Glutamine, an abundant amino acid, helps regulate cell function, strengthens the immune system and contributes to brain function. Like other conditionally essential amino acids, glutamine is a building block of protein produced by the body and obtained through protein-rich foods. Although the human body generally produces enough glutamine, supplementation may be necessary in certain medical situations. Consult a knowledgeable health professional before taking glutamine or any other dietary supplement.
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Glutamine plays a key role in a healthy immune system, provides fuel for cells that line the digestive tract and promotes protein synthesis in the body. Produced in the lungs, the amino acid is stored in both the muscles and the lungs. Glutamine also helps eliminate ammonia from the body and protects the digestive system from infectious bacteria. Dietary sources containing the amino acid include poultry, pork, red meat, cabbage, spinach, wheat germ, dairy products and parsley. Glutamine supplements are available individually or as part of a complete protein supplement. Natural food store sell these supplements in liquid, tablet or powder form.
Glutamine supplements may reduce the rate of infection and death associated with trauma and critical illness by strengthening the immune system. According to a study published in 2001 in the "Journal of Nutrition," supplemental glutamine supported protein production, reduced infection associated with certain surgeries and shortened the duration of a hospital day following an elective surgery or an accidental injury. Glutamine supplementation may also reduce the risk of infection in athletes who participate in endurance sports. More scientific research is necessary to determine the effects of the supplement after an athletic event. The supplement may reduce side effects associated with cancer treatments, and scientific evidence on the efficacy of glutamine is mixed. A 2001 study published in "Gut" found that a daily dose of glutamine improved digestive function, while research performed in 1997 published in the "Journal of Nutrition" indicates that glutamine failed to reduce diarrhea symptoms associated with chemotherapy for advanced breast cancer.
Although glutamine supplements appear to be safe for women to consume without concern, certain side effects may occur as a result of taking the supplement. Stop taking the supplement and contact your physician if you experience severe side effects such as vaginal infection, breast pain in females, vomiting, fever, depression, nausea, edema, chest pain or dizziness. Glutamine supplements might also cause a serious allergic reaction. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience difficult breathing, hives or closing of the throat.
Avoid glutamine supplements if you suffer from kidney disease, liver disease or Reye syndrome, a rare disease that severely affects the liver and brain. The supplement may interact with certain medications and medical treatments, and should be used only under the guidance of a knowledgeable health professional. Keep glutamine supplements in a cool, dry area away from excessive heat, which damages the amino acid. Pregnant or nursing mothers should not take glutamine supplements.