An important amino acid, glutamine is essential for the immune system and intestinal health.
Amino acids are special molecules that have several functions in the body, but their main job is to act as a building block for proteins. Of all the amino acids founds in the body, glutamine is the most abundant.
There are two different forms of glutamine: L-glutamine and D-glutamine. L-glutamine is most commonly found in foods and supplements and is generically referred to as simply glutamine.
Your body produces glutamine naturally in your muscles from where it is distributed by the blood to your organs.
As glutamine is a necessary component of protein, it can be found in a variety of protein-rich foods both from animal products and vegetables. The highest concentrations of glutamine can be found in the following:
Glutamine’s role in supporting a health immune system stems from it being an essential source of fuel for white blood cells.
Blood levels of glutamine can decrease when the body is stressed, such as following prolonged athletic activity, major injury or surgery. When the body needs more glutamine than it can produce, it begins to break down muscle to release more amino acids. This can have a cascading effect that makes it difficult for the body to heal without supplementing with additional glutamine.
For this reason, glutamine is given in a medical setting to help people recover from a wide range of conditions, including injuries, burns, bone marrow transplantation, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Several studies have shown that glutamine supplements can improve health and decrease infections. Animal studies have further shown that glutamine supplements may help the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses.
Glutamine is widely used as a supplement in sports nutrition because of its role in supporting tissue health, energy production and reducing fatigue.
One systematic review examined 55 studies and found that glutamine supplementation reduces the amount of toxin accumulation induced by exercise and leads to a reduction in fatigue for athletes that practice prolonged exercises (e.g. running a marathon).
For improved bioavailability—the amount of the amino acid available to the body—glutamine is also available intravenously in infusions targeting immune health, athletic recovery, or as a booster for IV Vitamin Therapy.