Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Glutamine is produced in the muscles and is distributed by the blood to the organs that need it. Glutamine might help gut function, the immune system, and other essential processes in the body, especially in times of stress. It is also important for providing "fuel" (nitrogen and carbon) to many different cells in the body. Glutamine is needed to make other chemicals in the body such as other amino acids and glucose (sugar).
Supporting research & information
Glutamine is an amino acid (a building block for proteins), found naturally in the body.
An amide of glutamic acid, one of the nonessential amino acids; it is an important carrier of urinary ammonia and is broken down in the kidney by the enzyme glutaminase.
Glutamine is used to counter some of the side effects of medical treatments. For example, it is used for side effects of cancer chemotherapy including diarrhea, pain and swelling inside the mouth (mucositis), nerve pain (neuropathy), and muscle and joint pains caused by the cancer drug Taxol. Glutamine is also used to protect the immune system and digestive system in people undergoing radio chemotherapy for cancer of the esophagus. Additionally, glutamine is used for improving recovery after bone marrow transplant or bowel surgery, increasing well-being in people who have suffered traumatic injuries, and preventing infections in critically ill people.
Some people use glutamine for digestive system conditions such as stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease. It is also used for depression, moodiness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and enhancing exercise performance.
People who have HIV (AIDS) sometimes use glutamine to prevent weight loss (HIV wasting).
Glutamine is also used for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a urinary condition called cystinuria, sickle cell anemia, and for alcohol withdrawal support.
Glutamine powder can be ordered through most wholesale drug suppliers. Glutamine for commercial use is made by a fermentation process using bacteria that produce glutamine.
How does it work?
After surgery or traumatic injury, nitrogen is necessary to repair the wounds and keep the vital organs functioning. About one third of this nitrogen comes from glutamine.
If the body uses more glutamine than the muscles can make (i.e., during times of stress), muscle wasting can occur. This can occur in people with HIV/AIDS. Taking glutamine supplements might keep the glutamine stores up.
Some types of chemotherapy can reduce the levels of glutamine in the body. Glutamine treatment is thought to help prevent chemotherapy-related damage by maintaining the life of the affected tissues.
Glutamine is a critical amino acid and the most abundant in the body. Although it’s more commonly known as a bodybuilding supplement, studies don’t quite support its efficacy for muscle building. Rather, it helps prevent leaky gut, boosts immune function, and prevents muscle wasting in sick people.
Glutamine is an amino acid used as:
A building block for body proteins
Fuel for cells that line the gut
Fuel for immune cells, such as macrophages
Maintaining nitrogen balance
Preventing the burning of other amino acids for energy
It is also the most abundant amino acid in the body, suggesting that it is very important [R].
The naturally occurring form and the form that our body uses is L-glutamine.
Glutamine is not an essential amino acid, but it is considered to be conditionally essential. Usually, glutamine is produced in sufficient amounts in the body. However, in some cases of stress, inflammation, and injuries, some bodily functions use so much glutamine that it becomes necessary to obtain it from the diet or supplements [R, R].
Skeletal muscle accounts for 70% of all glutamine production in the body [R].
The main organs that use glutamine are skeletal muscle, kidneys, liver, and small intestine [R].
Glutamine is a critical amino acid for the immune system and for keeping the nitrogen levels in your body in check. Moreover, glutamine makes up to 60% of the free amino acids in the bones, making it a good supplement for body builders and gym enthusiasts [R].
Glutamine Protects Against Stress
Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are a group of proteins that are released in response to cellular stress and help protect other proteins from being damaged or restructure already damaged proteins. They are an integral part of the stress response and are found in nearly every organism.
Animal models of stress have shown that glutamine supplementation increased levels of key heat shock proteins in multiple studies [R, R, R].
In trauma patients, increased HSP-70 levels are associated with reduced death rates [R].
In a study (DB-RCT) of 29 critically ill patients, glutamine supplementation increased HSP-70 levels 3.7-fold from baseline [R].
Moreover, the magnitude of HSP-70 increase was correlated to a decrease in ICU length of stay.
Possibly Effective for:
Burns. Administering glutamine through a feeding tube or intravenously (by IV) seems to reduce infections, shorten hospital stays, and improve wound healing in people with burns.
Critical illness (trauma). There is some evidence that glutamine keeps bacteria from moving out of the intestine and infecting other parts of the body after major injuries. However, not all evidence is consistent. It is not clear if glutamine reduces the risk of death in critically ill people. Some studies suggest that it might reduce the risk of death, while others do not.
Treating weight loss and intestinal problems in people with HIV/AIDs disease. Taking glutamine by mouth seems to help HIV/AIDS patients absorb food better and gain weight. Doses of 40 grams per day seem to produce the best effect.
