Glutamine, also known as L-glutamine, is one of the most abundant amino acids that your body manufactures. It is stored in your muscles and helps remove excess amounts of toxic ammonia. Besides this, it fulfills several critical functions in your body, providing necessary support for your immune system, digestive system and nervous system. Amino acids such as glutamine help regulate cellular growth and function; a deficiency in glutamate can possibly lead to problems with digestion. Ensuring a proper glutamine level with supplements, however, can possibly result in negative side effects.
How Amino Acids Work
Amino acids are organic compounds and, along with proteins, are considered the essential building blocks of life, MedlinePlus explains. When proteins are broken down, amino acids are what remain; conversely, when amino acids are combined, proteins are formed. Though various amino acids have differing biological functions, they are generally needed for repairing body tissues, physical growth and digesting food. Amino acids are classed as essential, non-essential or conditional. Glutamine is a conditional amino acid, which means it is not considered essential except in cases of stress and sickness.
Effect on Digestion
As an amino acid, glutamine has several life-supporting functions, some of which affect your digestion. It acts to protect the lining of the intestines and stomach called the mucosa, the University of Maryland Medical Center explains. Low levels of glutamine may possibly affect digestion; some studies suggest that people with gastrointestinal problems, including those with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, do not have enough glutamine in their intestines. This can contribute to weight loss and muscle mass loss. Glutamine supplements are sometimes prescribed to treat these disorders; however, clinical research has yet to yield any conclusive results regarding glutamine's effect on inflammatory bowel diseases and digestion. More research is required.
Taking l-glutamine can result in some side effects, ranging from mild to serious, Drugs.com reports. These may include dry mouth, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, joint or muscle pain, headache, fatigue, mild skin rash, increased sweating, swelling in hands and feet, stomach pain and gas. More serious side effects that warrant emergency medical attention include chest pain, hearing problems, allergic reactions, difficulty breathing, swelling in lips, throat or tongue, or signs of infection such as mouth sores, fever, flu, chills and unusual weakness.
Glutamine can be obtained from plant and animal proteins, including poultry, pork, beef, milk, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, raw spinach, cabbage and raw parsley. L-glutamine supplements are also available as powder, capsules, tablets or liquid. When taking supplements, however, be aware of the potential side effects and make sure to take it at room temperature or below; heat destroys glutamine, so it should not be taken with hot beverages, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports. Children younger than 10 years of age should not take L-glutamine supplements unless it is part of a complete amino acid supplementation regimen.