Glutamine

Last Updated: July 22, 2023

Glutamine is an amino acid that may benefit the body when it is under a period of great physical stress, such as after surgery, burns, or radiation exposure.

Glutamine is most often used for

What is glutamine?

Glutamine is one of the 20 amino acids that make up all proteins. It is conditionally essential, meaning it is needed during traumatic conditions like illness, injury, or surgery. It is the most abundant amino acid in blood serum, and it tends to decrease in proportion to the acuteness of trauma to the body.[1][2]

What are glutamine’s main benefits?

The main benefit of glutamine is improved outcomes in trauma, burns, and injuries.[3] It has also been found to affect nitrogen balance (i.e., reduce protein depletion), improve immune function, and reduce infectious morbidity in adults going in for abdominal surgery for peritonitis (an infection of the abdomen).[4] In addition, glutamine may reduce gut permeability (lactulose/mannitol ratio), inflammation (IL-6, TNF-ɑ, C-reactive protein), hospital stay length, and mortality.[1]

In people undergoing radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, glutamine reduced the severity of oral mucositis. This painful condition results from the death of the cells lining the mouth and is often a reason to halt the course of radiation. Post-radiation, glutamine was found to reduce the use of analgesic opioids, nasogastric feeding, and treatment interruptions.[5]

In addition, glutamine may reduce symptom scores of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) alongside a low-FODMAP diet.[6] Glutamine was found to have no significant effect in the context of Crohn’s disease, though sample sizes were small.[7][8][9][10]

Glutamine is commonly marketed as an exercise supplement, but there are no consistent observed effects on athletic performance from supplementation with glutamine. However, glutamine may increase white blood cell counts and benefit weight reduction.[11]

What are glutamine’s main drawbacks?

Glutamine typically has no adverse effects.[4][6][5] Even doses as high as 50–60 grams per day taken for several weeks seem to be well tolerated.[12][1]

How does glutamine work?

Glutamine may improve digestion by strengthening the intestinal barrier by reducing intestinal permeability, aiding tight junctions, and promoting enterocyte growth (cells that line the intestines).[3]

Glutamine is the preferred source of fuel for enterocytes as well as lymphocytes, an important cell of the immune system.[6]

Glutamine may act as an anti-inflammatory agent by reducing interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-ɑ), and C-reactive protein levels. It may also help produce glutathione, the body’s principal antioxidant.[3][1]

What else is Glutamine known as?
Note that Glutamine is also known as:
  • L-Glutamine
Glutamine should not be confused with:
Dosage information

Supplementation of L-glutamine tends to be dosed at 5 g or above, with higher doses being advised against due to excessive ammonia in serum. The lowest dose found to increase ammonia in serum has been 0.75 g/kg, or approximately 51 g for a 150 lb individual.

Due to the relative inefficacy of glutamine supplementation for increasing muscle mass, the optimal dosage is not known. The above recommended doses are sufficient for intestinal health reasons and for attenuating a possible relative glutamine deficiency (seen in instances of low protein intake or veganism).

