Note: I am neither a dietitian nor a doctor. I do not dispense medical advice nor do I offer any information on treatments nor cures for any medical condition. Always consult a physician before proceeding with any treatment. Our full disclaimer is at the bottom of this page.
L-Glutamine shows great promise in scientific research for healing your gut. It was one leg of my ‘trinity,’ along with digestive enzymes and pascalite clay that formed the basis of the supplements I used to heal my gut. The other critical factor was massive doses of probiotics via food.
Glutamine is an amino acid that includes synthesizing protein and providing energy among its duties in the body. Multiple studies have shown it speeds healing and reduces healing time after intestinal surgery (another study). It specifically targets healing intestinal permeability and healing/preventing infection. It is being studied for its ability to help cancer patients heal from both the cancer itself and the side effects of conventional cancer treatment. It also benefits the kidneys, but should be avoided if you have Reyes Syndrome, kidney problems or cirrhosis of the liver. Some medical professionals recommend not supplementing with glutamine if you have any liver problems.
You do get glutamine in the diet from meat, eggs, dairy and some vegetables. It is not related to gluten. It is the most abundant amino acid in your circulation. It concentrates in the gut lining as well as other organs such as the brain. In the brain, the concentration of glutamine is at least ten times higher than in your blood. Some studies on rats suggest a deficiency might cause or contribute to some brain-related illnesses.
Glutamine is the main source for energy in your gut lining. About 30% of the glutamine in your circulation goes to the gut lining. It helps to maintain the Secretory IgA lining in your gut. Multiple studies have shown that glutamine heals impaired gut mucosa and returns the intestinal permeability to normal.
Glutamine is also important to deal with some of the muscular effects that can come from a long-term digestive (or other) disease, as in seen with people who deal with muscle wasting. It is also used by the liver to create glutathione, a critical antioxidant.
In order to use the glutamine in your system, you must have B6 and manganese as well as some other vitamins and minerals to process it. It should be taken with P-5-P (a form of B6) in order for the body to be able to use it most effectively. Doses in these studies varied up to 30 grams for an adult per day post-surgery. Studies have shown a variety of dosages. I recommend you contact your health care practitioner to determine if you should take glutamine and the dose that is right for you.
Google Scholar has many studies related to glutamine. Glutamine and intestinal permeability. Glutamine and injury and infection. Glutamine and cancer.
Fan YP, Yu JC, Kang WM, Zhang Q. Effects of glutamine supplementation on patients undergoing abdominal surgery. Chin Med Sci J. 2009 Mar;24(1):55-9.
Field CJ, Johnson IR, Schley PD. Nutrients and their role in host resistance to infection. J Leukoc Biol. 2002 Jan;71(1):16-32.
Furukawa S. Saito H, Inoue T, et al. Supplemental glutamine augments phagocytosis and reactive oxygen intermediate production by neutrophils and monocytes from postoperative patients in vitro. Nutrition. 2000;1695):323-329.
Neu J, DeMarco V, Li N. Glutamine: clinical applications and mechanism of action. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2002;5(1):69-75.
Reeds PJ, Burrin DG. Glutamine and the bowel. J Nutr. 2001;131(9 Suppl):2505S-8S.
Valencia E, Marin A, Hardy G. Impact of oral L-glutamine on glutathione, glutamine, and glutamate blood levels in volunteers. Nutrition. 2002 May; 18(5): 367–370.
Van der Hulst R.R.W.J., Van Kreel B.K., Von Meyenfeldt M.F., Brummer R.-J.M., Arends J.-W., Deutz N.E.P., Soeters P.B. Glutamine and the preservation of gut integrity. Lancet. 1993;341(8857): 1363-1365.
van Stijn MF, Ligthart-Melis GC, Boelens PG, Scheffer PG, Teerlink T, et al. Antioxidant enriched enteral nutrition and oxidative stress after major gastrointestinal tract surgery. World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Dec 7;14(45):6960-9.
Wilmore DW. The effect of glutamine supplementation in patients following elective surgery and accidental injury. [Review]. J Nutr. 2001;131(9 Suppl):2543S-9S; discussion 2550S-1S.
Ziegler TR. Glutamine supplementation in cancer patients receiving bone marrow transplantation and high dose chemotherapy. [Review]. J Nutr. 2001;131(9 Suppl):2578S-84S; discussion 2590S.
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How long did you have to take supplements for in order to see progress and for complete healing? Thanks!
Write On, Jana! says
I didn’t realize you had written on this topic, but I sincerely appreciate your thorough research. I started supplementing about 3 days ago after my own independent research showed there are really no side effects to trying it (I have no liver problems). I am hoping for some relief!
Hi: I was wondering if you could bake or cook with L-Glutamine. I have been using Jarrow formulas Pharmaceutical Grade L-Glutemine for a couple years now for Gut issues and I have been below normal in amino acid test in this particular amino acid Anyway, I was making a chocolate cake yesturday, and decided to us 1/4 cup of Jarrow’s L-GLutemine to replace starch in a recipe that I have. Jarrow’s brand is so nice a light and airy like starch that I thought it would work in replaceing starch. Well it did and fantastic job and I would love to do it again, but I want to know if that is safe to do. One time is no big deal, so before I get on the kick of replacing starches with L-GLutamine, I want to make sure it is safe to do. Thank you for your help. Sincerely, Cathi G.
Cathi, I’ve never tried cooking with L-Glutamine. The one I use tastes a bit like skunk to me, so I’ve never thought about doing it before.