L-glutamine, the most common amino acid (a building block for proteins) in your body, helps your immune system function.

What are its health benefits?

Glutamine is believed to also help with normal brain function, digestion and the health of your muscle cells.

Reportedly, glutamine supplementation may have the following benefits:

  • Reduces the rate of death in trauma and critically ill people, as they boost the immune system and reduce infections.
  • Helps with the recovery of those suffering from severe burns.
  • Helps to protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, so they may help people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and leaky gut syndrome.
  • Helps HIV/AIDS sufferers gain weight and absorb food better, if combined with other vital nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin E, amongst others.
  • For athletic performance: a study shows that supplementation is effective for endurance athletes – specifically for runners – as it may ensure fewer infections for them.
  • It's used in bodybuilding to minimise muscle breakdown.
  • To aid malnourished cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or bone marrow transplants, although more research is needed to establish whether glutamine is safe and effective as part of the cancer treatment regimen.
  • It’s been suggested as a treatment for food allergies but no reliable evidence supports this as yet. 

Do you have a deficiency?

Your body usually produces enough L-glutamine for its needs so a deficiency is rare. However, extreme stress from an injury, burn, surgery, infection, prolonged stress or intense exercise could create a deficiency.

Find it in these food sources

This amino acid is found in the following foods:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Milk
  • Yoghurt
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Raw spinach
  • Raw parsley
  • Cabbage

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

There is no RDA, as your body makes its own supply. However, if you need supplementation, a typical daily dosage for adults is 500mg one to three times a day. For certain medical conditions, doses as high as 5 to 15g per day may be prescribed by a doctor.

Rather avoid supplementation in if you suffer from seizures, kidney disease, liver disease or Reye syndrome (a rare, sometimes fatal childhood disease). If you have cancer, first consult your doctor regarding supplementation as some studies suggest that glutamine may stimulate the growth of tumours.

Not enough is known about safe dosages for children and for women during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Know the overdose risks

If you ingest too much, possible side effects could include:

  • A cough or hoarseness
  • Frequent urge to defecate
  • Bleeding after defecation
  • Straining while passing a stool
  • Abnormal touch sensation
  • Back pain
  • Bacterial infection
  • Changes in skin such as blistering, coldness or discoloration
  • Body aches or pains

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015