health.
Now let’s take a deeper look into some of these health claims to determine if there is truly a benefit to adding more Glutamine to your diet or if it’s just another trendy fad.
Because Glutamine is an amino acid, it has been extensively researched for its potential role in muscle building.
Amino acids are the building blocks for protein, an essential nutrient for building and repairing tissue, including muscle mass.
For those looking to increase muscle by way of strength training and weightlifting, protein is often emphasized.
It would make sense that amino acids are important during this time; however, when taking Glutamine alone, most studies showed no benefit in muscle growth, but a few showed improvements in post-exercise recovery.
For those working on increasing muscle mass, it may be more beneficial to focus on protein in the diet overall rather than one specific amino acid.
When it comes to post-exercise recovery, you can always reach for a post-workout supplement, and finding one that includes Glutamine could add some extra benefits. Studies have shown glutamine supplementation may help to decrease muscle soreness and decrease recovery time following a bout of intense activity.
Unfortunately, studies on the effects of Glutamine on muscle growth and post-exercise recovery are lacking, and further research is needed.
Glutamine is not just necessary in building muscle; it is an important fuel source for our immune system, specifically the cells that help fight off infection.
In instances where our body may not be able to produce as much Glutamine as we need, such as with illness and injury, our immune system can become compromised, and our risk for infection increases.
During these times, it is often encouraged to increase protein in the diet and even consider glutamine supplementation as it has become conditionally essential.
The immunosuppressed population, such as those following surgery, radiation, or bone marrow transplant, have shown some benefit in immune function following supplementation of Glutamine.
This is specifically seen with a decreased rate of infection and length of hospitalization.
Unfortunately, the majority of studies found on glutamine supplementation don’t show significant benefits for healthy adults as glutamine requirements are met through synthesis in the body and diet; therefore, further research on this is needed for this population.
Most of our immune system lies within our gut and the vast collection of microbes, also known as our gut flora, that help regulate our immune system and digestive health. While you may be familiar with pre and probiotics for gut health, Glutamine can also be key.
Because Glutamine is essential in providing fuel to our immune cells, it also plays an important role in gut health.
Glutamine is also an important fuel source for our intestinal cells and helps play a role in barrier function.
This is the semi-permeable structure that allows nutrients from food to pass through our intestinal wall to be utilized in the body while keeping harmful molecules, such as bacteria, inside, such as with leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut is a condition that results in gaps in the lining of the intestinal wall where bacteria and waste can seep through, resulting in various digestive symptoms and illness.
This can occur when there is an imbalance of healthy gut flora. Low levels of Glutamine have been correlated with intestinal barrier disruption, and supplementation has been found helpful.
Because our digestive health is essential in our immune function, Glutamine may benefit our immune system by supporting our intestinal cells; however, further research is still needed on supplementation in healthy individuals.
Who should use Glutamine?
If our body can produce it on its own, why would we need to supplement it? Although our bodies can make Glutamine, there are times when we may need more than our bodies can provide.
Also known as conditionally essential, time of illness or injury can result in the increased need for Glutamine from the diet to support healing. Those who are recovering from burns, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment for cancer or abdominal surgeries may be prescribed or recommended by their physician to increase Glutamine in their diet by food or supplementation.
Because there are limited studies to show the effectiveness of glutamine supplementation for healthy individuals, it isn’t recommended. Increasing glutamine-rich foods in the diet is an alternative that is not harmful to those looking to boost their intake. This will also likely provide more benefits than simply taking a glutamine supplement.
Always speak to your health care physician before considering adding a supplement to your routine.
Is Glutamine Safe?
Many studies have determined short-term supplementation of Glutamine to be safe.
Because it is a naturally produced amino acid, there is no concern for side effects when consumed in normal amounts for up to two weeks.
Unfortunately, long-term supplementation with high doses of Glutamine are still in question.