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L-Glutamine Supplements – Benefits and Side Effects

Updated on December 18, 2013
L-Glutamine Amino Acid
L-Glutamine Amino Acid

What is L-Glutamine?

L-glutamine is an amino acid commonly referred to as glutamine. It is one of the building blocks of protein and in the grand scheme of the body one of the building blocks of life. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the human body. The body naturally produces glutamine, but the body’s store can often be depleted beyond natural levels of replacement.

Insufficient glutamine levels are particularly common among those who use resistance training as part of their exercise routine and those under metabolic stress from illness or poor diet. For individuals that fall into those categories glutamine supplements are recommended to help boost the immune system and prevent muscles from disintegrating.

How Does Glutamine Work?

Glutamine is one of the 20 amino acids produced inside the human body. As such it is considered “conditionally essential,” meaning the body can produce it on its own. Mostly produced in the muscles and lungs, this particular amino acid is extremely important to overall health, contributing to digestion, cell duplication, waste removal, immunity and brain functioning.

“Glutamine has been described as the most important circulating nitrogen shuttle, accounting for about one-third of all amino acid nitrogen transported by the blood. By contributing to the formation of many useful compounds, the circulating glutamine brings metabolic fuel to the various organs “ - Institute for Traditional Medicine

The human body stores glutamine in the muscles. Glutamine is drained from the muscle stores in order to feed the body’s internal organs. Your body will actually breakdown its own muscle tissue in order to feed your internal organs enough glutamine to function properly. Inadequate levels of glutamine can lead to muscle deterioration, a weakened immune system and a decline in overall health.

Glutamine Benefits for Exercisers

Exercisers who work their body to the extreme on a regular basis may actually use up the body’s natural storage of glutamine faster than it can be replaced. This is relatively common among athletes and regular exercises, in particular those that use resistance training. Scientists in the past decade have concluded that taking glutamine supplements can help prevent the wear and tear of muscles caused by depleted natural glutamine levels brought on by physical stress.

Health Benefits of Glutamine

Perhaps an even more common reason why people take glutamine as a supplement is because it is known to prevent colds and infections. People who are under stress are more prone to minor colds and viruses because their immune systems are working overtime. Glutamine increases the output of white blood cells and has been shown to reduce the rate of sickness in athletes when taken directly after a workout.

Some diseases, such as any muscle degenerative disorder, gastrointestinal disorder, cancer, AIDS, ulcers, severe burns and chronic illness can also deplete glutamine levels. These types of diseases put a huge strain on the body and often quickly deplete the body’s supply of the amino acid. Taking supplemental glutamine in these clinical cases can help stimulate muscle growth, boost the immune system and reduce infections.

Weight loss is common in people with HIV/AIDs, and when taken with other supplements, L-glutamine can help patients absorb nutrients and regain muscle mass. In some cancer patients, glutamine is sometimes given to counteract the effects of chemotherapy, though the research is not conclusive. Finally, glutamine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and has been found to improve mental clarity, alertness and mood. Additional information on medical uses can be found here.

Glutamine Dosage

When taking glutamine to restore imbalance from an illness, only a doctor can determine the proper dosage, depending on condition and body weight. Studies have found, however, that even the lowest dose of 2 grams will stimulate the growth hormone, and therapeutic glutamine can be prescribed in separate doses throughout the day up to 40 grams. As a dietary supplement for athletes most manufacturers recommend 5 grams post-workout to prevent glutamine levels from dropping, and 5-10 additional grams throughout the day to generally improve recovery.

Glutamine Side Effects

The FDA approved glutamine as a therapeutic drug in 2004. Dietary glutamine is considered safe for most people. Elderly patients may want to reduce the dosage because of kidney problems, and some minor side effects like headaches have been reported by a small number of otherwise healthy users.

Never take glutamine with hot liquids because heat will ruin it. Rather, take glutamine with cold or room temperature foods or beverages. This supplement comes in pill, powder, capsule or liquid form.

What I Take

I take 5-10 grams a day with water.
I take 5-10 grams a day with water. | Source

Glutamine Supplements Summary

Proper glutamine levels are vital for a healthy body. Although glutamine is considered conditionally essential, glutamine supplements are becoming more popular among everyday users. From increased muscle growth to improved immune response, glutamine supplementation is now associated with a wide variety of health benefits. I personally have supplemented with 5-10 grams of glutamine on a daily basis for the past 15 years and can attest to its health benefits.


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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks for including some of the non-exercise reasons people take this supplement. ;-)

    • TotalHealth profile image

      TotalHealth 5 years ago from Hermosa Beach, CA

      Shannon, thanks for your comment. L-Glutamin is probably one of the most overlooked supplements, and I'm assuming it's because people don't realize all the benefits associated with it. Hope you try it. Thanks again!

    • Shannon Paigah profile image

      Shannon Paigah 5 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Great hub! I always thought L-Glutamin was used specifically for joint health but, after reading your article I learned it’s also beneficial to restore balance to the body and boost a person’s immune system. Very useful and helpful in understanding how an individual can better improve their health. Thanks!