After many blood tests, sonars and X-rays of my slightly swollen left foot, I’ve recently…
L-glutamine (or simply glutamine) is one of the biggest buzzwords in the health field today.
Those in the sports world are well-acquainted with this supplement—from sports nutrition to weight loss to bodybuilding. But it’s becoming popular even for those of us who aren’t into competitive sports.
So what exactly is so exciting about L-Glutamine?
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in our bodies and performs several important functions. L-Glutamine is one of the most important nutrients for a healthy digestive tract because of its ability to maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall. This amino acid heals all tissue in the body, especially those irritated tissues in the digestive tract. It is also known as the calming amino acid since it’s very effective at reducing anxiety, as well as sugar and alcohol cravings.
Glutamine is an energy source for intestinal and immune cells. It also helps maintain the barrier between the intestines and the rest of your body and aids with proper growth of intestinal cells.
Although glutamine is traditionally classified as a ‘non-essential’ amino acid, it is essential for maintaining intestinal function, immune response, and amino acid homeostasis during times of severe stress. All its functions actually suggest that it’s more appropriately called a ‘conditionally essential’ amino acid.
7 Health Benefits of L-Glutamine include:
1. Digestive Health
Glutamine is well-known for its use in digestive health, particularly with leaky gut.
It’s an essential nutrient for repairing the gut wall and it helps reduce new damage. It also promotes regular bowel movements and increases mucous production which further protects the gut lining. L-Glutamine benefits the tissue of the small intestine causing the villi (hair-like projections that line the entire length of your small intestine) to grow which enhances nutrient absorption.
2. Immune System
Studies have shown that glutamine boosts the immune system by enhancing the production of white blood cells. In fact, the rate of glutamine consumption by immune cells is similar to or greater than glucose. As such, glutamine is considered the “fuel for the immune system.”
Our immune cells largely depend on glutamine availability to survive, multiply, function, and, ultimately, defend our body against pathogens.
3. Reduces Sugar Cravings and Promotes Weight Loss
Glutamine helps reduce sugar cravings, thanks to its ability to rapidly convert to glucose which shuts down the craving signal from the brain. It also helps to maintain the balance of serotonin which, in addition to regulating mood, also influences appetite signals.
Glutamine can help promote weight loss, as it improves insulin sensitivity, allowing the cells of your body to use blood glucose more effectively and may make your fat cells less likely to store fat.
4. Sports Nutrition
Another reason glutamine is so popular with fitness fanatics is that it helps decrease muscle soreness after exercise. It also decreases muscle damage, as it stimulates the synthesis of the potent antioxidant, glutathione, which helps prevent free radical damage.
Glutamine has the ability to elevate plasma growth hormone, which plays a crucial role in the metabolism of fat and muscle. It is also associated with the prevention of ammonia accumulation, which can occur in the blood and brain during exercise and cause fatigue.
5. Improved Brain Function
L-glutamine’s major role in the brain is that of a precursor of the neurotransmitter amino acids: the excitatory amino acids glutamate and aspartate, and the inhibitory amino acid GABA. It is also a vital source of energy for the nervous system.
If the brain is not receiving enough glucose, it compensates by increasing glutamine metabolism for energy. This is why you may have heard of glutamine’s use as “brain food” and as an effective “pick me up.”
6. Supports the Heart
Glutamine plays a fundamental role in cardiovascular function and is an important energy source for the heart. By playing a role in the synthesis of DNA, ATP, proteins, and lipids, glutamine drives critical processes in vascular cells including proliferation and apoptosis.
Glutamine is also essential for the synthesis of a special type of beta-endorphin called glycyl-l-glutamine, which is a very important compound when it comes to regulating blood pressure and preventing cardio-respiratory insufficiency. Glutamine mitigates numerous risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, glucose intolerance, obesity, and diabetes.
7. Use in Cancer
While the jury is still out on the effectiveness of glutamine supplementation in cancer patients, it does appear to offer some benefits. In a systematic review, it was reported that in 11 of 15 studies, oral glutamine supplementation significantly reduced the grade of mucositis—the breakdown of the mucosal barrier which is a common adverse event in patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy and radiation.
Glutamine treatment may also help reduce the side effects induced by chemotherapy, such as intestinal permeability, diarrhea, and gut mucositis and improved nutrient absorption.
What are the signs that you need more L-Glutamine?
L-glutamine levels my dip due to severe illness, anxiety, sugar or alcohol cravings, strenuous exercise, flesh wounds, or ageing. Also, when you’re under a lot of stress, glutamine is depleted from your bloodstream faster than it can be produced in muscle and other tissues.
Some signs of depletion to look out for include: muscle wasting, poor immunity, bowel changes in frequency, depleted energy levels and fatigue, and mental acuity disorders.
Glutamine that is produced in your body will not meet your body’s demands in catabolic conditions, such as cancer, sepsis, infections, surgeries, traumas as well as during intense and prolonged physical exercise.
Plant-Based Sources of Glutamine
Some of the best plant sources of glutamine include: soybeans, kidney beans, lentils, peas, red cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, dark leafy greens, beetroot and fresh parsley.