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References
  1. ^Arribas-López E, Zand N, Ojo O, Snowden MJ, Kochhar TThe Effect of Amino Acids on Wound Healing: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis on Arginine and Glutamine.Nutrients.(2021-Jul-22)
  2. ^Melis GC, ter Wengel N, Boelens PG, van Leeuwen PAGlutamine: recent developments in research on the clinical significance of glutamine.Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care.(2004-Jan)
  3. ^Simone Perna, Tariq A Alalwan, Zahraa Alaali, Tahera Alnashaba, Clara Gasparri, Vittoria Infantino, Layla Hammad, Antonella Riva, Giovanna Petrangolini, Pietro Allegrini, Mariangela RondanelliThe Role of Glutamine in the Complex Interaction between Gut Microbiota and Health: A Narrative ReviewInt J Mol Sci.(2019 Oct 22)
  4. ^Fuentes-Orozco C, Anaya-Prado R, González-Ojeda A, Arenas-Márquez H, Cabrera-Pivaral C, Cervantes-Guevara G, Barrera-Zepeda LML-alanyl-L-glutamine-supplemented parenteral nutrition improves infectious morbidity in secondary peritonitis.Clin Nutr.(2004-Feb)
  5. ^Alsubaie HM, Alsini AY, Alsubaie KM, Abu-Zaid A, Alzahrani FR, Sayed S, Pathak AK, Alqahtani KHGlutamine for prevention and alleviation of radiation-induced oral mucositis in patients with head and neck squamous cell cancer: Systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials.Head Neck.(2021-Oct)
  6. ^Samira Rastgoo, Nasser Ebrahimi-Daryani, Shahram Agah, Sara Karimi, Mohammad Taher, Bahram Rashidkhani, Ehsan Hejazi, Fatemeh Mohseni, Mina Ahmadzadeh, Amir Sadeghi, Azita HekmatdoostGlutamine Supplementation Enhances the Effects of a Low FODMAP Diet in Irritable Bowel Syndrome ManagementFront Nutr.(2021 Dec 16)
  7. ^Akobeng AK, Elawad M, Gordon MGlutamine for induction of remission in Crohn's disease.Cochrane Database Syst Rev.(2016-Feb-08)
  8. ^Jaya Benjamin, Govind Makharia, Vineet Ahuja, K D Anand Rajan, Mani Kalaivani, Siddhartha Datta Gupta, Yogendra Kumar JoshiGlutamine and whey protein improve intestinal permeability and morphology in patients with Crohn's disease: a randomized controlled trialDig Dis Sci.(2012 Apr)
  9. ^Akobeng AK, Miller V, Thomas AG, Richmond KGlutamine supplementation and intestinal permeability in Crohn's diseaseJPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr.(2000 May-Jun)
  10. ^E Den Hond, M Hiele, M Peeters, Y Ghoos, P RutgeertsEffect of long-term oral glutamine supplements on small intestinal permeability in patients with Crohn's diseaseJPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr.(Jan-Feb 1999)
  11. ^Ramezani Ahmadi A, Rayyani E, Bahreini M, Mansoori AThe effect of glutamine supplementation on athletic performance, body composition, and immune function: A systematic review and a meta-analysis of clinical trialsClin Nutr.(2018 May 9)
  12. ^Garlick PJAssessment of the safety of glutamine and other amino acids.J Nutr.(2001-Sep)
  13. ^Lacey JM, Wilmore DWIs glutamine a conditionally essential amino acid?Nutr Rev.(1990 Aug)
  14. ^Antonio J, Street CGlutamine: a potentially useful supplement for athletesCan J Appl Physiol.(1999 Feb)
  15. ^Antonio J, Sanders MS, Kalman D, Woodgate D, Street CThe effects of high-dose glutamine ingestion on weightlifting performanceJ Strength Cond Res.(2002 Feb)
  16. ^Candow DG, Chilibeck PD, Burke DG, Davison KS, Smith-Palmer TEffect of glutamine supplementation combined with resistance training in young adultsEur J Appl Physiol.(2001 Dec)
  17. ^Finn KJ, Lund R, Rosene-Treadwell MGlutamine Supplementation did not Benefit Athletes During Short-Term Weight ReductionJ Sports Sci Med.(2003 Dec 1)
  18. ^Bernfeld E, Menon D, Vaghela V, Zerin I, Faruque P, Frias M, Foster DPhospholipase D-Dependent mTORC1 Activation by GlutamineJournal of Biological Chemistry.(2018)
  19. ^Street B, Byrne C, Eston RGlutamine Supplementation in Recovery From Eccentric Exercise Attenuates Strength Loss and Muscle SorenessJournal of Exercise Science and Fitness.(2011)
  20. ^Rahmani Nia F, Farzaneh E, Damirchi A, Shamsi Majlan AEffect of L-glutamine supplementation on electromyographic activity of the quadriceps muscle injured by eccentric exerciseIran J Basic Med Sci.(2013 Jun)
  21. ^Waldron M, Ralph C, Jeffries O, Tallent J, Theis N, Patterson SDThe effects of acute leucine or leucine-glutamine co-ingestion on recovery from eccentrically biased exerciseAmino Acids.(2018 May 16)
  22. ^Legault Z, Bagnall N, Kimmerly DSThe Influence of Oral L-Glutamine Supplementation on Muscle Strength Recovery and Soreness Following Unilateral Knee Extension Eccentric ExerciseInt J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab.(2015 Oct)
  23. ^Li P, Yin YL, Li D, Kim SW, Wu GAmino acids and immune functionBr J Nutr.(2007 Aug)
