Health Benefits of L-Glutamine – Its Effects and Functions

Man WorkoutThere are incredible health benefits to using L-glutamine.  It is commonly used in powdery form by bodybuilders and those in the fitness industry.  Particularly, anyone looking to preserve muscle tissue or treat a leaky gut (IBS-Irritable bowel syndrome) can benefit immensely by supplementing the diet with this amino acid.

As you will see, this little-understood molecule is paramount to several functions in our body, especially as it pertains to the energy our body needs  for building muscle, fitness, and workout recovery. From nerves to muscles, from digestive issues to overall well-being, L-glutamine is essential for a healthy body.

What is L-Glutamine?

L-glutamine also called glutamine is a nonessential amino acid that is produced by the body and also found in the food we eat.  It’s nonessential because in ideal situations the body is equipped with the right machinery to produce a healthy amount of glutamine for its needs.

Our body uses glutamine in large amounts.  For this reason, many tag it as a conditionally essential amino acid. Conditional, in the fact that it becomes essential when the individual faces an infection or a disease condition.

Health Benefits of L-Glutamine

There are many health benefits of glutamine.  Here, we examine a few.

Proper functioning of the Nervous System

L-glutamine plays an important role in the proper functioning of the nervous system. In the brain L- glutamine is transformed to glutamic acid (amino acid) that satisfies all primary fuel needs of the essential nerve cells.

In addition, L- glutamine effectively absorbs the excess ammonia in the body. Why is that important? Because the accumulation of ammonia by the cells of the nervous system impairs concentration, memory and the ability to learn. According to scientists, the surplus ammonia often causes insomnia. Therefore taking L -glutamine allows a good night’s rest.

A Precursor for GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid)

L-Glutamine is an important precursor of GABA (molecule that helps transmit nerve impulses). GABA is known for its calming effect on the nervous system. It reflects sleep, but also the proper nerve reactions and good vision are also determined by the cell communication process provided by this molecule. L-glutamine, which significantly increases the levels of GABA in the brain, is commonly used in cases of overwork or overtraining and in cases of constant stress.

A Major Energy Source

L-glutamine, like glucose, is a major energy source used for the rapid growth of cells. In fact, every cell in our body needs more L -glutamine to increase its intake of energy and nutrients. L-glutamine is particularly important for the development of intestinal cells. It rapidly accelerates the healing of stomach ulcers and gives good results in the treatment of Crohn’s disease and the prevention of colitis.

Quick Recovery During and After Intense Physical Exertion

L- Glutamine promotes better recovery during physical exertion. It reconstructs the damaged muscle tissue, boosts energy during training and protects the immune system.

In some situations (stress, intensive and prolonged training) muscle’s L-glutamine reserves fall sharply. When the recovery time is short, a deficiency of L- glutamine arises. This condition, known as “overtraining syndrome” seriously affects athletic performance. It makes the body more vulnerable to infections and significantly decreases the positive results of the exercises. L-glutamine taken before training and two hours after strenuous exercise reduces muscle soreness and protects against infections.

Minimize Protein Loss

L-glutamine is also used to minimize the loss of proteins. In combination with N –Acetyl-cysteine, it promotes the production of glutathione (a potent cellular antioxidant). Glutathione plays a key role in the defense of our body against the damaging effects of free radicals.

L-Glutamine and IBS Treatment

Glutamine does have a role to play in maintaining proper barriers in the intestine. Tissues in the intestine use the amino acid as a fuel base to champion their numerous activities. Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a popular intestinal disorder. The symptoms include but not limited to:

  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Frequent diarrhea
  • General stomach upset
  • White mucus in stool etc.

If you experience these symptoms on regular bases then supplementing with L-glutamine might be beneficial.  Some studies show that glutamine deficiencies cause certain IBS conditions.

Deficiency in glutamine rarely occurs but in extreme cases of shock, trauma, infections, vigorous exercises, chemotherapy and stress can deplete your body of glutamine stores.

Food Sources of L-Glutamine

Although your body can produce glutamine, you can still take it in powder form as a supplement which is available in stores (prescription only).  Optionally, there are foods rich in the amino acids. These food sources include:

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Peas
  • Dairy products
  • beans
  • Cottage cheese
  • Broccoli rabe
  • Grass-fed beef

The recommendation amount is at least three servings of these foods rich in glutamine daily.

Effective Uses of Glutamine

Treating Burns: Administering glutamine intravenously can reduce the risk of infections, shorten hospital stays and rapidly improve the healing of people suffering from burns.

Action during illness: There is sufficient evidence showing that glutamine can help reduce the risk of intestinal bacteria leaving to infect other parts of the body during illness.

Treating weight loss in people suffering from HIV/AIDS: Doses of 40mg per day, given to HIV/AIDS patient has a positive impact in promoting absorption of food and weight gain.

Reduce soreness caused by chemotherapy treatments:  Most chemotherapy treatments for cancer patients’ results in acute soreness in the mouth region.  There is some scientific evidence that glutamine can help reduce the soreness from the aftermath of chemotherapy treatments.

Side Effects of using L-Glutamine supplements in the diet

In Children: Enough information isn’t available on the safety of increased dose administration on children between the ages of 3-18 years. However, the recommended dosage for kids is 0.7 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Breast Feeding and Pregnant Mums: For this group, it’s advisable that they stay away from it allowing the body’s natural production lead the way.

Cirrhosis: Glutamine has the potential of making the condition of cirrhosis worst. Avoid it at all cost if you are suffering from this condition.

L-Glutamine Interactions

1.) Lactulose is a compound that helps reduce the concentrations of ammonia on the body system. While the body changes glutamine into ammonia, taking both together might hinder lactulose effectiveness.

2.) There are some medications for cancer treatment that won’t work well with glutamine supplements. Studies into the interactions are few, only speculative assumptions exist.

3.) Medications used to prevent seizures often act by interacting with chemicals in the brain. Glutamine also acts on chemicals in the brain. Taking both can be counterproductive.

Final Thoughts

Making glutamine a part of your daily diet is a wise decision to make particularly if you are looking to increase athletic performance or build muscles.  If you make it your go-to supplement it won’t be long till you start to feel a positive difference in overall health.

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