Glutamine & Depression

Depression can leave you feeling like you've been hit by a bulldozer. While some people might think you can "will" yourself out of feeling depressed, depression is actually a serious mental disorder causing a variety of symptoms that interfere with your functioning and everyday life. Although the causes of depression aren't entirely known, biological, social and psychological factors play a role. While depression may be helped with counseling and medication, some choose alternative or nutritional remedies to improve their symptoms. Glutamine supplements may have a beneficial effect on depression. Inform your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.

A doctor holding a bottle of prescription medication for depression. (Image: dina2001/iStock/Getty Images)

About Glutamine

Glutamine is an amino acid synthesized by your body from another amino acid known as glutamic acid or glutamate. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body and plays a number of important biological functions. Glutamine helps with toxin removal, maintains proper immune system functioning and helps with brain development. If you experience high levels of stress, your body may need a higher amount of glutamine, as it is easily depleted by high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Glutamine is found naturally in goods including beef, poultry, milk, cottage cheese and cabbage. Glutamine deficiency is not common, as it is available in food sources and your body can easily manufacture it. However, patients suffering from depression may have lower levels of glutamine in their brains.

Depression Facts

Clinical depression occurs in several forms, including major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, dysthymia and postpartum depression. According to NYU Langone Medical Center, depressive symptoms vary from person to person -- some people experience just a few symptoms while others may experience a combination of many symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of depression include feelings of low self-worth, irritability, sadness, a lowered mood, sleep problems, appetite changes, a decreased sex drive, fatigue, a lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed and, in some people, suicidal thoughts or gestures. Researchers believe a number of factors contribute to depressive disorders, including genetics, stressful life events, drug and alcohol addiction, lack of social support, medical illnesses and changes in brain chemistry. Additionally, nutritional deficiencies can also cause depression. Although research on the benefits of glutamine for depression is limited, some people believe that it may help reduce depressive symptoms.

Clinical Evidence

A study published in the February 2007 issue of the "Archives of General Psychiatry," a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Medical Association, found that depressed study participants had lowered levels of glutamine in their prefrontal brain tissue. However, most of the evidence confirming the benefits of glutamine supplementation on depression is anecdotal. A systematic review published in 2002 in the "Medical Journal of Australia" states that only an uncontrolled experiment has been performed to verify the benefits of glutamine supplements on depression. The experiment referred to is a study published in the July-August 1976 issue of the Belgian medical journal, "Acta Psychiatrica Belgica." This study showed that l-glutamine supplementation showed antidepressant properties on adult study participants suffering from depression. However, more clinical research is needed to fully evaluate the potential benefit of glutamine supplementation on depression.


Glutamine supplements are sold online and in health food stores in powder and capsule form. However, you should not use glutamine as a cure for depression or as a substitute for conventional medical care. Inform your doctor if you plan to use a glutamine supplement. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, glutamine can interact with certain cancer medications. If you have kidney or liver disease or Reye syndrome, you should avoid using glutamine. Do not attempt to self-diagnose your symptoms if you think you may be depressed. Depression can become worse if left untreated. Consult a qualified medical practitioner to discuss your symptoms and obtain treatment advice.

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