Soreness and swelling inside the mouth, caused by chemotherapy treatments. Some evidence suggests that glutamine reduces soreness and swelling inside the mouth caused by chemotherapy. However, glutamine does not seem to have this effect for all chemotherapy patients. It is not clear which patients are likely to benefit. Some researchers suspect that chemotherapy patients who do not have enough glutamine to start with are most likely to be helped.
Surgery. Giving glutamine intravenously (by IV) along with intravenous nutrition seems to improve immune function and reduce complications related to infections after major surgery. Also, giving glutamine intravenously (by IV) along with intravenous nutrition after a bone marrow transplant seems to reduce the risk of infection and improve recovery compared to intravenous nutrition alone. However, not all people who undergo major surgery or who receive bone marrow transplants seem to benefit from glutamine.
Possibly Ineffective for:
Athletic performance. Taking glutamine by mouth does not seem to improve athletic performance.
Crohn's disease. Taking glutamine by mouth does not seem to improve symptoms of Crohn's disease.
Inherited disease that causes stones in the kidneys or bladder (Cystinuria). Taking glutamine by mouth does not seem to improve an inherited condition that causes stones to form in the kidneys or bladder.
Muscular dystrophy. Research shows that taking glutamine by mouth does not improve muscle strength in children with muscular dystrophy.
Insufficient Evidence for:
Diarrhea caused by drugs used to treat HIV. Early research shows that taking glutamine by mouth reduces the severity of diarrhea in people with HIV who are taking the drug nelfinavir.
Diarrhea caused by chemotherapy treatments. There is some evidence that glutamine might help to prevent diarrhea after chemotherapy, but not all research findings agree.
Reducing damage to the immune system during cancer treatment. There is some evidence that glutamine reduces damage to the immune system caused by chemotherapy. However, not all research findings agree.
Diarrhea. There are inconsistent findings about the effects of glutamine when used to treat diarrhea in children and infants. One early study suggests that taking glutamine by mouth reduces the duration of diarrhea in children. However, taking glutamine by mouth along with conventional rehydration solutions does not appear to have an advantage over rehydration solutions alone.
Low birth weight. There are inconsistent findings about the effects of glutamine in infants with low to very low birth weight. Some research suggests that using glutamine in feeding tubes decreases infections in some low birth weight infants. However, most research suggests that it does not benefit low birth weight infants.
Muscle and joint pains caused by the drug paclitaxel (Taxol, used to treat cancer). There is some evidence that glutamine might help to reduce muscle and joint pains caused by paclitaxel.
Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). An early study shows that giving glutamine intravenously (by IV) along with intravenous nutrition improves immune function but does not reduce the risk for complications or the amount of time spent in the hospital in people with pancreatitis.
Nutrition problems after major gut surgery (short bowel syndrome). Researchers have studied whether glutamine combined with growth hormone is effective in treating short bowel syndrome. This combination seems to help some patients become less dependent on tube feeding. However, glutamine alone does not seem to be effective.
Glutamine is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth in doses up to 40 grams daily, and when used intravenously (by IV) in doses up to 600 milligrams per kilogram of weight daily.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Children: Glutamine is POSSBILY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately. Children aged 3 to 18 years should not be given doses that are larger than 0.7 grams per kg of weight daily. Not enough information is known about the safety of higher doses in children.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of glutamine during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Cirrhosis: Glutamine could make this condition worse. People with this condition should avoid glutamine supplements.
Severe liver disease with difficulty thinking or confusion (hepatic encephalopathy): Glutamine could make this condition worse. Do not use it.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) sensitivity (also known as "Chinese restaurant syndrome"): If you are sensitive to MSG, you might also be sensitive to glutamine, because the body converts glutamine to glutamate.
Mania, a mental disorder: Glutamine might cause some mental changes in people with mania. Avoid use.
Seizures: There is some concern that glutamine might increase the likelihood of seizures in some people. Avoid use.
Interactions with other drugs and medications:
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination:
Lactulose interacts with GLUTAMINE
Lactulose helps decrease ammonia in the body. Glutamine is changed into ammonia in the body. Taking glutamine along with lactulose might decrease the effectiveness of lactulose.
Medications for cancer (Chemotherapy) interacts with GLUTAMINE
There is some concern that glutamine might decrease the effectiveness of some medications for cancer. But it is too soon to know if this interaction occurs.
Medications used to prevent seizures (Anticonvulsants) interact with GLUTAMINE Medications used to prevent seizures affect chemicals in the brain. Glutamine may also affect chemicals in the brain. By affecting chemicals in the brain, glutamine may decrease the effectiveness of medications used to prevent seizures.
Some medications used to prevent seizures include phenobarbital, primidone (Mysoline), valproic acid (Depakene), gabapentin (Neurontin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenytoin (Dilantin), and others.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
For reducing mouth soreness due to chemotherapy: glutamine suspension 4 grams, swish and swallow every four hours around the clock starting with the first dose of chemotherapy and continued until hospital discharge or resolution of symptoms.
For HIV wasting: 8-40 grams per day has been used. However, 40 grams daily may work best.