L-Glutamine Benefits, Plus Side Effects, Dosage, and Foods
In the world of supplements, there are some that most people are familiar with (looking at you, calcium) and others, like l-glutamine, which you may have heard of, but don’t have. somehow no idea what they are. L-glutamine benefits like immune health and healing sound pretty enticing, but what is it?
First, you should know that l-glutamine is the supplement form of glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in your body. “Amino acids are what people often call the building blocks of the body because they are components of proteins that the body uses to build muscle, bone and tissue,” says medical expert Stacie J. Stephenson. functional and author of Vibrant: a revolutionary program to energize you, Own your health and shine. Amino acids also contribute to a range of biochemical processes in your body, such as the functioning of your immune system, your brain and your digestion.
Most glutamine is stored in muscle, followed by the lungs where much of this amino acid is made, according to Mount Sinai. Glutamine is considered a non-essential amino acid because “our bodies naturally make it on their own,” says Keri Gans, RD, the author of The little diet change. Still, you can get glutamine from certain foods, including chicken, fish, cabbage, spinach, dairy products, tofu, lentils, beans, nuts and mushrooms, says Dana Ellis Hunnes , PhD, MPH, RD, adjunct assistant professor at UCLA. Fielding School of Public Health and author of Recipe for survival: what you can do to live a healthier and more eco-friendly life.
And, yes, you can take l-glutamine if you want an extra boost of this nutrient, especially if you have an illness that lowers its levels like injury, infection, and chronic stress. “In medical care settings, it is also used in patients who have burns – it helps burns heal faster,” says Hunnes. “We also use it in critically ill patients in intensive care because it has been shown to reduce complications.”
Interested in taking l-glutamine? Here’s what you need to know, including all the benefits you can get, potential risks, and how to choose the best l-glutamine supplement.
Meet the experts: Keri Gans, RD, is the author of The small change dieta book about the small adjustments in your life that will ultimately lead to lasting success.
Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, is an inpatient clinical dietitian at RR-UCLA Medical Center with over 10 years of experience and an adjunct assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
Stacie Stephenson is a doctor of chiropractic and expert in functional medicine.
What are the benefits of l-glutamine?
L-glutamine is used for a multitude of different reasons. These are the main advantages.
It can help wound healing.
That’s a big deal, and it’s one of the supplement’s “main benefits,” says Gans. How it works is a little complicated, but basically when you have an injury, a burn, or surgery, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol work against your body’s supply of glutamine.
Research has shown that adding glutamine to a feeding tube in traumatized and critically ill people reduces their risk of death. It has also been found to help severely burned people recover faster, according to a 2019 review in the journal Nutrition in clinical practice.
This may promote gut health.
L-glutamine may help support the gut microbiome and modulate inflammation, according to a 2021 review in Food science and human well-being. “It appears to help strengthen the intestinal wall, potentially helping with leaky gut and improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome,” Stephenson says.
It may support immune health.
Glutamine is considered the fuel of the immune system. While glucose is your body’s main source of energy, immune system cells like lymphocytes and neutrophils use glutamine at a similar or higher rate than glucose.
“Because of its powerful contribution to immune function, l-glutamine is a good supplement for anyone who is immunocompromised,” Stephenson says. “It is often recommended as part of a clinical nutritional supplementation program for immunocompromised individuals.”
It seems to help with severe weight loss.
There have been several studies of people living with HIV or AIDS who experienced significant weight loss as a result of their disease and who took l-glutamine (along with other nutrients like vitamins C and E). Research has shown that the supplement can help with weight gain and help the gut better absorb nutrients.
It can help with muscle recovery.
L-glutamine has been studied as a supplement for tired athletes. “He showed promise in terms of recovery and performance,” Stephenson said.
However, a 2019 review in the journal Clinical Nutrition concluded that glutamine supplementation had no impact on athletes’ immune health, athletic performance, or body composition. More research is needed to find out what glutamine can do in this area.
It can fight the effects of stress.
“If you’re under a lot of stress, including physical stress like injury, illness, or extreme physical labor and mental stress, your body may not be producing enough l-glutamine,” Stephenson says. “This in turn could impact your immunity, so it can be a valuable stress supplement – it could help you feel better able to cope with stress, and also help you avoid getting sick from stress. immunosuppressive effects of extreme stress.”
A 2020 Nutrients One study found that taking a glutamine supplement may even help protect against chronic stress-induced mild cognitive impairment. But it was conducted in mice, so more research is needed to see if it would do the same for humans.
Does l-glutamine cause side effects?
In general, l-glutamine is considered a “very safe” supplement, says Hunnes. However, she says, there is a risk of having the following side effects:
Keep in mind, according to Hunnes, people with liver disease should not use l-glutamine because it can lead to altered mental status in these patients. “Also, it is not recommended for people with bipolar disorder, people sensitive to MSG (monosodium glutamate) or who have seizure disorders – it may increase the risk of seizures,” she says.
The jury is still out on whether l-glutamine is safe for cancer patients. Although it may increase the effectiveness and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy treatments such as inflammation of the digestive tract and diarrhea in people with colon cancer, research has also shown that glutamine can stimulate tumor growth. Thus, cancer patients and those receiving chemotherapy should never add supplements without consulting their doctor first.
How Much L-Glutamine Should You Take?
The maximum suggested dose is 40 grams per day, according to Hunnes. This dose is “usually for people who have burns, trauma, or surgical recovery needs,” she adds.
You can find glutamine in the following foods.
- raw parsley
- Raw spinach
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt, ricotta cheese, and cottage cheese
How to choose an l-glutamine supplement?
Experts say l-glutamine really isn’t considered useful for healthy people. “It’s not dangerous on its own, but it didn’t show any particular benefit over healthy eating,” says Hunnes.
Still, if you think you could use it, Stephenson recommends looking for a supplement that lists “l-glutamine” instead of just “glutamine” to make sure you’re getting in the right shape. Remember: Supplements are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. “I always recommend using a trusted company that uses third-party verification for quality and purity control,” she says.
L-glutamine supplements come in the form of powders, capsules, tablets, or liquids. Be careful not to add l-glutamine powders to hot drinks as the heat destroys the amino acid. As always, consult your health care provider before starting any supplement to make sure it is safe and will not interact with any of your existing medications or supplements.
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, health and sex, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives near the beach, and hopes to one day own a teacup pig and a taco truck.