In Holistic Health Is L-Glutamine Safe During Pregnancy?

pregnant woman holding pills / vitamins
A pregnant woman holds two L-glutamine supplement pills in her hand. (Image: L_POP/iStock/Getty Images)

L-glutamine, also known simply as glutamine, is the most prevalent amino acid in your body. This nutrient is responsible for the function of your gastrointestinal tract and immune system and helps to prevent catabolic muscle wasting. Although supplemental glutamine is generally not necessary, it may provide benefits to some people and is used in holistic health as a treatment for conditions such as short bowel syndrome. If you are pregnant, however, glutamine supplements may not be safe for consumption. Check with your doctor before using any dietary supplement.

About Glutamine

Glutamine plays a pivotal role in maintaining the integrity of your immune system, particularly in times of stress. When you experience stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol, which can deplete glutamine. Supplemental glutamine, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, has been shown to be effective in preventing this depletion, allowing glutamine to keep your immune system working. Glutamine also appears to help decrease the amount of muscle mass lost in conditions such as AIDS. Supplemental glutamine is also administered to cancer patients to improve nutrient absorption and reduce inflammation and diarrhea associated with chemotherapy treatment.

Glutamine During Pregnancy

Glutamine supplements are considered to be a category C drug, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration. This classification, according to the American Pregnancy Association, does not imply imminent effects, but a risk of an adverse reaction can't be ruled out. A class C classification also suggests that research regarding glutamine has either been limited to animal subjects or a limited number of human subjects. Because the research is limited, a true conclusion regarding the effect of glutamine during pregnancy cannot be made, and the FDA recommends that you avoid this supplement if you are pregnant.

Regulation of Glutamine Supplements

Although the United States FDA has taken a stance on the safety of glutamine, the methods used to evaluate the supplement are not as diligent as those for prescription medications. The American Pregnancy Association explains that significant variations in quality and potency exist in similar supplements. Unfortunately, these variations are not quantified. When using any supplement, it's likely you will not be informed by the manufacturer in regard to these characteristics. In addition, variations in labeling a supplement as safe or unsafe during pregnancy also exist.

Considerations

Glutamine is widely available in animal proteins, raw cabbage and raw spinach and is also sold as a dietary supplement alone or in protein-rich supplements. Supplemental glutamine can cause adverse interactions with some medical conditions and medications, including certain cancer treatments. If you're pregnant and concerned about your glutamine levels, see your doctor. The optimal way to ensure that you get enough glutamine while you are pregnant is to consume foods that are rich in the amino acid, along with other amino acids that together, provide a complete source of protein.

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