Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in our bodies. It works to support many healthy functions, including:
- Making proteins for muscle tissue
- Fueling cells that protect our intestines
- Supporting immune system cells
- Helping to detoxify the liver of foreign substances
However, research suggests that supplementing with glutamine may offer some health benefits, and scientists continue to study the amino acid’s potential to prevent or treat certain conditions.
While our body makes the glutamine it needs to function, it may require more when stressed from injury or illness.
Many clinical studies show that glutamine helps ease the effects of cancer treatments, like muscle wasting, oral inflammation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Supplementation is also linked with shorter hospital stays and lower mortality rates for sick patients.
These findings are supported by research on glutamine’s health effects, including:
Immune System Support
Glutamine is the main fuel source for your body’s lymphocytes, white blood cells that fight infection and disease. But your blood’s glutamine levels decline when we’re sick or injured, reducing these immune cells’ ability to defend your body.
While there’s conflicting evidence on whether it boosts immunity in healthy people, studies show it can improve recovery times and reduce complications when you’re sick.
Intestinal Health Regulation
Glutamine’s immune system support is closely related to its activity in our intestines. The amino acid helps maintain your intestinal lining, ensuring your body absorbs the nutrients it needs — supporting good health and protecting against serious problems like leaky gut syndrome.
Our gut is the largest organ in the immune system, which is why some scientists believe that glutamine may support better immunity.
Muscle Recovery Assistance
Glutamine is necessary to maintain muscle protein. It first rose in popularity as a fitness supplement promoted for muscle gain and fat burn. Scientists continue to study these claims, and while studies don’t confirm any muscle-building effects, it may help reduce fatigue and improve exercise recovery.
Studies show when supplementing with glutamine, athletes had less muscle soreness and strength loss. It also may reduce muscle damage and exercise performance as well, but research into these effects is ongoing.
Because our bodies make glutamine and it’s found in many foods, it’s considered safe in normal amounts. However, there are some potential health risks, so talk to your doctor before adding a glutamine supplement to your diet.
Potential risks to consider before taking glutamine may include:
High intake over time may change how our bodies distribute and use amino acids, including glutamine itself. The long-term impact of this change is unknown, but it may raise the risk of health problems.
Dangerous Side Effects
While uncommon, high quantities of glutamine can cause some side effects that require a doctor’s attention, including blood in urine, changes in skin color, lower back pain, fast heartbeat, dizziness, or rash.
Mild Side Effects
Introducing a glutamine supplement to your diet may cause some mild side effects. The most common adverse effects include cough and changes in bowel movements.
Start with low doses to let your body adjust to the supplement, but talk to your doctor if discomfort is severe or doesn’t go away as you may have an allergy.
There isn’t enough evidence to confirm that glutamine is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Liver and Kidney Diseases
Amounts and Dosage
The amount and frequency of glutamine you take depends on the reason you are taking it. In general, clinical trials use doses of 5 to 45 grams per day for up to six weeks with no negative side effects.
Researchers estimate we consume about 3 to 6 grams daily in our diet. Because the long-term effects of high glutamine intake are unknown, supplement your dietary intake with low amounts as recommended by product instructions. But first, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for your health.