In recent years, L-glutamine has been widely recommended by personal trainers and nutritionists as an effective supplement for athletes. The most abundant free amino acid in the human bloodstream, L-glutamine plays a key role in preventing muscle breakdown (catabolism), and markedly speeds the period of recovery following a period of intense physical training. The action of L-glutamine in various bodily cells expands its usefulness as a supplement far beyond the athlete, however. Its role in preventing catabolism makes L-glutamine an effective countermeasure to prevent weight loss in HIV and AIDS patients, as well as those undergoing chemotherapy. It also plays an important part in maintaining the structural integrity of the digestive system, the enhanced functioning of the immune system, and the rapid healing of wounds and burns.
A popular supplement among body-builders, L-glutamine is quickly depleted by the body in times of intense physical stress. Since it makes up 60% of the body’s skeletal muscle mass, the strength trainer requires it in abundance to synthesize new muscle tissue and repair the damage from a workout. Since depleted L-glutamine stores can take up to six days to return to their normal levels naturally, a supplemental dose of L-glutamine immediately following intense training speeds muscular recovery allowing more frequent workouts and therefore an increase in muscle mass and strength. L-glutamine is also thought to play a role in the stimulation of the pituitary gland leading to increased production of human growth hormone (HGH), desirable for both its role in muscular development and anti-aging therapies.
Essential to maintaining the structure of the digestive system, an ample amount of L-glutamine is needed by the body for the optimal functioning of the bowels and intestines. Glutamine supplementation has shown promise in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reducing the severity of associated symptoms like discomfort and diarrhea. L-glutamine’s role in protecting digestive health also extends to the treatment of ulcerative colitis and stomach ulcers. By maintaining the integrity of the “gut-barrier”, L-glutamine contributes to the proper functioning of the entire digestive tract.
After an invasive surgical procedure or traumatic injury that requires an extended period of bed rest the body demands a steady supply of nitrogen to repair physical wounds and keep the vital organs functioning properly. L-glutamine supplies roughly a third of the nitrogen the body requires and is rapidly depleted in a traumatized body. Treatments like chemotherapy quickly sap the body of its glutamine stores, forcing the breakdown (catabolism) of other body tissues to make up the nitrogen deficit in the bloodstream. To prevent this physical “wasting” of recovering patients, high dietary and supplemental levels of L-glutamine have proven effective in maintaining at-risk bodily tissue. An ample supply of L-glutamine in the body is especially important with conditions like cancer or AIDS which may render the body incapable of synthesizing glutamine on its own.
The human body is remarkably resilient, but maintaining the right balance of nutrients is critical to its effective function. Any time the body is traumatized, whether through physical training, surgery, or disease, an ample supply of L-glutamine will allow the body to effectively utilize its natural healing ability.