  24. ^Castell LMCan glutamine modify the apparent immunodepression observed after prolonged, exhaustive exercise?Nutrition.(2002 May)
  25. ^Castell LM, Poortmans JR, Newsholme EADoes glutamine have a role in reducing infections in athletes?Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol.(1996)
  26. ^Krzywkowski K, Petersen EW, Ostrowski K, Kristensen JH, Boza J, Pedersen BKEffect of glutamine supplementation on exercise-induced changes in lymphocyte functionAm J Physiol Cell Physiol.(2001 Oct)
  27. ^Walsh NP, Blannin AK, Bishop NC, Robson PJ, Gleeson MEffect of oral glutamine supplementation on human neutrophil lipopolysaccharide-stimulated degranulation following prolonged exerciseInt J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab.(2000 Mar)
  28. ^Krzywkowski K, Petersen EW, Ostrowski K, Link-Amster H, Boza J, Halkjaer-Kristensen J, Pedersen BKEffect of glutamine and protein supplementation on exercise-induced decreases in salivary IgAJ Appl Physiol (1985).(2001 Aug)
  29. ^Hiscock N, Pedersen BKExercise-induced immunodepression- plasma glutamine is not the linkJ Appl Physiol (1985).(2002 Sep)
  30. ^Dokladny K, Zuhl MN, Moseley PLIntestinal epithelial barrier function and tight junction proteins with heat and exerciseJ Appl Physiol (1985).(2016 Mar 15)
  31. ^Pugh JN, Sage S, Hutson M, Doran DA, Fleming SC, Highton J, Morton JP, Close GLGlutamine supplementation reduces markers of intestinal permeability during running in the heat in a dose-dependent mannerEur J Appl Physiol.(2017 Dec)
  32. ^Zuhl M, Dokladny K, Mermier C, Schneider S, Salgado R, Moseley PThe effects of acute oral glutamine supplementation on exercise-induced gastrointestinal permeability and heat shock protein expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cellsCell Stress Chaperones.(2015 Jan)
Examine Database References
  1. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Symptoms - Mok E, Letellier G, Cuisset JM, Denjean A, Gottrand F, Alberti C, Hankard RLack of functional benefit with glutamine versus placebo in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: a randomized crossover trialPLoS One.(2009)
  2. Body Fat - Candow DG, Chilibeck PD, Burke DG, Davison KS, Smith-Palmer TEffect of glutamine supplementation combined with resistance training in young adultsEur J Appl Physiol.(2001 Dec)
  3. Uric Acid - Bassini-Cameron A, Monteiro A, Gomes A, Werneck-de-Castro JP, Cameron LGlutamine protects against increases in blood ammonia in football players in an exercise intensity-dependent wayBr J Sports Med.(2008 Apr)
  4. Ammonia - Carvalho-Peixoto J, Alves RC, Cameron LCGlutamine and carbohydrate supplements reduce ammonemia increase during endurance field exerciseAppl Physiol Nutr Metab.(2007 Dec)
  5. Immunity - Yalçin SS, Yurdakök K, Tezcan I, Tuncer MEffect of glutamine supplementation on lymphocyte subsets in children with acute diarrheaTurk J Pediatr.(2010 May-Jun)
  6. Insulin - Rotovnik Kozjek N, Kompan L, Soeters P, Oblak I, Mlakar Mastnak D, Možina B, Zadnik V, Anderluh F, Velenik VOral glutamine supplementation during preoperative radiochemotherapy in patients with rectal cancer: a randomised double blinded, placebo controlled pilot studyClin Nutr.(2011 Oct)
  7. Insulin - Awad S, Fearon KC, Macdonald IA, Lobo DNA randomized cross-over study of the metabolic and hormonal responses following two preoperative conditioning drinksNutrition.(2011 Sep)
  8. Crohn's Disease Symptoms - Jaya Benjamin, Govind Makharia, Vineet Ahuja, K D Anand Rajan, Mani Kalaivani, Siddhartha Datta Gupta, Yogendra Kumar JoshiGlutamine and whey protein improve intestinal permeability and morphology in patients with Crohn's disease: a randomized controlled trialDig Dis Sci.(2012 Apr)
  9. Crohn's Disease Symptoms - Akobeng AK, Miller V, Thomas AG, Richmond KGlutamine supplementation and intestinal permeability in Crohn's diseaseJPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr.(2000 May-Jun)
  10. Crohn's Disease Symptoms - E Den Hond, M Hiele, M Peeters, Y Ghoos, P RutgeertsEffect of long-term oral glutamine supplements on small intestinal permeability in patients with Crohn's diseaseJPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr.(Jan-Feb 1999)
  11. Exercise Capacity (with Heart Conditions) - Khogali SE, Pringle SD, Weryk BV, Rennie MJIs glutamine beneficial in ischemic heart diseaseNutrition.(2002 Feb)
  12. Creatinine - Galera SC, Fechine FV, Teixeira MJ, Coelho ZC, de Vasconcelos RC, de Vasconcelos PRThe safety of oral use of L-glutamine in middle-aged and elderly individualsNutrition.(2010 Apr)
  13. Exercise Capacity (with Heart Conditions) - Marwood S, Jack S, Patel M, Walker P, Bowtell J, Calverley PNo effect of glutamine ingestion on indices of oxidative metabolism in stable COPDRespir Physiol Neurobiol.(2011 Jun 30)