Gold Member Badge


  • You're all caught up!

Does L-Glutamine Cause Liver Problems?

author image Linda Tarr Kent
Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with more than 20 years experience at Gannett Company Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She is a Bosu fitness and stand-up paddle surfing instructor. Kent holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Washington State University.
Does L-Glutamine Cause Liver Problems?
Avoid glutamine supplements if you have a liver condition. Photo Credit: Ioana12/iStock/Getty Images

Glutamine is an amino acid that your body makes on its own. Using a glutamine supplement may be helpful when you have certain medical conditions such as surgery, an infection or prolonged stress because your glutamine levels may become depleted. Glutamine helps your immune system function and also is important for removing excess ammonia from your body. You should not use glutamine supplements, however, if you have liver disease.

Video of the Day


The most common form of supplemental glutamine is L-glutamine. Glutamine supplements are contraindicated if you have liver disease. This is not because they will cause further damage to your liver but because a damaged liver is unable to properly process the glutamine.

Ammonia-Glutamine Cycle

When your liver damage is severe enough to diminish glutamine processing, your ammonia-glutamine cycle is disrupted. Glutamine is a carrier for ammonia, a natural by-product of protein metabolism and other functions in your body. Your liver usually converts ammonia into urea, which your kidneys excrete.


A disrupted ammonia-glutamine cycle raises your risk for hepatic encephalopathy. In this condition your brain function worsens because your liver is no longer able to remove toxic substances like ammonia from your blood. Disorders that reduce liver function include hepatitis and cirrhosis. Hepatic encephalopathy is most often occurs when you have chronic liver disease, but it can occur suddenly even if you’ve had no liver problems when you liver is damaged.

Expert Insight

Glutamine, as opposed to ammonia, may be partly responsible for the negative impact on your brain when your liver function is impaired. Glutamine appears to accumulate in your brain cells and draw water into them. This, in turn, causes them to swell, eventually destroying them and causing brain damage, according to “The Ultimate Nutrient, Glutamine,” by Judy Shabert and Nancy Ehrlich.

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
Lose Weight. Feel Great! Change your life with MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
  • Female
  • Male
ft. in.


Demand Media