Glutamine: What it is, Where it is found and 5 Functions

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Within the body, a large number of processes are carried out that influence health. In many of them, the intervention of different amino acids is required, being glutamine one of the most recognized

what is glutamine and what are the benefits of its consumption? Let’s see the answers right away. We will also see if there is any risk to the body.

what is glutamine?

Within the body there are at least 20 types of amino acids, glutamine being one of them. It is considered non-essential because the body can synthesize and produce it. It is found mainly in the muscles and influences more than half of the body’s processes.

One of its main functions is related to protein formation. If we talk about energy substrates, glutamine is the most important one.

Health benefits of glutamine

There are a considerable number of benefits associated with glutamine. The National Library of Medicine points out the most relevant ones.

Prevents catabolism

When a person does not have the amounts of protein required by the body, he or she runs the risk of the body using organic nutrients for energy. This is known as catabolism. This can considerably affect the structure of the muscles. But, if glutamine is consumed, it is possible to avoid this reaction.

The key is that the time required is reduced, making it possible for the disintegration of food to be faster. In this way, energy is obtained without resorting to muscle mass.

Increases glucose

After a demanding physical activity, the body needs a certain amount of time for recovery. For example, lost glycogen must be replaced. But, when the process is not as fast as desired, recovery is slow. However, when glutamine is consumed, this time period can be shortened.

Improves the defense system

The human body’s defenses depend to a large extent on nutrients. These are present in food and, after a series of processes, the body can enjoy them. When there is glutamine in adequate amounts this is done even faster, making the absorption faster and the body can protect itself from any threat.

Increases the capacity of the nervous system

Glutamine serves one of the most important functions in the nervous system. It is responsible for activating and strengthening the brain, making it able to effectively perform all its functions.

Another of the benefits it provides to the brain, and in fact to the entire nervous system, is that it reduces the risk of diseases in this part of the body.

Sources of glutamine

Thanks to the benefits it brings to the body, it is vital to include foods and other sources of glutamine in the diet. This will help to maintain a good functioning of the whole body. Let’s see the foods that have the highest concentration.

  • Animal meat. Among these the most suggested are chicken, turkey and pork. Salmon can also be included.
  • Dairy products. All of them, both milk and products made with it, serve to absorb a large amount of glutamine.
  • Vegetables. This group includes spinach, cabbage and legumes. Nuts also provide glutamine in considerable quantities

Under normal conditions, these foods are sufficient to maintain optimal levels of glutamine. However, their consumption should be normal, without falling into excess

On the other hand, glutamine supplements can be used. This is only recommended when the person has a considerable deficiency. It is also applicable in people who frequently perform intense physical exercise, because they require a greater amount of energy than others.

In case of deciding to make use of supplements, it is necessary to ask for expert advice. Even a previous medical evaluation is suggested. All this will ensure that there are no risks in the body associated with the consumption of glutamine, or any component that has the supplement.

Effects of glutamine deficiency

It is important to take care of the amount of glutamine in the body. It is not only the available energy that is affected. Mayo Clinic, a recognized website on medical issues, shows 2 of the effects that usually appear when there is a deficit.


When we talk about tiredness in this case, we refer to a constant feeling of fatigue, which affects to the point of not being able to carry out your daily routine. When the deficit has a long period of duration, this condition is maintained, becoming a chronic problem.

Reduced capacities

This point is related to the previous one. If a person is physically tired, his mind will also be tired. This prevents them from being able to concentrate, whether for simple or complicated activities. The feeling of sleepiness is one of the most common symptoms, although in the case of some the effect is insomnia.

Risks and contraindications of glutamine

The greatest of the risks that can present the consumption of glutamine occurs when it is taken in excess. This demands a greater work by different organs of the body, being the liver and kidneys the most involved. That extra effort could affect them over time.

In order not to run that risk, it is necessary to use only 5 to 10 grams after physical exercise. In case you follow a routine without many physical demands, the amount to be consumed should be very little, being enough to include in your diet some of the foods mentioned above.

On the other hand, due to special circumstances, some people should not use glutamine. They are those who have one of these conditions.

  • Kidney problems. If the body cannot eliminate the surplus, the whole organism may be affected
  • Liver problems. In this case, chemicals such as nitrogen or ammonium may appear in very high amounts. That affects the body, so its consumption is prohibited

Glutamine affects the body in different ways. If it is used well, numerous benefits can be obtained.

German Fuertes Otero
German Fuertes Otero
CEO at M.D. from Stanford Medicine: Stanford, California, US, M.Sc. from University of Cambridge: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK and University of Oxford: Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK. PhD at Harvard University Harvard Catalyst: Cambridge, MA, US.

Aunque pueda contener afirmaciones, datos o apuntes procedentes de instituciones o profesionales sanitarios y la información contenida en PharmaSalud esté redactada por profesionales en medicina, recomendamos al lector que cualquier duda relacionada con la salud sea consultada con un profesional del ámbito sanitario.

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