"Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well;...
and not today's pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man."
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Lisa's Blog

What is glutamine and why is it beneficial

Lisa Cutforth - Friday, May 10, 2013

L-Glutamine is an amino acid and actually a pretty abundant one, it is used extensively by the body and readily available in the diet.  But time and time again I read about it's health merits and so I thought it was high time I did a blog post on the benefits of glutamine (L-glutamine)! 

Glutamine is most commonly known for or associated with "body building" and supplementation.  However, glutamine is much more relevant than that.  It is a key player in many important body roles and functions.

Despite being so abundant and accessible, in certain cases glutamine can become depleted from muscle stores and can become conditionally essential (which means we can no longer make it, we need to get it from our diet). It is relatively easy to get glutamine from your diet but in special cases I have often recommended the supplement in clinical practice for my clients.  For example clients with leaky gut or candida overgrowth, because of glutamine's role in gut repair.  I have also used it with my elite sports clients for it's role in increasing stamina and performance.  Glutamine is used by the muscles during exercise so replenishing it afterwards can help with muscle fatigue and muscle repair (and therefore muscle growth).

I was interested to read in a recent article in the Yonsei Medical Journal published on the National Centre for Biotechnology Information website that....

"Dietary supplementation with nutrients enhancing immune function is beneficial in patients with surgical and critical illness. Malnutrition and immune dysfunction are common features in hospitalized patients. Specific nutrients with immunological and pharmacological effects, when consumed in amounts above the daily requirement, are referred to as immune-enhancing nutrients or immunonutrients. Supplementation of immunonutrients is important especially for patients with immunodeficiency, virus or overwhelming infections accompanied by a state of malnutrition. Representative immunonutrients are arginine, omega-3 fatty acids, glutamine, nucleotides, beta-carotene, and/or branched-chain amino acids.  Even though immunonutrition has not been widely assimilated by clinicians other than nutritionists, immunonutrients including glutamine may exert beneficial influence on diverse patient populations.  In general, glutamine supplementation reduces the rate of infection, inflammation, length of hospital stay, and mortality, and improves gut barrier function and immune function, especially cell-mediated immunity in critically ill patients."

The research does caution that inappropriate use of immunonutrients may be potentially harmful, but certainly immunonutrition if used in close communication and information between clinicians and nutrition specialists could potentially be very effective, even life saving.  (In terms of safe supplementation, always do so under guidance by a nutrition specialist, but typically up to as much as 10mg orally has been found to be safe, however intravenous delivery has sometimes been reported to have negative effects on the liver.)

You can of course get L-Glutamine from your diet. Foods that are naturally rich in glutamine include: meat (like chicken and eggs), dairy (like yoghurt and ricotta cheese), vegetables (like spinach, cabbage and parsley, preferably raw forms). (Extra tip: If you are after optimal health always choose organic animal products.)

Source: Glutamine as an immunonutrient, HyeYoung Kim.Yonsei Med J. 2011 November 1; 52(6): 892–897. Published online 2011, October 20, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3220259/

 

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