Know Your Nutrients: Glutamine

This is a new series of posts that will explore key nutrients that are required by our bodies to support our optimal health and wellbeing. Each nutrient will be described in terms of its role, highlighting various key benefits, including our potential for deficiency, dietary sources, and potential benefits for supplementation.

Glutamine is one of six amino acids that are classified as conditionally essential, which means their synthesis can be limited under specific conditions. It has many physiological important functions in the body including in various metabolic processes, glycogenesis (formation of glycogen), glutathione, neurotransmitters, and immune regulation1.

Kim and Kim (2017)2 underscore the importance of Glutamine by confirming that it is the most abundant amino acid in human blood, skeletal muscle, and the free amino acid pool. The two main roles of Glutamine that are of importance and warrant discussion relate to its role in our intestines and in supporting our immune system.

Main Roles

Maintaining the integrity of the cells that line our intestinal tract is very important as these cells undergo a high rate of turn over and any imbalances may lead to inflammation and intestinal disease3. Glutamine has been shown to influence a number of signalling pathways that regulate cell cycle regulation and proliferation to maintain homeostasis4. Restriction of Glutamine  has been suggest to impair protein synthesis and cell replication of intestinal cells, whilst the consumption of Glutamine-enriched diets has been proposed to significantly enhanced protein synthesis5,6. Glutamine has also shown to play an important role in tight junction efficiency which is essential for the entry of   nutrients, and water into the body7.

Glutamine influences a number of inflammatory signalling pathways8, with research suggesting that supplementation “could be one promising candidate for treating intestinal inflammatory disorders by inhibiting activation9. Immune function optimisation is in part moderated by Glutamine. It has been shown that changes in immune cell populations, reduced cytokine secretion and improved pro-and anti- inflammatory and cellular / humeral immunity balance are all influenced by Glutamine10.

The main dietary sources of Glutamine are animal proteins such as beef, pork, poultry, milk, yogurt, ricotta cheese and cottage cheese. Plant sources include raw spinach, raw parsley, and cabbage. Those at risk of suboptimal intakes include individuals not optimising for nutrient dense food choices, vegans and vegetarians with low dairy intake (or individuals performing chronic prolonged endurance exercise)11.

Supplementation of Glutamine is usually in the form of L-glutamine (powders, capsules, tablets, or liquids). Standard preparations are typically available in 500 mg tablets or capsules. However due to Glutamines essential role and chronic need within the body, larger doses would be efficacious. Healthy Origins have produced a premium powdered product (here) that easily allows for the regular supplementation of larger doses (5-gram bolus) that can be mixed with fluids (take with cold or room temperature foods or liquids; hot beverages / heat destroys glutamine) and consumed.

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This blog is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or nutritional advice or act as a substitute for seeking such advice from a qualified health professional. In order to make the blog series easier to read, I have used a conversational tone in many places with personal pronouns, such as “I” and “you.” This is meant only to make it more pleasant to read, and is not meant to imply that the information constitutes any form of advice, whether personal or general.

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