Glutamine Benefits and Food Sources

The version of glutamine found in supplements and in food is known as L-glutamine. It is vital in creating protein. On the other hand, D-glutamine serves no purpose for other living organisms.

pieces of corns in a pot

Amino acids are one of the primary and important blocks that build protein. There are around 21 amino acids needed by the body, and one of them is glutamine. So, what exactly does this amino acid do in the body? Plus, what are the glutamine benefits and sources? Learn this and more below.

What is Glutamine?

As mentioned above, glutamine is one of the 21 amino acids. It exists in two forms, namely D-glutamine and L-glutamine. While these two are almost alike, they have a different arrangement of molecules.

The version of glutamine found in supplements and in food is known as L-glutamine. It is vital in creating protein. On the other hand, D-glutamine serves no purpose for other living organisms. However, it is essential in the human body as it is present in bodily fluids including blood. 


1. Reduces Reactions Associated with Food Sensitivity

IgA fights viruses and harmful bacteria to prevent an infection. sIgA or secretory IgA is the antibody that is in charge of regulating the mucosal membranes in the intestines, urinary, reproductive, and respiratory tract. sIgA responses that are poorly controlled are usually linked to food allergies and sensitivities. However, glutamine may help with poorly regulated sIgA responses.

In a study conducted back in 2004, it showed that the amino acid helped regulate the IgA immune response. It regulates and modulates sIgA which results in a strong immune system and a reduction in food sensitivity responses.

Further studies published in Clinical Immunology showed the effectiveness of glutamine in normalizing TH2 and TH1 immune response. Glutamine promotes an anti-inflammatory environment and reduces inflammatory activity.

2. Improves Function of the Small Intestine

The amino acid regulates the absorption of water in cells located in the junction in the middle of the bloodstream and the small intestine. This is vital in keeping one’s body well-hydrated because water that is not absorbed back in the body results in diarrhea. Studies have shown that glutamine reduces the severity and frequency of diarrhea.

Moreover, this amino acid plays an integral part in the systematic and cellular process of detoxification. It is an energy source of the lymphatic cells which results in a better means of removing toxic debris from the tissues. Lastly, glutamine serves as a transport molecule that carries ammonia from the major tissues to the liver where it is converted into urea. 

3. Improves Function of the Nervous System

Glutamine is crucial in the healthy functioning of the nervous system. It has shown promise in improving memory, concentration, and mood. The amino acid crosses the blood-brain barrier. Here, it is converted to L-glutamic acid which is vital for cerebral function.

Apart from improving neurological function, glutamine plays a role in the digestive system as well. It serves as the prime source of nutrition for cells in the lining of the intestine. Moreover, it helps control cellular reproduction.

Natural Sources

The amino acid is naturally occurring in food such as animal products. Animal produce, like seafood, poultry, fish, and meat, offers the highest and most potent concentration of amino acids, including glutamine. With regard to the amount of glutamine in food sources, the list below provides pertinent details.

  • Beef: contains 4.8 percent of glutamine
  • Corn: offers 16.2 percent of the amino acid
  • Eggs: contains 4.4 percent
  • Skimmed Milk: contains 8.1 percent
  • White Rice: offers 11.1 percent
  • Tofu: provides 9.1 percent

Dairy products which include cheese, milk, and yogurt are also good sources of this amino acid. In vegetables, soybeans offer the richest quality of glutamine, along with beans, peas, and dried lentils. 

Other sources include whole grains, wheat germ, oat, and brown rice. Sunflower seeds, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are also excellent sources of glutamine.

Supplemental Glutamine

If natural sources are not enough, then supplemental glutamine is given, particularly to individuals who are recovering from a surgery, a traumatic injury, or a critical illness. It is also usually prescribed for cancer patients and endurance athletes.

Glutamine is available in powder or tablet form. The oral powder must be consumed with a snack or a meal. The prescribed dose can also be mixed in approximately 8 ounces of cold or hot liquid. Soft food like yogurt, applesauce, or pudding may also be used. Take note, however, that the mixture should be consumed at once.

As for the tablet form of the supplement, it must be taken on an empty stomach, preferably one to two hours prior to a meal.


As stated by the NYU Langone Medical Center, the average diet provides approximately one to six grams of glutamine daily. However, this amount may vary depending on a person’s food preference. According to studies, doses of glutamine supplements range from as little as 5 grams in a day to as high as 45 grams daily for a six-week duration. On the other hand, short-term doses of the supplement are at 14 grams daily.

If you do decide to take supplemental glutamine, then the recommended dose is 5 grams daily. Take note, however, that you must first inform your doctor about taking this amino acid supplement, especially if you have other prescription medications or a medical condition such as liver or kidney disease.

The supplement has yet to be studied with regard to its safety for pregnant and breastfeeding women. If you are pregnant or lactating, then it is best to avoid taking this supplement and speak with your doctor first.

Side Effects

As with other supplements, this amino acid is likely to cause an adverse reaction. Some users have manifested the following side effects.

  • Stomach Pain
  • Gas
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Swelling of the Feet or Hands
  • Back Pain
  • Joint or Muscle Pain
  • General Malaise
  • Itching or Mild Skin Rash
  • Increased Sweating
  • Dry Mouth
  • Runny Nose

Glutamine supplements could also trigger an allergic reaction. Immediately discontinue taking the supplement and get medical aid if you experience the following signs.

  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Hives
  • Swelling of Throat, Tongue, Lips, or Face
  • Chest Pain
  • Unusual Weakness
  • Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Mouth Sores
glutamine benefits and natural sources

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *