What is L-Glutamine?
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in our bodies. It works to support many healthy functions, including:
- Making proteins for muscle tissue
- Fueling cells that protect our intestines
- Supporting immune system cells
- Helping to detoxify the liver of foreign substances
Your body makes glutamine, but we also consume it in foods like wheat, peanuts, corn, and milk.
Usually, a person produces enough L-glutamine themselves to meet all of the body’s needs. However, sometimes there is a shortfall of L-glutamine, leading to a deficiency, or there may be benefits to increasing intake of L-glutamine for health reasons.
How does it work?
One of the most important functions of glutamine is its role in the immune system.
It is a critical fuel source for immune cells, including white blood cells and certain intestinal cells. However, its blood levels can decrease due to major injuries, burns or surgeries.
If the body’s need for glutamine is greater than its ability to produce it, your body may break down protein stores, such as muscle, to release more of this amino acid.
Additionally, the function of the immune system can be compromised when insufficient amounts of glutamine are available.
For these reasons, high-protein diets, high-glutamine diets or glutamine supplements are often prescribed after major injuries like burns. Studies have also reported that glutamine supplements may improve health, decrease infections and lead to shorter hospital stays after surgery. What’s more, they have been shown to improve survival and reduce medical costs in critically ill patients.
Other studies have shown that glutamine supplements may also improve immune function in animals infected with bacteria or viruses.
It Is Found in Many Foods
Glutamine is naturally found in a variety of foods. It has been estimated that a typical diet contains 3 to 6 grams per day, but this can vary based on your specific diet.
The largest amounts are found in animal products due to their high protein contents.
However, some plant-based foods have a greater percentage of it in their protein.
The following are the percentages of protein made up of L-glutamine in each food:
- Eggs: 4.4% (0.6 g per 100 g of eggs)
- Beef: 4.8% (1.2 g per 100 g of beef)
- Skim milk: 8.1% (0.3 g per 100 g of milk)
- Tofu: 9.1% (0.6 g per 100 g of tofu)
- White rice: 11.1% (0.3 g per 100 g of rice)
- Corn: 16.2% (0.4 g per 100 g of corn)
Although some plant sources, such as white rice and corn, have a large percentage of protein made up of glutamine, they have fairly low protein contents overall. Thus, meat and other animal products are the simplest ways to get high amounts of it.
However, because glutamine is a necessary part of proteins, virtually any food containing protein will contain some glutamine.
Focusing on getting enough protein in your overall diet is an easy way to potentially increase the amount of glutamine you are consuming.
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