Glutamine health benefits

Glutamine was classified as a non-essential amino acid for many years because it can be synthesized by the body. However, scientists have recently changed their minds on this and have now classified it as a conditionally essential amino acid. That is because they have discovered that while the body can make it’s own glutamine, there are times that the need for this amino acid exceeds that of the body’s ability to produce it.

Bodybuilders have long known that supplementing their glutamine helps them during times of extreme physical stress, such as intense workouts and when trying to build muscle and strength quickly. Now, however, it is being realized that glutamine health benefits can be noted in many other cases such as when treating diseases such as arthritis, intestinal disorders and immune disorders.

Glutamine makes up more than 60% of the skeletal muscle tissue and is, in fact, the amino acid found in the most abundance within the body. The substance is involved in many of the necessary, daily metabolic processes. It is converted into glucose to be used as energy as well as helping to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Glutamine is very important to immune function and healthy white blood cells. It also acts as a protective substance for the liver, intestinal walls and even the lining of the stomach.

Athletes that train intensely and perform just as intensely often find themselves with a depletion of glutamine and so supplements can help them maintain performance levels as well as protecting them from infection. Other circumstances that can deplete glutamine levels include chemotherapy, autoimmune diseases like HIV and inflammatory liver diseases. In cases like this, dietary sources are often not enough and these people can benefit by glutamine supplements.

Glutamine research has shown promise in the treatment of many neurological disorders and mental illnesses, as well. This is thought to be because it passes through the blood-brain barrier so readily and is converted into yet another amino acid which promotes brain function – glutamic acid. Studies have shown success in helping with the treatment of epilepsy, senility, depression and even schizophrenia.

This necessary amino acid also promotes normal cell growth and division throughout the entire body which may help the immune system particularly with diseases such as HIV, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. It has been found to be helpful in recovery from surgery or serious injuries, as well, because the body rushes up to 30% of the body’s supply of the nutrient to the affected area. Supplements have been beneficial in those cases to maintain good muscle health during recovery.

Glutamine can be found naturally in many food sources. Very good dietary sources include high protein foods such as beef, poultry and dairy products as well as plant sources such as cabbage, parsley and spinach. The problem with using strictly dietary sources is that most of us eat all those foods cooked and not raw. Unfortunately, glutamine is easily destroyed in the cooking process. A supplement is a good solution if you are in a category where you could deplete your body’s resources easily – bodybuilders, those with immune disorders and cancer patients, in particular.

Normally healthy people will generally not need to supplement their diet in order to have enough glutamine since the body will create it’s own supply. However, if you have any of the health issues mentioned or are participating in any bodybuilding or intense regular athletics, then you would likely find some benefit from a glutamine supplement. The only people who should not try supplementation are those with liver disease, kidney disease or those who have a sensitivity to MSG (as glutamine creates glutamate – the G in MSG).

Last updated on Feb 8th, 2010 and filed under Nutritional Information. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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