As the video says, glutamine is the most abundant protein in the body. It is used for tissue repair, it helps brain function both as a food and as a crave-buster, it supports the immune system and it is important after a workout to help correct acid/alkali imbalance. Although it is abundant, the stress we put ourselves through can rapidly lower it. Glutamine is best taken in powder form with either water, double cream or as part of a post-workout shake. So lets look at this protein in a little more detail.
There is plenty of glutamine in animal protein and it is found in abundance in the muscles. Glutamine is essential for the normal functioning of the lymphocytes and macrophages in the immune system. These are explained in the blog why we feel awful when we have a cold. The muscles seem to be the supply. 1 So when the body comes under stress it draws on its supplies of glutamine and it has been found that in the critically ill, when injected or given intravenously, glutamine reduces complications, lowers mortality rates and reduces length of hospital stay. 2 3 Its greatest loss comes with severe burns. For those of us not critically ill, glutamine levels still drop when we get cold or after an intensive training session, be it weights or an endurance event. So supplementing with Glutamine will boost the depleted immune system and help prevent catching a cold. It is also a vital supplement if protein intake is low or of vegetarian origin – ie low.
Glutamine is taken up by the gut walls and is their main source of food, so supplementing with glutamine really helps heal guts ravaged by IBS, chrons disease, excessive gluten exposure etc. It is good to take it with a high quality aloe vera as well.
The brain’s main source of fuel is thought of as glucose, but in fact glutamine is too. So if we feel very hungry and are desperate for a biscuity pick-me-up, then taking glutamine with double cream or water will feed the brain and get rid of the craving for naughty things. It does take a couple of minutes to work, but it will do the trick.
Another way glutamine crave- busts is by increasing GABA in the brain as gone into in the blog Why we end up dancing on the table when drunk. Cravings can be due to an imbalance in brain chemistry – eating something comforting makes us feel temporarily better. Glutamine is the precursor for the happy, relaxed neurotransmitter, GABA, so supplementing with it can cure cravings.
As explained in the page How to eat well for the working athlete and exerciser, hard exercise lowers glutamine by increasing the acid level in the body – and this draws glutamine out of the muscles. So it is very common for aerobic instructors, for example, to be addicted to sweet foods and excessive carbs since they drive their bodies very hard on a daily basis. So if you are a keen exerciser and find your consumption of sweet things and starchy carbs – eg bread and pasta – very high, then taking glutamine will help sort this out and then you will enjoy eating more protein and vegetables. As a result, you will be less prone to colds and injury. After all, when exercising hard, the muscles get broken down and have a great need of protein for repair. The page goes into all this.
Occasionally some people do have problems with glutamine and this is probably due to converting it to glutamate, the excitatory neurotransmitter. Taking it will make a few jittery or nauseous. It is also generally recommended to avoid high doses of glutamine if the liver is very stressed – if this is a possibility, then it would be advisable to have a liver test first. If in doubt, buy a small amount and see what happens.
So glutamine is a great supplement to prevent colds, to improve recovery post exercise, to heal poorly guts, to bust cravings and to improve brain function. It is easily available and is fine provided it smells slightly sweet. If the source is not so good, it will smell slightly of rotten eggs.
- Newsholme EA. Biochemical mechanisms to explain immunosuppression in well-trained and over trained athletes. Int J sprts med. 1994:15:S142-S147. Abstract. [↩]
- Novak F, Heyland DK, Avenell A, Drover JW. Glutamine supplementation in serious illness: a systematic review of the evidence. Critical Care Medicine. 2002 Sep: 30(9): 2022-9 [↩]
- Kelly D, Wischmeyer PEb. Role of L glutamine in critical illness: new insights. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care. Mar 2003, Vol 6, Issue 2 pp217-222 Abstract. [↩]